We arrived into Monopoli Saturday evening, so we have now been living here for 36 hours!
(I think it's pretty obvious I'm virtually a local now! I got waved through customs without him even opening my passport - presumably due to the authentic accent on my buonasera ("good evening")!)
The first evening, we had a stroll then went to one of my favourite restaurants in town. It is on the main thoroughfare through centro storico which, on these summer evenings, is an incredible continuous stream of people! I was delighted the owner remembered my name and found us a table despite turning away just about everyone else that evening who hadn't booked. We sat outside and it was lovely that, considering I know virtually no-one in this town, we were not only greeted warmly by the restaurant owner but also by our architect and engineer who were strolling by, one of the guys working on our site (who tried and failed to get a table!) and a lady who had started up a conversation with me on hearing my English the first time I ate there, who had booked with friends. That's more people than I'd recognise out for a meal back in my old hometown where I've lived for decades!
Thankfully Mr RR was as impressed with the friendly service, great food and value for money as I have been so we'll likely be seeing a lot of Antonio and his lovely restaurant!
Continuing our passagiatta ("stroll") we visited the market in the main piazza ("square") then headed along the seafront enjoying a gelato ("ice cream") and later a granita (= a drink made of shaved ice and flavoured syrup - think slush puppy!). (Blonde moment: the first time I saw the man selling these slush puppy drinks with "Granite" written on the side of his cart I thought it was such a strange name for a drinks stand, but of course, in Italian, granite is the plural of granita!)
Everywhere was still busy as we headed home after midnight. It might seem strange that the town would still be so alive at that time, families taking a walk, babies asleep in strollers, children running around playing, old people sat out on chairs talking to friends, but everything is very quiet between about 12.30 and 5.30 due to the heat so it is just a practical solution to split the day up in this way.
Despite a good night's sleep, to be honest, my immediate feeling on waking up was of being daunted. It felt overwhelming to have this new life stretched out before me - what would I do with it?
Then the practicalities of life kicked in. We have no food in so we'd have to do a small shop and Mr RR was desperate to get to the beach - like most things, it's easier if you just take one day at a time! I was eager to show him the house (we're renting a friend's house until it's ready) and due to the security being just a few planks of wood propped up covering the entrances, we sneaked in and had a good look round just the two of us and it was wonderful!
Being a Sunday, we had plenty of time to enjoy a snack for lunch and then a stroll along the coast in the late afternoon where we bumped into our engineer out for a cycle and got a wave from one of the other guys who has been working on our house and was today, like just about everyone else, working on his tan at the beach! We found a spot on the rocks by the beautiful clear sea where Mr RR could take a dip and I attempted not to blind anyone with my paleness - he affectionately calls them my "glow-stick legs" - and enjoyed the sound of the waves. Quite heavenly.
After a while a lady sunbathing nearby asked us the time, despite being in earshot of the church bells which ring out telling you the time every 15 minutes! I worry occasionally about settling in and not forever feeling like an outsider, but as a blonde girl and a chinese guy we have always been an easily recognisable couple, even more so now we are in the south of Italy, and everyone is so friendly here that I feel confident they will strike up more and more conversations as they realise we are here for more than just a week's holiday and their curiosity gets the better of them!
As the sun dipped behind the buildings it was time to head home, shower and dress for dinner and passagiatta again and so you can get a glimpse of how life is here. I am delighted to say the pace of life is definitely already having a relaxing effect on Mr RR as life back in UK has been stressful.
We're so happy and so excited to share this wonderful little town with everyone. Our belongings arrive tomorrow (all 900 cubic feet of them!!) and we hope our place will be finished by the end of the month, so get your passports out: we'll be ready for guests soon!