I said yesterday that we do a beer run to Brindisi every few weeks to stock up in bulk. Peroni in the 660cl bottles is €0.75 down there and you can buy it in 15 bottle cases which we store in a cool shed. However almost all alcohol is cheap down here.
My 24 year old son when he comes to visit wanders down the booze aisles of the Brindisi Auchan muttering expletives he claims to have learnt from the lips of his mother whilst being driven on the school run during his formative years. He can never believe the prices not only of the wine but the spirits too. Yesterday I bought a bottle of Gordons Gin for the equivalent of £7.70 a litre and a bottle of J&B whiskey for £9.00 a litre . I don’t think you can buy it at that price in any duty free ( now there’s a misnomer ) in the world anymore.
I am not actually much of a spirit drinker preferring beer and I therefore suffer from the perennial problem that all beer drinkers have of drinking spirits as if it is beer so within a very short time I am on the floor. However it is very much one of the reasons we live here. It is knowing you can that is important. It is like friends in London who say “oh we live here because of the theatre” they don’t actually go to the theatre ” fantastically expensive and and they put everything to music now” but it is knowing you can. I have cupboards full of bottles I have bought at these bargain prices because well because I can.
Talking of why one moves here I am reading A A Gill’s travel book Here and Now at the moment. I always enjoyed his restaurant reviews and he is very good with travel destinations as well. He came to Puglia a couple of years back and wrote what many of the ex-pats saw as a scathing attack on the place. Here is a sample
“Since the unification of Italy Puglia has been run by communists, plundered by army recruiters, patronised by politicians and plagued with a particularly efficient and vicious version of the mafia. It gets money from Brussels, money from Rome and communist mayors who order up spaghetti factories, cheap public housing, business parks, access roads and electricity pylons, then the mafia arranges to build them, or at least start building them.
So Puglia is a rubble of ground plans, boarded factories, empty warehouses. there are dirty roads that lead to pointless roundabouts and lots of stained grotty high rise flats in clusters in a landscape of dumped rubbish, discarded white goods and collapsed cars. It looks poor, it is poor.
All the money, the socialism, the crime and Catholicism have conspired to keep it the way it’s always been.
All this the English can ignore. They can see round it, over it. They have remarkable selective vision that simply washes away the ugly and the callous. They can see round corners into beautiful olive groves and fruit orchards. They sigh over Greek ruins in the middle of 1970’s cut price civic hideousness. The magazines have carefully cropped photographs of sun loungers and pools and sky with bits of beach.”
So in the main he didn’t like it !! Though to be fair what his article was really about was the false image we Brits both ex-pats and visitors tend to build when we think of Italy viz:
“There is another Italy, an Italy native Italians never see. It exists in parallel with the country they tread, separated by a gossamer curtain of artful romance, public-school poetry and Merchant Ivory moments. A place of fine-art postcards, plonk sipped under inky cypresses to the sound of cicadas and a distant bell. It is a nation elegantly arranged around cobbled streets and boys on Lambrettas, designed by Ruskin and Fellini. A place of sentiment and hot pathos, starry with wishful thinking. Italians know it’s there: they can hear the carousing. They often get asked for directions to it in loud, slow English voices with added Os on the nouns. Think it is all vineyards, olive groves and checked tablecloths . Welcome to Puglia the gritty sunbaked heel of the boot …..”
so he had a point to make and he therefore launched into his “attack” . To be honest he is right there are enough Stalinesque high rise flats here to reduce Prince Charles to tears and throughout the 70’s Puglia and concrete mixers were synonymous . If you come to Puglia for stunning scenery you are maybe in the wrong place. However he did love Lecce but never ventured into the hills to see the small towns like Martina or Ceglie and the rolling green countryside that surrounds them
We see it in the faces of friends who visit. Their somewhat confused frowns ( oh my god what have we come to ) on the drive from Brindisi or Bari lifts a little when we stop for coffee and then after their first meal either out at a restaurant or in an Italian family’s home they quickly get what Puglia is really all about- people. Plus the booze is very cheap or have I mentioned that ?