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My Party in Puglia (11 Fabulous Days and Nights!!)

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Day One

Our flight to Rome was uneventful, albeit a bit turbulent at times and on a dinky little 737 plane. Upon arrival we walked to the Avis counter at Fiumicino, and while we had reserved a Nissan Micra, they offered us a Fiat Punto instead. I was hesitant but they told me it was a bit bigger. Being three persons with a semi-large suitcase and handbag each, I decided to go for it. I reserved an automatic, since that is the only kind I can drive. When seated in the car, I saw what looked like a manual shift. When I asked, they told me it WAS indeed automatic. Finally, I got someone to come and explain and it turned out this was a new type of car (only 6000 kilometers on it) where it was indeed automatic but you could switch it also to manual, without a clutch though. Strange. Took me several days though to figure out that if I inadvertently move this shift in a certain manner, it will become manual, and then I had to move the stick each time it needed to change gears (but with no clutch). Very strange and exasperating till I figured it out. They were truly not helpful at Avis.

It was a long drive to Trani, with lots of traffic on the G.R.A. (Ring Road). We arrived at around 5 PM, and I called Nicola (the owner of our B&B in Trani) who came to get us and we followed him to his B&B (Ai Carrettierri, Via Carrittieri 28, phone 0883-487204, cell 349-1637592; http://www.amgservicescrl.it/aicarrettieri/).

It is in what looks like the basement floor of an old and beautiful apartment building. You have to use a key to open the main door to the building, then another key to open a door which opens into a private outdoor patio with some tables and chairs (which we could never really use because the weather was somewhat rainy). All three of his apartments are accessed from this courtyard which are used only by his guests. When he opened the next two doors to our apartments, it looked like quite a palace. We each had an entire apartment to ourselves. It includes a very large bedroom, a large dining room/kitchenette/foyer, a bathroom, lots of halls, mirrors, antiques, small stairways, etc. The frig is stocked with some water and juice. Pre-packaged cakes and wafers await us "for breakfast". It is wonderfully situated right smack in the old town center, we had parking on the street right in front of our building. The only drawbacks were no windows, almost like a cellar/grotto-type place, no reception for cell phone and no regular phone in room. The room was somewhat damp and had a bit of a moldy smell but it was not terrible at all. Air conditioning and heating were included, we needed neither one of them. The cost was 50 Euros for a couple and 40 Euros for a single.

After getting settled and oriented, we took a walk through the city and down to the port by sunset. We walked all around and after deciding it was time for dinner, we had a most fabulous meal at Rosa dei Venti (Via Rampa la Conca 6, tel -0883-586979; web site www.ristoranterosadeiventi.it) right on the water. Being Wednesday night, it seems most of the restaurants were closed so it took time to find one that was open and looked good. While I tend to really shy away from any place that has a "tourist menu" this one looked different, and so indeed it was!! They did not really call it a tourist menu, if I remember correctly, it was something like "Menu of the Day". For 20 Euros each we had the following : Bruschetta with tomatoes, rucola and great Pugliese olive oil, a huge dish for each of us with about 7 local cheeses to try, orchiette pasta with baby tomatoes, rucola and parmeggiano, veal scallopini in wine sauce, fabulous lemon sorbet to finish off the meal, water and great red and white house wine. Staggered back to B&B and slept really well.



Day Two

We left our B&B at around 8:30 and walked down the street, looking for a bar for breakfast. We soon found a place right near us on Via Mario Pagano 198 (called Super Bar, and it truly was!!) and had a great cappuccino and cornetto with almond cream and some jam (warm and freshly baked!!). Everything is homemade - cakes, cookies, chocolates and ice creams. Each morning, as we sat and drank, we saw the father start bringing out the day's beautiful "wares" of cakes, cookies, pastries, etc. It seems to be a "Mom/Pop/Children" operation. Fortified, we started down towards the port where we went into the Nicola San Pellegrino Cathedral which is just gorgeous. Very minimalistic and not ornate at all, stone, beautiful classy wood, grand organ. Then a visit to the Castello which used to be a prison.

From there we wandered all about the small streets, purposely "getting lost" at every corner and finding new and amazing things around each bend.

We stopped at a little restaurant where they had a sign outside "Degustazione Muscato di Trani". We could not resist and each had a cold glass which was so great we decided we must buy a bottle to take home (we will, have not gotten to a store yet!!).

Lunch was at another fabulous place called Taverna Portanova at Piazza F.do Lambert 7 (phone/fax – 0883-508386, e-mail – vito.catanzano@fastwebnet.it). Here we enjoyed some excellent homemade taralle (the typical Pugliese rounded dry biscuits) with anise seeds and great bread as well, the white house wine which was again fabulous, homemade large ravioli with ricotta, mushrooms in a tomato sauce, baked sea bass which was out of this world, served with beautifully roasted potatoes, tomatoes and a sauce. Waitress/owner was very friendly, patient and composed. Highly recommended.

After lunch, it was siesta time at 3 PM so we went back to the B&B for about 2 hours.

We then ventured out again and in the opposite direction. We got to the Piazza della Repubblica, around where the new town is also located and ended up in front of Albergo Lucy in Piazza Plebiscita (my first original choice for lodgings which did not work out). The church of San Domenico is right there but we could only see it from outside since it was closed.. The beautiful park right near there was our next stop where we walked the entire length back and forth and then up the promontory and saw the harbor from above. We went back down to the port again and stopped for a drink at Jaxo, a very nice place facing the port. I had my first Negroni (VERY strong and got me quite tipsy), my cousin had a Campari arancia which I liked better and will try next time.

We then walked to a restaurant called Trattoria Da Miana at Via Sinagoga 54, Tel: 39-0883-589794 (closed Wednesdays, and apparently also for lunch because we tried there last night and it was closed and tried again for lunch today and it was closed – finally we got there tonight). It is another beautiful restaurant and the food was very tasty. The ravioli we had for starters that was filled with a gorgeous cheese, and had a sauce of arugula, almonds and cream was heavenly. The sea bass we shared and the steak was terrific. House wine and two deserts of chocolate ricotta cake and a sort of sabarina were also divine. But the price was quite expensive considering that we had no worse food at the other restaurants we visited. The price here was 88 Euros total for three people.

We strolled back to the B&B, tired but happy.

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