So we’ve been living in Ostuni for a full month now. We love it. It’s great being closer to a larger city (seriously, Torre Dell’Orso was small!), the house is pretty great, we LOVE all the land we have and so does Dakota. This month has been a lot of getting settled. Learning about the house, the area, that kind of thing. Let me fill you in!
Ok, so we managed to snag a two-bedroom, one bath house on an acre of land. The house is pure white, in keeping with the White City, and is 3 miles outside of downtown Ostuni. The land has olive trees, a cherry tree (so many cherries!), fig trees, almond trees, what we think are apricot trees, a lemon tree, and multiple grape plants. At least those are the things we’ve identified so far. We basically spent May picking cherries – at last count we had about 15 to 20 lbs of cherries, which we’ve pitted and frozen for future baking.
The house itself is really nice. The electricity isn’t great – we can’t use the laundry machine and the oven within 24 hours of each other, but it’s got more than enough room for us and the animals, and the kitchen is big enough that I can cook comfortably. I’m still a bit surprised at how little counter space there is in Italian houses – I’ll have to get used to that. We also have a really nice and big front porch where we spend most of the day, watching cars drive by, watching Dakota run and play, and working.
So we are almost exactly halfway between Ostuni and Ceglie Messapica, and when we moved here, since we don’t have a car yet, or even a bike, I decided to walk to Ceglie Messapica to hit the grocery store. It’s a three mile walk each way, and wasn’t too bad, but Ceglie Messapica is a hill-y city, so once I got into town, I still had a lot of hard walking to do, up and down steep hills. By the time I was walking home, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it – it seemed like it might be a good idea to just sleep on someone’s lawn. I did make it home, but the walk into town took about 45 minutes, and the walk home took double that.
We went into Ceglie Messapica together about a week later (with the plan to take a cab home – I’m not stupid…entirely) and it’s a nice city, but it’s old and run-down, and just not as…welcoming as Ostuni is. We are fine with Ceglie Messapica, but it’s just not calling to me, you know?
So after Ceglie Messapica, we decided to go into Ostuni. The first time we caught a cab both ways, but I’ve since walked it, and it’s an easier walk than Ceglie Messapica, even though it’s the same distance. Anyway, the first few times we were in Ostuni, we stayed in the area around the Historic Center, which was nice, but still just a bit touristy. We had dinner in a cave restaurant, which was beautiful, but the food was mediocre. I would eat there again, but mostly because environment-wise, it’s a cool place to take guests.
After a week or two, we ventured into Ostuni on a Saturday to hit the Saturday Market. Guys. GUYS! It’s amazing. It has basically three sections – gardening, housewares/clothes, and then food. We spent WAY too much money on cheese, because you have not had good cheese until you’ve had this parmesan I can’t stop eating. Or the caciotta leccese. Or the cavallo…something or other. I’m still not a fan of the sharp provola, and I’m picky about swiss cheese here, but we are finally getting excited about food again!
We picked up a load of fresh fruits and vegetables – I’m getting eggplant for about 30 cents! And everything is so, so fresh. I even stopped at a fish stall, and got shrimp for M. M was at the poultry vendor, and apparently, the woman working there sliced a chicken breast so thin you could see through each layer. It was supposedly very impressive – but I haven’t seen it yet.
Since that first visit, we’ve been going back to the Saturday Market every week. I will say, pick vendors you like and then stick with them. We got cheese from two different people, and really, the second guy – his cheese wasn’t as good and he overcharged us by a ridiculous amount. Whereas the cheese guy we are loyal to now slips us samples, makes recipe recommendations, and throws in free cheese periodically. And the Saturday Market isn’t the only place this happens – I was at a home goods store yesterday and the guy who owns it knocked 5 bucks off the price just to be nice – he’s seen me there every week, so he knows me by now. Find markets and vendors you like, and stick with them. It really makes a difference.
So everything is good, but I still have some things I want to do. As soon as possible, I want to get a dishwasher, because seriously, hand-washing dishes is not something I’m willing to do long-term. It’s simply not – I just don’t feel like the dishes get as clean. I also want to get a small tankless hot water heater because otherwise I’m doomed to cold showers while we’re here – we barely have hot water long enough for me to wash my hair. I found one on Amazon that I can hook up right in the shower.
I need to get a bike. It will make it so much easier to run into town, and will save money when I don’t need to call a cab back. Long-term, we will definitely need a car, but for right now, a bike will do the job, I think.
This month, we will be trying to navigate healthcare, as M needs to get established with a doctor here, and we need prescriptions. This is going to be…a thing. I have all of her medical records…in English. I can say some things, but this is certainly going to be a struggle. However, I’d rather start navigating the system before there’s a problem, so this month we will be doing that – wish me luck!
Have you been to Ostuni? Does anyone have any advice for a dumb American living in Puglia? Please?