Monday 23 February 2009

News from Minervinopolis

Just back from a trip to Italy’s deep south. On Friday, I joined Elisabetta and children for a weekend in Molfetta, a lovely seaside town in Apulia, about fifteen miles from Bari. I call this town Minervinopolis, because the baker is a Minervini, the butcher’s a Minervini, the priest’s a Minervini, the Mayor’s a Minervini, most of Elisabetta’s friends are Minervinis, Elisabetta herself is a Minervini – there are many Minervini-named streets, and half the phone book’s entries for Molfetta are Minervinis too.

I had not been there for a while but, like the rest of southern Italy, if there is any change, it’s not much more noticeable than rock erosion. The same shops line the high street, the same people walk up and down the Corso, and football-mania is as rife as ever, with women talking about football as freely as men in the bars.

The Sanremo singing competition – a national institution – reached its climax on Saturday, after almost a week of X-Factor- and Big-Brother-like knockout stages. The winner was a ten-year-old-faced boy called Marco Carta. When they made the final announcement I was slightly confused, as I thought they had said “manco canta” – he doesn’t even sing. The winner’s song and the rest of the songs were all terribly alike, and as unmemorable as any other sung at the Sanremo Festival during his fifty-nine-year history. I only watched about an hour of it, on and off, but I spotted Annie Lennox and Kevin Spacey among the guests – now, what the hell was he doing there?

It was also Carnival weekend, with big papier-mâché carts’ processions in Viareggio, Putignano and many other Italian cities. Unfortunately, it was rotten weather in Molfetta, and the much anticipated procession didn’t show up.

On the other hand, we ate and drank in three days what we’d eat and drink in three weeks over here, and spent five times more on food and clothes than we’d normally spend in Britain. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to be back.


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