No one rushes about in Puglia. People amble down the middle of the streets pushing babies and carrying packages holding up all the traffic. Everywhere we go people prioritize food and generosity over clock watching and making money. Our host, Isa, arrived this morning with an elegant tray of cream cakes. She had offered to take us to her ‘gommista’ for a tyre repair. En route she guided us through Ostuni (the white 15th century hillside city) to her favorite wine store (delicious and cheap Negroamaro and Primitivo considered the region’s best), a local ceramics store in search of Nicola Fasano’s beautiful plates and then on to her friend’s cafe for more treats. What could easily have been a brusk 40 minute outing turned into a fun morning’s adventure.
This afternoon we drove to Grottaglie, a town near the Ionian sea which is famed for its beautiful ceramics, especially the designs of the Fasano dynasty (they can trace their history back to the 17th century and today they have stores in Rome, Paris and Milan). Chatting to Franco Fasano (Nicola’s son) I mentioned a communal friend. Upon hearing this he jumped up and said he had to take us out for a round of drinks and tea biscuits at his favorite cafe. For an hour he left behind his business to savor a moment’s pleasure with complete strangers. This and Isa’s little acts of kindness puffed warmth into our souls and air under our wings. They changed the ordinary into the extraordinary.