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Trip Report just back form puglia

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thanks to all of you who helped plan this trip- we just got back from an amazing time in puglia, and i could not have done it without fodors. the guidebooks only give a brief nod to this region, and i had a hard time getting a handle on the area until you all stepped in to help.

we flew alitalia- toronto, rome, bari- and picked up our automatic car at the bari airport. from there we drove to matera, arriving just in time to have a quick bite, check in to the hotel, and meet the tour guide we had hired for the 3 hour tour of the sassi.
I highly recommend taking such a tour- there are so many discoveries of the area that we would have missed completely if we wandered around on our own.

we stayed at locanda di san martino, and this indeed is a charming cave hotel. the room (#8) was lovely, the view incredible, the breakfast delicious, and THE THERMADOR (pool/spa area) incredible. it is 10 euro to use the pool, which seemed ridiculous to us, til we saw it. built into the cave system is this stunning 30 degree pool that is gorgeous. there is a steam room/sauna/hot tub as well, each in its own stunning cave room, beautifully lit. there is a cave to sit and enjoy a tea as well. it would have been a shame to miss this treat, so bring a bathing suit- they provide the slippers and the robes! most of the guests did use the area, and we all loved it.

dinner at le bottege, which was very good indeed. the bread in matera in incredible!

the next day we visited the sculpture museum. this too is a must see, and a highlight for us. the setting again is unbelievable- the art is beautifully displayed in incredible caves. great art, great setting, great lighting- a must visit.

we then drove to castel del monte, and really enjoyed this excursion. we learned all about the builder frederick the 11, who we would meet again thru Puglia. very little of the history is written in english, but it is easy enough to get the idea.

from there we drove to the small town of montegrosso, about 45 minutes from Trani, and stayed at the lovely country hotel Lama Di Luna. It was a bit isolated, and only a few guests were there- probably a better place for the summer, to take advantage of the pool etc, but nonetheless it was quite charming and we liked it a lot. on the property are gorgeous olive trees, and a fabulous herd of sheep that we could not help but admire for about an hour duiring their feeding time!

we ate 2 minutes from the hotel at Osteria dei Massari. we had our Trani hotel book it for us- Lama di luna were not too helpful over the internet for things like restaurant bookings- i think it was a language issue.

anyway, this small restaurant is family run- the owner serves his own olive oil, wine, cheese etc, and OH MY GOD, the food was wonderful. it just kept coming and coming, and we could not stop it (nor did we want to. there was no menu, but he did offer a couple options for us. amazing meal. the bread and the cheese were the best i have ever had- in the world- and that is saying a lot.

several of montegrosso's famous food places were closed on sundays, but we don't feel we missed a thing. fabulous.

next was trani, and what a charming town. we stayed at Mare Resort at Spa, and this is a wonderful hotel. perfect location on the harbour, large and beautiful rooms, helpful english speaking staff, reasonable price- it had it all.

we enjoyed Trani, even though it seems that everything was closed, all the time, including the impressive cathedral!

here we met up with our friends and then the next part of the journey began. we had hired a guide thru a tour company to take us on a 5 day bike trip through Puglia. the region is perfect for this- not too hilly, plenty of towns as interesting destinations, perfect weather, great excursions (cooking lesson, visit to a small artisinal cheese maker)

we were able to get a flavour of monopoli, polignano a mare,conversano, alberobello, locorotondo, both in the towns and off the beaten track as we rode thru the country on back roads, through orchards and field. it was magnificent. all the towns were worht visiting.

we took an extra trip to the grottoes of castellano- anyone in the area should really make a point of visiting this fantastical caves- check out photos on the web. (check times of english tours- can only go in at certain times.

all in all it was a wonderful time. consider cycling as a way of really getting to know the area (actually a lot less stressful than the driving we found!

cioa!

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