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Living in Small Town Southern Italy

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

A little over a year ago, my family - myself, the hubby, teenage son, and furry baby - made the move from an NYC suburb to a small town in Puglia. Grottaglie, the city of caves (Grotta means cave in Italian) has 35,000 residents and like most Italian towns and villages, it resembles a miniature large city rather than a traditional US suburban town. And this I like. When we moved from Brooklyn to the burbs I really missed NYC's energy, and a small Southern Italian town has a lot more vitality than a typical US suburb.

For my nearest and dearest who have asked why I love living in Puglia, especially after having lived in NYC for many years, here are a few of my reasons.


Urban Energy in a Small Package

It's Alive. It's Loud. It's Messy. And call me crazy it feels like an NYC neighborhood (without the rest of the city).

In the morning, I wake up to the sound of dogs barking and cars honking. Every street has at least two bars—which in Italy are hybrids of cafes and drinking establishments—and there are about 100 bars total, all buzzing with activity.

In addition to bars, bakeries, butcher shops, hair salons, and any type of store imaginable line the streets. Sidewalks are filled with shoppers hopping from store to store to buy their food for the day. Senior men gather in large clusters around the fountain in the main Piazza (town square).

Dogs are barking, cars are honking, and teenagers are whizzing by dangerously fast on their motorbikes. It's loud and dynamic! And Its beginning to feel like home.


The Beauty of the Old Town

Typical Street in Grottaglie's Cento Storico

Every Italian town and village, no matter how small and plain, has a beautiful historical neighborhood called Cento Storico. Grottaglie is no exception!

One of my favorite things to do in Grottaglie is to take Carly, my furry baby, on her evening walk through the Old Town. We usually start from the square in front of the Bishop's Caste, walk through the narrow, winding streets down to the Piazza, and then loop back through the Ceramics district, stopping by our favorite bar to say hello to Carly's canine buddy Pumo. If I'm lucky I'll bump into one of my human buddies and have a drink as well.

The beauty of this old town is hard to describe—it's just so lovely! And it's also

one of those places where you can see how they preserve a unique beauty that sometimes borders on the decadent.

Carly's much younger boyfriend Pumo

No Segregation

Until I moved to Grottaglie, I never realized how segregated the United States is. Duh!

The wealthy live in wealthy towns. The middle-class lives in middle-class towns and the poor live in poor towns. This segregation is so ingrained that we hardly notice it.

In a small Southern Italian town, everyone lives together.

Think of a typical suburban US town, where there is a small downtown (if that), and the rest are streets lined with single-family homes - often without sidewalks. Now reverse that. In Italy, the downtown, made up mostly of small mix-use apartment buildings, takes up 90% of the town and the periferia (single-family homes) perhaps 10%. This means almost everyone lives in apartments, and the CEO and the mailman may very well live in the same building. Additionally, there are no private schools or country clubs; instead, education is provided by state-run public schools, which means kids from all walks of life grow up together.

Exposure to people on all levels of the economic spectrum creates a more rounded experience than just living in a homogenous area and I enjoy being a part of that.


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