Italy, Part III: Family Time in Puglia

Aunt Filomena’s Lasagna at the Mare di Lesina

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my mother was born in San Severo, Italy. She moved to the States when she was twelve years old, but her oldest sister still lives in Italy with my cousins Amalia, Patrizia, Lucy, and Leda. Whenever we all see each other we spend most of our time at the table, eating. And talking. It’s what we do best, and we’re actually very close, despite the physical distance that separates us more often than not.

I hadn’t been to San Severo in some time, so after I finished working in Verona I jumped on another train and headed down into Puglia. Over the course of the seven-and-a-half hour ride I watched the landscape change from the grassy green of Northern Italy to the dusty brown of the South. A little more than halfway through my voyage the sparkling Adriatic appeared to the left of the train, while bright red specks of cherry tomatoes and green watermelons dotted the arid soil to the right.

The morning after I arrived, my aunt, Patrizia, her two children and I took off for Lucy’s beach apartment at nearby Marina di Lesina. As I caught up with my cousins, I learned they were all distraught over the vicious fires that had consumed the nearby Gargano region a few days before.

(On a more serious note, the destruction of the Gargano is an absolute tragedy. I went there 10 years ago, and I have never seen a more beautiful beachfront area. With its whitewashed houses, pristine beaches, and serene pine trees, it was truly a magnificent place. And now there’s nothing left.)

Our days at the beach followed a similar pattern: after breakfast with my aunt, Lucy, and her boyfriend Maurizio, the rest of the family would arrive at the apartment from San Severo around noon or so. Eventually we would unfold the long portable table, set out the plastic dishes and cups, and eat.

Meat-stuffed lasagna, hefty eggplant parmigiana, three kinds of pizza, pasta with puréed fresh peppers and cream, fried zucchini, amazing spaghetti all’amatriciana, veal cutlets, salumi, creamy mozzarella di bufula; the days ran together, with brief pauses between each meal. After the primi and secondi, we refreshed our palettes with fruit, and then dove into the dolci of cookies and pastries, and then…we all said we were going to be sick. Those who needed a nap retired to the two small bedrooms to do so, while the rest of us sat outside to watch the sunset and laughed about how Sunset at the Marina di Lesinamuch we ate.

Then around 10 pm we did it all again.

It was fun just to be together around that long table. Passing the bread around, telling jokes over dessert, laughing about how full we were, it all helped us relate to each other. We should be able to enjoy each other more often. I just wish we didn’t have to travel halfway around the world every few years to do so.


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