Italy has been on my mind. In my weekly San Francisco Italian class (Museo Italo-Americano) our assignment was to do some thinking and reading about Italian stereotypes in preparation for class discussion. This made me remember a story that Carlo has written in our book, SALENTO BY 5. He talks about the way the rivalry between northern and southern Italy presents itself in Salento. He says that the citizens of Lecce, Salento's central, in-land, university town, often refer to the inhabitants south of them as being " capu." (from the cape) meaning that the townspeople are less sophisticated, less refined than the Leccese. In turn, the inhabitants of Gallipoli and Taviano, towns south of Lecce, refer to the folks living in Ugento south of them as "capu." The citizens of Ugento say that the "capu" begins with the people of Acquarica. But when we reach Santa Maria di Leuca, a small town fronting the sea at the end of the land, we find that the townspeople are sophisticated, refined, and comfortable in their seaside villas. Che strano, no?
This year, in September, we will again travel to our apartment in Otranto. The sketch below depicts the ancient wall that surrounds the historic center of town. Our apartment is located on the wall and is shown circled in red. From the apartment terrace, we can look out at the bay on the Adriatic Sea to check whether the water is glassy and calm or rippled, from either the Tramontana or the Scirocco winds. Glassy, calm water means long, easy, warm swimming. But when one of the winds is blowing, it could mean a surprisingly cold and short swim. The winds are part of Salento's summer weather. The saying, found on signs, posters, t-shirts and the like, is: "Salento, lu sule, lu mare, lu ientu" the local dialect for the Italian: "Salento, il Sole, il Mare, il Vento" or in English: "Salento: the sun, the sea, the wind."
(Dianne Hales is the author of numerous delightful books about Italy, a blog, and lots of chat about the Italian language)
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