Lunch bis

Last week’s post was the beginning of my trip to Puglia, but almost all of the photos are not from the day I arrived, but from the end of my trip.  Not because I had problems with my camera or because I was disoriented from jet lag or on edge because of the city’s reputation.  It was the weather.  On the train ride south from Rome, the bright sun and clear, blue skies that had drawn me to Puglia were overtaken by dark, looming clouds until the sky was as close to black as a sky can get.  And then it started to pour.  Taking the philosophical view of such things can only get you so far.  It was hard work not to let my face muscles settle into una faccia da funerale  (face fit for a funeral).   Luckily, the deluge began to abate as we approached Bari and by the time I walked out of the station, although some of the streets were flooded, it had stopped raining.

The skies were still overcast when I drove down to Polignano a Mare the next day, but the rain seemed to have passed.


Ironically, Polignano a Mare looked much the same on that blustery, gray day in May as it had on my previous visit years ago in December.


The small beach in the middle of the town was all but deserted on that December morning.


The day after the storm il mare è ancora mosso. The sea is still moving.  An odd phrase, until you see the sea when it settles down and becomes calmo again.

The next day was glorious and it was bel tempo for the duration of my trip – in fact until the last morning in Rome when, as I waited to board the bus to the airport, it started to pour.   At the airport I learned how lucky I had been when a fellow passenger told me about the rain storms further north and showed me photos of the flooded square in front of the Louvre after the Seine overflowed its banks.

Because I wanted to see Polignano under sunny skies I stopped there again for lunch on my way back to Bari at the end of my trip.


Some places are meant to be seen under sunny skies. Il mare calmo along the craggy coast north of Polignano.


And the sun-lovers have returned to Polignano’s tiny beach.

I climbed back up to the bridge that crosses over the inlet and headed to the centro storico.


The bridge, part of the Via Traiana, was built by Emperor Trajan (Traiano) as a shorter alternative to the Via Appia route from Benevento, 50 km north-east of Naples, to Brindisi in southern Puglia.


Apparently, like many of the towns I visited, Polignano had also held a festival.


Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the heart of the centro storico.


All the light displays reminded me of the time in Gaeta, a seaside resort about an hour south of Rome, when all the lights blew the town’s transformer.


Like true gardeners everywhere, lack of space didn’t deter this plant lover. And what a great way to stop people from parking by your front gate.  A nice spiky aloe.


The White Crane Flower aka Bird of Paradise is so elegant I wonder why we only ever see the orange variety in our florist shops.

Polignano a Mare’s economy is based principally on tourism, so not surprisingly the alleys of the medieval centre are lined with shops selling things tourists might want to buy.  The only thing I buy these days is olive oil, so I just usually walk by.  One enterprising vendor had come up with a way to make even tourists like me pause.  Little nuggets of wisdom written on the walls and staircases.   Most were short quotations from well-known figures.


Don’t waste new tears on old sorrows. (Euripides)

The longest was a translation, I assumed by ‘Guido il flâneur‘, of a poem by the American poet, Edgar Lee Masters.  I translated – fairly literally – Guido’s translation back into English. ‘Wayfarer, the greatest sin of all is the sin of a soul that is blind before all others.  And the greatest joy of all is the joy of knowing the good we have seen and to see what is good in the miraculous moment.’  Then I thought I’d have a look at the original and I was reminded yet again of why I had shunned a career in translation.  ‘Passerby, sin beyond any sin is the sin of blindness of souls to other souls.  And joy beyond any joy is the joy of having the good in you seen, and seeing the good at the miraculous moment!’  The well-meaning Guido has got tripped up with that split, present perfect verb (Do people even use such terminology any more?).


On the bottom step – Guido the stroller; not a writer, nor a poet or artist. Below the year of death are the words Spero non prima (Hopefully not before) and on the far right Lettore si! (Reader yes!)


I was getting hungry so I stopped meandering and headed straight for La Balconata, the casual little trattoria/pizzeria where I had eaten three weeks earlier.  It was in a small piazza on the east edge of the town – which in Polignano means atop a cliff that drops straight down to the sea.


View from the balcone.

It was as busy as the first time and the food – fritto di mare misto, verdure grigliate e vino bianco della casa – was as delicious as I remembered.


Lunch bis.  Just as delizioso the second time round.


Like so much of the coastline of Puglia, the area around Polignano a Mare is a place where you can walk and you can gawk, but you can’t (safely) do both at the same time. It still makes for a wonderful post-lunch stroll.

Next:  A Botanical Garden in an ancient Lama


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