TG and I went to Italy a week or so ago and it was shut. No really. There were holiday resorts on the coast from Bari to Otranto that were so shut that if tumbleweed had blown past us it wouldn’t have been a surprise. There was not a man, woman, child or dog to be seen in what were akin to post apocalyptic towns in the middle of nowhere. But anyway apart from that it was great. We flew across the snowy Andes and landed at Bari – on the unfashionable coast and headed for our first night’s hotel in the dark.
I hadn’t expected to like Bari – a shipping port but it was charming. An old town and a new sensitive redevelopment of the esplanade made for a very pleasant evening of pizza, pasta and a drop of plonk. It was but a pit stop on one of our odysseys but we had a little walk before setting forth.
There was the fish market with its blue rowing / fishing boats (of which more later) and a man bashing seven bells out of a poor octopus
And then we were off
To Alberobello – land of the Trulli – little tiny houses / farm buildings which were dotted all around the countryside leading to the town but concentrated into a town within a town in Alberobello. They were quite astonishing and had been revived as shops and hotels and with their whitewashed walls were a peaceful spot despite the tourists. Actually there weren’t that many people about as it was not just the unfashionable coast but also October – which suited us just fine!
And then it was on to Ortusi – the white city. Now if you watched the cookery programme where Georgio Locatelli went to Puglia with his art historian mate Andrew something then you’ll recognise this. Again, another amazing spectacle that you come upon from below so that there is just a sheer hilltop white town with every house whitewashed. How anyone ever finds their way back to their own house from Tescos I’ll never know…
There was a quick sojourn at Lecce (very quick as it was hot and shut)
And then on to relax for a couple of days at Otranto
A quick dip in the Adriatic right down at the bottom of the heel of Italy where you can go no further downwards
And then on to Gallipoli. I hadn’t quite known what to expect of this town of previous horrors but it had a very pretty harbour where we had some lunch – me an unidentifiable but delicious fish – TG a nice safe pasta. The sun shone and it was glorious.
There were the prerequisite blue boats
And an Ape which had been given a whole new lease of life!
We carried on to the outskirts of Taranto and stayed in a rather lovely hotel which was an agriturismo – a sort of working farm with a hotel and spa
A novel way to store your fruit and veg..
And then the last leg via Matera and the Sassi. This is a UNESCO world heritage site and despite the weather being a bit pants and the light being therefore a bit dim I hope that you get the sense of enormity of what was originally and what still is to some extent, a cave dwelling community. From the unprepossessing town of Matera you climb to the top of the hill and are confronted by this most astonishing place.
It’s hard to see from this picture but the whole of the rock is a maze of caves
Quite quite amazing
It was an interesting trip. I don’t think that I have ever seen so many olive trees in my life (and not a picture was taken..). We met and spoke to some wonderful people including the lady in a restaurant who spoke no English but by the power of my awful Italian and sign language we had a whole conversation about sons and mothers and Nonna Tina who must have been 80 if she was a day but was still cooking in her own restaurant and blew me a kiss as we left. I don’t think I’d necessarily want to go again (there are only so many closed towns and olive trees a body can do) but it was a great insight into a different part of Italy, away from the crowds and the obvious lakes, Romes and Florences which we all flock to. We drank some great wine (and some awful stuff too), ate lots of pasta and caprese and the thinnest loveliest pizzas too and came home physically knackered after all the walking but feeling brain rested. Marvellous.