Saturday, January 31, 2009


Pasquale and Adalgisa's newsstand across from the Carabinieri police station is one of the many around town. Some are found inside a building but others, like this one, are freestanding structures usually located on street corners.

You can buy a wide variety of products here: newspapers with every possible political bent, magazines for every possible interest, crossword puzzles, children's albums in which to collect stickers in a vast selection of themes, cell phone top up cards, pay phone cards, lottery tickets, music CDs, DVDs...did I forget anything?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fish Market, 5

This is the entry into the fish market. The words "PUBBLICO MERCATO" - Public Market- are written above the central arch.

This plaque provides some historical information about the site. It appears that the St. Francis Monastery was built here in 1220, was expanded in 1300 and then, for some reason, demolished in 1880. I'm not sure how old the current building is exactly, but obviously no older than 1880.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fish Market, 4

In a corner of the market, this bicycle was left leaning up against the wall.
I don't think it is really for sale, but it kind of looks like it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fish Market, 3

Porticoes run along two sides of the fish market. You can see how wet it is in there. You almost have to swim in to get your fish...

Hilda of My Manila tagged me yesterday (or was it the day before?) to reveal five details about myself and I promised her I would, so here goes:

1. I do not like to eat things that are still alive (I have had this opportunity often...don't ask!)
2. My hair was bright red as a baby.
3. My middle name is Graham (yes, I know, it's a man's name...don't ask!)
4. My first car was a 1966 Ford Mustang (it was used, not new).
5. I once won a t-shirt for my dancing skills (don't ask...)

Now I'm supposed to tag five other people. How about:

Shelagh at Aurora Daily
Fabrizio at Torino Daily Photo
If you've already been tagged, or don't feel like playing, I'll understand. But, otherwise, I'll be curious to read what you write!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fish Market, 2

This fellow's job is to clean the fish once you have chosen and paid for it at the main counter. We bought a kilo of cuttlefish for €7. Note how clean the water in his bowl is as he starts to work.
Basically, his technique is to pull open the top half of the cuttlefish and rip out its guts.

Then, splash, into the bowl of water to be rinsed off. The water has turned black because cuttlefish have a sack full of black ink that they use for defense like squid and octopuses. This ink is called "sepia" (the Italian word for cuttlefish is "seppia") and used to be an important natural dye used for writing, and as an additive in watercolours and oil paints.

Beginning in the 1880s, sepia tone was produced by adding a pigment to the positive print of a photograph. The pigment was made from the Sepia officinalis cuttlefish, found in the English channel. The chemical process converts any remaining metallic silver to a sulphide, which is much more resistant to breakdown over time. This is why many old photographs are sepia toned—these are the ones that have survived until today. Although sepia toning began as a printing method, today it is seen as a genre, much like black and white photography.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fish Market

There are two main fish markets in town. This photo was shot at the older of the two, on the harbour. (Out of my header photo to the right.) It is held in an uncovered courtyard. Once you leave the street and enter the market, it's as if you have entered another wetter noisier world.

The first thing you notice is the smell...of fish, of course. Then you hear the 15 or more fishmongers, who have tables set up around the edges and in the middle of the courtyard. All of them call out to you (at full shouting volume) as you pass by their table of wares, telling you their prices, and immediately offering you a better deal if you continue past.

The fish are displayed on metal tables, divided by type. All the eels curled around each other, all the cod in another slippery pile, all the monkfish looking up at you with both eyes: each group with a handwritten card indicating the price per kilo on top.

More pictures to come in the following days...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where's the Fire?

Luckily, there was no fire in this case. Just the truck.
And the firemen!

Italians always say that "everything is bigger in America" and they make lots of jokes exaggerating how "big" improbable things are in America. But, in the case of the fire trucks, they are right. These Italian trucks seem tiny as compared to their American counterparts.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pulo, 6

One of the plants found in the pulo is this Umbilicus Rupestre, or Venus' Navel, also known as navelwort. In traditional medicine this plant was used to aid in the expelling of afterbirth, and for healing bruises, burns, scalds, chilblains, corns, earache, epilepsy, eye troubles, fever, jaundice, scruff, shingles, skin troubles, sores, stings, pulmonary tuberculosis, ulcers and warts.

Useful little plant, eh?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pulo, 5

Besides being a valuable archaeological site, the pulo is also a unique natural habitat. There are a wide variety of plants growing in this basin, some of which are not found anywhere else.
This is a 400-year-old carob tree. Our guide explained that carob seeds grow in pods that can be of varying sizes. Inside the pods are the seeds themselves, and they too can be of varying sizes. However, the core of the carob seed always weighs exactly 0.2 grams and was called "karatos" in Greek. (Remember, Apulia was part of Magna Grecia.) This was used as the standard weight for the "carat," or the measurement system for diamonds.
I find the trunk of this tree to be a fascinating combination of forms, shapes and textures. My family and I see the form of a child sitting in the trunk, with a crown on his head and holding something in his lap. Can you see him?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pulo, 4

In the first half of the 16th century, a religious community of Capuchin monks built a small monastery right on the edge of the pulo, sort of hanging off the edge of the cliff actually. It is thought that the monks used the pulo not only for religious pursuits, meditation, and as a burial ground (an undamaged ossuary containing human bones was found in the cavern I showed on Tuesday), but also to cultivate crops and to study the unique naturalistic phenomena that exist here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pulo, 3

In the second half of the 18th century, Molfetta's "pulo" attracted the attention of the Kingdom of Naples and the Bourbons because of the high level of nitrate found in the soil of the caves. A gunpowder factory was built in the center of the pulo itself. The photo above shows a series of large basins in which the soil from the caves was "washed" in water. The nitrate was filtered down into lower channels at the bottom of the basins and then collected.
The photo above shows the four ovens in which the gunpowder was "cooked." I'm afraid I'm a bit unclear on the process...I was too busy taking pictures and missed the explanation!

Local myths claim that there were underground tunnels that led from the pulo all the way to the sea (2 kilometers away) and that the gunpowder was carried through them to be loaded onto ships for transport. Tunnels leading inland have been discovered in the historic center of town, but what remains of them does not lead very far, so this myth remains unproven.

By the end of the 1700s interest in the gunpowder factory was already declining and the structure was abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pulo, 2

Only one of the cave dwellings at the Molfetta Pulo can be visited. It's amazing to think that this cave was inhabited from the Neolithic age up to the 19th century. You can see that the entryway is formed by a dry stone wall that was added to make the cave more "house-like."
Just outside the entry to this cave, there is a tomb in which archaeologists discovered six skeletons. Three were male, two were female and one was of undetermined sex.

In the second half of the 18th century the first discoveries of prehistoric materials were made: painted ceramics, flint arrowheads, obsidian hatchets, and bone tools. These artifacts can be seen at the Museum of Molfetta's Pontifical Regional Seminary.

In the first decade of the 20th century, systematic archaeological digs were carried out in the fields around the "pulo" by prestigious archaelogists, who discovered the remains of a necropolis and a neolithic village.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Il Pulo

Molfetta's "pulo" is a karstic doline (or sinkhole) formed by the collapse of the ceiling of an underground cavern, possibly as the result of an earthquake, somewhere between 60 to 250 million years ago. It is about 30 meters deep and about 180 meters across, at its widest point.

The "pulo" was inhabited continuously from Neolithic times on. There are many natural caves in the stone walls that were used as living spaces. Think cavemen! You can see some of the caves on the far wall in the photo. This is considered to be one of the most important Neolithic sites in southern Italy.

The "pulo" has just recently been opened to the public thanks to the efforts of seven local volunteer associations. Visiting hours are on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

I'll show you more details in the days to come.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


In Italy, bouquets of the mimosa flower are given to women on March 8, International Women's Day. It's a very pretty flower, but doesn't last very long once it's been cut. I prefer to look at the mimosa flowers on the tree just outside my front door. It blooms at about this time in January every the time March 8 rolls around the flowers are long gone. The flowers don't last long on the tree either, but our visual pleasure is somewhat extended by the fact that this tree was grafted to another years ago. The bottom half blooms first and just when those flowers are fading, the top half of the tree explodes with color!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bird on the Wire

This photo was shot on the edge of Molfetta's industrial park. The large parking lot you see beyond the birds is often full of caravans of gypsies in their RVs. On this day it was just me and the seagulls.

I haven't yet had time to read the instruction manual for my new camera... I think that's pretty obvious from the so-so quality of the photos I've been posting for some time now. Hopefully, I'll have time to study up now that I've finished the translation, but that's not necessarily a given. I already have two new projects in the works...

In any case, I don't have high hopes for this camera. It's just another tiny little digital thing. I don't think Santa Claus quite understood what I had in mind when I said, "new camera." But, hey, I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Amarcord Caffè

Last night my book club met for our monthly meeting. We don't have a set meeting place and this time we got together at the Amarcord Caffè in Trani. Spumante, appetizers and talking about books...what could be better?

Trani is a small coastal city located two towns up the Adriatic coast. It is a very beautiful and well worth a visit (click here for photos and info).

In other breaking news, I finished the translation of the book I was working on!!! It was a "cinematic travel guide" to the region of Apulia. Basically, that means a travel guide that also talks about all the films that have been shot in the region. It was fascinating work! When the English version comes out, I'll post a link so you can all run out and buy your own copy! ;-)

For a look at the version in Italian, click here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Piazza Principe di Napoli

This is the same square as in yesterday's photo, but seen from the opposite side. The signboard to the right is displaying that day's prices for the butcher shop just out of the frame to the right. They were offering a special price on lamb that day, only €8.90 a kilo. Would that be a good deal in your town?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Central Post Office

At the end of the square, behold the central post office. It may not look like much on the outside, but I assure you that inside it is a modern wonder. The "poste italiane" have done a lot over the last couple of years to update their efficiency and image (they even have a jingle!). In an Italian post office you can do a lot more than buy stamps (actually, it's a lot easier to buy your stamps at the tabacconists, go figure...). You can mail letters and packages, do banking, pay bills, pay your traffic fines, pick up your old-age pension...let your imagination run wild. In the past, when you walked into the p.o. you had to jockey for position in a mass of people to see who could bully their way to the next available window first. Now, we are so civilised...when you enter through the double sliding doors (I wonder if they x-ray you while you wait between one door and another?), you have to punch several buttons on a machine, indicating what services you require. The machine duly spits out a slip of paper with a number that tells you what window to go to. There's still always a mass of people in there. And there are still fights over whose turn it is, but at least you have your slip of paper to prove that it really is your turn! Number 89 comes before number 98, right?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hospital Murales, 2

Help! A giant octopus has taken over the information desk at the Molfetta Hospital!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hospital Murales

In one ground-floor corridor of Molfetta's hospital, free reign was given to creativity.

The walls, ceilings, doors, posts and even the radiators have been covered with a delightful and colorfully magical scene.

Even the benches have gotten in on the act!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mystery Revealed No. 4

I just realised that I don't have a photo that clearly illustrates the setting for yesterday's mystery item! Oh no! The best I can do for now is the photo above that gives you a slightly wider view... What you are looking at is the ceiling lighting fixture in one of the elevators in Molfetta's hospital. I think it's a pretty wild and crazy choice in the midst of what is otherwise a typically sterile, colorless hospital environment.
This second photo shows the ground floor hallway. Now, that's what I expect in a hospital. Bland, bland, bland. But, Molfetta's hospital has other surprises up its sleeves...more to come in the following days...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mystery Photo no. 4

It's been quite a while since we last played the Mystery Photo game. So, what do you think you're looking at here? I'll give you a hint: it's not "art" - it has a function.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Behind Bars

How many of you have bars on your windows?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter Fishing

If we are lucky enough to have a sunny Sunday without wind, my husband loves to go fishing yearround. As do lots of Molfettans. Anywhere you go along the seafront, you'll see men with their rods and tackleboxes. Those lucky enough to have a boat can venture a bit farther from shore, but the others seem happy just the same to fish from the breakwater.

Yesterday's fishing expedition yielded exactly zero fish...but I think this is a case where it's not necessarily the result, but the process that's important. It would be nice to have caught some fish, but it was just as nice to be out in the boat in the fresh air and sun!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This is a view of SS16bis, or State Road 16 bis, just south of the exit for Molfetta. "Bis" is a Latin term used in Italian in a wide variety of situations. Its general meaning is something like "again," but it is used to ask for second helpings at the table; to indicate that something is happening for the second time; or, to avoid using the unlucky number 17 hotels may number their rooms 16, 16bis, 18...

This road runs north-south along the Adriatic coast. It was built in 1990 to accomodate the traffic expected for the FIFA World Cup. Some games were played in Bari and previous to 1990 the only way to get to Bari was along the old coastal road SS16. This is a narrow two-lane highway that passes through all the little towns along the coast, obliging you to stop at all the traffic lights, let children cross the street, wait for delivery trucks to finish delivering...very slow, as you can imagine.

So, thanks to soccer, Apulia was remembered by Italy and got a bit of needed infrastructure. Since the new road runs parallel to the old road, they didn't bother thinking up a new name or number, but called it SS16bis.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


State Road 98 is a lonely two-lane highway leading from Bisceglie (the next town to the north of Molfetta up the Adriatic coast) inland to Andria. It is full of curves and people tend to drive it too fast. They get impatient with the cautious drivers (you know, the ones who respect the speed limits, what are they thinking?!) and pass recklessly. Driving in Italy is not for the weak of heart!

* Bonus points for those of you who noticed the subtle continuation of my leafless tree theme in this photo! ;-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Old and the New

Since I somehow seem to find myself caught up in a celebration of leafless trees, I thought I'd just go with it and post yet one more. This photo illustrates how the city is encroaching on the countryside. The building in the center is a trullo (more on them here and here), a traditional structure in Apulia. Only a small olive grove separates the trullo from Molfetta's southernmost apartment complex.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Leafless Tree

Yes, another day, another leafless tree... I have no idea what kind this one is, but I think it captures the Molfettan winter mood. Grey sky, rain, leafless to lots of trees with leaves! The majority of trees here are not deciduous.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mulberry Tree

This large mulberry tree was already large when my husband was a little boy. He fondly remembers climbing up into it while playing hide and seek with his cousins, while building a sling-shot, while day-dreaming. He was happy to see it is doing well on the farm in San Ferdinando di Puglia.

The mulberry (called "gelso" in Italian) is a common tree around here. It produces a tasty yellow or purple fruit: the mulberry, of course. We have one in our yard here in Molfetta. The fruit ripens in the summer and you have to pick it when the moment is just right. Too early and the berries are dry and tasteless, too late and they get bruised or eaten by insects.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Perla the Dog seems patiently happy to wait for us (in a typically canine fashion) to enter into the ex-oil mill of the farm at San Ferdinando di Puglia.

The stones that the pavement and base of the wall are made of are called "chianche" locally. They are large square, or rectangular, blocks of local stone, usually 30-50 cm deep. They are quite solid and will last for an extremely long time. They were used in the past to pave streets and sidewalks. When I lived in Molfetta's old town, my walls and floors were made of this stone. It was rather cold and unforgiving for little boys still unsteady on their feet!

Stone is one of the most abundant raw materials throughout the region of Apulia. As a result, it has always been the primary building material. You won't see any wooden houses around here. We're short on trees, except for olives and they're more important for their fruit than their wood, but there is stone everywhere, both above and underground.

Just trivia, but in Molfetta a boring person is called a "chiancone," or "big block of stone."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

Best wishes from Molfetta to you all for a wonderful 2009!