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Getting Flashed in Puglia and Other Adventures

Getting Flashed in Puglia and Other Adventures

Old Oct 12th, 2012, 03:28 AM
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Getting Flashed in Puglia and Other Adventures

My husband and I have just returned from a cycling trip in Puglia. Here are the basics, and I'll expand later:

Flight to Rome via US Airways
followed by a same-day
Flight to Bari via Alitalia

Pugliairbus Shuttle (3-5 Euros per person and takes about one hour or more, http://pugliairbus.aeroportidipuglia.it/ ) to Matera to see the sassi
and we stayed at the
B&B Donna Eleonara ( +393296810281, http://www.donnaeleonora.net/)

Took Pugliairbus Shuttle back to Bari Airport
Took taxi to Bari (around 28 Euros)
where we stayed at the
Hotel Oriente ( +39.080.5255100, http://www.orientehotelbari.com/)
and ate at
La Locanda di Federico (+390805227705, http://www.lalocandadifederico.com/)
We met our cycling group at the Bari Centrale Train, shuttled to a masseria above Polignano a Mare for lunch, and then took off on bikes.
Visited Polignano a Mare, then made our way to Conversano, where we stayed at
Corte Altavilla (+390804959668, http://www.cortealtavilla.it/en/home/)
and ate at
Pasha' (+39 080 4951079, http://www.pashaconversano.it/)
Headed out next day to Alberobello, where we took a tour of the trulli
Leaving there, we cycled to our next sleep at the
Masseria San Martino (http://www.masseriasanmartino.com/index_ing.htm, +39 080 489 8882),
where we would stay for two nights,
and we ate the first night at another property,
Masseria Brigantino (can't find phone, but you can see property here: http://tinyurl.com/9tjcz4q )

The next day we mainly cycled from town to town, traveling through Cisternino to get to Ostuni. We
drank a gallon of beer at
The Blue Eyes Cafe (right next to the big parking lot)
and ate lunch at
Osteria del Tempo Perso (+390831303320, http://www.osteriadeltempoperso.com/)
We returned home to Masseria San Martino after a quick beach dip at Torre Canne.

Coast to coast cycle:
Started in Santa Maria al Bagno, dipped toes in Ionian Sea, cycled to Corigliano for a gallon of beer and a picnic lunch, cycled to Porto al Bagno to dip toes in to the Adriatic (and drink a lot of beer).
We stayed at
Masseria Panareo ( +39 0836.812999, http://www.masseriapanareo.com/), right between Otranto and Porte al Bagno, for the next two nights.
Ate in Otranto at some hole-in-the-wall which was good but can't remember the name.

Cycled the next day all the way down the Adriatic Coast to Santa Maria de Leuca, the bottom of the "heel" of Italy, passing through the villages of Santa Cesarea Terme (thermal waters) and then Ponte Ciolo (famous for cliff diving).

At last night at the Masseria Panareo.

Headed up to Lecce for two nights where we stayed at two different hotels (long story):
Patria Palace ( http://www.patriapalacelecce.com)
Risorgimento Resort ( +39 0832 452 447, http://www.risorgimentoresort.it/)and ate at
Alle due Corti (+39 0832-242223, http://www.alleduecorti.com) the first night and some hole in the wall the second night. But we lived at Il Alvino (http://www.caffealvino.it/) -- will discuss more later.

Taxi to Brinidisi Airport (around 50 Euro)
Flight to Rome via Alitalia
Taxi to hotel (48 Euro flat fee)
Hotel for two nights in the Aventino/Testaccio area:
Hotel San Anselmo (+39 06 570057, http://www.aventinohotels.com/inglese/sa/home.htm)

Ate at two Testaccio restaurants:
La Villetta

Saw the Vermeer exhibit at Scuderie del Quirinale
Took a food tour with Eating Italy Food (800-838-3006, http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/)

Car to Rome FCO (48 Euros)
Flight to US via US Airways

Some various topics to be covered later:
Why we cycle--and with whom
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:20 AM
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Extended Report:
We were supposed to be done with travel for the year. Having visited our kids in various parts of the country and having gone to Turkey in June/July, I was ready to get back to "real life." My husband, however, thought differently. He wanted to take a fall cycling trip.

I can understand why. He's pretty fit for his age (late sixties) and he'd like to "do" as long as he can "do." I gave up the ghost on all that these past few years, but I supposed I could limp along again. I reviewed dates and trips for Sept/Oct, determined where we could wrangle an Envoy upgrade on US Airways, created a spreadsheet, and let him choose.

Puglia, Italy, here we come.

I'm so glad he pushed me into this, and I'm so glad we went when we did. Weather was divine. It was hot most days, and we saw just drops of rain on one day.

What's Puglia like? It's the old Italy of a movie. We were saying last night that although neither of us have a drop of Italian blood, we both grew up with a lot of Italian adults--we're talking off the boat--in our lives in our small hometowns. We both had had great memories of long conversations over homemade wine, always outside next to the smell of tomato and zucchini plants. The Puglia we saw just brought all of those childhood memories back.

However, our first stop in Italy was not actually in Puglia. We arrived at the Bari airport (nice little airport, by the way) and immediately took a shuttle to Matera, about an hour or so away in the Basilicata region.

Note: I was able to buy the shuttle tickets to Matera (3-5 Euro, depending on time) online at http://pugliairbus.aeroportidipuglia.it/. The trick of the website is to a) use the ITALIAN page, not the ENGLISH page and b) register as a user. This was the best deal going.

We found the shuttle bus rather easily, and then we were dropped off at something that was the station but didn't look like one. At first appearance, the town was NOT enchanting. It took a bit to find our B&B, the Donna Eleanora, and it certainly didn't look enchanting at first site either. The B&B is basically a three-bedroom flat on the second or third floor of a small apartment building. Clean with a good bathroom, but if one is looking for "homey", this wasn't it.

Rosanna or Sylvia, one of the sisters, showed us our location on a map, circled some things, showed us the keys, and that was it. We walked out the door, walked down a few steps, and...


Lying below us was a magical view. Matera was used as the set of Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" because it looked like Jerusalem. Inhabited since the Paleolithic period, the valley housing had segued from mere caves, to grouped caves with fronts so that the older part of town had roads over roofs. Really neat.

Lots of walking action--great people watching in town. We were too exhausted to wait up for dinner, so we plopped at a cafe right off the old part main square, and soaked up the atmosphere until the full moon rose. After making three gelato tastings, we just headed off to bed.

Only we couldn't get the keys to work to open the building door. Luckily we had purchased TIM Sim cards for our GSM phones at FCO, and we were able to contact the owners, who do not live on site (again, this is not a homey place). Before they could get there, a gentleman living in the building let us in, but still, we couldn't open the flat door either. Apparently, there's a sort of trick to all of this--which I wish the owners had told us BEFORE we were desperate for some shut-eye. Anyway, one of the sisters met us and all was well.

The next day, breakfast was not until 8:30, and waiting around for the owners gave us time to rearrange our plans. We were supposed to stay two nights, but we just didn't want to stay two nights. The room was fine--don't get me wrong--and the WiFi was wonderful. But we felt we "got" Matera and didn't want to spend much more time there. We could not take a shuttle the next day, Sunday, and get to our appointed meeting place in Bari on time, so we'd have to spend over 100 Euro or so on a taxi to Bari--and that's if we found one (Matera is rather inactive on Sundays). I got on the husband's IPAD, found a last-minute hotel deal in Bari, and we were set. We'd leave on the 3-Euro-pp-shuttle that day, get a taxi into Bari, and then we'd be set to meet our cycling group.

At 9 a.m. we walked out the B&B door and spent the next three hours traversing the old town of Matera. It really was amazing, and we returned to "our" cafe to do some more intensive people watching. Loved that.

We got back to the room, informed the owners we'd pay in full for the two days we booked but we were leaving, and off we went.

Next: Bari
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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So glad you enjoyed it the views are amazing. Just back from cycling through the Po valley.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 07:15 AM
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So glad you are posting this report - I am thinking of Puglia for our trip next year! Keep it coming!!
ekc is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 02:02 PM
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Yes, i look forward to seeing Puglia from a bike!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 02:12 PM
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Me, too...especially eager to hear about your time in Bari. Although I've arrived at the airport a few times, and gotten lost a few times on exiting the same airport as recently as a few weeks ago, I've not been to the city itself.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 02:54 PM
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Yes, very interested to hear about cycling thru Puglia. We also just returned from Puglia and saw lots of cycling groups and individuals. We were surprised that the weather was as warm as it was and were told it was unusually hot for that time of the year. Also had a lunch at Osteria del Tempo Perso.
Always fascinating how different people react to places. We loved Matera and enjoyed learning about its history and exploring all the little alleyways and streets.
yestravel is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:39 PM
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What a fun trip---grazie !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:52 PM
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More, Please!
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2012, 07:31 AM
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Sorry about the delay. I have not been home to write.

Before I begin on the very short Bari portion of our trip, I did want to give a quickie disclaimer re our short time in Matera.

I'm normally a "scour every bit of history of an area" sort of person.

I wasn't in the mood. Neither was my husband. Can't explain it. Can't justify it. We just were in a "take it as it comes" trip mode that we really never got out of for most of the trip.

Don't get me wrong...I had read a lot about Matera before coming--in fact, reading Carlo Levi's "Christ Stopped at Eboli" probably was the impetus for our taking this sidetrek from the Puglia focus of our trip--but for some reason, neither of us had a burning desire to sift every crumb of history while there. We walked our butts off and then plopped for people watching, but we took no guided tours (saw a lot of tour guides READING aloud material to their guests)and popped into very few churches. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed it.

OK--back to Bari.

As I indicated above, we took that nice cheapie shuttle from Matera to the Bari airport. We weighed taking some bus options into Bari--again, there are some very inexpensive means of transport--but we decided just to head straight to the hotel via taxi instead of doing a bus to train station to walk to hotel. The cab driver in the taxi rank said the ride would be metered, and he cheerfully guestimated for us 28 to 30 Euros. It was 28 Euros on the nose.

I had received a rather good price on a Deluxe Double at the Hotel Oriente. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten when I was considering a Bari stay before coming up with my final non-Bari stay itinerary that the Deluxe Doubles received a lot of street noise. Darn, getting old stinks; I can't remember my name some days.

The AC in our room was not getting up to speed, and opening the windows was rather out of the question given the din.

The attitude of the front desk SEEMED rather "laissez faire", but I would soon learn that it was more "senza frette", a common attitude in Southern Italy that one either learns to enjoy or soon becomes very unhappy. Nothing is going to happen fast, but it WILL happen.

And in reality, with the patience of Job, the front desk and the bellman really helped us find up and down the hallway a quieter room with functioning AC (it helped that we were traveling off season).

Later on that night, the water went out in the entire hotel, much to the chagrin of late-arriving guests who needed showers before their cruise departures early the next morning. The front desk said, "Well, we're sorry. But we think someone will come to fix it." Again, one experiences the "senza frette" tone. Well, the problem WAS fixed within an hour or two.

Our bedroom and bathroom were very nice and clean.

We had trekked around Bari, a large city used as a major cruise departure port, at around 3 pm and were rather unimpressed. The squares looked like mini ghost towns. Nonetheless, we checked out some menus and made an 8 o'clock (early!) reservation for La Locanda di Federico.

We-ell, we had just headed up to our hotel's rooftop bar for some beer and wifi when we heard some sort of disturbance below. Peering over the wall, we observed a huge FN (Forza Nuova) demonstration. We're talking lots of flags, people, shouting and police in a sort of parade. Of course, that had to be followed by a counter-demonstration or two.

The "ghost towns" had started to wake up for the evening. Welcome to weekend nighttime in Puglia. Rocking.

Later that night, the Piazza Mercantile, where our restaurant La Locanda was, had some sort of worker's festival with a rock band. This square and every other we passed were jam-packed with families and courting groups of teens and little kids doing kid stuff like chasing bottle caps. We LOVED it.

We also loved our first introduction at the restaurant to Salento wine, a very lovely Notarpanaro Taurino 2006. It went perfectly with our food and our people watching. We noted that the restaurant was not only full of families with babies, but that the men in the families all cheerfully assumed the role of "walk the crying baby"--usually in groups right outside the eating area. Since my husband is more than willing to walk even strangers' crying babies on planes, he totally approved.

After breakfast at our hotel (very nice), we packed up and did the eight or nine-minute walk to the Bari Centrale Train Station to meet up with our cycling group.

Next: Making our way to Conversano.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2012, 09:48 AM
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We debated about taking the bus into Bari for a day. Reading your TR, maybe going in for the night might be better.

In Matera, we did a tour with Nadia who has been recommended on this forum. She provided the perspective of someone who grew up there so it greatly enhanced the history of the area & added quite the personal touch. And I am definitely NOT a scour every bit of history person, perhaps Matera was just very unusual and that's what caught me about it.

Continuing to enjoy your report. Are you going to share the name of your tour group? We kept running into a bicycle tour the day (30 Sept) we drove the Adriatic coast. Was that your group by any chance??
yestravel is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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We ran into every possible type of cycling group on the Adriatic Coast our last day from many different companies. And it was on that stretch I got flashed. But I don't think it was a cyclist who flashed me.

I'll keep you waiting for more details.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2012, 10:25 AM
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annhig is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 10:02 AM
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Trip report: Conversano or bust

We met our trip leaders at the Bari Centrale Train station, boarded our shuttle bus, and we were off.

Our first stop was lunch at the Masseria Torre Catena. We ate a one huge long table at one side of the dining area while a local soccer team ate at one huge long table at the either. They ate twice as fast and twice as much (although I'd say our group had some appetites), but we had wine.

This was our first intro to the Puglia Primativos (aka--Zinfandel). We liked.

We then got our bike fittings. Just for the record, if one looked at how my husband and I biked, you'd think we only went as far as a hometown library. We use flat pedals and upright handlebars. We use no fancy biking shoes. But we are pretty particular when getting into/onto the bikes. Our seats are WAYYYYY up to take all pressure off of the knees.

We headed out of the gates toward Polignano a Mare, a little gem of a town. It has an old city center, the remains of an abbey, and numerous caves set against the Adriatic sea. More importantly, it has a fabulous gelato place right on the main drag opposite the old city entrance.

We wended our way up to Conversano, a really neat castle town. Our pit stop for the night was the Corte Altavilla.

When one travels with a bike group, one's name is basically thrown into a room lottery by each establishment. I think we drew the short straw on this one. After climbing a flight or two of the steepest stairs I've ever encountered, we entered a cave of a room with a small double bed. The bathroom layout was sort of "galley style", which is certainly adequate, but black mold was blooming on the ceiling and in our shower (which had GREAT water pressure, by the way). There was an iron spiral staircase leading up to a loft, which had its own AC.

No matter. Whenever the AC came on, it blew "mold breath" on me. Beds felt like bare springs.

My point? If you choose to stay here, be PICKY about what room you get.

No complaints whatsoever about dinner at
Pasha'. Our old friend, the Taurino Notarpanaro 2006, made an appearance on our table, and we were really happy.

After dinner, we enjoyed the Puglia Sunday evening crowd. Just as in Bari, lots of family. Courting teens. Kids doing kid stuff. Just great.

Breakfast at the hotel was OK. We snuck out pre-bike to get more local color at a cafe, where we watched Puglia teens gather for a pre-school cappucino--or Coke Zero.

Next entry: Alberobello
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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Our bike journey south from Venice is here http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-to-faenza.cfm and for those who have not seen it our Puglian suggestion is at http://www.mybikeguide.co.uk/Puglia_Guide.php
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 10:30 AM
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bilbo - thanks for that link.

very interesting. how hilly is it? [I'm a strictly for wimps cyclist].
annhig is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 10:54 AM
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Wasn't that great gelato at the place across from the gates on the corner in Polignano a Mare? Love reading your TR and seeing your perspective.
yestravel is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 11:14 AM
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Yestravel--Yep, that's the one. View plus gelato = really good.

Annhig--Everything's relative as to hills. It's what you're used to. I'm from a rolling hills part of the US, so most of the days were similar to the terrain to my area. You know--getting away from a river valley is always up, then one plateaus with minor ups and downs, and then one descends into the next river valley. Not mountainous by any means but...

On this specific trips, days were similar to that rolling hills feel. One day's route--the neat Ionian coast to Adriatic coast one--was actually rather flat..

The last day was probably the most challenging but also the most rewarding. You're biking along the Adriatic coast where cliff divers jump; ergo, expect some cliffs. One long stretch--more than 4K--of "uppy" that got a bit old; otherwise, the ups were quite doable and extremely scenic.

I'll go into more detail when I write more in the upcoming days.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2012, 11:32 AM
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This is the gelato place in Polignano: Il SuperMago.

ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2012, 07:50 AM
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Trip Report Continued: Cycle to Alberobello

We happily LEFT our Conversano hotel for our next adventure--reaching the trullo (which I believe is the plural of "trulli", even though I want to do that in reverse) of Alberobello.

For those not in the know, here's the basic background of what a trulli is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trullo. And Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has the best collection.

I enjoyed a lot of my ride from Conversano to Alberobello, cycling through lovely residential and farming areas along ridge roads and up through parkland. At Alberobello itself, we were lucky to have Mimmo (the Magnificent) as our tourguide. Actually, his name is Mimmo Patrizio Palmisano.

Part tour guide, part trulli-rental entrepreneur, and 24/7 most amazing personality ever to have encountered on our travels, Mimmo is a dynamo whose family descended from Turkish troops abandoned here in Italy in the late 1400s. We were marched throughout the trullo, taught their history and their thermal qualities, and then watched Mimmo's brother make us the best mozzarella NON buffalo ever in the confines of one of the family's trulli guesthouses.

Mimmo's contact information:
+39 347 55 38539 [email protected] www.trulliepuglia.com

A picture of the trulli in which we ate lunch (and could have stayed in) is here: http://www.trulliepuglia.com/en/trul...llo-suite.html

After lunch, we cycled to our next sleep at Masseria San Martino (http://www.masseriasanmartino.com/index_ing.htm, +39 080 489 8882) equidistant between Fasano and Torre Canne. I think if I were touring the area via car, this location is good. I suspect there are better properties out there, but I must say that Connie and Giovanni, Italian-born expats from Canada, made us feel more than at home.

Dinner was fabulous. We went to Masseria Brigantino (http://tinyurl.com/9m937ob), where we learned to make orriechete while drinking vats of wine. Then dinner followed. They run a cooking school here--and I can see why. Beautiful place.

Breakfast the next morning was at our masseria. It was good, but again, not over the top.

Next: Ostuni
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