There are many reasons I love going to Bari, not least of which is that Domenico’s mother’s apartment is located right on the Lungomare. Her place is on the top floor with amazing views looking out towards the sea.
I’m always fascinated by how much the view changes according to the season, weather and even time of day. Sometimes the sea is a limpid turquoise green and others it is a turbulent grey. The sky too, can change from one moment to the next, with strong winds pushing through storms in the space of minutes.
But whatever the weather, we try to get out, and enjoy the sea at ground level. Once on the Lungomare (which was constructed by one of Domenico’s grandfathers) if we turn right, we head down for a long walk to the beach called Pane e Pomodoro (best beach name ever, right?) Instead, if we head left, we immediately reach the tiny port that is still the haven for the city’s fishermen.
A few weeks ago, while down in Bari, we decided to take advantage of a sunny day and head down to the market to buy something for lunch. In the time it took to put on our jackets and take the elevator, the wind had picked up and it began to drizzle. But the market goes on, and so did we.
Brightly colored boats fill the port. A covered area was constructed about 20 years ago, to serve as a formal fish market where the fishermen can sell their catch of the day. Massive, sturdy, concrete counters were constructed, beneath the awnings to allow the fishermen to lay out their fish in style.
Of course, the only thing those counters get used for is to maybe act as a place to rest empty beer bottles. There is probably a fee for using the counters, and so all the fishermen avoid them like the plague. We usually perch our plates there when eating freshly opened sea urchins.
The real action takes place just few feet away, on the sidewalk. This is where the fishermen set up rickety stands, propped up by empty crates and bukets, to sell what’s just come off the boats.
Although I go almost every time we are in Bari (for sea urchins if they are in season) I would never think of actually buying anything on my own. It’s definitely a guy kind of place. Men are doing the selling, and men are definitely doing the buying. I have never seen a local Barese woman buying anything. It’s the husband’s job, evidently, and I’m not going to mess with that.
One of the main guy activities seems to involve octopi. Guys whacking or shaking octopi. To actually cook an octopus it much first be tenderized. In Bari it’s done three ways. You can either place it in a tub full of sea water, and gently shwoosh it back and forth. Or you can place them in a hand woven basket and shake it vigorously. Or, my favorite, you can lay them on the concrete dock and whack’em with a big wooden mallet.
While Domenico chatted up some of the guys, asking questions and eventually buying some mussels for lunch, I decided to make a little film. And if it seems like almost all of the fishermen are ignoring me, they are. I’m a woman, and so obviously not going to be buying any fish. Or octopi. Or whatever.
If you can’t understand what they are
shouting saying, don’t worry. It’s not you. It’s just the barese dialect in full swing.