As we spend more and more time here I find myself saying "only in Italy" more and more frequently. Only in Italy would they put a traffic signal in front of a boulder that had fallen off a cliff and into the road below, rather than remove the boulder. Only in Italy would there be a town named Masseria di Pidocchio (Plantation of the Louse). And only in Italy would we have received the warm reception we did when we decided to drop in on some long lost cousins. Let me tell you the story.
We are in Puglia, staying with my husband's cousin, her husband, and one other married couple. It's been real hot here but we decided to go off on a roadtrip along the Ionian coast. We had driven an hour or so when Angelo decides we should drop in on his cousin Issa, whom he hadn't seen in several years. It was 10:30 am. He calls and is told immediately that we should come by. We're only a few minutes away! It'll be great to see you! Pierino will meet you at the church piazza to show you the way to the house!
Fast forward 90 minutes and we finally see Pierino on his bike. After several stops, a few missed turns, and about a dozen phone calls, we are there! Pierino tells us to follow him, which we do, through a series of one way roads. Of course we are going the wrong way up every one of them. No worries. We're in Italy! We get to Issa's house right at lunch time. If I were Issa I wouldn't be happy!
What do we find there? A plumber working on a broken toilet in the courtyard. Two dogs barking manically at the plumber. A houseful of seven people in a space that could comfortably fit maximum four people. A dog throwing up because of his constant barking at the plumber. And an incredibly warm welcome from all the cousins.
"It's lunchtime. Of course you'll stay for a bite to eat with us." And so of course we do.
The bite consists of ziti with zucchini topped with ricotta salata, eggplant parm, salad, mozzarella, fresh bread, a variety of meats and cheeses, melon, ice cream, coffee, shots of homemade cherry liqueur. Only in Italy!
There were twelve of us sitting around a couple of tables cobbled together to accommodate us. The dogs barked, the plumber finished his job, the dog threw up again, and we all had a lovely time. I'm not sure how they did it, and I'm not sure that their inner selves weren't cursing us out, but I know that only in Italy would we have been treated so hospitably in such bad circumstances. It's always fun to have these moments and be on the receiving end of such graciousness. But it's also fun to be on the giving end of it, and being able to reciprocate such kindnesses. Every year we also get that phone call announcing someone's imminent arrival at our doorstep, just in time for lunch. Our response? Come on in! Sit down and relax! Have some of whatever's on the menu! Only in Italy!