A day in Monopoli
Yesterday was "Festa della Mamma" in Italy, party for Mamma. I like that wording better than Mother's Day; and in Italy, they do throw family parties for this occasion. We took our car and drove out of Alberobello, destination: the sea. We drove to Monopoli to check it out, and mainly, to get out and smell the fresh, salty sea air. I plugged a random point into the GPS and we arrived forty five minutes later, at a park on the coast. We got out to stretch, while Bodhi was still sleeping in the car, and I instantly loved this place. It is ancient with its fortress of light stone walls seeming to hold up the city against the green foamy waves. It looks like an acropolis, a hodge podge of ancient Roman ruins, Greece (or what I imagine Greece to be), Hawaii with its dramatic rocky cliffline, and South America with its rectangle block apartment buildings and newer city beyond. There is graffiti all along the park walkway by the city, and I imagine it is the teenage hangout for the region. I see young couples kissing on benches, families, and old Italians strolling. Everyone looks at us with odd expressions. They do not know us. We are not from here. We try not to stand out as Americans, try to blend in, but this town is small and so we are foreigners nonetheless. We try our Buon Giorno's... then they know we are not Italian tourists, but some other kind. I hear people calling to others on the beach, Ciao Maria, Ciao Beppe. Everyone is known here. We walk to a bed and breakfast called Bella Vista. We ring the buzzer. No answer. So we decide to try out our new Italian prepaid phone and dial the number. Chris attempts: "parla Inglese? Si. Do you have a room for tonight? Yes, I am here, yes, we will wait." He gets off the phone, and the man is coming down to show us the room. It is expensive, but maybe a splurge for tonight, if it's worth it. It IS Mother's Day after all. He sees the room while I am walking Bodhi around the cobblestoned old town. It's beautiful, he says, we will take it. I can see in Chris' eyes that it's a good one. The owner helps us haul in our bags, and I gasp at the view. There is one open window in the room, the view is all sea. I see aquamarine waves and cloudless sky. It is a perfect day, full sun and warm, like I imagined Puglia would be. We settle in and then set off for lunch at a recommended place directly on the sea, called Lugo Bianco. It smells of salt and fish and moist wind. I love it here. The menu is in Italian, "I am sorry for that" the waiter says. The fish and shellfish are all out on display, freshly caught right outside the window. Chris picks frutta di mare (mixed shellfish) all raw with nothing but lemon. They are amazing. We order prosecco, and Chris takes Bodhi for a stroll to take a nap while I sit and enjoy on Mother's Day. It is such a festive atmosphere. The restuarant is humming in a literal roar with people, families, big groups ordering food, wine, dolci, and sitting for hours.
A perfect Sunday, all day spent eating, talking, all dressed up after church. I watch them for a while, trying to decipher bits and pieces of conversations, and make friends with a boy nearby. We talk in sign. He asks, 'where's the baby?' 'Going to sleep', I mime. Then Chris is back and we have fresh pasta with fish and vegetables, then a tomato soup-based fresh fish. Then sorbetto. Everything is wonderful and indulgent. We leave the restaurant somewhere around 4pm. We stroll the old town and the main piazzas, seeing people out and about everywhere, eating gelato, having espressos, talking animatedly. We venture into a cafe for some aqua, since no stores are open on Sundays. Everything is shut down so Italians can spend their family day. We will have to make due for dinner at the apartment. We eat up on the terrace after I get the baby to sleep. The waves are glistening and pale. I can hear them rush against the rocks. It feels so romantic, and I know this already will become one of my favorite places we stay. Wonderful, magical day.