The following article is from the Puglia and Basilicata (Lonely Planet Regional Guides). It describes exactly the small towns near us and particularly reminds me of our nearest local town, Torchiarolo. This guide book to Puglia and Basilicata is highly recommended for all visitors to Puglia.
You can purchase it online from Amazon.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TOWN
It’s just 4.30 am and the first of the town’s bars are open, for farmers and insomniacs. The barman serves his first caffé of the day. He likes his job, but earns only €400 per month. He’s hoping to get funding from Sviluppo Italia (‘Develop Italy’), the government development agency for the south, to launch a business selling beauty products.
By 8 am, the truck selling vegetables has parked on the corner, and the barber’s bicycle is outside his shop. He’ll stay open until 11 am – he’s past retirement age but still keeps the shop going. He’d like to talk – he’s particularly interested in local history and bemoans the town’s lack of a bookshop – but he hasn’t time today; he’s going to see his son in the north.
At 9 am traffic is at its height. The whole main road is blocked off with cars. People are commuting from one end of the town to the other. The best cornetti are already gone from the bars. The elderly men are staged on benches in the main square, bicycles leaning against the wall in shadow.
Groups of young people with big sunglasses, high-maintenance hair and thought-out fashion (and that’s just the men) pop in for a cappuccino and cornetto before heading off to the beach.
At 9.15 am a car drives slowly around the streets, making its recorded announcement through a rooftop megaphone, ‘blade sharpening, kitchen gas repairs’. There’s a queue at the shop selling mozzarella (if you don’t get there early, the burrata sells out) and at the bread counter in the supermarket. In fields outside the town, brightly dressed workers – all women – are still toiling picking tomatoes.
An Albanian woman hurries on her way to the shops. She’s staying here looking after an elderly resident in his museum-like home. The €500 she earns each month goes further at home, but it’s lonely work.
At 11 am the church bell tolls in remembrance for a local man. His death is announced, like the others in town, by black-bordered notices plastered around the town centre.
The main street is lined by small clothes shops that don’t do much business; two members of staff, chattering, look out onto the street, waiting for passing trade. One waves to a passing car which swerves to a stop for a loud and cheery greeting – it’s her father’s cousin.
At 1 pm the shops close for lunch. The main street is deserted. House are shuttered. It’s a sacred time: lunch time.
The town snoozes in the collective catatonio of a summer’s afternoon.
It starts to stir at 5 pm. Shops open, elderly men start to pedal slowly down the main street. The sun has moved, so they transfer their allegiance to the bar on the other side of the street, though they rarely buy anything.
From dusk the older people begin to sit outside their houses on string chairs, watching any passing traffic. The nightly passeggiata – where people dress up to wander; bumping into friends and relatives, checking out their fellows, stopping for a gelato – keeps the seafront busy until midnight or beyond.
We love this description of small towns in Puglia. It describes exactly the small towns near us and particularly reminds me of our town, Torchiarolo. Small towns are often overlooked by visitors. They shouldn’t be!