Story by Mea Argentieri
When I first began writing this article, I was confident that my personal knowledge of the region would be of interest to readers. Not because I am an expert but because I am an explorer. Countless places here have mesmerized and seduced me. Puglia is a world authentic unto itself. I came to Puglia for the first time in 2002, in search of a second home. Having lived in Rome for several years, I knew that eventually, this second home would become my primary residence. My quest became an amazing journey for my family and me.
All-encompassing – the good the bad and the dialects that I have tried to learn but they still baffle me. In short, I have fallen head over Olive Trees in love with Puglia. Now because of the coronavirus the world is at a crossroad. We are overwhelmed with uncertainty. Our shared emotions are insecurity, anxiety and fear. Our collective conversations are about the insidious pandemic, which has befallen us.
For me, it has been a time of reflection and an opportunity to write. That is what writer’s do. I am acutely aware of time; I want to use it well and I have chosen to simply BE. There is a profound redemptive component to being. I can actually see and listen without distraction.
I have asked myself… why am here? Why have I chosen this place, and it me? The answer is simple. It’s the people. They are the hidden treasures of Puglia. I have come to discover the indomitable spirit of the Pugliese people. Their warmth and kindness is contagious. They are collaborative and resilient. This is clear in the ways they have come together to get through this unprecedented time. It is paramount that we do it together.
The Pugliesi unwittingly possess enviable ease of being. They are connected to nature, beauty and history. What Mother Nature provides sustains them and is a great source of pride for one and all. They are very social and know-how to laugh. Really laugh! In fact, I have dubbed my home “la casa della risate”, “the house of laughter”. Nothing describes it more aptly. It is curative. Now Covid 19 has sucker-punched the world. Could there be a fortuitous benefit? Perhaps it is that we have had to come together for the greater good. Like soccer a team, we all have different positions to play but with a common goal. To win!
And so we fight with unconventional weapons. We sing and dance. We cook and share stories through the Internet with family and friends that for the moment we are not able to hug. The homes are filled with the smells of delicious traditional foods and of course, everything is being prepared in quantity… because that is Italian. The land and the sea provide everything you need, as it has for centuries. Living in an agrarian community affords one peace of mind and that is an incomparable source of comfort.
What is home?
When I undertook the daunting project of restoring our 17th-century masseria (farmhouse), I had a goal: I wanted to be able to feed my family without leaving my property. I am blessed to be able to say that I have accomplished that here, in Puglia. I’ve found new teachers, who generously share the wisdom of their ancestors, the skills of experience, always respecting nature. The wealth of natural resources is unparalleled.
The air is clean, food is bountiful and the people are connected in remarkable ways. Trading goods for services was and is a way of life in Puglia. Even before the pandemic, all of the above armed the people here for the fight. Some might call it providence. I have often thought that if there were a place in the world that could subsist alone it would be Puglia. The people’s indomitable spirit and generosity is without a question the greatest of treasures. All you have to do is show up to discover it.
The best is yet to come
One day I will finish compiling and share my discoveries, the “hidden treasures” in this place that has become my home. I have learned that it is not so complicated to be simple and have learned new ways of being and that the elegance of simplicity affords one clarity. I believe that when it is all said and done these unique people will emerge and celebrate in the streets together, as it has always been and always should be.
We are stronger together and you can take that to the bank. I am indebted to this place and committed to being the custodian of my 10-acre paradise. It is “trulli” – pun intended – magic. These people that I treasure have given me an abundance of faith in humankind. Their ability to love whole-heartedly, to share generously and to show compassion are qualities that are the “hidden treasures” of this land. When this global crisis fades and life begins anew, I hope you too can experience the indomitable spirit of the people that I have come to know and the friendships that sustain me. I am blessed and humbled that they have let me in. Viva la Puglia!
About Mea Argentieri
Mea Argentieri is an award-winning Italian-American writer, activist, estate owner and sommelier. Her property, Masseria Cacatosto is available for rental upon request. For more information contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org