The art of slowing down in southern Italy
Taking to the fields
One thing I quickly learned about life at Masseria La Selva: everything is connected. In order to do have the concentration needed for fresco restoration we needed to be well fed, and being well fed meant eating meals that were well balanced and connected to the land. But to further appreciate where our food came from, we needed to experience our surroundings. One afternoon, Creanza led us into the fields outside ancient Altamura – the closest town to the farmhouse – to meet a modern-day, baseball cap-wearing shepherd who maintains a semi-nomadic and solitary life, roaming the land with his flock of goats and sheep 365 days a year. The highlight was a traditional shepherd's lunch with cialledda, a dish served either hot or cold and made with cucumber, tomato, onions and famous water-soaked chunks of Altamura bread. Altamura is in fact so famous for its flavourful, long-lasting loaves that in 37BC the Roman poet Horace called it ''far the best bread to be had, so good that the wise traveller takes a supply of it for his onward journey''.
Bringing it all together
If there was ever an advocate for the international Slow Movement – a cultural shift toward slowing down life's pace – it is Creanza, who believes that life is about doing right not just the first time, but all of the time, from enjoying meals that go on for hours to crawling through caves at a moment’s notice. Early in the week, Creanza drove us to the stunning city of Matera, home to the Sassi de Matera, or cave dwellings, that are some of the oldest residences in Italy, dating back more than 9,000 years. The following days we were treated to similar experiences: a walking tour of Bari, Puglia's main port city; pasta making at Masseria La Selva with Creanza's 77-year-old mother; dinner inside an ancient, fresco-covered crypt, at which local townspeople regaled us with their traditional songs. Soon we were dancing and singing along, completely immersed in the delicious slowness of the moment.