Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sweet Pugilese

The town of Galatina is shuttered tight for the Sunday lunch siesta, and save for a few leather-clad men laughing in front of a door, the place seems deserted. I stop to shoot of a photo of a church fa├žade, then turn to read the historical information on a placard out front.

‘’Signora, Signora,’’ a man calls. I cower, wondering what sales pitch might be coming next. He gestures, showing me the church is open; I can go inside.

I step into an ornate Easter egg, rich salmon-colored walls flanking a rich marble altar surrounding a painting of the Virgin Mary on a startling field of blue. And to think I could have missed it.

In Puglia, such helpfulness seems a way of life. The farm hand who opens the gate so I can see the cows, then leads me through the yard and stands me just right so I can catch photos of the goats as they’re led out to pasture. The bar worker who follows me across the plaza to be sure I understand the directions to the cathedral. The police officer who stops traffic to explain that I should go to the “rontondo,’’ then points right so I will understand the directions. The elderly woman in the church who mistakes me for her friend, then touches my face in smiling greeting.

“Those Pugilese, they’re so sweet,’’ said a friend whose mother is Italian before my trip. So sweet, so right.

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