We were introduced to Lars and Pernille by friends from afar. The married Danish couple made Puglia their new home years ago, bringing their youngest son to live in Polignano a Mare at what is now Palazzo Penelope (stay tuned). Masseria Schiuma has, perhaps, the coolest name for a Masseria, meaning foam, as in the foam that arrives from the sea. Just a short walk away from the sea, Schiuma is a blend of their Danish predispositions and an embodiment of the Puglian landscape and artisans which took hold of them over 20 years ago. Here you can find several bedrooms, impeccable design, places for peace and quiet (not the least for Pernille’s yoga retreats), an olympic swimming pool, and, above all, the most incredible hosts who want to help you interact with the locals and understand the Pugliese culture.
Italians use the word gem often, very often, specifically to describe places which have some unique soul and lie mostly undiscovered, untouched – here we have the epitome of a gem, Conversano, the Pugliese town no one seems to talk about. Our contributor, Gianvito Fanelli, took us for a tour around his hometown, showing us the most beautiful details and pointing out where the city needs help. We walked the old city center, snuck into a church or two, and climbed to the highest perches in town to view the city from above. We visited his father’s design store, Loi, which was, surprisingly, incredibly design forward, and had a legendary gelato at Bar del Incontro, a place completely stuck in time. Gianvito told us stories of his friends returning from Milan and other northern cities “to do South Working” and was excited for the prospect of the new South, something that felt like a revolution.
If you crave to take a piece of this land home with you, something that is able to tell about Puglia’s roots, Francesco Fasano’s workshop is an obligatory stop. The family tradition began with his father Cosimo, from whom he inherited the passion for ceramic creations. Francesco is passionate and studied, he cares deeply about the traditions and history of his craft. He opted to avoid commercial fame, instead dedicating himself fully to the art, creating some of the highest quality ceramics in the world. Differentiated by making lamps, but not just any lamps: perforated, entirely by hand in glazed terracotta, and painted, once again by hand, made with a completely innovative technique. Francesco strives to create beauty through light and his will to be a custodian for the traditions of this land and his family.
Small domes with a rough surface, with a thicker edge and a thin center, born from the combination of wheat flour, water and extra virgin olive oil. The perfect shape to accommodate the filling. Whether it is with turnip tops, as tradition requires, or with tomato sauce, it is one of the symbols of simple cuisine that knows how to create exquisite dishes using what the territory has on offer.
If you asked an Apulian grandmother for the recipe for orecchiette, she would look you up and down as if you were asking her to share an unspeakable secret while smirking in amusement of the innocence of an amateur.
Wearing the apron you will hardly be able to keep up with her; she’ll go over the ingredients and go through every single step as if she were doing the easiest thing in the world. A precise and fast movement of the hand to create the shape that characterizes this pasta; satisfied she’ll tell you: “Easy isn’t it?”.
PUGLIA’S EYES AND EARS
comare (ant. commare) s. F Vicina di casa, legata da rapporti di lunga amicizia e confidenza: le c. chiacchieravano nella piazzetta; i miracoli raccontati da fra Galdino quando va dalle commari alla cerca (Carducci); anche spreg.: ciarle, pettegolezzi da comari.
comare (ant. commare) s. F Neighbor, linked by relationships of long friendship and confidence: the c. they chatted in the square; the miracles recounted by Fra Galdino when he goes from the commari to the search (Carducci); also spreg .: chatter, gossip from wives.
You can hear them chatting from one balcony to another, or sitting in front of their house next to the hand embroidered curtain moved by the wind while they cut vegetables and keep an eye on what happens around them, patrolling as they say.
More skilled than James Bond, attentive and curious, from their regular perch they are able to understand and observe everything. Holding tight their rosaries, wearing their best summer gown with buttons on the front and slippers with pantyhose to cover their legs. Their hair is gathered in the soft tuppo (bun or chignon in Pugliese dialect) stopped by the comb clip.
“Quanto ti sei fatto grande!” (How big you have become!)
A few words addressed to their grandchildren ages 6 to 50 something, followed by the offer of a cup of coffee, guaranteed.
Photo by Mario Giacomelli, Puglia, 1958 - 1982