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Trip Report Abruzzo, Amalfi, Puglia and Rome October/November 2011 Part 2

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We left Bugnara, Abruzzo around 10am on October 20 and travelled to the coast to catch the autostrada south. The drive was along the Adriatic for the most part and pleasant. Several stops at the AutoGrill for coffee, etc. The landscape changed pretty dramatically as we entered Puglia - flat, flat, flat. We passed the forested heights of the Gargano Promontory and longed to take a left and spend a few days but our schedule did not permit.

Our first stop in Puglia was Trani. We loved Trani. We stayed at Albergo Lucy http://www.albergolucy.com/ for one night (triple room with view of square 75 euros, lovely room). This has been recommended many times on various sites and we concur it was a lovely place to stay, across from the public gardens full of wild parrots which lead to a lovely walk along the Adriatic. We spent a few hours there watching the locals and catching up on journaling as well as watching the exploits of a fisherman casting off the rocks. The owner was delightful The harbor was a close walk and very lively. We also walked through the new town and found it to be pleasant with a large public square and plenty of places to sit and watch local activity. Overall it seemed like a prosperous and liveable town, one of the places I would return. We were also struck by the number of residents exercising, biking, running, walking. Around the corner from the Albergo is a small cafe, Bar Guarda, run by a nice young couple with good coffee and delicious fresh cornetti. In Trani we walked by the Ognissanti 12th century church which the Knight Templars used before and after fighting in the Crusades. The highlight was the Cathedral - the setting against the Adriatic, the lovely luminescent stone, and the somewhat austere inside at dusk was unforgettable. Much has been written about it so I won’t say more than to not miss it.

The harbor in Trani is a real working fishing harbor although surrounded by many cafes and restaurants as befits a tourist town. The night we stayed there the boats came in from the harbor with their loads. Apparently, weather had held up fishing for several days before. The area was swamped with people there to buy fish for dinner. Many impromptu stands were set up along the harbor while workers loaded fish off the boats. We decided it might be a good night to go for a seafood dinner and we picked Osteria Corteinfiore, via Ognissanti 18, 0883-508402 http://www.corteinfiore.it/. This is a somewhat incongruous restaurant for Trani. It looks as if it belongs in San Diego, a little formal for our tastes. However, the service was excellent and the meal was out of this world- the best fish we have ever had (and we are from Seattle). With an excellent antipasti for 2, pasta, dessert wine and coffee the bill was 70 euros. We really believed the fish had been happily swimming just a few short hours before we gobbled them down.

After stocking up on fresh cornetti for the road, we headed for Castel del Monte. It was a lovely drive and we were tempted to stop in Altamara for bread (thanks Eskcrunchy) but as usual got lost and by the time we were on the right track, time was important as we were staying in Matera that night. We really enjoyed the Castel and the lovely views from there, As required, we parked in the large lot and took a shuttle to the Castel. All quite easy. Only a sprinkling of tourists that day. We followed a family from Britain to listen to the commentary of the father who seemed to be an historian of some kind and was very knowledgeable about Frederick the Great. A bonus for us.

We left the Castel and headed toward Minervino to assess Masseria Barbera. Unfortunately, we got totally lost and again had to backtrack in order to get to Matera before nightfall. However, during our wanderings we cruised through the Murgia Plateau noticing the abandoned locandas and the many windmills and solar panels, a tradeoff for hardscrabble farming, I guess. Sad to have missed the masseria.

We reached Matera in the late afternoon and bravely drove into the new town searching for a way into the Sassi. After a number of phone calls we reached our lodging http://www.sangiorgio.matera.it/ and received excellent instructions. We had a large upstairs room with small balcony looking out over the Sassi. We got settled and headed out for a walk throughout the Sassi and into the new town where the evening passegiata was occurring. Stopped for a glass of wine and conversed with the barman about the recent release of Amanda Knox. He had definite opinions about this. The contrast between the new town and the Sassi was profound - dipping back and forth from the bustling, lively new town into the ancient and dark Sassi was like a trip through time to take at will.

We ate that night at Le Botteghe and I am sorry to say it was the worst meal on our trip. In all fairness, the place was busy and there was a large party that seemed fairly demanding. Still, we felt ignored and the meal was mediocre at best as well as tepid. After dinner we took a late night walk through the Sassi, quite beautiful with street lights warming the narrow walkways.

The next morning we met Nadia Garlatti nadiagarlatti@tiscali.it for a tour. We had set this up months before our trip. She was very prompt in replying to our emails and met us at our hotel as promised. She charged us 40 euros for about a 3 hour tour and this was well worth it. It would be a shame to see the Sassi without a local’s perspective on the history as well as the current state of affairs. This included a visit to the museum which was very interesting. We would not have missed Matera even though I felt a little melancholy there. It seemed a good example of the difficulties involved in preserving an historical treasure with little available money and then balancing this with the needs of tourists.

From Matera we headed over the mountains through Basilicata to the amazing Amalfi Coast for a week. This is actually a quite lovely trip on the A3 through the mountains of Basilicata with many small hill towns in the distance. Noticed lots of speed traps, so be careful. A week later we would head back the same way to Puglia with a stay in Galatina. I will skip Amalfi for now and next entry will continue with Galatina in the Salentine.

Before I sign off, I would like to add a caveat to our restaurant reviews. We are pescatarians for many years now. This can make it difficult to fairly assess our meals out as many of the local specialities are meat based. We normally rent an apartment

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