The Puglia Diaries

The thrills and spills of a British Council Language Assistant in Molfetta, Italy

The Family and the Beautiful Tree

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Last week Mum and Izzy came to visit me down here in Puglia. Their arrival was awaited like a royal visit, the best bed and breakfast selected, the room visited and booked. I was excited to show them around my new town, which although quite small has a particular charm that can easily win over visitors.

Their flight arrived late at night but Ryanair delivered them and all their bags without any issues. They were quick to tell me about all the Italians with oversized hand luggage and the people who were giving them funny looks on the plane, but it seemed that everything had gone smoothly. They brought me a suitcase with winter jumpers that I may or may not need, a thicker jacket, a Kindle for my birthday and a three thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle of Picasso’s studio. Izzy has demanded photographic evidence of the finished product, and hopes it will ‘keep me busy’. She must be worried about me pining after her and her cupcakes, not knowing what to do with my days.

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On Wednesday, I was given the day off school to show the fam around. They were not disappointed with the port and the old part of town, but the glaring October sun roused a few complaints of it being too hot for long sleeves (I did warn you, Mum). The tour of Molfetta City was followed by a lunch, where my English family and Italian host family had to communicate without a solid common language. It’s fair to say that there were a lot of facial expressions and compliments on the food, but you can’t go wrong with the Southern specialities, focaccia and parmigiana. The afternoon was also rather productive: I used shopping time with Mum and Izzy to buy a new bag and an entire gym kit, shoes and everything. This is following my Dad’s remark that I ‘can’t run a tap’: I will show them!

Following many recommendations, we decided to go to Alberobello the next day. Literally translating as ‘the beautiful tree’, this town is one of the region’s major points of interest because of its peculiar houses, the trulli. I won’t say it was a stress-free morning: I had a couple of unruly classes at work, walked an old man home who had fallen over with heavy shopping bags, legged it home to change and then joined Mum and Izzy at the station, a little bit flustered. Armed with timetable and map, we pulled into Bari’s labyrinthine station and eventually found the platforms belonging to the Ferrovie del Sud Est. FSE is a crummy little train service that links all the small towns inland between Bari and Taranto. We embarked on an hour and a half of travel on a train that, judging by its interesting rattle and interior, had been around since the 1970s.

I would say that Alberobello is worth the journey: the trulli are lovely and bewildering to behold. You can’t quite believe what you are seeing when you are faced with a pathway flanked by rows of squat little huts like something out of a fairytale. The town was very peaceful but we located the main square with all the restaurants just in time before Izzy went into a full on hunger tantrum. She was appeased by orecchiette pasta and a chocolate soufflé that she was extremely protective of when I approached my spoon (‘She’s taking all the middle bit!’). Here are some pictures of the trulli:

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After an afternoon in Bari, it was time for goodbye in the Central station. I felt a bit sad getting on the train to Molfetta alone but family tourist times had worn me out, so I was glad to rest! Until next time, family: there are still many things to see in Puglia.

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Author: Elly Cooke

Recent graduate of English Literature and Italian from the University of Leeds. Book lover and part-time Italian speaker.

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