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15 July 2018

Martina Franca in my heart

Dear Comasia, you know how close Martina Franca is to my heart because – of all the places in my beloved Puglia – that is where I met my husband so many years ago. The town that more than any other reminds me of the beauty of your region, with its wonderful Trulli set among olive and almond trees.

I’m writing this letter because it’s an occasion that deserves warmer words than just some message on WhatsApp, and my nephew Antonio will hand it to you; see how big and handsome he’s become?

He wanted his first holiday to be in the beautiful setting of Puglia which I have always talked about, so he can find out about the place where his grandfather was born,          that town on the plateau in the southern Murgia between Bari and Taranto.

I’d like to thank you in anticipation for your generous hospitality, because I’m sure you’ll give him all your love.

He really wants to sleep in a trullo, so he can listen to the silence of the countryside, and I’m sure he’ll be delighted by the Mediterranean vegetation around the town. I know he’ll be able to discover the Pianelle Natural Park on his own, as he loves just setting off exploring on a bicycle, just like we used to.

He already knows that the town dates back to the tenth century, but please do take him along to the Basilica of San Martino, let him see that we are devoted to the saint for his charity and not just grateful for the fine wine he helps produce. The façade is so beautiful that I can recall it as if I had seen it yesterday, with those beautiful statues.

Tell him to visit the Church of St. Francis of Assisi just outside the walls – what a lot of memories, my dear Comasia.

Antonio said that he knows it’s a city with important historical artefacts from the Stone Age, but take him to see Palazzo Ducale, to both of the museums – each one as fascinating as the other; nearby is Aunt Rosetta’s house.

Martina Franca is a triumph of limestone architectural decoration, in a delightful fusion of Baroque and Rococo styles. Show him Palazzo Nardelli, Palazzo Carucci, and even Palazzo Torricella, where our seamstress Serafina used to live.

I’m sure he’ll be enchanted by the old town, I get he’s lost count of the number of times I’ve described its narrow streets, whitewashed houses and heady balconies.

He’s looking forward to eating orecchiette with turnip tops; I told him turnip tops are out of season, but I’m sure you’ll make orecchiette, with your tomato and basil with the unmistakable fragrance it has down there in Puglia. Let him try the capocollo, because then he’ll always want to eat it: capocollo from Martina Franca has the perfect flavour to go with the local DOC white wine, as well as Ciciri & Tria, that delicious pasta with chickpea sauce, that I can almost taste as I write!

And then, take him along to the Valle d’Itria Festival, he’s really into theatre and music, and I know every inch of his heart will benefit from it.

Comasia, I wish I could be there too, but for now I’ll just have to share in my nephew’s joy at having his wonderful holiday in Puglia, spending time at the seaside and in the countryside, where every moment seems beautiful and perfect.

A big hug to you, your friend, Matilde.