Sweet, dry, languid
by Pasquale G. Casullo
Somewhere in Southern Italy
A visitor always sticks out. “Americano,” town-folk say, slapping a standard-issue label on outsiders. I am even more so a curiosity than the other visitors, on a previous trip over ten-years ago, seen sitting and reading and writing in the tree-bordered villa. My presence is discussed in the three caffès by sun-darkened men who keep an eye on town comings and goings. “Who is he?” [Chi è chillo?] “Professor!” [U’ professore!] “What is he writing?” [Che sta a scrive’?] “I don’t know whose son it is.” [Non so di chi sia figlio!].
At the south-west land-locked corner of regione Puglia, either one kilometre or four kilometres away from regione Campania, I spent two summers and a spring. A long four-hour car-ride – made even longer with occasional pit-stops including a road-side picnic of fresh Pallone di Gravina and caciocavallo cheese, a round loaf of crusty bread, prosciutto and capocollo, as well as a gelato-grab – from Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Monteleone di Puglia is a church-topped town with a population of perhaps 1,000.
My grandparents’ farm lies beyond fusilli-spiralled Monteleone, on a dry, dusty-yellow plain. It took more than a hop, a skip, and a jump, however, we’ve arrived – at last. After our journey from the airport to the farm with Nonno and drivers (father’s cousins) we are without any word for one another, but now is Nonna’s turn for chatter and hugs and kisses. A “moo-oooo!” from a cow in a field passes over us, a sheep’s bell clangs, a chicken clucks.
The air is sweet. The heat is dry. The pace is languid.