Masseria Le Nicchie


By the miracle of air travel we have arrived in Puglia, Italy. Puglia is a region on the coast directly east of Naples. The Gargano peninsula rises up up rocky and imposing protecting the internal farmland that looks easily like Missouri; flat and green with the young harvest of corn to come.

This is a very old place rich in stories of invading Normans, Saracens, and Holy Roman Emperors. Thy each took their turn killing the other off in particularly gruesome ways and by the thousands. Castles abound and so do the Masseria.

Masseria were fortified farm estates where grain and livestock were stockpiled against marauders. The structures, to a more or lesser degree, still exist.  They dot the Puglian landscape now as country boutique inns. Thick stone walls now white washed and decorated in neutral tones rise up as oasis of comfort.

Last night we took our evening meal chatting happily with the owner/inn keeper, the only guests on a Sunday evening. Such delicious and simple food. Good bread, long on the tast buds wine and vegetables that have so much flavor that all they require are olive oil (local) and a little salt (also local from the sea).

It is easy to be here.  The language builds slowly revealing words like “amaro” which means bitter but also describes the wonderful after dinner drink made from plant roots that is indeed bitter but also mellow, darkly sweet and complex.  We slap our heads constantly (Of course!) as we discover connections to words, even arising in English, that take their meanings from this ancient place.

And then there is the art!  The archeological museum of Naples is housed in a magnificent palace now, sadly, badly lit and with handwritten labels.  But the chunks of frescoes and mosaics from The House of the Faun in Pompeii on display reveal tender, sensitive portraits of women as well as “catch of the day” menus of the local seafood. Lobsters and squid were popular then too!

Wet? Yes. Cold? Yes, a little.  But still we are delighting in the newly minted green of the Puglian spring. Grateful for the almost ear splitting song of birds at dawn and the wafting odor from the kitchen of cafe lattes and fresh brioches.

Bryan Voliton