Sunday, August 31, 2008

Little Lizard

I thought this little lizard sunning on the roots of one of the MANY olive trees in my yard was just too cute, so I had to take his picture! I have no problems with lizards. They eat insects, they do me no harm, the kids play with them, the dogs and cats chase them...and, most importantly, they never ever come in the house!

No, Mr. Lizard is fine by me. It's Mr. Gecko I can't stand! He and his friends are in the house all the time, scurrying across the walls, hanging from the ceiling when you least expect it. And then, they die. Ok, it's not his fault, it happens to everyone sooner or later...but when a gecko dies in the house, he leaves a really bad smell...and most of the time there's nothing to be done about it...because his little gecko corpse is hiding somewhere behind the furniture, or in the wooden blinds...and you'll never find it! No, I don't like geckos...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Il Forno

"Forno" in italian means "oven." But, besides being an appliance in a modern kitchen, in southern Italy it is also a place and a tradition. The Forno is a sort of shop where you bring your dishes to be baked in a giant, wood-burning oven by the "baker." He is not a baker in any sense of what we associate with that word in English. His job is to stoke the fire and bake to perfection the dishes his clients bring in. What you see in the center here are "taralli" a pretzel-like snack.

This is the Forno of Arturo Petrone. In this photo you can see the tools of his trade. A large pile of wood to the right, and his many long-handled paddles for putting the dishes in and getting them back out of the oven. The opening to the oven makes it seem small but it is actually enormous inside.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Scuba Boy

Ok, you'll have to forgive me, but this is a Proud Mamma post. Yesterday my 8-year-old finished his summer snorkeling course. As a reward, on the last day the instructor, Raffaele Annese, lets the kids take a tour around the bottom of the swimming pool with the whole oxygen tank getup strapped on. It is the highlight of the summer for my son. Obviously, there's nothing particularly interesting to see at the bottom of the pool, but the thrill is in being able to go down and stay down for quite some time...and to be doing it like a REAL scuba diver.

Raffaele and G. perfecting their underwater hand jive!

Back to the surface, safe and sound! I love that Raffaele gives the kids this opportunity. You have to be at least 12 to get your scuba diving license, so this is as close as G. will get to the real thing for some time. But, that doesn't make him any less enthusiastic. He's already talking about "when I do snorkeling class NEXT summer..."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rain, rain?

I often get comments on this blog about the nice blue sky in so many of my photos. At first I wondered what people were going on about...but then I realised that what I take completely for granted - guaranteed blue skies practically non-stop from May to September - is not the norm everywhere. We're just lucky that way in this area.

The flipside of the blue sky is that it rarely rains. Nice for beachgoing, but not so great in the longrun for plants, animals and people. In fact, Apulia (this region of Italy) and the other regions of southern Italy are undergoing the process of desertification. Which means the transformation of land once suitable for agriculture into desert. Desertification can result from climate change or from human practices such as deforestation and overgrazing.

It looked like rain both yesterday and today...but...besides the clouds and distant water came down from the sky.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bulbs of Passion

They don't look all that exciting, do they? But, little did you know that these somewhat bitter "lampasciuoli" (no known translation) are a historically famous and powerful aphrodisiac! May I quote the Latin poet Marziale (I sec. d.C.) who said, "if your wife is old, your member is dead, nothing but these bulbs will satisfy you..." Or the learned Greek philosopher Ateneo (II – III sec. d.C.) who claimed, "lobsters, bulbs, snails...if anyone can find stronger medicine that these..." During the Middle Ages they were a cheap source of food. They are now cultivated primarily in the Puglia region, though they still grow wild throughout the eastern Mediterranean. They are said to have diuretic qualities and are eaten raw, boiled, grilled, fried, or preserved in oil. Here's a recipe...try them, you never know!

The lampasciouli were for sale at the same little shop as yesterday's snails. Here's a shot of the shop's interior. The chair in the foreground is where the grandmother sits, but she ran away saying, "no, no, I'll ruin the photo!" Too bad...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Snails, anyone?

These snails are alive and well and will cost you €4 per kilo at the greengrocer's "shop" in the photo below.

This shop is no more than a single, groundfloor room out of which a family has been selling their snails and other choice items for decades. I asked them for a snail recipe, but all they told me was to boil them till they slide out of their shells and then eat them straight. More elaborate recipes include sautéing them with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and cherry tomatoes.

Have you ever eaten snails?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cala Incina

I promised more pictures of Cala Incina, near Polignano a Mare, site of our snorkeling adventures last week. The tower above is called Torre Incina (logical, right?) and overlooks the inlet. It is one of the 96 medieval watchtowers located along the Puglian coasts of the Adriatic.

It's easy to see the erosion that formed the inlet and shaped the face of its walls.

Fishing boats on the beach.

Grottoes carved into the face of the cliffs by the water over the millenia. The walls inside the grottoes are full of seashell fossils. I did take pictures, but the white fossils on the white rock didn't show up.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Renzo Arbore

The annual patron's saint festival in Giovinazzo (6k south of Molfetta) was crowned with a concert by Renzo Arbore and his Italian Orchestra. Arbore is a great musician and ironical humourist whose group travel Italy and the world performing the best-loved songs from the Neapolitan repetoire. They also mix in jazz, swing, scat, reggae, you name it.

This concert was special because it was also a fundraiser for Luca Mongelli, a 13 year old boy from Giovinazzo. When he was 7 his family lived in Switzerland. One day, while he was playing outside, he was attacked and left for dead in the snow. Luckily, his mother found him, but Luca was in a coma for 3 months and the doctors had all but given up hope on him when he woke up. He is now blind and confined to a wheelchair, but has made great progress thanks to special treatment available only in the US. Renzo Arbore donated €50,000 of the proceeds from last night's concert to Luca's family.

Information on how to help Luca can be found at this link. It's all in Italian, but I'd be happy to help anyone needing a translation.

p.s. here's some music by Renzo Arbore and the Italian Orchestra...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marhaba Beach Bar

At Cala Arena, one of the local private beach clubs, you can refresh yourself at the Marhaba Beach Bar. Achille or his twin brother Antonio will serve you with a kind word and a gentle smile. They offer a range of beverages, snacks, ice-creams and, if you order ahead, they prepare various salads at lunchtime. This is their summertime site. In the winter they manage the Marhaba Wine Bar in the center of town, where you can try various wines accompanied by appetizers and light meals.

(If you want to see the beefy lifeguard, however, the Beach Bar is your best bet!)

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yesterday we took a field trip with my 8 year old son's snorkeling class to Cala Incina, near the city of Polignano a Mare, about an hour's drive south of Molfetta. A "cala" is a cove and the coast around Polignano is full of beautiful ones. Raffaele, the instructor, guided the children (and interested parents) along the sheer face of the calcareous rock where they dived down to explore the underseas world! They found lots of interesting sea creatures and plants, including anemones, sponges, hedgehog sea urchins, alghe, etc.

More photos of Cala Incina tomorrow...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mystery Revealed No. 2

It's the chimney of this house! The house was built about 35 years ago, supposedly in the Bauhaus style which means very basic and blocky. Additionally, however, it is meant to look like a ship sailing off into the sea...the chimney is reminiscent of those ships with a smokestack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mystery Photo No. 2

In which saretta gives you another opportunity to guess what the image shown actually is...
What do you think?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Out of Bounds

You can find OUT OF BOUNDS on the wall along Via Tenente Ragno. It was painted there during World War II by the Americans to indicate the safe area of town. Italy was liberated by the Allies town by town, street by street. Beyond this point in town you were fair game for the Germans.

My mother-in-law used to tell amazing stories of the occupation, first by the Germans, then by the Americans. Both were polite and reasonably well-behaved in her experience, despite the fact that they had requisitioned a large part of the building she lived in. She even had an admirer, John from Texas, who serenaded her with his guitar from below her window. She wasn't interested, but that guitar has become a family heirloom. John, who died soon after at the front, carved "Remember me" on the guitar...and we have.

This is what Via Tenente Ragno looks like now. You can hardly see the writing on the wall...and most people pass by without noticing it or thinking about what it means.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Nirvana - "a place or state characterized by freedom from or
oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world"
Everyone has their own definition...what's yours?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

There was a partial lunar eclipse last night. I marvel at the fact that almost nobody seemed to notice it or care too much one way or the other. In the past people got rather upset about this kind of astronomical event, ran around in a panic, foresaw the end of the world, made sacrifices, etc. We're so blasé nowadays...where's the magic?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Global Warming

The beaches of Molfetta are full of living creatures. All kinds of sea plants and animals proliferate along our coast. Unfortunately, with the increased temperature of the sea in the past couple of years a toxic tropical seaweed has started growing. It's called "ostreopsis" and it grows in calm, hot sea water. It releases its toxins on windy days when the waves break the alghe on the rocks and causes all kinds of health problems, such as irritated eyes, blisters, colds, coughs, fevers and rashes. Global warming doesn't seem like such an abstract concept when you can't spend a relaxed day at the sea any more...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heracles, the Colossus of Barletta

This 4.5m bronze statue is located in the town of Barletta (about 30k north of Molfetta) outside the Basilico del Santo Sepolcro. Both its subject and origins are surrounded by mystery...but there are lots of fun legends surrounding it, such as the one that says it represents Heracles, or Teodosio II, an Eastern emporer, who for some reason was in Barletta. Since he was taller than the roofs of the buildings and the city walls he noticed that an enemy army was headed toward the town. The Barlettans sent him out of town to await the enemy on the road. The enemy soldiers found him crying noisily and asked him why he was so upset. He replied that he had been kicked out of town because he was the smallest and weakest person around, even the children refused to play with him! The Saracens imagined that the townspeople must all be even bigger than this giant and decided to turn and run. Heracles, of course, became a town hero and is still guarding over the city in the form of a statue.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pollution Control

This boat has POLLUTION CONTROL written down its side, but it was pumping out an excessive amount of noxious can even see the brown cloud at its stern! Why bother checking other people's pollution when you are making so much yourself?!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fish Farm

These circular structures hold deep nets in which fish are raised for commercial sales. There are three groups of these pens off the coast, a bit north of town. The seagulls are in heaven!

This is the boat that pulls up the nets to harvest the fish. Two guys were hard at work, basically in the water with the net. When I took this shot, one of them was up on the deck yelling angrily at a motor boat that had gone by very fast, creating a lot of waves all the way around the enclosure.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fishing Boat

A small fishing boat like this is generally manned by a single fisherman who goes out at night with a bright spotlight to attract the fish to his nets. He'll fish all night and sell his catch at the fish market in the morning. Sleep during the day and the next night, do it again.

Monday, August 11, 2008


The motor boats far outnumber the sailboats on the dock, but I think there's something magical about the silence and the harmony of working with the wind on a sailboat.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Madonna of the Dock

Her job is to protect all those seafarers heading off from the pier where Molfetta's pleasure craft are docked. Her downward gaze could seem humble and pious, but if you take a step back and see what she's really looking down might think her expression is more one of sadness...

*Click on the photo below to see the quantity of garbage*

Saturday, August 9, 2008


There was a free concert in City Hall square (Piazza Municipio) Thursday night. The group playing was Radiodervish, a world music group from Bari. They sing in a mix of Italian, Arabic and English and their music carries a message of peace. Listen to their song "Immagine di te" (Image of You) at this link.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mystery Revealed

It's a trullo! A trullo is a traditional stone dwelling with a conical roof. This style of construction is found only in the region of Puglia (called Apulia in English), primarily in the Itria Valley area, particularly the town of Alberobello. Trulli were generally built as homes or storehouses. Traditionally, they were built without any cement or mortar. They are found in the countryside throughout Puglia. The one in this photo is is an abandoned specimen located in a field next to my house.
Compliments to Homebody at Heart who correctly guessed that this was a view from the inside of the trullo looking up through the roof. Great guess!!! And thanks to everyone who sent in their ideas!
For photos of some great looking trulli check out this link.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mystery Photo no. 1

Thought I'd give you a challenge today...see if you can guess what's portrayed in this photo. Be creative! Tomorrow I'll reveal the mystery...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hedgehog Sea Urchin

Hedgehog sea urchins live on the seabed of the Adriatic coastline in great abundance. Locally they are considered a great delicacy. They are easy to catch. All you need is a diving mask with a tube. Dive down to the sea floor and gather as many as you can into your net bag.
The one in the photo above is still alive (it didn't want to sit still for the picture!) and they are eaten while alive, with the top half containing the "eye" cut off (so it can't see what you are doing to it?).

This plateful is ready to be eaten. You either just lick the insides out or, if you're feeling slightly more refined, you scoop them out with a small piece of bread.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Water Truck

This is the gas tank on the truck that delivers water to my house. We live on the edge of town and have neither water nor sewer service from the city. We have a cistern in the backyard and whenever the water level looks low, we give Leonardo, the water guy, a call. He gets the water from some artesian well he has access to and makes a living delivering it to people like us. August is his high season because lots of folks around here spend this traditional vacation month (in which most of southern Italy basically closes down) in their second homes in the countryside. These tend to be one or two room structures, nothing fancy...but at least people get out of town.

This is the view through the windshield into Leonardo's cab. Notice the rosary. A lot of Italian truck drivers decorate their cabs with crucifixes, or images of Jesus or Mary. You need all the protection you can get if you're on the road all day!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Under the Burning Sun

This is my first attempt at this kind of nature photography. I didn't quite get the distinction betwen the flowers and the wall in the background that I would have liked...I'll have to keep working on it!
These are what's left of the wild garlic flowers that grow along the coast. The hot sun has baked them brown, like the grass behind them. The wall is a falling down example of the dry stone walls (dry meaning no mortar is used, just one stone piled up on top of the next) that you find throughout the countryside.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Torrione Passari

This watchtower was built onto the historic centre's sea wall in 1515 to defend the city from the invasions by Turkish and Croatian pirates that were a constant threat to the people living along the Adriatic coast. It is circular and has two main sections: a cistern on the lower level and an upper level used to store arms. At its base its walls are 5 meters thick but gradually get thinner towards the top. It was rebuilt in 1633 after Molfetta was sacked by French troops.

It has recently been completely restored and is open to visitors. It is often the site of modern art exhibits by local and international artists.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another side of Molfetta

This is obviously not your usual touristy picture postcard shot. But it's a reality of life in Molfetta. Over the past couple of years the town has become increasingly full of garbage, the streets and public beaches are a mess. The quiet country lane I live on just outside of town has become a favorite dumping ground for all kinds of refuse, but particularly the large unweildy appliance or unwanted item of furniture. Not exactly what we figured on when we decided to "move to the country"!

Now, in the heat of the summer, all it takes is for one unthinking person to flick his cigarette butt out the car window and you have an instant conflagration...which is exactly what happened across the street from us two days ago.

The fact that the fire department didn't arrive until two hours had passed and six different phone calls had been made is yet another story of things that aren't quite right around here... We only have one fire squad (for a city of well over 60,000 inhabitants)and there were four separate fires at around the same time that day...

Friday, August 1, 2008


Nel blu dipinto di blu! (In the blue painted blue) This photo reminds me of a line from the song Volare by Domenico Modugno. These are the metal stairs up to the water slide at the Nettuno Beach Club.

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