Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day Trip to the Murgia, 5

After our walk through the Alta Murgia, we stopped by the Masseria Modesti, a working farm that supplements its income by also operating as a restaurant/hotel. This kind of place is called an "agriturismo" in Italy.

The restaurant features local recipes and ingredients produced on the farm.

24 rooms are available if you would like to stay here and other facilities include a bar, a 25 meter swimming pool, a grassy and shaded playground for children and a bocce court.

You can also veiw the farm animals, which is something children love to do!

There is a small church in the local style, an area where campers can park, as well as a large parking area for cars.

It's in a truly lovely and peaceful setting...and you can't beat the view!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day Trip to the Murgia, 4

The bountiful variety of flowers of the Alta Murgia!

To the left, a snapdragon.

To the right, a wild orchid.

Yellow and pink daisies?

This looks like a thistle to me.

Anyone know the names of the others?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day Trip to the Murgia, 3

Besides eating and enjoying the scenery, the declared objective for our trip to the Alta Murgia was to go mushroom hunting. Our friend, Francesco, is an expert mushroom hunter and this area is famous for its cardoncello mushrooms. The photo above is of a ferula plant, which is native to this area and can grow up to 4 meters in height. When these plants die, mushrooms often grow at their base. Our walking sticks, seen in yesterday's photos, were dried ferula stalks.
Another plant we were hunting for was wild asparagus. In the photo above, you can see some growing out of this dead tree stump.

We all kept our heads down and our eyes open in the search for mushrooms and asparagus, but the sharpest eyes belonged to my older son in the yellow shirt here. He found two large cardoncellos and several asparagus plants.

Another thing we had to keep our eyes open for, to avoid, rather than to hunt, were these innocuous looking little caterpillars, called Processionarie in Italian because they travel in single-file, as if they were in an Easter procession. They damage pine or oak trees, depending on what type they are, and can be quite dangerous for humans because they cause allergic reactions, ranging from rash to respiratory problems. There were hundreds of nests all through the fields, but we kept well away from them!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Day Trip to the Murgia, 2

The Murgia area of Apulia is a high tableland with two distinct patterns of vegetation. The area we hiked through on Saturday is green and rich in a wide variety of plants, thanks in part to the abundant rains we have had this year. The other area of the Murgia is practically barren with only scrub brush and the occasional tree.
The top photo shows the point at which we started our hike.
Each of us had our own walking stick, not so much because the terrain was difficult, but to chase off any snakes we might have run into...luckily, we didn't meet up with any snakes at all! The stone structure in the background here is an abandoned farmhouse.

A great deal of the Murgia is active farmland and the bright green field in this photo is a crop of new wheat.
What looks like a pile of stones is actually a falling down trullo house. You can see the ancient stone walls used to create terracing for crops on the far hill.

This is another vast field of new wheat nestled between the woods and an uncultivated hill covered with the the wild plants native to the area.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day Trip to the Murgia

April 25th is the day on which Italians celebrate the Nazi occupation army leaving northern Italy in 1945 after a general partisan insurrection by the Italian resistance movement. This day is taken as symbolic of the Liberation of Italy and is a national holiday.

As usual, Molfettans celebrate their holidays by eating and, weather permitting, spending the day in the countryside.

We celebrated by having a picnic with friends on the Alta Murgia, a tableland area inland from Molfetta.

The first photo shows a Molfettan style calzone, which is sort of like a pie stuffed with onions, fish, black olives, tomatoes and raisins. If I have time, I will post the recipe on my other blog, Amid the Olive Trees, tomorrow.

Other items on the menu included ham, salami, spicy cheese, breaded chicken cutlets, mozzarella, homemade bread and taralli, fresh fennel, fresh fava beans... I must be forgetting something...

Dessert was a "Colomba," the traditional Italian Easter cake made in the shape of a dove, accompanied by limoncello, a lemon liquor.

Over the next few days I'll show you more photos of this beautiful natural area, famous for wild asparagus and cardoncello mushrooms.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I'm hopeless with flower names...can anyone identify this beauty?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Entrance Hall, 2

This entrance hall is located on Via Santa Scolastica, in the "Camere Nuove" area of town. The Camere Nuove, or "New Rooms" were the first homes built beyond the limits of the Old Town. You can't see this entryway from the street as it's hidden behind a large "portone," which is the building's main door. The style of this entry is quite different from the modern one I featured in an earlier post. I know which of the two I prefer, but take a look at the other one and let me know what you think.

This building was the birthplace of Leonardo Azzarita, a famous journalist born in Molfetta in 1888, he died in Rome in 1976. He wrote for and directed several national newspapers, was president of news services and journalistic associations. His son, Manfredi, who was a member of the Resistence during WWII, died at the Fosse Ardeatine (1944).

Saint Scholastica, just in case you're wondering, was the twin sister of Saint Benedict and led a religious community of women in central Italy in the early 500s. She is the patron saint of nuns and convulsive children and is invoked against storms and rain. Read more about her here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and Print Shop

As promised, today's photo features Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. There's not much to it beyond what you can see right here in the photo, it's quite small. The piazza is completely fenced, all the way around, and is furnished with a locked gate, a guard and a small guardhouse. The guard locks and unlocks the gates at certain times and generally lurks around keeping his turf clean and free of potential delinquents.

I rarely ever actually see anyone inside this square. Maybe all the fencing and locks are a bit off-putting...

Beyond the park, you can see a lovely rooftop garden above an old print shop, or "tipografia."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vittorio Emanuele II

This statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the Father of the Fatherland, unified Italy's first king and symbol of the Risorgimento era, gazes upon a bus-stop and has his back turned on a cute little park that I'll show you tomorrow. He is located, appropriately enough, on Via Vittorio Emanuele II at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

For more information on the man, click on this link.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Church of Santo Stefano

This is what happens when you stick your camera out the window and take pictures while driving! Rather fuzzy, but these were the actual colors, the kind of amazing colors you find here in Apulia.

The church spire in the center belongs to the Church of Santo Stefano, which is the starting point of the Good Friday procession featured in yesterday's post.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Holy Week...a week late (2)

The Procession of the Five Mysteries is one of the most evocative of the several processions held during Holy Week. It begins at the Church of Santo Stefano at 3:30 a.m. on Good Friday and winds its way first through the Old Town and then around the rest of the city until noon.

Different confraternities have the honor of carrying each of the five (very heavy) statues. After the last statue, the procession is followed by the city band which plays the traditional Molfettan Funeral Marches, composed over 100 years ago.
You can't see anything in the video below, but it gives you an idea of the music.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Holy Week...a week late

Wouldn't you just know it that the two weeks I've been without internet service would have to coincide with Holy Week, one of the richest periods of religious tradition in Molfetta! In the spirit of "better late than never" I'll be posting a few photos of some of the highlights.

These photos were taken on Palm Sunday, the day on which olive branches are blessed. My parish holds a blessing ceremony in a small park a few blocks from the church and then the congregation makes a short procession from the park to the church.

During the mass, the priest and two assistants perform a reading of the story of Christ being condemned by Pontius Pilate, his crucifixion and resurrection.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Olive Tree

It's really hard to take a good picture of an olive tree. Well, I find it difficult! The leaves are so silvery and shimmery. All my photos end up looking like a silvery-green blur. I find this frustrating because olive trees are such a fundamental element in the Molfettan landscape.
I think this may be my best attempt so far.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Swimming Pool

An exterior detail of Molfetta's indoor pool.
The pool was closed this fall and many Molfettan swimmers started using the structure in Giovinazzo (the next town down the coast). Our city pool reopened in January under new management and has been working on building up its clientele. I took an acquagym exercise class here this winter and have enrolled my son in swimming lessons in the spring session. I believe in supporting local enterprise as much as possible.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You Want Color?

We got your color right here! These condominium owners were not shy when choosing the new color for their building. Bright mustard yellow and green, please!

Not included in the photo is the fact that two-thirds of the building look like this, but the last bit of the building, down to the right, is a drab brown. Obviously, that part has less adventurous owners...