I have never been so happy to be back home, after a holiday. I usually suffer whenever a travel adventure ends, but this time, this particular holiday has put me through some very harsh, yet valuable experiences, and the return felt a lot sweeter than all the other times before. On a positive note, I’d like to believe I learned my lessons and that the learning will enable me to look at traveling in a different manner than I used to. I won’t go now in detail, but I will keep this topic open, as I promised myself to absolutely write about it. And since there’s really a lot to say, I’d like to sort out my ideas and expose them in a way that every traveler can potentially benefit from.
For now, what I wanted to share is how a nearly 4 week holiday, with ups and downs, with good and bad moments, can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Right at the end. But first, I should say that for me a travel experience starts the moment you leave home and ends the moment you are back to your house. All the people, all the services, all the interactions, all the emotions, all the challenges you encounter on the way are part of the travel experience. I value each of them separately and I am aware of the huge importance each of them plays in the whole travel process.
The story I will share with you happened at Salento Airport of Brindisi and for me it is a clear example of how not only the first impression is important, but also how crucial the final touch is. Salento Airport or Brindisi Casola Papale Airport (BDS) is an airport located in Southern Italy (Puglia region) used mostly for charter flights and by low cost companies. The airport has a traffic of nearly 2.5 million passengers (2015), with a peak in the number of flights arriving throughout the summer months, carrying tourists.
After we returned the car at the rental office, dropped the suitcases and passed the security checks, with everything going relatively smooth, I went to have lunch in the only restaurant available at departures. The restaurant is called Pulia and it lures travelers with very tasty local products. It’a a casual dining, however the place looks neat and has a pleasant, Puglia inspired design. My husband wasn’t feeling very well and he decided to skip lunch, but he agreed to join and seat with me throughout my lunch.
So we sat down and the waiter didn’t take long to approach us and bring the menu. I told him I’d be the only one to eat and he treated me with respect, smiling all the time. He brought my food in time and it was tasty. He passed by the table once to ask if everything was all-right and I appreciated that. However, when he brought my check I noticed that the amount was somehow a bit higher than what I remembered and I asked him if I could get the full bill. His look changed suddenly and he told me that I have been probably charged as well for my husband, a common practice in the restaurant and also a reason for many clients to complain about. Though my husband has not eaten anything, the restaurant would still charge the bread ( that he never received) and cover fee (Italian coperto). He also asked me if I wanted him to signal the problem to his superior, but I was not in the mood to fight over something that obviously had no solution, other than paying. The amount was small, yet the lack of principles slightly bothered me. I would have found it fair to be told about this practice from the very beginning, but I decided not to make a big fuss about it. In the end, my husband would have sat with me anyway.
I paid the bill with no further comments and we kept staying at the table, talking, in order to finish my drink and kill time, before the flight. To my surprise, my attention got caught by a conversation between the waiter and his supervisor, who was asking him a few meters away from our table, why do we seat at the table with just a bottle of water in front. The guy replied to her that we ate and we are finishing the drink. Her next question was: have they paid? The waiter said we have. And then she rolled her eyes in discontentment, as if our presence there was causing her a big trouble. That was also the moment when she noticed I am looking at them and she pulled the guy behind a wall, probably, to continue the talk. I assume he also told her I looked unhappy about the extra charge, and that was the reason that kept her from coming to us, to remind us that we had to leave the table. I also assume that she did not realize in first place that I could understand what they were talking, since the talk was in Italian. Sadly, I could. Despite of being extremely rude, to her defense, I would have even understood her being bothered if the place was full, with dozens of people waiting to be seated. But from the many tables there, only 3 or 4 were taken. The rest were empty.
Though on their official portal, Pulia claims they are “ambassadors of tastes, flavors, traditions and authenticity of south east Italy”, the impression I was left with is they could not care less about the traditions of Puglia. The true Pugliese people are kind and humble, friendly and highly hospitable. At least the ones I met throughout our stay in Puglia were like that. And that is not the case of Pulia Restaurant, who only cares to take your money and see you boarding your flight, taking advantage of the fact that you might never come back. They do not care either that, at last, you will take with you the true tastes of Puglia. Not to mention that they certainly ignore the fact that taste involves a lot more common sense and kindness too and that is not just a matter of food. What they care is you leave their table as fast as possible. Shame they do not realize, or little they care too, that they exist in that particular place, because of those people, like me and like many other travelers, who enter their restaurant and are willing to try and pay for their food. And whom, apart from food, would also expect a bit of respect in return.
Of one thing they are right, though… I’ll definitely not seat at their tables again!