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Trip Report Our Trip to Puglia – Land of a Million Olive Trees!

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It’s been 5 years since our last trip to Italy (our favorite country to visit) and we were itching to get back! We’d spent our honeymoon in Italy and vowed on that trip to try and return to that lovely country every five years. We have been blessed to have fulfilled that vow so far, with our most recent 2-week trip being a celebration of our 15th anniversary.

Why Puglia? We chose Puglia as our Italian destination because we’d heard/read that this region was rural, beautiful, and still “off the radar” for most tourists visiting Italy. This fact was confirmed each time we’d tell folks where we were going in Italy and they’d reply, “Where’s Puglia?”

As we normally do for our “big” trips, we started the planning process a year in advance. We do this for multiple reasons, the main ones being: using frequent flyer miles for one or both airline tickets, getting our pick of hotels as there is still availability at most places that far out, trading our time-share for use during the trip (we didn’t do that on this trip), and getting the most out of the fun and enjoyment of the of the planning/research process!

We made our actual bookings (airline, rental car, and hotels) 9 months in advance of our travel date. We were able to use FF miles for one of the tix and paid for the other. As for hotels, we’ve taken trips where we’ve stayed in one hotel/resort and made day trips from there. We’ve also taken trips where we’ve stayed in multiple hotels and jumped around every few days. We made a conscious decision for this trip to follow the latter arrangement. For our 2-week trip, we stayed in 8 different hotels.

Before I get into the actual trip report, here is a list of quick facts about us and this trip:

We are a “young” (38 & 40) couple from southeastern US. We love traveling and have been fortunate to have visited Europe on multiple occasions.

Dates of this trip: May 11 – May 25, 2013.

Airlines used: Delta and Alitalia.

Rental car: Booked online directly with SIXT Rental Car.

Hotels: Because I enjoy their site and to keep all reservations in one place, I made all of our hotel reservations through Booking.com, and was very pleased with that choice. All of the hotels we booked included breakfast, so that was helpful in curbing our dining costs a bit. As you will see in the report, after each day’s heading, I’ve listed the hotel that we stayed in that night.

After-trip reviews: I submitted reviews for each of our hotels on both Booking.com and Tripadvisor. I also submitted reviews for a handful of our favorite restaurants on Tripadvisor. I’ll denote these restaurants in the trip report with “TA” after the name of the restaurant.

I’ve underlined the name of the towns/cities we visited on this journey. I’ve found this helpful on other reports I’ve read, so I decided to use that format on this one.

Unlike on our past trips, we did not keep travel journals on this trip. We considered doing a daily video at the end of each day, but that didn’t happen. That said, the following report is strictly from memory and may not be as detailed as some prefer, but I believe that it gives a good feel and sense-of-place for traveling around Puglia. If you want/need more details on a specific something-or-other, please feel free to do so by leaving a comment and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.

Enough small talk….Away we go!


Who Really Needs A Side-Mirror Anyway!

MAY 11 SATURDAY

The day had finally arrived – we were off to Italy again! Thankfully, it was not too early of a morning as our flight out wasn’t until 10am. Our best friends, and lovers of all things Italian, Giovanni & Priscilla picked us up and drove us to the airport.

We departed Charleston CHS via Delta at 10am. Quick flight (less than an hour) to Atlanta ATL. Longish layover (5-hr) in Atlanta. Lunch at Café Intermezzo, our favorite restaurant at ATL. Departed Atlanta ATL at 4:30pm via Delta. We had an excellent & personable pilot named Tom. He greeted everyone on the plane personally as they settled into their seats in preparation for the flight. I noticed that Delta replaced the word “turbulence” with “rough air” throughout the flight - Funny. It was a 9+ hour (overnight) flight to Rome FCO.

4 glasses of wine + zzzquil + mp3 player = some rest, but no sleep on the flight. I think that it’s impossible for me to sleep on an airplane!!! Mel is one of the lucky ones who can, so she was able to snag some shut-eye.


MAY 12 SUNDAY
Hotel: Viasparano (Bari).

We arrived in Rome FCO at 10am. There was a 3-hour layover before we departed FCO at 1pm via AlItalia. We arrived in Bari BRI, our final destination, at 2:30pm. All of the luggage made it!

We took the Tempesta Bus from the airport to downtown Bari (Bari Centrale). We drug our luggage across the busy, fountained round-a-bout plaza to Via Sparano (one of the main shopping streets). Within the first block, we were greeted on the sidewalk by the owner of our hotel. He let us in and showed us around the lobby. As the owner hiked up the stairs, Mel and I crammed ourselves and our 2 big pieces of luggage into the tiny elevator and rode it to the 7th floor. We got settled into the large, modern-furnished room.

Showered and refreshed, then went out to explore Bari a bit. The main shopping street, Via Sparano, had lots of high-end shopping stores. There was also a large Nespresso store (Mel has a Nespresso machine and loves it)! Many young folks were hanging out on the streets and in the parks. There’s a university in downtown Bari.

We made it to the historical center/old town. We wandered the quiet, winding streets. We stopped for snacks and cocktails at a bar/restaurant right on the waterfront. There were lots of young kids playing soccer in an enclosed field nearby. We ate dinner in the historical center at a restaurant named La Uascezze. It was good, but way too much food! We grabbed a gelato on the walk back to hotel.


MAY 13 MONDAY
Hotel: Fra I Sassi Residence (Matera).

Not too early of a wake-up today. Ate breakfast in the room, then took the Tempesta Bus back to the airport. We picked up our rental car from Sixt Rental Car counter inside the airport. Enzo, the rep at the desk, was very helpful. [I was excited to use Sixt when I’d booked months in advance, but leading up to trip I’d read about some customer service and bait/switch issues. I contacted Sixt on the telephone to clarify a couple of things about my rental and unfortunately experienced the sketchy customer service first hand. Ultimately, we were very, very happy with our choice of Sixt and I would definitely use them again.] It was a quick, easy process. It took us a while to find our car in the multiple rental lots. We found it and it was a sporty car, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Mel figured out the in-dash navigation system while I scoped out the pre-trip dents, scratches, and dings on the car so I wouldn’t get blamed for them later on.

We hit the road – off to Matera! Nice, quick, 1-hour trip (over the regional border of Puglia and into Basilicata). We arrived in Matera and found that there were some tight streets to navigate. The car’s Navi system had a hard time locating the hotel, so we decided to park and walk to find it. A nice guy at a nearby TI office gave us a city map and directions to our hotel. Leaving the car parked where we left it, we walked to hotel. Before we checked-in, we were offered fresh-made cafés/cappuccinos – delightful, and what a nice touch. Domenico, the proprietor, was really friendly. We had corresponded via email when I confirmed the reservation/parking situation a few weeks before the trip.

We walked back to car so that we could bring it to the hotel to park it there and unload our luggage. As I was pulling the car out of the tight parallel-parking spot, I noticed that the side mirror had been flipped back in an awkward position and that the mirror was now missing. We soon found the shattered mirror lying in the street. In the short time we’d been parked there, someone had side-swiped the mirror and rendered it useless. I was able to jerk the mirrorless side-mirror back into place, and we threw the shattered mirror into the glove box. Lesson learned – ALWAYS flip in your side mirrors when parking the car! I had a feeling that the car would be damaged in some way during our trip (it is Italy, after all), so it was nice to get that bit of business out of the way on day one!

We parked right in front of hotel, unloaded, and settled in for our 2-night stay at this lovely place. Had a leisurely lunch close by at Le Botteghe (very good), then walked back to the hotel to meet Nadia for our tour at 3pm. As we waited, we enjoyed watching and photographing a nesting pair of kestrels (pretty birds that migrate up from Africa) in a hole in a nearby building. The tour group = Nadia + us + 2 other American couples traveling together. It was a terrific tour, lots of walking/climbing, interesting sights, gorgeous vistas, neat frescos, cool cave houses. The tour lasted at least 2 hours, maybe 3? Nadia walked us back to our hotel after the tour. She was very friendly and so knowledgeable about her hometown. Like many folks on Fodors who have taken her tour, I HIGHLY recommend Nadia! (Nadia’s contact information: nadiagarlatti@tiscali.it).

After the tour, we did some souvy shopping, then headed on to dinner at Baccus Ristorante, also close to the hotel. As it was early, we were the only patrons in the entire restaurant. The owner/chef (we named him Mr. Baccus) was very personable and prepared us a delicious meal, which we enjoyed with a yummy bottle of red wine. Then, back to hotel for the night.


MAY 14 TUESDAY
Hotel: Fra I Sassi Residence (Matera).

We slept in this morning, then ate a nice breakfast at the hotel. Domenico made sure that there were specific gluten-free items available for Melissa. We set out on foot to explore the city of Matera. There was a large, main piazza in the city and we enjoyed milling around there. Mel wandered on her own for a bit, while I sat with the locals in the piazza - people watching and resting my feet. Walking again, we happened upon a health food-type store and ended up buying a couple of gluten-free beers, which we sipped as we strolled along.

We walked up the hill to see the old fort closer up. It was being restored/refreshed, so we didn’t get to go inside. Up at the fort, we finally captured a good photo of a “black-jay” bird. That’s what we call this particularly pretty black and white bird we’ve seen in various parts of Europe. Back down in the city streets, we came across an older gentleman playing an accordion on the sidewalk. He played beautifully and I took a fun picture of him and Mel.

We continued our walk and stopped to take some photos at a very picturesque spot that offered great panoramic views of the city. An older, local gentleman happened to be walking by and stopped to speak to us. He was cute little man with a warm smile and happy personality. He spoke no English, but was determined to explain what we were looking at. He pointed to an area and explained that this was the place where he’d grown up. He must’ve liked us because he asked that we follow him up the hill for a better vantage point. We laughed as he took a couple of photos of us with our camera. We thought that that would be the end of our conversation with him….but oh no, he was set on giving us a tour of the old cave houses in the area. We politely tried to turn down his offer, but he would not take no for an answer. He gently took Melissa by the arm and led us on a tour of lots and lots of the old cave house – some that had been beautifully restored and others that had been untouched for years. It was all very interesting, and although it seemed to go on and on, it was a real treat to be led on an “off the beaten track” tour by a friendly local. At the end of our tour, I took some nice photos of him and Mel. He asked that we mail him copies of the pictures, so we asked him to write down his name and address, which he did.

After our long hike around we were hungry for lunch. In my pre-trip research, I’d made notes of a few restaurants that sounded good. We set off to find Osteria Pico. It was not an easy place to find, but we eventually did so. The hunt was worth the effort, as it was quite delicious.

After lunch, we found our way back to our hotel and rested for a while. Recharged, we went to wander the city some more. We grabbed an outside table and enjoyed vino and bar snacks at Vittorio Veneto Caffe, right on the main piazza. It was a great spot for people-watching as the evening passeggiata was in full swing.

Not long after our snacks, we decided that we were hungry enough to eat dinner. We ate dinner at 19a Buca Winery, which was (strangely enough) located directly underneath the main piazza. It was an interesting, cave-like (yet modern) place that seemed to go on and on. The service was great and so was the food. After dessert and paying the bill, we did a self-tour of the underground putt-putt course that was the namesake of the restaurant (19a Buca means 19th hole). Quite unique.

Bellies full, we found our way back to our hotel through the maze of streets and stone stairways.

To Be Continued....

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    I don't know how much detail the tour guide Nadia gave you about the history of Matera, but the old gentleman you met who wanted to show you where he had grown was forced from his home by government policy, and relocated into modern apartments. It was an extremely painful experience for most residents of Matera. Although the old area of Matera was sealed off, many people who'd been born there would carry chairs there every day to sit by their old homes and talk with their neighbors. Most of those people have died now.

    People in Matera today are very proud of the efforts to restore the neighborhoods, especially the houses that are being restored according to the old principles of water collection and storage. The old houses, which were builit in an Arab style, had interior systems for collecting humidity inside the rooms, and the resulting water was channeled into underground cisterns.

    Although Matera is marketed as "cave-dwellings", the city has always been sophisticated, with advanced structural engineering, and rather wealthy. It is a national tragedy that, in a mistaken belief the relocation would the solution to a national embarassment of people "living in caves", Matera was left to rot. It has only been through efforts of the locals who are so attached to their native home, and their younger descendants, that is being rescued slowly, house by house.


    The bird you saw was probably a magpie

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Magpie


    And while poetic license is certainly the right way to go in the titles of trip reports, there are actually SIXTY MILLION in the land of Puglia, not a million.

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    Hello, All.
    Thanks so much for the comments, feedback, and education!

    We never remembered to look it up after our previous trips, so it's great to know that the pretty "black jay" bird is a magpie!

    KayT, Puglia is definitely a place to put on your "to go" list. We had a fun, enjoyable, and relaxing time there.

    Leely, the Alfa was a fun car to drive! Much sportier than the big Silverado truck that I drive in real life.

    Jami, you and Scott were very helpful in my planning process as you TR on Puglia gave me lots of ideas and things to think about(and tons of laughs, too). Thank you.

    Eks, your descriptions of the meals you've eaten in Puglia and elsewhere are truly amazing and mouth-watering. Mel and I love food and trying different things, as we did on this trip. But, as I am relying on my memory and not a journal, the details of the meals do not come very clearly at this point. I specifically had you in mind when I wrote in the intro about this being an overview (and not a detailed) report of our trip. I hope that you enjoy the TR anyway.

    Bilbo, thanks for the link to the nursery rhyme!

    Lowcountry Carol, if you're still in the lowcountry, Mel and I would love to grab lunch with you sometime and discuss our (and your) travels!

    Steve, you're a wealth of knowledge! Fortunately our guide, Nadia, was very educated and open about the history of Matera. She grew up there and her love of her city really shines through. As those that have met her know, she is a very special lady. Also, Steve, thanks for recognizing the poetic license in the title of the report. We saw lots of olive trees when visiting Mallorca a couple of years ago, but nothing like we saw in Puglia! Every available plot of land is planted with olive trees. It is a real sight to see and experience.

    I'm glad that you all are enjoying the report so far. On that note....here's the next installment!

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    Onward…To The Tip Of The Heel!

    MAY 15 WEDNESDAY
    Hotel: Relais Corte Palmieri (Gallipoli).

    Busy driving day today. Breakfast at the hotel, then off to head down the Ionian Sea side of the heel. Final destination for today was Gallipoli. Total drive time around 3 hours, but lots of fun stops broke up the trip. Drove towards Taranto, but just skirted around it and continued south. I’d taken the advice of my Fodors friends that Taranto was not worth visiting.

    First stop: Punta Prosciutto, hoping to see some pretty beaches I’d read about. Talk about gorgeous! Aqua blue water, rocky shoreline, then white beaches. We had a great time just walking the (almost) deserted shoreline, eventually ending up wading in the cool waters at the beach. This was one of Mel’s favorite stops on the entire trip. I’m really glad that we made the time and effort to stop here.

    We continued on down the coast, getting hungry thinking about our upcoming lunch. We pulled into the beautiful, seaside town of Santa Maria al Bagno. This is another place I’d read about somewhere in my research. It’s places like this and Punta Prosciutto that make all of the hours of research pay off. We had 12:15 lunch reservations (although they weren’t needed as it was midweek and early in the season) at Ristorante Art Nouveau (TA) overlooking the quiet little harbor. Jusef, whose family opened the business a couple of generations before, greeted us by name as we arrived. As it was a gorgeous sunny day, we ate lunch out on the pretty patio. Everything we ate and drank was simply prepared, yet outstanding! Such fresh, delicious seafood. Jusef and staff treated us with extra special care. This was the best meal of the entire 2-week trip, hands down.

    After lunch, we were off again, headed to our final destination of the day – Gallipoli. It was a short drive, so we made it there in no time. Our hotel was in the historic district on the little island. Driving was tight and parking was frustrating. We found a spot, left the luggage in the car, and went on the hunt for the hotel. The sky was beginning to cloud over. Found the hotel within the maze of streets and checked in with the friendly guy at the reception desk. We headed back to the car for our luggage, this time on a more direct route thanks to the reception guy’s instructions. It began to drizzle as we pulled our bags through the narrow, cobbled streets. We got settled in and explored the white-washed, Greek-like hotel for a bit. We asked for restaurant suggestions from reception-guy – we wanted to try the famous “ricci” (sea urchin) that the area is known for. Unfortunately, they were out of season, so we didn’t get to try any on this trip. We walked around the historical center a while and along the high waterfront walls. On one of the high, STEEP seawalls, we saw a small black kitty halfway up the wall in a crevasse. It must have climbed up there to search for lizards and such. It looked very comfortable climbing around on the side of the wall. We named her “spider-kitty” and had fun watching her antics.

    We decided to try L’Angolo Blu for dinner. The meal was just so-so, nothing special. We wanted to find a wine bar for a couple of drinks. Walked around and found an interesting and fun-looking place called La Spingula Wine & Lounge Bar. The owner/bartender, “King Arthur,” was quite a character. There were other nice folks in the small place enjoying themselves, too. One glass of wine led to many and we ended the night drinking grappa. Not pretty. Made it back to the hotel later than we normally would and crashed. Unfortunately, we had a busy, long-driving day ahead of us.


    MAY 16 THURSDAY
    Hotel: Eos Hotel (Lecce).

    Early-ish morning. Got packed up and headed to the rooftop dining area for breakfast. I felt terrible, so only drank water. Mel was able to enjoy the breakfast. Back to the car with luggage in tow, and we were off again. Headed east to a small town named Cutrifiano. I had scheduled a wine & olive oil tasting/tour at L’Astore Masseria (TA).

    Made it Cutrifiano, but wasn’t sure where the masseria was located in/around the town. I was not prepared with good directions. We stopped at a small coffee shop in town and the nice lady working there gave us directions (in Italian). We found the masseria, where Lee-Ann gave us a terrific private tour of the old underground olive oil processing area (very interesting) and the newer, beautiful wine cellar. Afterwards, Lee-Ann had quite the spread of private-label products (wine, olive oil, pates, etc.) set out for us to taste. It all looked delicious. Lee-Ann was so knowledgeable and gave details on everything offered. Unfortunately, I had to pass as I was still not feeling well. Mel, thankfully, was able to enjoy it all! We purchased a bottle of wine and were on our way.

    Continuing east towards Otranto. Made it to Otranto and parked at the bottom of the hill, then walked up into town. Our first stop was the cathedral. It was closed until later on in the day. Next stop, the huge castle in town. It was closed for repairs and not re-opening until the summer season. At this point the sky was getting darker and it began to drizzle. We decided that it would be a good time to grab some lunch. We found a place that looked good. I had a delicious, huge pizza. It was the first food I’d eaten all day and tasted really good.

    After lunch, we wandered around the city a little more, stopped for a gelato, then waited for the cathedral to open. When it finally did open, we were treated to its interesting interior. The entire floor was covered in a neat, intricate mosaic that referenced the Tree of Life. There was also a side chapel with tons of old human bones stacked up behind these tall glass panels. Strange, but interesting, too. After seeing the church we felt that we’d “seen” Otranto, so we headed back to the car. We punched Lecce into the navigation system and we were off.

    Arriving in Lecce, we found that it was a larger city with busy traffic. The GPS took us right to our hotel. We checked in, freshened up a tad, then headed out the door to explore the city. It was a little walk to the historical center from the hotel, but not too bad. The historical center was beautiful, with the old Roman amphitheater, the pretty cathedral with its own piazza, and the nice winding streets of shops and restaurants. It was a nice scene – relaxed, yet lively, too.

    We were getting hungry but having a hard time deciding what/where to eat. We finally decided on a cozy little place called Trattoria di Nonna Tetti. Delicious, enjoyable dinner. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.


    MAY 17 FRIDAY
    Hotel: Eos Hotel (Lecce).

    Up early. Breakfast at the hotel. Grabbed the Alfa out of the underground (tight) garage, and away we went! We headed towards Otranto and then drove south along the Adriatic on the coastal highway. It was beautiful weather for a day of driving. First stop was in Porto Badisco, a gorgeous cove with blue-watered waves crashing on the rocky shore. We enjoyed the cove for a bit then had lunch in the little restaurant right there. I had a plate of tiny, fried fish (whole minnows) and another plate of tiny, fried octopus. Both yummy.

    We continued our way south, hugging the coast until we came to Santa Cesarea Terme, with its brightly colored Moorish palace on the high cliff. The views of the sea from high on the cliffs was breathtaking.
    We kept heading south until we hit the tip end of the (Italian) heel at Capo Santa Maria di Leuca and could go no further. It was awesome being at the tip of the heel! We took lots of pictures. Knowing that the Adriatic and Ionian Seas were meeting at this point was a cool feeling. This was one of my favorite places of the entire trip. There was a huge Italian flag waving in the wind. We met a nice couple from San Francisco and spoke to them for a while, comparing our routes through Puglia so far.

    At this point we had a choice: head back to Lecce the way we just came, head inland up the central part of the heel to get back to Lecce, or…..head up the Ionian coast towards Gallipoli. We’d been thinking about our awesome meal at Ristorante Art Nouveau in Santa Maria al Bagno (just north of Gallipoli) a few days before. If we were going to eat there again before leaving Puglia at the end of the week, this was our chance. We went for it. It would be a longish drive back to Lecce from there, but it would be worth it!

    Finally arriving in Santa Maria al Bagno, we felt like we were home. It’s a cozy little town. Too early for dinner, we walked around the town, grabbed a gelato, and enjoyed just strolling along the shoreline, watching the huge orange sun set over the water. Jusef at the restaurant was happy to see that we’d returned. They treated us to another delightful meal. Bellies full, we made our way back across the heel to Lecce. We didn’t have the address to the hotel with us, and the navi system was only so much help with limited information. We drove circles within Lecce until we finally happened upon our hotel. Thankfully it didn’t take too long to locate. In for the night!

    To be continued...

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    My great grandmother was born, raised and lived most of her life in the Sassi di Matera. Poverty and disease were rife. Many of the Sassi residents/Materese were agricultural workers with daunting walks of multiple miles to the fields were they labored. Then they walked home. Sanitation and ventilation as well as poverty were serious problems in the Sassi.

    The story of the forced evacuation to the newer upper town isn't a happy one, but the story of healthy and prosperous denizens in the lower town isn't perhaps the entire story.

    chucktown: thanks for this very good report. I am sure Nadia must have shared some of the history of the Sassi di Matera with you during the tour.

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    Delighted that you foundn Yussef and Art Nouveau in Sta Maria al Bagno. We had one of our best meals there on our trip last fall.

    For next time, they have a more bustling and less pricey place a few doors down, also facing the little harbor....I loved that town. GREat report!

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    Thanks, Jami. I'm glad that you're enjoying it. I just noticed that you and Scott posted a new TR. I can't wait to read it!

    Eks, Art Nouveau and Santa Maria al Bagno were both very special little gems on our trip. While speaking with Jusef, I vaguely recall that he mentioned another restaurant, but I couldn't remember the details of it. Thanks for the heads up!

    Kristina, I think that you're really going to enjoy your October trip to Puglia. If you need more details on anything or have any questions, please feel free to ask. If I can't answer it, there are multiple folks on this thread with tons of knowledge about the area.

    Thanks for bookmarking, Ann!


    How about we continue on our journey? Away we go...

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    Who’s That Fool In The Pool?

    MAY 18 SATURDAY
    Hotel: Hotel Monte Sarago (Ostuni).

    We slept in a while, packed up, then grabbed breakfast at the hotel. We were off again – this time to the bright, white town of Ostuni. The drive to Ostuni took around an hour and half, not bad at all. We broke up the drive by stopping along the way in a town called Mesagne. We toured the neat castle and enjoyed looking at all of the old jewelry and pottery inside. Ready to see Ostuni, we continued our journey.

    Once in Ostuni, we easily found our hotel. Nice, modern hotel with a great room and views of Ostuni from the balcony. There was a convenient, large underground parking garage, too. After quickly settling in, we headed back down to the lobby.

    The helpful ladies at the desk were kind enough to contact Gigi on the phone (better to be done in Italian than English) and helped us arrange/firm up our Monday horse ride at his masseria. They also gave us lunch restaurant recommendations, so off we went to find it within the white city.


    Lunch at Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale was good. It seemed like a real fancy place. Afterwards we walked around for a while. Melissa found some pretty ceramics at a store named Rebus and decided to buy a couple of pieces.

    We then headed back to the hotel for a little R & R at the pool. We had big dinner plans at Masseria Il Frantoio and wanted to be rested and ready to eat! Arriving back at the hotel, the reception staff informed us that they had arranged a rooftop prosecco and snacks for us (for our anniversary) – so nice! After the rooftop treat, we changed into our swim suits and headed to the pool. The pool was way up the hill above the hotel. The hike up the steep steps to get there was not for the faint of heart (or out of shape) person! The views from up at the pool were glorious. The only other people there were a mother and son and the lifeguard. I decided to get in, but the lifeguard said that I had to wear a swim cap because it was a public pool. So I got to spend 3 euros on a bright yellow rubber swim cap - nice. If nothing else, we got some good laughs out of me wearing it! The water was chilly, but refreshing, so I didn’t stay in long. It was so relaxing to just chill and enjoy soaking up the late afternoon sun with the awesome views of Ostuni surrounding us.

    On the way back to the room, we stopped by the desk and got directions to the masseria where we’d have dinner. It was very close by, just on the outskirts of town. We showered and dressed for dinner, grabbed the car from the garage, and were pulling off the main road into Masseria Il Frantoio in no time. Once on the property, the drive to the main residence was very peaceful. The sun was setting as we eased along the stone-walled drive through gorgeous olive groves. Mel snapped some terrific pictures. Dinner was scheduled to begin at 8:30pm, but we arrived early so that we could get the 8pm tour of the property.

    We sat in the nice courtyard and enjoyed a couple of cocktails. Mel made friends with a sweet kitty and enjoyed loving on her as she was curled up in Mel’s lap. The owner of the masseria, Armando, gave the group a very interesting tour of the main residence and some of the gardens – quite a place. The peacock cawing in the background from somewhere on the property was funny, and just seemed right!

    It was finally time for dinner. I’d made reservations a few months in advance, having read somewhere that the 8-course meal was something “not to be missed” if you found yourself anywhere near Ostuni. The dining room was large, yet cozy. There were multiple 12-top rectangular tables set up. We were led to our seats, where a nice hand-written place-card was found. We had the pleasure of making new friends (with couples from England and Germany) as we enjoyed the many tasty courses and accompanying wines. If we ever find ourselves in Ostuni again, we’ll be staying at this masseria – it seemed like a very low-key and relaxing place to stay and it’s literally just outside of the city. After our fun night, we drove back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.


    MAY 19 SUNDAY
    Hotel: Savito B&B (Martina Franca).

    Slept in a bit, then breakfast at the hotel. We had a full day ahead of us, with our final destination being Martina Franca, so off we went. We headed down the hill until we hit the coast, then turned north.

    Driving along the pleasant coastal road, our first stop was Torre Canne, a little beach town. We walked around for maybe 30 minutes then continued on our way. Next stop on the coastal road was Savelletri.

    This was another pretty little beach town (maybe a little more upscale?). We were looking forward to having lunch here as we’d read about a neat seaside restaurant that was known for their fresh (raw) seafood. We walked along the waterfront a bit, enjoying both the sights and salt-water smell. We live by the coast at home, and the smell of the sea is like perfume to us.

    Having worked up an appetite, we grabbed an outside table on the pretty patio at Pescheria 2 Mari. We love sushi and raw-prepared seafood, so we were really excited to finally be eating here. The bottle of crisp, local white wine was delightful and so refreshing. Being big oyster fans, we ordered some locals on the half-shell to see how they compared to the ones we love at home. They were very similar (to US east coast oysters) and quite delicious – the briny, salty flavor of the sea filling our palates. We also tried a sampler plate of various types of fish and shrimp carpaccio. Wonderful, wonderful lunch – just as we had hoped.

    Hunger satisfied, we continued up the coast to the town of Monopoli. It was quiet in Monopoli due to the afternoon siesta. We walked around the historic district, enjoying the coolness of the narrow streets. We also went down to the small beach area below the tall fortified seawalls. There were a few young folks sunbathing on the rocks. Mel found some nice souvenir stones as she ankle-waded on the beach. There was a nice town harbor with brightly colored fishing boats. We took some terrific pictures here.

    Having felt that we’d “seen” Monopoli, we punched Martina Franca into the car’s navi system and hit the road. We easily found our hotel, a neat little resort-like oasis in the midst of residential highrises. We were excited to be spending the next couple of nights in a real trullo, the interesting cone-topped stone dwellings that the area is known for. The owner of the property had restored a few of them beautifully. After settling in, we decided to check out the town of Martina Franca. The evening passeggiata was in full force and the main piazza was filled with locals strolling along enjoying their pretty town. We had a couple glasses of the popular local cocktail, Aperol Spritz, at an outside café, which was perfect for people-watching.

    Before heading back to the hotel, we found a restaurant for dinner. I can’t recall the name of the restaurant, but it was one of the places where you pick your meats from the butcher’s display case and they grill/cook it up for you. The “bombettes” (skewered meat balls?) I had were good, but a little greasy, as they were fried instead of grilled. Then back to the hotel for the evening.


    MAY 20 MONDAY
    Hotel: Savito B&B (Martina Franca).

    We’d been looking forward to this day of our vacation for quite a few months…It was horseback riding day in Puglia! Six months before our trip I had contacted a company called Parco di Mare about riding horses while in Puglia. They were the only company I could find that offered this service. I corresponded with the owner on multiple occasions leading up to the trip – squaring up our reservations. A day or two before we left for the trip, I received an email from her saying that the reservation had to be cancelled due to the fact that there was a big horse show coming up and that they could no longer accommodate us. I was pissed, to say the least! This was something that I had especially planned for Mel and me – the trip was in celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary after all! I emailed the owner back letting her know how disappointed I was (my ugly-American tone may have come out a bit). Ultimately she came through for us – saying that she had a friend with horses that may be able to accommodate us. She gave us his name and telephone number and she contacted him, letting him know that we’d be calling and what we were looking for. Last Saturday, while staying in Ostuni, we’d had a friendly lady at the hotel reception desk contact “Gigi” to set up the date and time for our excursion with him.

    It was a gorgeous, blue-sky day. We ate breakfast at the hotel, then headed back south towards the coast, just outside of Ostuni. Costa Merlata is a small, beach town that was relatively quiet as it was early in the season. This is where we met Gigi and followed him in our car to his nearby property, Masseria Lamasanta.

    Gigi was a terrific guy – very friendly, and spoke some English, too. He was very welcoming and made us feel right at home. He led us to where the many horses were kept and we began tacking-up three of them. In no time, the three of us were saddled up (Mel on “Sheila” and me on “Geppetto”) and heading out for the ride.

    We first rode through a forest of pine trees – getting our feel for the horses and comfortable in our saddles. When we came out from the forest, the gorgeous aqua-blue Adriatic was spread before us. Up through the sand dunes we went and into the cool, clear water of a nice little cove. Gigi was kind enough to grab my camera throughout the ride to snap pics of Mel and me. The one of us in the cove atop our horses is one of our favorite pics of the entire Puglia trip. Out of the water, we continued along the coast for a while, eventually turning inland. We rode through fields of tall, blooming wildflowers – ancient stone farmhouse ruins on the hills above us. Next through a stand of eucalyptus trees, then through a grove of thousands-of-years-old olive trees.

    We eventually ended up back at the masseria where we’d started. The entire excursion lasted between 2-3 hours. It was literally like a dream come true. It exceeded all of my expectations. It was inexpensive, too.

    After putting the horses back in their stables, Gigi, Mel, and I sat around on a shaded patio outside of the masseria residence enjoying the breeze and a few beers. I cannot recommend “Gigi” (Prof. Pierluigi Laveneziana) and Masseria Lamasanta highly enough! (Gigi’s contact info: masserialamasanta@gmail.com).

    Hungry for lunch and still on a high from our fun ride, we headed north up the coast to the town of Torre Canne. We had some delicious, fresh seafood and tasty vino at Ristorante Al Buco, right on the waterside. Satiated, our next stop was the town of Locorotondo. We enjoyed walking around town for an hour or so – very picturesque.

    On the way out of town - just on the outskirts - is a local wine co-op, Cantina Sociale Locortondo. There were no other cars in the large parking lot, but we stopped and went in anyway. We found a lady working in the office and asked if it would be possible to taste some of the wines that were produced there. She said absolutely and came out to assist personally. In all Italian, she would describe in detail the wines we were tasting – reds, whites, and sparkling. We didn’t understand all of what she was saying, but got the main gist of it. We ended up buying 4 bottles. After the tasting, we walked around the place doing a self-tour – checking out the bottle labeling machines, the huge holding & fermenting tanks, and the area where the trucks full of grapes would dump their loads and the huge machines would extract the juice from the fruits to begin the wine-making process. All very interesting – we were glad we’d made the stop.

    From there we headed back to the hotel to chill for a while. I took a dip in the pool while Mel caught up on email and napped. Early evening, we cleaned ourselves up and headed into the nice little town of Cisternino. We strolled through the narrow town lanes – it was very peaceful. Dinnertime rolled around, so we decided to dine at Osteria Bell’ Italia (TA). Terrific dinner, cozy restaurant, nice server – a relaxing evening. Back to the hotel to sleep.

    To be continued....

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    I want to commend you again on a terrific report, one that reflects how you got off the beaten path a bit. It also brings back a lot of memories for me (not of the horse rides, though!!)

    I keep searching for a hotel in Sta Maria al Bagno, but so far have not turned up anything that would draw me there for an overnight..only one or two hotels in that town...

    What was the price of the meal at Il Frantoio? Were there Italians among the dinner guests? I have always resisted booking a meal there but perhaps it is time to take the leap!!

    Again, I am loving your report..great attitude....great spirit of adventure! so glad it worked out well for you and eager to read more..

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    Eks, I'm glad that you're enjoying the report. We had such a good time!
    As for the hotels in SM al Bagno, there didn't seem to be many options as I recall. A quick search on Booking.com brings up 3 options:Hotel Piccadilly, Hotel Corallo, & Vistamar di Gallipoli (this one looks like it sits in the hills above the town - the description says 600 meters to town). Of course, I don't know your dates or budget. Regardless, it seems like it's slim pickings when it comes to hotel options there.
    The cost of the meal at Il Frantoio was around 60 euros each, I believe. Not many Italians at the dinner as I recall, but there were a lot of folks and I was mainly focusing on my table and new acquaintances. It's definitely worth it. I'd go again.
    Good luck!

    Leely2, I'm so glad that I persisted. We were NOT going to leave Puglia without riding a horse! When I think back on how fun that day was, I smile. It couldn't have been a more perfect day.

    Sass, Thanks for reading along. Puglia was a special place. The people there so friendly and welcoming.

    KJA, Glad I could bring back some memories for you!


    How about we continue on the journey! Here's the final installment...

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    Easing Into The Home Stretch.

    MAY 21 TUESDAY
    Hotel: Al Mirador (Fasano).

    Before breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our luggage as we’d be moving hotels today. After breakfast, we headed up the coast, stopping at an AGIP gas station to fill up the tank before we hit the highway.

    We headed first to Polignano a Mare. It was another beautiful day. We had a great time exploring the town and its signature picture-perfect blue water cove tucked between the high rocky cliffs. We snacked on some yummy Mandorla (almond-flavored) granita from a place that supposedly served the finest of these icy treats. We walked down the steep steps, under the beautiful arched bridge, to the rocky cove to check it out from that vantage. There were lots of young folks sunbathing on the rocky beach and a few brave ones swimming in the chilly water.

    On the way back to our car we found a great restaurant for lunch, Grotta Ardito Ristorante. We were one of the few patrons when we arrived, so we got an awesome table on a tiny balcony overlooking the azure sea. We ate yet more outstanding seafood with delish wine. Life in Puglia (as a tourist) is grand!

    From Polignano a Mare we headed inland. Next stop, ground-zero for tourists, Alberobello. You read it time and again, this place is a tourist trap, but it’s a place you’ve got to visit when you come to Puglia. We did a quick walk-through of the unique trulli area, took some pics, and were on our way driving out of town in under 45 minutes.

    It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the gate of Al Mirador, our hotel for the next two nights. This place was rated 4-stars, a splurge for us on this trip. It sat high up on a hill (above Fasano) and had gorgeous views overlooking the many small towns below and the coast not far beyond. After checking in, we were treated to prosecco and snacks in the poolside dining area. We settled into our room and chilled by the pool for a while.

    For dinner, we drove back into Cisternino to dine at Ristorante Da Zia Rosa. We sat at an outside table as it was a pleasant evening. We weren’t too impressed by this place – the food was just OK. In the darkness, we drove along the winding country roads, then back up the hill to our hotel for the night.


    MAY 22 WEDNESDAY
    Hotel: Al Mirador (Fasano).

    We slept in today, then had breakfast at the hotel. This would be a very relaxing day for us. Mid-morning we headed into the town of Fasano to check it out. We walked around the historic district, checked out a church, tried some interesting fruit at a small fruit store, and then jumped back into the car. Nothing too exciting about this town, but by this point in the trip, all of the small little towns were starting to look the same to us.

    We made the short drive back to Cisternino to pay a parking ticket we’d gotten the evening before and to do a little souvenir shopping. Then back to the hotel to relax the afternoon away at the infinity pool.

    We cleaned up and ate dinner at the hotel. As there were just a few guests staying at the small, boutique hotel, we felt as though we had our own personal chef for the evening. Tasty dinner, then back to the room to pack up our luggage. We’d have an early morning tomorrow as we would be heading back to Bari to drop off the rental car at the airport, with a few stops in between.


    MAY 23 THURSDAY
    Hotel: Sheraton Nicolaus (Bari).

    Up early, unfortunately. Neither of us slept well as the AC unit couldn’t cool the room to our liking. We opened the doors to the balcony in the middle of the night to get some fresh air, but the lights (around the pool and hotel) were really bright.


    Quick breakfast at the hotel, then we hit the highway - heading north to Bari. The plan, which worked well, was to swing by our Bari hotel (on the outskirts of Bari) and drop our bags off, then head to the airport (bag-free) to drop off the rental car. The rental car drop-off went very smoothly – Enzo shrugged when I mentioned the busted side mirror. I wrote a quick explanation on the rental agreement that it got knocked off in Matera. I joked to Melissa that they probably kept a box-full of extra side mirrors in the office for all of the foreign drivers who aren’t familiar with flipping in their side-mirrors!

    We wanted to be bag-free because from the airport, we took the Tempesta Bus to Bari Centrale (train station), then hopped on a train to Trani. We had some time before the train departed, so we walked around Bari a bit. We departed for Trani after a while. It was fun to be on an Italian train again (that had been our mode of transport on our past Italian trips).

    It was a quiet day in Trani. We headed straight for the harbor area. We were blessed with another blue-sky day. The large harbor was so peaceful-looking as boats of all sizes bobbed up and down. Before heading to the cathedral and castle/fort, we decided to grab some lunch at a one of the harborside restaurants, La Perla del Sud. I had a huge pizza and a nice cold beer – boy did that lunch hit the spot! We walked along the waterfront until we came to the tall, tall cathedral that the town is known for. Before heading into the church, we took the long walk out to the small green lighthouse at the end of the rocky pier that wrapped around and protected the harbor. We saw lots of cats out there, but all were skiddish, so no petting them.

    We walked around the cathedral doing a self-tour. That is one high-ceilinged church! We skipped trying to figure out how to get access to the tall campanile next to the church and walked over to the castle/fort. We paid to enter the castle and then were left to tour it on our own. That was a waste of time and money. It was basically a bunch of empty rooms with very little information available.

    From the castle, we headed back to the train station, stopping along the way at a pet store to look for souvenirs for our 2 cats. No cat toys, but Mel did get a chance to pet some cute puppies and kittens. One more stop for some gelato, then on to the train station to hop the train back to Bari.

    Once back at Bari Centrale, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel on the outskirts (residential area) of the city. Back at the hotel, Mel relaxed (napped) and I went out to explore the area around the hotel. We needed more bottled water for the in-room refrigerator. It was a nice day and was enjoyable to just stroll around. I found a café close by and picked up a couple of large bottles of “fizzy” water. Later in the afternoon/early evening, Mel and I went back out to do some more exploring (walking around) of the immediate area around the hotel.

    Later on, I was not particularly hungry, so I skipped eating dinner. Mel grabbed some fruit from the fruit bowl in the hotel room and made a meal out of that. Early to bed.


    MAY 24 FRIDAY
    Hotel: Sheraton Nicolaus (Bari).

    Our last full day in Puglia - we slept in. This would be a day of relaxing and preparing our bodies for the long trip back home tomorrow. We ate breakfast at the hotel – a terrific and extensive array of items offered. The largest breakfast I’d EVER seen offered in a hotel. We went back to room and did a little more packing/preparing.

    There was a large recreation complex across the street from the hotel. It had 2 pools (indoor and outdoor), a huge gym, aerobic classes, and a putt-putt course, among other things. When we checked-in to the hotel yesterday, they gave us two passes for the use of the complex. We went over to the outdoor pool and enjoyed sunning for a couple of hours. The pool water was chilly, but we did occasionally put our legs in to cool off.

    After changing into real clothes back in the room, we grabbed some lunch at a close by restaurant called L’Osteria Dei Quattro Gatti. Good food & nice service. All filled up, we decided to do some more exploring of the area (and burn off some of those calories!). We set off on a long walk. The area was mostly residential, but there were pockets of commercial parts (stores, grocery stores, cafes, etc.) around. We went into most of the grocery stores we encountered because we simply enjoy checking out foreign grocery stores – they’re just interesting to us. There was a university nearby where lots of young people were milling around. We stopped in a café and had some refreshing lemon granita. It was just a lazy walk around. We ended up back at the hotel and rested and finished packing up.

    Early evening, we cleaned up and went down to the hotel bar. We’d been given a couple of vouchers for complementary prosecco. We sipped on the bubbly vino and munched on bar snacks for a while, then strolled to a restaurant around the corner for dinner. Vinagre was a nice, modern restaurant. We’d discovered it on our walk earlier in the day. All of the staff was very friendly. Our final dinner in Puglia was very relaxing and yummy. We both had some nice red wine and then Mel tried a special cocktail. It turned out to be very strong, but she persevered and finished it! Back to the room to get to bed – there’d be an early morning alarm clock going off.


    MAY 25 SATURDAY

    Early morning wake-up. Too early for the hotel breakfast, unfortunately. We took a taxi to airport (25 euros), where we grabbed a quick breakfast at airport. I drank my last Chinnoto (a bitter-flavored cola drink) of the trip.

    We departed Bari BRI at 7:30am via Alitalia. We had less than a 1-hr layover in Rome FCO so we had to kind of rush through the airport to catch our connecting flight. Next, the 10+ hour flight to Atlanta ATL via Delta. Nice and uneventful flight. Then a 4-hour layover in Atlanta.

    Dinner at Café Intermezzo, of course. Finally, the quick flight (less than an hour) home to Charleston CHS. Arrived at CHS @ 8:30pm.
    Priscilla and Giovanni met us at the airport, as they’d be giving us a lift home. Giovanni had seen a picture (of me in Alberobello with a canned drink) that Mel had posted to Facebook. Being Italian, he recognized the drink in my hand and as a surprise, he had a couple of cold Chinnotos waiting for us in the car for the ride home! Talk about a true friend!

    Rutledge and Siena (our cats) greeted us at the door and were happy to see us. We were happy to see them, too! What a great trip and celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary. We’re already thinking about where to go for our next trip!

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    Thank you Robbie for your detailed and wonderful trip report. It was a pleasure reading it. We will be in the Apulia region next year and I appreciate your commentaries about the villages/towns you've visited including restaurants you've eaten at.

    Joy

    PS. We were going to stay in Taranto before our early flight out of Bari but now that you have mentioned the Sheraton, I think I will just use our points and stay there. It seems a decent and convenient place to stay for our last night.

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    Joy,

    I think that the switch to the Sheraton in Bari would be a wise choice. It was very convenient to the airport. I'm sure that you could tell from my TR that the hotel is in a residential area of Bari. We didn't mind this as we'd explored downtown Bari earlier in the trip, plus we used the last few days of our trip as "down" days to relax and prepare for the long trip home. There's plenty of great restaurants very close to the hotel.

    Do you know if you will be driving in Puglia, as we did? If so, the navigation system (GPS) in the car was very helpful and made for a much less stressful trip. Melissa was the master of the navi system and I was the driver. We'd get in the car, she'd punch in the destination, and away we went!

    In early preparation for the trip, I'd purchased a Michelin map of "Italy South" (map # 564 Regional Italy). Because we ended up with a navi system in the car it was never used (although it was nice to know I had it as a backup, just in case). I don't see a need for keeping the map, so if you'd like it (and are in the US), I'd be happy to mail it to you. It would be my gift to you for taking the time to read my TR! Let me know if you're interested.

    You're going to really enjoy Puglia! Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Happy planning!

    Robbie

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    Thanks, Robbie.

    We will be flying into Brindisi and flying out of Bari. And yes, we will have a car and a gps.

    Sorry, I've made a mistake....I meant we were going to stay in Trani, not Taranto [which is quite a distance from Bari].

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    Chucktown dobbs,

    Interesting report! I too liked my stay at the Sheraton near the airport for convenience. I can't help but think that the mandorle granita you enjoyed was made with the delicious real almonds of that area, not just an almond flavoring. Almonds are just delicious around Bari.

    Tuscanlifeedit,

    Indeed the native voice of Matera need to be heard, in all their variety, and not just what has come to be the official story. But it has never been disputed that in the 1950s, everyone agreed that only one-third of the Sassi could be declared uninhabitable by any measure.

    Italy was not alone in embarking on hugely destructive urban "renewal" projects from central capitals that had no understanding of the communities they were destroying. And as in other places, the communities themselves were made to feel ashamed, and in the the Sassi of Matera, it reached a point where the historic Sassi was evacuated and used as the town dump. Even Carlo Levi felt obliged to intervene, likening the Sassi to the Grand Canal of Venice, in need of protection. Within 10 years, the government was made to reverse its policy of destroying the architecture, but it took much much longer to recognize that the people had a right to live in their own homes -- by which time it was too late.

    It is amazing the amount of energy and determination the locals have to reclaiming Matera as a living city, filled with the children of Matera, living in harmony with nature. I hope they can get beyond being just a tourist stop.

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    Echoing the thanks for taking the time to write this report!

    By the way, chinotto is a soft drink made from an sour-orange-like citrus. You can buy it in shops in Italian neighborhoods, and order on Amazon. The same flavoring is used in Campari and other amari (bitter alcoholic beverages)

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    Thank you for your great report.
    It was great to visit Puglia with your report.
    I have been wanting to visit this area for several years and am trying to figure out if it can be done by using public transportion.So far I have not had much sucess.
    I am a very senior female who usually travels solo and I would not attempt to drive .
    Any sugestions ?

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    Thanks all for your kind comments!

    Eks: Indeed, we have occasionally found Chinotto in the States in specialty markets. A real treat for us. An acquired taste. Similar to Kinnie in Malta.

    TDK: I know that there are buses and trains connecting some of the cities/towns in Puglia, but personally I think that it would be difficult to see/experience this region using only public transportation. It is very rural.

    Others may have better info on this front as I knew that we'd have a car and really didn't explore the use of public transport (besides the train from Bari to Trani).

    Robbie

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    I really loved reading about your journey - so interesting (and well written!)
    Iam hoping to fly to Bari from London for four nights at the beginning of October. I would like to visit Polignano a mare for one night and perhaps one or two other towns. Where would you suggest? We would be travelling by train. I love the sound of Ostuni and Trani but fear I may be being too ambitious. Thank you.

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    Robbie
    Thanks for your reply to my inquiry.
    I did find a tour that left from Bari. You had a choice of the number of days, anywhere from 2-6 days.
    It received rave reviews from Trip Advisor. I have never taken tours and am not sure if that is the way for me to go.
    However if I can not find a way to see this area on my own, I may sign up for a 3 day tour and then settle in 1 town for a few days on my own.
    Any suggestions of a town that would be a good town to settle in for about 3 days that is a good walking town with restaurants and shops and also may have public transportation to another town.
    Again I really enjoyed your report

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    Frances & TDK:

    Thanks for reading my report. We had a terrific time exploring Puglia.

    As you read, we had a rental car for most of our trip, so I didn't really explore the public transportation options.

    I copied this excerpt from another site: " These days, Italy’s principal trains are sleek, smart affairs that zip between the major cities at speeds in excess of those in Britain, and with much lower ticket prices. But it’s not all like that. Train journeys in the Italian south, including Puglia, are something of a throwback, though I mean that in a good way. Enjoy slow, meandering branch lines that in Britain would have been closed 60 years ago, and quaint, old-style carriages and dusty stations that slumber in the high summer sun.

    The extensive state network (trenitalia.com) in Puglia makes rail a great way to explore. Lines run along the coast (this is the quickest, mainline route) and criss-cross the interior, and there are semi-private lines like the Ferrovie del Sud-Est (fseonline.it) that runs through the Valle d’Itria and some of Puglia’s prettiest countryside. It will also take you to two of the key tourist towns, Martina Franca and Alberobello."

    The only train we took was from Bari to Trani. I was not the most impressed by Trani. It was pretty, had a nice harbor and the neat church, but beyond that I didn't see much of the appeal of the city. The tour of the castle/fort was a waste of time - not much to it.

    Bari was nice to see and walk through (had all the high-end and otherwise shopping), but it was a bigger city and felt "gritty". We stayed there one night, mainly for logistical reasons (flight into the city one day, picking up our rental car the next day). It was the only city we visited where I felt a bit uncomfortable walking around after dark.

    We liked Polignano a Mare. We didn't stay there, but I think that it would be a nice place to spend one night. Good restaurants, gorgeous cove and rocky beach below the high cliffs, nice stroll-able town.

    Ostuni was really nice. Beautiful white-washed town on the hill with views of the sea. We only spent one night there, but would spend a couple if I got to do it over. Neat city, good vibe. Very hilly.

    Matera (in Basilicata) was a fun town to spend a couple of nights in. VERRY HILLY. Tons of restaurants, nice large central square. Lots to see and explore there.

    Finally, we really enjoyed the Martina Franca/Cisternino/Locorotondo area. These three towns are very close to one another. I'm sure that they have frequent bus service between them. They were all neat, walkable small towns. The evening passagiata was alive and well (and fun to observe) in each of the towns, especially in Martina Franca. Good restaurants and shopping as well.

    Hope that helps.

    Please let me know if you have other/additional questions.

    Ciao,

    Robbie

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    Robbie, you are an angel.
    Thank you so much for your reply, it is so helpful.
    I have only just found this site but it is so interesting. Previously, I have been relying on tripadvisor!
    Do you have other trip reports I can read by the way?
    Have you visited the UK/
    Many thanks,
    Frances

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    Robbbie
    Thank you so much for all the info.
    I am now thinking it will be doable for me to visit Puglia using public transportation.
    Obviously having a car would be better but there is no way I would attempt to drive, also not sure if they would rent a car to a 84 year old women, which will be my age when I make this trip.
    Really excited about visitng Puglia and I will start making plans now for my trip May 2014
    Tina.

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    Hey, Frances:

    Glad that you're enjoying the Fodors site. I find it very addicting!

    We have not made it to the UK yet - it's on our list.

    The only other trip report I've written on Fodors is the one from our fun visit to Mallorca, Spain a couple years ago. You can click on my screen name and it should take you there. Thanks again for your kind comments. I look forward to reading your future trip reports!

    Leely and Tina, I'm glad that you found the info helpful. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    May was a terrific time of year to visit Puglia. Blue skies, great temps, wildflowers (and red poppies) in bloom all over, no crowds! The water was a bit chilly to swim, but I jumped in a few of the hotel pools and we ankle-waded at a few of the beaches.

    Robbie

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    We'll be in Puglia for a week this September and I really enjoyed reading your trip report. I immediately "cut and pasted" lots of en route tips! Hope the weather's still warm enough to enjoy the water at the beaches we'll be visiting. Your descriptions make them sound SO appealing! Thanks so much for taking the time to share.
    Sarah

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    Robbie
    I have so enjoyed reading your report of Puglia. My husband and I are returning there for the month of April 2014.....we spent a week in Trito right near Locorotondo in 2010 and have been anxious to return. This trip we are based in Lecce for the month......we will have friends with us for the first week and will have a car for that time frame only. I have made copious notes from your report and have already emailed L'Astore for information on tasting and tours. Restoranti Art Nouveau is doubled starred as a must!!! We will be in Puglia for Easter and plan to go to Gallopoli for some of their Easter week celebrations. If you have any other thoughts of special places please let me know. Our apartment comes with bikes we will be enjoying riding around Lecce and the area.

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    Robbie

    I forgot to mention in the above reply.....we also had Nadia for our guide of Matera back in 2010 and "Yes" she was fantastic. With generations of her fammily from Matera her story and knowledge of her "town" is captivating. We felt so fortunate to have Nadia as the gal we had booked way in advance somehow double booked and sent Nadia as her replacement. After reading about L'Astore we are all booked for day of cooking school and wine and olive oil tasting. Again thank you.

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  1. 1 Small group for Colosseum
  2. 2 Duoro Valley lodging for 3 in June
  3. 3 Upcoming Spain itinerary-eyeballs please!
  4. 4 Trip Report Almost 3 weeks in Sicily in March
  5. 5 Two weeks in Paris ... how to fill?
  6. 6 Tram 28 safe to travel with kids?
  7. 7 Who has stayed at a Citadines Paris property?
  8. 8 Experience with car service "Paris Cab" and others that have carseats?
  9. 9 Spain/Costa de Sol Please identify picture
  10. 10 London visit
  11. 11 Florence & Rome Itinerary, hotel, tour co. critique please!
  12. 12 Trip Report Our Spain Adventure -- Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Barcelona! (Part One)
  13. 13 Suggestions for Trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer
  14. 14 Yacht trip on coast of Spain
  15. 15 Italy/France 22 day Itinerary - Help Please :)
  16. 16 Greece Italy and Turkey
  17. 17 men's shoes spain
  18. 18 Cooking classes in Belgium
  19. 19 Portugal with a 3 year old and 1 year old
  20. 20 Edinburgh GTG, April?
  21. 21 Driving to Paris... Parking?
  22. 22 21 Days in Central Europe
  23. 23 Special restaurants - recommendations needed
  24. 24 Anyone been to Rhodes,Crete,etc. over Christmas?
  25. 25 Amsterdam / Belgium Itinerary
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