I’m just surfacing from a post-holiday avalanche of emails. We've just spent two weeks in Puglia, Southern Italy – a beautiful, rural region, considered by some to be the new Tuscany. Food and wine were superb, accommodation was very good with a secluded swimming pool, weather consisted of cloudless, unbroken sunshine and if anything was too hot when it got up to 40C! To add to this we met some great people: Brian and Catherine, David and Jane, and John and Marian who treated us to pre-breakfast coffee as we passed their villa on our not-very-early morning walk.
It was a very chilled two weeks which was just what we wanted. For the first time we went to a Lido and it exceeded expectations, swimming in the warm Adriatic and enjoying a welcome cool breeze. We visited Puglia’s equivalent of Cheddar Gorge, the Castellana Grottoes. And other trips included the neighbouring towns and the city of Lecce which was fantastic although you could suffer from Baroque overload.
As it happened the patronal festival took place in our town, Cisternino, which included a number of outdoor musical performances which were free. The highlight were the two town bands, one from Citta di Francavilla Fontana, and the other from Citta di Bracigliano. They didn’t just play but performed with a high level of accomplishment in their own inimitable style which was highly spirited though not always overly fussed about intonation. The programmes over three days consisted of condensed versions of Italian opera arranged for band with solo instrumentalists taking the part of the solo voices – the trombonist taking the part of the tenor used a valve trombone with a raised bell, which was something else. We were treated to Il Traviata, Turandot, La Boheme, Tosca, Rigoletto, and other excerpts as well. The sound ranged from very quiet to deafeningly loud with four Sousaphones, and a full complement of brass together with other wind. It was such a one-off glorious sound that you wanted to bottle it and bring it home, except that probably it wouldn’t sound the same in Milton Keynes – that’s the nature of holidays!