La Piazza

On this sketch you can see a central meeting point in the village of Grottole. The red brick house is the former town hall of the village. The village pharmacy is also located here in the building. The square in front of this striking brick building is an important place to meet up for many villagers.

Just around the corner, a little further up the road, is the Barzoletta, our favorite bar in the village. (By the way, the term “bar” also refers to cafés in Italy and Spain. Whenever I write that Christoph and I often went to the Barzoletta during our lunch break, that just means that we often ordered an espresso here at noon!) On our way to the Barzoletta for our afternoon coffee, we always crossed this village square. Each time we observed a phenomenon that made us laugh again and again. Next to the town hall building, sitting on three small wooden benches, the older gentlemen of Grottole met up every day. They sat together chatting and exchanged, what I suppose was the latest gossip in the village. Which probably included our arrival in Grottole!

We found it particularly amusing that there seemed to be a dress code for the older men’s clubs! Whether consciously or accidentally, the majority of the men wore a light blue shirt and long, dark blue pants. No matter what time we crossed the square, the Italian gentlemen were here too! Since people mostly know each other in the village center of Grottole, Christoph and I immediately caught the eye as “the newcomers”. Every time we were within sight of the village square, the older gentlemen looked at us scrutinizingly and critically. However, only for a few seconds, until we shouted “Buon Giorno” to them, whereupon the group suddenly smiled at us in a friendly way and returned the greeting. At first we were a bit intimidated by the men’s stern looks, but after a while in Grottole we realized that all you have to do is say a nice Italian hello.

We even became very good friends with one of the men: Pinuccio – Silvio’s father. Silvio and his wife Michela are the project managers of “Wonder Grottole”, who grew up in Grottole themselves and were our local contacts for everything in the village. When Silvio told his family at home that new tourists from Germany (= Christoph and I) would be in Grottole for a few weeks, Silvio’s father was immediately interested. One afternoon he visited Christoph and me at home and all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly for us, he started speaking German to us! During a short conversation in German, it turned out that Pinuccio himself had lived in Hamburg for a few months as a 17-year-old. What a fun coincidence! We were very impressed by Pinuccio’s knowledge of German, especially since his stay in Hamburg was several decades ago. From that moment on, Christoph and I greeted the older gentlemen on the village square once in Italian and whenever Silvio’s father was there, also in German.

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