In the southern province of Bari, Italy, there lies the small, seaside town of Molfetta. Shabby in the way all ancient Mediterranean towns are: flaking stucco and peeling paint, brightly colored shutters drawn closed at midday, the pervading smell of oily fish baking in the sun, and several dozen churches, their bells mourning each passing hour. Thousands-year old crypts, guarded by hoary men in starched white tee-shirts, are stacked with bones and watched over by a giant stone carving of a skeleton holding an hourglass in a one hand and a scythe in the other.
Escaping the blinding midday heat, we slip into a dark trattoria and gorge on seafood antipasti and quaff liters of local white wine, bantering with the owner in broken fragments of many languages. We order macchiatos and then sip bitter Amaro with a few cubes of ice before slinking back for a siesta, taking care to walk in the cool shadows of the timeworn stone buildings.
A very small hotel lying directly on the Adriatic is a modernist architect’s wet dream: angular, completely white, spare rooms sprinkled with Italian, high design lamps and couches, and enormous windows to catch the gentle ocean breezes. The owner and his son, both weirdly and wildly unsuited to the role of hotelier, are often found stalking the hallways. The roof from which to witness the spectacle of sunrise and sunset was shared only with the hundreds of sparrows who descend upon the town’s coast, raising a ruckus while devouring their morning and evening feasts.