The Puglia Diaries

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

Winter’s Not Bad when there’s Wine

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I am doing a bad job of keeping this blog up to date. Between work, eating, marking tests, more eating, going to the gym and doing other fun stuff, I have let my experiences in Puglia stack up, unwritten, as the time flies by. I can’t believe it’s nearly December: I’ve bought a pair of gloves, the Christmas tree is up and it’s only 27 days until Baby Jesus joins the Nativity scene next to the TV.

Last Saturday, I took to the winding streets of Bisceglie for a wine festival called “Calici nel Borgo Antico”, or ‘Wine glasses in the Old City’. Winemakers from all over the region had set up their collections in rooms dotted around the historical part of town: for 10€ you could buy a glass, enough tickets for 7 tasters and a bag of taralli, which are like curly mini breadsticks. The streets were full of people milling around with Bordeaux pouches around their necks, an excellent idea so that you could put away your glass while you walked between tastings. Maybe not the hottest look of 2013 but all the same a nice souvenir from the evening.

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We tried a good few wines, from sweet syrupy moscati to strong red Pugliese wines, none of which I remember the name. The servings were generous, more than just a sip let’s say. One of my friends got her savvy uncle on the phone to find out the best wine makers out of the 25 in attendance and we weaved our way through the streets to find them, comparing opinions and trying to keep ahead of the pushchairs biting at our ankles. Even if it was based on alcohol, this festival was certainly an affair for all ages, with families, groups of friends and children. I saw a couple of my students from school and let down my I-don’t-speak-Italian façade once again (oops).


Walking around the streets lit with Christmas lights, I felt that the evening was the epitome of all things Italian. There was the wine of course, strong and dark, but also a variety of food on offer. I bought a plate of orecchiette pasta for 1 euro and helped my friends finish a cheese platter (meaning I ate the plaited mozzarella they didn’t like – I am basically a human dustbin). Still hungry, I got myself a piece of focaccia later on, smothered in roasted tomatoes and olive oil and still one of my favourite foods from around here.

Apart from food and drink, there was also an opera performance, with singers belting out well-known arias from a balcony in one of the main squares. Also in attendance were some less conventional performers playing with fire and chains. I love these kinds of events, all about being with friends and bumping into people you know in a crowd of people that mostly look genuinely happy with life.

ImageAfter a 1am ‘cornetto’ and a coffee, it was time to go back to Molfetta. The car journey was fun because we were listening to Fabrizio de Andre, whose music my friends grew up with. They sang the whole song without stopping or missing a lyric while I just sat there smiling. Here is one of the ‘choons’ in question.

The evening was pretty cold, and despite going out with hat and coat and layers, I was told I looked like one of those red-nosed little characters from Whoville, in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Appropriately festive, but I did feel a bit of a cold coming on the next day. I fought it off by helping to put up and decorate the Christmas tree, and then picking clementines from the mini orchard right here in the garden. Overall, a lovely wintery weekend.


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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