Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 21 Tired by association

Stella Grande looked pityingly at me as she drove us back from Lecce: "You’d never be able to keep up with us," she said.

Quite, correct. In fact, I'd be dead after a single week if I had to live her life.

Stella is married to Martignano poet, Elio Coriano.  They live in a wing of what was once the baronial palazzo in Piazza Palmieri.  She has two children, a boy in his mid-teens, and an 11-year-old girl. She has the usual motherly duties of cooking (which she considers playtime), laundry (no dryers here), and cleaning.

But she has also made quite a reputation for herself as a singer of Pugliese folk music, called pizzicata. Her group, Stella Grande e le Anime Bianche, travel all over the region, especially in the summer, giving concerts. They also do a weekly local weekly television program and they have several CDs out. 

Stella also owns and operates a day spa in Lecce.  Her professional certificates and diplomas cover an entire wall of the reception area.

I had made an appointment to have a facial at her spa for 11 a.m. this morning. We had agreed to meet in front of her apartment at Piazza Palmieri at 9 a.m. so I could get a lift into Lecce with her.

I struggled to get out of bed at 8:30, just in time to brush my teeth, get dressed and walk a few hundred feet meet her. She'd been up since 6:30. Had made breakfast for the family, talked a local electrician into coming over to repair some damage caused by last night's thunder storm, made beds, got herself glammed up and met me outside.

"Let's stop for a coffee," she said. And we did -- at the local bar, where we had a serious argument about who was going to pay. (I won.) We arrived in Lecce shortly before 10 a.m. She went to work, whereas I sauntered across the street from her spa and had a cappuccino and a cornetto filled with custard cream. Then I wandered up and down Via G. Arditi looking inside the shops until it was time for my appointment.

Along the way I had a chat with a spectacular Macaw hanging on to the insides of a large white cage, which stood on the sidewalk in front of a pet store. He muttered something so I went over.  His intelligent eyes assessed me as I spoke to him, and he came closer to get a better look. He stared at me and blinked. When I said nothing more, he screeched (in disgust, I think), turned his back and cracked a pumpkin seed.

I went to get my facial (glorious! I feel asleep on the table), having bought a small bottle of vincotto (a condiment made from concentrated, unfermented grape must) and a wedge of pecorino cheese, typical of the region, which the merchant swore had been aged 16 months. Little did he know I couldn't tell 16 months from 16 years.

Stella goes home every day for siesta so I came back with her to Martignano.  She had prepared the family meal the day before, greens in broth with polpettine.  But before we got on the road, she stopped at one store to buy noodles, a second store to buy warm bread and a third to get fruit. Then she stopped to pick up her son, who goes to school in Lecce and, finally, we were on our way, the back seat overloaded with teenagers.

At 5 p.m., Stella went back to work in Lecce. When that finishes at 8:30 p.m., she has rehearsal with her band.  Elio and the children will be in bed by the time she gets home, although Elio, she says, rises at 4:30 a.m. to write.

Stella told me last week she's a bear if she doesn’t get in at least a half-hour in bed every day during the siesta period. Now I understand why.

 One of Stella's CD covers
 The Macaw parrot doing his thing on via G. Arditi in Lecce

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