We love to connect with locals and visitors to discover that they think and “feel” of Puglia, as they always have such nice stories to tell us. Indeed few months ago we had the pleasure to come across Scott’s blog and read about his story and how he decided to give a turn to his life and move down to Puglia with his lovely wife.
They took a pretty bold decision but their courage has been well paid back with a lovely life in Cisternino! We know you want to know more, so today we are going to share their story with you. Enjoy!
The Lure of Puglia
It happened in Las Vegas. There we were, sitting at an outside table at the restaurant of some celebrity chef, drinking a crisp, cold white wine, and talking about the next chapter of our life together. “What about moving to Italy?” I asked Jessica, my wife of (then) 18 months. “Sounds wonderful” she responded. And we were off.
Our pressure-packed corporate lives were becoming less and less appealing and we were increasingly thinking about what might come after. In our talks, constant themes were evoked: warmer weather, excellent food and wine, and culture and art that are easily accessed. But there was also the stark reality that, if we were going to leave our jobs and the regular paychecks that came with them, our new life would have to be lived in relative frugality. This meant that, wherever it was we chose to live had to allow for a low cost of living, including the cost of housing.
As we looked around the globe to find a place that met our criteria, we quickly focused on southern Italy. We had visited the country twice, but had never been south of Rome. Still, we had fallen in love with the Italian way of life. So unlike the American version of living is the Italian la dolce vita. We were inculcated to believe that one lives to work. Italians know that one works to live. The difference is much more than a play on words. It is a philosophical divergence that changes one’s view of the world. We recognized that difference and wanted to adopt it as our own worldview.
As we did our research, we found a groundswell of interest in and affinity for Puglia and, the more we dug, the more convinced we became that all of the things we were looking for in our new life could be found in the heel of the boot. Two months after our conversation in Las Vegas, we made our first visit to Puglia, found a property in the Valle d’Itria and struck a deal to buy it.
Over the following two years, we made many visits to the area, each one affirming our decision to make Puglia our new home. We indulged in the fresh, healthy, lovingly-prepared food and the world-class local wines. We took advantage of the proximity of such towns as Ostuni, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino and others, wandering through the centro storico, getting lost in the narrow streets and exploring the different character of each locale. And, when we produced our first batch of olive oil from the olives grown on our property, we were hooked. We were also struck by the distinct features of the Valle d’Itria, the Salento and the Gargano and how different each is from the others. As we traveled around Puglia, from Vieste to Gallipoli, we realized that the region had everything to offer.
And, each time we leave the land of the trulli, we discover more: the rugged cliffs of Polignano a Mare, the smooth sand beaches of Castellaneta Marina, the baroque architecture of Lecce, a church in old Taranto and much, much more. We eat food, the provenance of which we know well. We get fish from the fishermen, meat from the people who raise the animals from which it comes, wine from the vintner, and fruits and vegetables from the farmers who grow them. In the US, we called that “farm-to-table”. Here there is no name for it. It’s just how it is.
About a year ago, Jessica and I moved here and claimed permanent residency. As our friendships here deepen, our Italian improves, our list of experiences grows and the snowstorms continue to roll through the northeastern US where we had lived, we are more and more gratified to have discovered Puglia and la dolce far niente.
Author: Scott Bergstein
Photo Credits: Jessica Coup
Scott Bergstein and Jessica Coup are American expats living in the countryside of Cisternino in the Valle d’Itria of Puglia. Scott writes a blog entitled The Soul of the Heel and Jessica provides the photography. It can be found at www.souloftheheel.com.