lunedì 3 novembre 2014

Secret Italy, Lecce and Matera


fonte: Telegraph UK

Lecce and Matera

Down I went to Puglia and glorious Lecce. I have been in love with this city since I first went there on honeymoon; there is a honey glow to the stones that is unique in my experience, and nothing jars the harmonious Baroque architecture of the historic centre.
Francesco Gigante showed me around an extraordinary vineyard, with grapes grown on land sequestrated from Mafia owners. The co-operative is trying to provide alternative work opportunities in a region where often the Mafia was the only employer; they name their wines after heroic “ordinary people” who stood up to the Mafia and paid for it with their lives.
Graziella welcomed me to her trullo, the beehive-shaped house that is only found here. Trulli are affordable, and are being snapped up by foreigners who make them extremely chic holiday homes, but Graziella’s has not been altered since she came to live there with her in-laws 50 years ago. Like Agata’s family in Ravello, Graziella and her husband live off their land, and she is glad that her sons have escaped the back-breaking work that has been a constant in her life. She made me the fava bean mash that was the daily dish of peasant farmers, as expensive pasta was kept for special occasions, while also entertaining me with one of the many songs in dialect that were traditionally sung to break up the monotonous labour.
Finally to Matera, which has changed enormously since I was last there seven years ago. I arrived especially for the Madonna della Bruna. Matera is a city carved out of the rock that was forcibly cleared by the UN in the Fifties as the population lived without electricity or running water; it was known as “the shame of Italy”. In the past few years the Italian government has allowed businesses to lease spaces there and it is now thriving again. Francesco Foschino has taken on his grandparents’ former home and turned it into a bed and breakfast; he spoke passionately about how important it was to reclaim pride in the city. The finale to the festa was wild, brutal and utterly enthralling and a fitting climax to my journey.
At the end I felt as if I had finally resolved my dual nationality. I wholeheartedly embraced my Italian heritage this summer and have even starting speaking Italian to my children. I hope that they will feel the same lasting connection to that beautiful country that I do. But my return to Monforte and the time I spent with the older generations throughout my journey reminded me of why my grandfather’s parents brought him to England, in search of a better life, and how fortunate I am to have been given the opportunities that resulted from that decision.

Alex Polizzi’s Secret Italy is on Channel 5, Fridays at 9pm