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Breaking Nails in Paradise - The Silence of Its Hills

Cristina Pinton

While we're getting used to the movement of life around here in Bernalda, I took a drive one morning to simply absorb.

I brought my flimsy digital camera with me just as a backup and took most of the photos with my faithful film (Pentax) camera (only later to find out that there is no film development here in Bernalda ... mind the one place that sends it out to a "manual" lab that then costs 30euro) and thus must be content with what my digital provided me.

Comparing Basilicata and Toscana is entirely unfair. We're talking Massachusetts versus Oklahoma. Each has its own distinct habits, terrain, cuisine and accent (or dialect in this case).

The land here is rugged. The rolling hills and bare mountainous regions are so very different from the rich green hillsides of the Chianti. And unlike the characteristic ochre villas of Tuscany, many homes and buildings (both of recent construction just left half-way done, lots of old farmsteads, and a few very old historic buildings) here are completely abandoned. (On a side note there has been a serious case of animal abandonment and mistreatment for years especially in southern Italy but let's not get into abandoned any further for now because this will then lead to the garbage issues and political and ideological abandonment, etc.)

abandoned farm building near Bernalda

abandoned farm building near Bernalda

When we buy lettuce it's dirty because of the rain. No plastic protection. Fruit is often marked and imperfect. No greenhouse and no packaging. Next door there are pomegranates and clementines. We steal a few on our way home. My mother-in-law has 15 kilos of olives that she'll wash, crush and soak in a mixture of olive oil, salt, water and lemon for the next few weeks. My brother-in-law works in the fields as do 70% of the men around here. Most folks, age nor sex discriminate, have dirt under their nails ... both in literal and figurative sense. They are folks of the land and know that land well. In many ways they're more practical and pragmatic than my Florentine comrades, and in many ways that much more manipulative. The distrust in newcomers is physically evident. We feel it every day unless we visit each fruit vendor, pharmacist and coffee barman with one of my husband's family who've been living here almost a decade - in which case we're treated justly.

So this is just getting my feet wet. We've been here about two weeks. In many ways this is no longer about travel since I'm in my seventh year in Italy. I wrote so much about my times in Florence and my first instinct is to say that there was more there to write about but in reality I've been given another opportunity to live another aspect of Italian life. on the other end of the peninsula and this shall give me a rich wealth to think about! In the weeks and months and years to come I'll have much more to ponder and reflect on, and hopefully what I miss about life in Florence will be outbalanced by my willingness to be curious and creative and let that creativity guide me deep inside life here ... in front of me.


Breaking Nails in Paradise is a series of articles on Slow Travel. Read more about the author, Cristina Pinton.

© Cristina Pinton, 2011

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