Uncle Tom Cobley and All

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare
All along, down along, out along lee.
For I want to go down to Villa Castelli Fair
Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Mike Jones,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Well it almost rhymes and having read the whole poem it is quite difficult to get the rhythm anyway. Still despite my hangover just for you I headed off to the Festa in Villa Castelli. The town itself is nothing to write home about in terms of touristic value. It boasts a nice church built in the 10th Century and a castle  that I have yet to find. Otherwise it is what I would describe as a working town with non descriptive  housing in rows of streets that all look the same . However it is this lack of anything interesting that draws me to it and in fact I do most of my shopping there and have a few favourite bars as well. Tourists stray into Villa Castelli by accident when looking for Grottaglie or trying to get to Martina Franca. They do do not dally but instead get through it quickly . So the town is left to itself and the few expats that live nearby. Prices therefore are normal and the shops treat you as an oddity rather than a cash cow. Service is superb and the shop owners move heaven and earth to make sure you get what you want. I have posted before about the ironmonger who will go and find what you want from another shop if he hasn’t got the item himself. The place is actually crawling with ironmongers and butchers. We have been taught by locals that one butcher is good for lamb, one for pork and one for veal and sausages.

The festa lasts for three nights and on each night the musical theme is different on the main stage that is built outside of the town hall. Night one is what I still describe as pop music which seems to cause much hilarity with my children. Night two is opera and classical music  and night three is local music and the famous pizzica followed by fireworks.

Villa Castelli 3

Okay I admit I’m no David Bailey ( click if you don’t know who I’m rattling on about you’re much younger than me ) . But you get the picture puns as always fully intended.

The street with the most bars in it is selected for some reason (!) and is decorated for the 3 nights. At the top of the street is the church and at the bottom is the town hall so thinking about it maybe the town councillors aren’t like me and they selected the street for other reasons.

Villa Castelli 1


Stalls as you can see are put up along both sides of the street selling a variety of bric a brac that I’m sure looks great in the semi darkness but once you get it home you wonder what on earth you bought it for. The sellers at one time I’m sure were local merchants probably from the town but now they are mainly African and Asian by nationality and most of what they sell comes from there. So if a carved elephant is what you have always craved and you have no time for a safari this is your chance to buy one.

Villa castelli 2


The bars, of which the street as I mentioned is packed, spill out on to the street though last night with the temperature dropping to 9C  it was a hardy customer that sat out there. On the left of the photo you can see imitation designer handbags  which the African lad covered with a blanket everytime a policeman wandered down the road. I think it must have been an agreement that as long as he couldn’t see a bag he wasn’t going to ask any questions. Saves a lot of running around and mountains of paperwork .

Villa Castelli 4


It is a colourful evening and I always love looking into the large shop and office of the Italian communist party that is not only still active but clearly boasts a strong membership . Pictures of Lenin and Stalin ( yes I know the Stalin that don’t they now estimate  had a hand in killing 32million people but there you are) adorn the side walls but the huge picture on the wall facing the street is of Che Guevara  and is the same one my son had on his wall for many years.

che guevara


Still by now all this walking about and taking photos had amazingly worked up quite a thirst  plus it was getting very cold so after warming myself by one of the wood burning BBQ s that all the butchers  had set out at the front of their shops to sell cooked meats to the thousands wandering past I adjourned to a super wine bar for a glass or two of a very fine local Primitivo wine called Gnuur which means black I’m told in the local dialect. The bar is an old star ceilinged place with two mad keen wine enthusiasts as owners. A generous glass of Gnuur sets you back €2.50 but you do get a shedload of olives and other snacks as well. I moan like hell about the price but again my kids tell me it is a very reasonable price. Yes yes I did take a photo and here it is

Wine Bar 1


Can’t you see yourself leaning up against that old section of an huge barrel and drinking wine. You can buy a take out bottle of Gnuur for €6 and it really is most drinkable but again at 14.2% it is something to sip on a winters night in front of a log fire rather than toss down the throat at a supper table be it kitchen or country. No don’t start me off on that again I’m off to the bar .



About hereinpuglia

Retired to Puglia after some 40 years in the travel industry working for P&O Lines, British Airways, Alamo rent-a-car,Abercrombie&Kent, owner of Quest Tours and Travel and finally with Thomas Cook North America. Married to Geraldine we now have a small house with too much land near the town of Martina Franca in Puglia. Two kids one married and living in Hong Kong and the other single and living in London. No dogs, no cats no animals.
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