Driving Dinner and le Donna

We decided to drive to Santa Maria di Leuca, the small town at the end of the heel of Italy, famous for its lighthouse and where the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea merge. We walked along the promenade, ate gelato and I had a selection of four small cicchetti (tapas) and a cappuccino for two euro! The coastline was spectacular, and we stopped at a couple of places to explore – Castro Marina where boats are hired out for exploring the nearby caves and finally Santa Cesarea Theme where we saw preparations for the festival of the Adoration of the Madonna. We became aware that the weekend of the 15th September would be very significant as we had seen loads of activities at various places around the region.

One of the features that stood out were the towers. A system of watchtowers was built in the 16th Century along the length of the Puglian coast to protect citizens from constant invasion from the east and the south. They were close enough so that each town could communicate with the towers on either side.

Our last day and Trementorna had arrived, a cold and blustery northerly wind blowing from the Alps.  The sea was a carnival of white caps and sheets of salt-spray scurried metres into terrestrial territory. Salt encrusted anything solid, including our rental car. Quite astonishing.

Just metres from Villa Lina was a blowhole and because of the wind and consequent swell, was at its most spectacular.  John and I were captivated and played like children for ages, trying to capture the spray, predict the timing and generally have fun.

It was our final evening and Lina had asked us to join her and some friends for dinner at 8:30. There were nine of us- Lina and her five friends and Val, John and I. Val has a little Italian and Lina a bit of English. Francesco had the best command of English while Franco, Laura, Luciana and Iris all had a smattering. The conversation was animated and light-hearted.  John and I were pretty much focussing on gestures and facial expressions. Everyone was so warm and friendly we felt totally included.  

Dinner consisted of three courses accompanied by wine and finished with a selection of liqueurs. The first dish was peas with fried bread – pisciddhri cu li muersi, amazing. The main was a rustic stew which just melted in our mouths. This was accompanied by grilled vegetables and then we were offered an amazing selection of petit fours. Alina’s son managers a nearby hotel and he had a friend who was a superb pastry cook. Fortunately, we had a bottle of wine squirreled away that we could offer and Val, had wonderful little presents for le donna- the women. I was very impressed. She was prepared for such an eventuality. Very clever- super-light shopping bags she had parcelled in tulle and ribbon. It was so thoughtful and genuinely appreciated.

The time had come to move on. There was no way I could drive the car. It was encrusted in salt. The windscreen was opaque.  I had an old washing-up sponge and John hosed. At one stage Lina called out and John was worried we were using too much water so in his panic I was drenched!!! Not happy Jan! The squeal, the apologies and the looks of horror then disgust, and general grumbling must have been quite a sight. Luckily it was already hot, and I dried out in minutes.

 Lina had been a kind and considerate host offering wonderful accommodation and hospitality in an extraordinary location. It’s not every day a paying guest is presented with a gift. This area is famed for its ceramics and Lina gave us each a ceramic cactus leaf with fruit. These are seen everywhere in the south. I was really chuffed. We said our goodbyes and Lina called for a selfie. I demonstrated my complete failure at taking selfies, but nobody complained.  John graciously took a photo of ‘le donna’ and we were off.  

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