Southern Italy

Bourdain’s Field Notes

Sometimes you don’t know what the show you are making is really about until it’s done, until all that raw footage has been whittled down in a dark room—shaped, pulled apart, reshaped.

The writing, which I do during the editing process, steers, corrects, and reacts to every cut. What we might have intended when we set out with our cameras, heads filled with possible themes and the best intentions, recedes as other forces, new realities, reveal themselves. What lies beneath bubbles to the surface.

The idea of Puglia and Basilicata as a subject for a show came from filmmaker, actor, and writer Asia Argento. We had just met—though we had been communicating via email for some time—and were in the middle of making our Rome show. She’d inspired and encouraged the idea of focusing on modern Rome: the Rome of middle-class and working-class Romans, the Rome of fairly nondescript suburbs, like the one she lived in. The Rome of Pasolini, of brutalist and post-fascist architecture rather than the monuments and ruins of the Roman Empire. Asia is, in general, a font of references to and knowledge of films, books, music, and art who puts my own inventory of nerdly obsessions to shame. Typically, while making one show, she had suggestions for many more.

“You should go to Puglia. It’s like nowhere else.”

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Travel like Bourdain

“A mix of sea, hills, valleys, and rich earth. The food here is Italian but completely its own.”

Know Before You Go

Survive on cheese. Puglia is one of Italy’s great cheese-producing regions—home to more than 300 caseifici, shops where cheese is both produced and sold. The style of cheese made here is overwhelmingly pasta filata, fresh cheeses hand-stretched from cow and buffalo milk. The king of the Puglian cheese world is burrata. It was invented in Andria by a farmer looking to use yesterday’s mozzarella, which he tore in strips, mixed with fresh cream, and wrapped in a fresh mozzarella skin.

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