The Mezzogiorno area of Italy that includes the region of Puglia, is still a land governed by long traditions and a deep respect for the past.
Family and community life reigns supreme, and outside of the big cities everyone knows their neighbours and fellow inhabitants of the village or town in which they live.
The lifestyle in Puglia has not progressed as rapidly as in more Northern parts of Italy or indeed the rest of Europe, but and people still hold true to the value of preceding generations, and the changing of the seasons. The day revolves around the Siesta which reigns supreme, shops and business’s close at 1pm for lunch (which is the main meal of the day and generally taken at home), the obligatory siesta then follows.
Daily routine resumes at 5pm when shops and business’s re-open until 8pm.
Life is generally to be enjoyed, and a crisis is not really a crisis but just something that needs to be resolved., This relaxed attitude is seen everywhere you go, along with a respect for the value of things and an avoidance of unnecessary wastage.
Strolling through the fishing harbours of Gallipoli or Monopoli for example, you may still observe a fisherman sitting on an upturned bucket whilst patiently hand stitching repairs to his fishing nets. Tinkers still solder back handles onto old cooking utensils and cobblers still repair shoes rather than the modern attitude elsewhere of just replacing everything.
In the springtime, you can see landowners working small fields and vegetable gardens with a horse and plough, rather than always using their tractor. When I asked why he was using a horse when he had a tractor, one man replied to me, that he was no longer in a hurry to finish and he would be able to hear the birds singing if he used his horse to complete the job. This remark has always stuck with me.
The same attitude can be seen everywhere, the willingness to take pleasure from doing manual jobs and the conviction that it is therefore done better.
During tomato harvest, people buy crates of rich ripe tomatoes direct from the grower, and then spend hours in their courtyards pulping and boiling them with herbs, sealing them in airtight jars to create their own supply of pasta sauces rather than buy the commercial ones.
Their parents did this, and their parents before them, – “the flavour is always better” and so the habit continues today.
The various types of pasta to accompany these sauces is often made by hand, and for those who do not make their own, there are outlets in each village where one can pre-order and buy genuine hand-made and hand shaped pastas, so they can still enjoy the traditional “pasta fatto a mano”
Weekday and Sunday markets are full of stalls big and small, ranging from commercial growers selling their crops, to perhaps an old pensioner selling a few kilos of his own surplus home-grown produce from his garden.
All over this land, life continues at its own pace, new and faster ways are not always embraced, change for change’s sake is rejected along with an unwillingness to shake off the past.
It is easy to believe that as surely as the sun continues to rise in the East and set in the West, then so also will Puglia’s adherence to tradition continue.