Postcard from Lecce, Italy: A place to slip into that dolce far niente

lecce pastries

Tarted-up pastries gifted by the landlord of our rental in Lecce

The leisurely pace of Lecce makes it easy to indulge in the luxury of sweet idleness in one’s travels. Boulevardiers and flaneurs feel comfortably at home.

Before we leave Italy, duck your head into one final museum: Museo Archeologico Faggiano.

Luciano Faggiano planned on opening a restaurant in the historic center, but his quest proved a pipe dream. Or a pipe nightmare, as it turned out.

The plumbing kept backing up, and the only remedy would be to excavate in search of the ancient sewer pipes. He summoned his two older sons back from college to help. Just for a week at most.

The pipe proved elusive. But the more they dug, the more underground chambers they uncovered. With each new opening, the older brothers would lower their 12-year-old sibling down through the hole to report back before they proceeded. The ancient stone walls contained thousands of archaeological artifacts. As they progressed, the men hauled the excess rubble away in their car.

A suspicious neighbor reported them to authorities, and everything ground to a halt. The government pushed plumbing down to a lower priority, and not a spade-full of dirt could be turned without the presence of an observer from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Most artifacts uncovered belong to the government and are displayed in state-run museums.

The restaurant? It is now a family-run archeology museum, leaving visitors to explore several ancient tunnels and tombs which extend past the property line of this former convent.

Now, Luciano has bought the house behind it, and the excavations continue. The possibility that either will ever serve guests pasta appears unlikely. A couple enters the museum and pays about $10; a couple in a typical restaurant in Lecce would pays about $16 for two full plates of pasta. The museum business appears both easier and more reliably profitable.

These  represent the final batch of photos from our relaxing stay this past fall. But our armchair travels have assumed such a leisurely pace during shutdown that one more trip remains. Next stop: Merida in Mexico.

Postcard from Rome, Italy: Springtime

“Cupid and Psyche,” ceiling fresco by Rafael (1483-1520) in the loggia of Villa Farnesina

April has been dry in Rome, meaning, for a pair of flaneurs, it approached perfection.

One would think flowers feel differently about it. Yet bright pink blossoms defiantly cover the trunk of a tree maimed by an errant trimmer, and tiny flowers force their way through seemingly inhospitable cracks and crevices of ancient walls.

May Day arrives with showers, so no telling what blossoms will spring forth tomorrow.

Perhaps, instead of wandering afar, these boulevardiers need to devote part of the drizzly holiday admiring the greening of the thirsty plants around the patio, toasting the workers’ day off with a refreshing spring dose of Campari and tonic.

Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Parting shots from ‘los jubilados’

To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.

Charles Baudelaire in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

Saw a tweet the other day and wish I’d saved it. Asked to define her career goals in a job interview, a woman responded: “I want to use ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ as verbs.”

Not sure that proved a job-scoring answer, but I loved it. Because one of the best aspects of getting older is the freedom to wander. No one holds you to two or three weeks a year any longer. Slow travel.

We used to ponder whether our goal should be to become boulevardiers or flaneurs when we “grew up.”

Okay, time for a confession. We have failed.

Both words seem more than a tad decadent for our traveling lifestyle. We don’t stay in hoity-toity hotels. We stay in small apartments. Breakfast is not spent in cafes, but in our home-away-from-home.

As the Mister says, we are not really vacationing as much as temporarily switching zipcodes. According to the Mister’s Fitbit, instead of occupying seats in trendy spots, we traversed about 50 miles of sidewalks a week in Madrid. We only ordered a cocktail seated at a bar once. Instead of late-night barhopping and tapa-feasting with the Madrilenos, we settled in for a light salad or homemade vegetable soup en casa.

Hardly deserving of the title boulevardiers or flaneurs, we admit.

On the other hand, the word “retirees” does not have a nice ring to it. The English word sounds so exhausted and past tense.

After all, the Mister is still a bluesman, and I’m still writing. The tools of our chosen avocations – guitar and computer – accompany us everywhere. But we use those on our own schedules and because they are our passions. In Madrid, sundown generally found us at home, nestled in our basement quarters contentedly plucking on guitar strings and pecking on computer keys.

A month spent wandering in Madrid, and we are leaning toward a more optimistic-sounding Spanish term for those who no longer are hemmed in by or defined by work.

So here are some random, parting shots from los jubilados.

Hope you don’t mind switching continents, but the next slightly postdated postcards will be “mailed” from a zipcode in Puebla, Mexico.