On Sunday we were invited for a mid-day meal at the home of the parents of my viola teacher, so we went out in the morning looking for a gift to take along with us. We bought some bread (for us) and some pink cyclamens as a present, both at an outdoor market. The bread, made with "lievito madre" (naturally occurring yeast) turned out to be quite tough (which I like) and salt-free, which was probably a mis-communication with the very pleasant person behind the counter. Next we went to a Christmas market with many booths alongside a large building. We sampled some cheese there and decided to come back and buy some later.
Our hosts, Paolo and Chiara, live in a beautiful apartment with a piano, many books, artworks, and lots of light from good-sized windows. All of the rooms were well-organized and nothing was crowded. Chiara served a real Italian meal: antipasto (appetizers and leafy salad), primo (pasta and a vegetable dish of zucchini with dried tomato), and secondo (a meat course of salmon, and roasted cauliflower and fennel). Dessert was persimmon puree with Greek yogurt. The food was excellent, and like the apartment, very well organized. Both Paulo and Chiara speak very good English; both spent significant time in the US during their formative years, and Chiara was a translator for part of her working life. We had a lot in common with our hosts, starting with our age, our love of music, our politics, and general outlook on life.
We returned to the Christmas market and bought some of the cheese that we had sampled; we also bought chestnuts which were roasted as we watched, two kinds of olives, and a block of candy made from egg whites, honey, and pistachios. The cheese is "cacio cavallo" (horse cheese) a 'stretched curd' like mozzarella, but shaped differently and aged. It has been around since 500BC (described by Hippocrates), one of the oldest documented cheeses. It probably came to Apuglia (south-east Italy) from Greece. It is also very tasty.