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Trip Report One month in Puglia and Matera

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Here is a rundown of our month in Puglia with a side trip to Matera. I hope that it will be a fun read. It may not be so helpful as far as food is concerned because we are vegetarians, although R decided to try fish a couple of times, and I indulged in some sausage one time on my pizza. I will try to spare you any boring details, but I am word-y, and I will explain how I became confused here and there in an effort to help someone who faces the same questions.

Upon arrival at FCO for instance, after collecting R’s luggage (I only did carry-on) and getting our passports stamped, we exited a door to find three people holding signs for passengers. Our name wasn’t on there so I asked if this is where all the drivers congregate, so she said no and told me to continue through the next set of doors.When they opened, there were a ton of people holding signs of all shapes and sizes, including iPads with names on them, which I thought was clever. I methodically looked at every single name and finally found our driver. I booked with Rome Shuttle Limosene because they have a good reputation and they do not charge you right up front when you book with them. They were a good choice with excellent communication, and I would book with them again.

I had asked our driver about phone stores and if I could get a SIM for my iPhone at a Tabacchi. He said no and that since we arrived on Sunday, and Monday was a holiday, we’d be out of luck until Tuesday to get a SIM.

The only reservation we made was for the first night in Rome. With more than 1200 hotels to choose from, I wasn’t willing to arrive after two flight stops and hunt down a place, so I booked Voi Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel Roma through because they had a better rate than the hotel’s website.

This is a lovely hotel with a nice room. I picked the Trastevere area because I had never stayed there before and I was up for something different. I liked the robes and slippers they provide and the breakfast is just as good as described by reviewers. In fact I have every intention of copying their homemade juice recipe of lemon, orange, and carrot. R suggested I ask them about the SIM, and they said that many phone stores are open on Sunday, so we decided to accomplish that task. Here is a reminder to never take one person’s advice on anything. Ask and ask again, because you may find out that the person who seemed so sure in his or her response was incorrect. This happened quite a few times when we’d ask a question.

Our hotel (a former convent-with one or two sisters still living there) is on a slight hill and as we set out to explore, we decided that it would be faster and safer to descend the cobblestone street by walking on our hands. We hadn’t been in Italy for 11 years, but I really don’t remember these black groutless squares, or “slippery deathtraps” as we lovingly referred to them. Something like this:

After making our way over Ponte Sisto, my first intended stop was a pizza al taglio spot “Forno Campo dei Fiori” which unfortunately was closed. We decided instead to get the SIM card for my unlocked iPhone and went to the first phone store we found open. Unfortunately for us it was WIND. It turns out that of all of the phone companies, WIND is the Italian version of AT&T. With AT&T I have to make a call then head for the nearest window or step outside in order to get a good connection. Same here with WIND. We paid 25E which gave me 100 phone calls, 100 texts, 1G of data, plus 9E worth of calls to the U.S. or towards more Italian calls, which ever is used up first. On several occassions I had thought that Wind was sending me text ads of some sort but in fact they were notices that someone had tried to call me. This plan did not give me voice mail, or if it did, I was unaware of it and did not set up a voice mail box. So whenever someone called and my phone didn’t ring, I would get a text to notify me of the attempt once my phone picked up a cell tower signal.

Next it was time to get some cash so we went to a bank to use the ATM but it was empty. While trying to figure out where another bank was, a man started speaking Italian to me. I replied “Che cosa?” and then he asked if I spoke English. It turns out he was Professor Cohen from Toronto, a historian, who comes to Italy often for research. He walked us to another bank, which to me didn’t even look like a bank, then he gave us a brief history lesson of the area where we were standing, and then he pointed out a decent pizza al taglio spot, followed by a suggested gelato place to go to after that. After having a chat about Toronto’s mayor and the news he has made, we said our goodbyes and followed his advice.

After a nice nap we were hungry but it was 11 pm so we set out in hopes of finding something open. On our street there were several restaurants to choose from but it appeared as if everything was winding down for the night. When I asked a woman if they were still open, she said no. When I asked for a suggestion, she pointed down the street and told us to go to Pimms Good and ask for Rafaelle or Carolina and tell them that Samantha sent us. They have tables out front which were full, they had live music and looking into the restaurant it appeared as if it were packed and that there was no way we’d find a spot to sit and eat. R thought we should carry on, but I figured what the heck let me ask for Carolina or Rafaelle, which I did. The woman was Carolina and she escorted us into the restaurant around past the musicians to the left where we found a few tables open. We forgot our reading glasses so I asked her for a suggestion for a couple of vegetarians. She suggested a delicious fettucine with mushrooms and the huge Brazilian salad. We loved them both. She brought us some delicious bread too, which is something we never buy at home. We added a couple glasses of wine for R and a beer for me for a total of 36 E. The music was great, the food was great. We loved the lively atmosphere and decided that it was an ideal way to start our vacation. It was perfect. Another plus to mention is that they serve food until 2 am.

I will pick this up tomorrow

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    It was my intention to add the rest of what I wrote to this report and THEN post the first part, but I stopped half way through in order to preview it. HOWEVER the preview did NOT work-and instead, Fodors posted the report with NO opportunity to preview it! So here is the rest, I might as well post it...OH, and BTW, NOW the preview IS working as long as it is a "reply"

    Pimm's Good Tel:06 9727 7979 Via di S. Dorotea 8, 00153 Rome

    After our delicious breakfast, we were still wiped out from the hours of traveling from our tiny airport in California to the marathon travel day to Rome. We decided to stay one more night in Rome but instead of staying one more night at Donna Camilla where we’d have to spring for a suite to the tune of around 335 Euro (as I recall) we said, “Forget that” and decided to sleep right next to Termini so that we could get up early to catch our early train to the Adriatic.

    I picked Hotel Andreina from 85 E for a clean, basic room just a two minute walk to the station. Everyone who works there is really sweet. We left our bags there and went to Termini to purchase our tickets for the next mornings ride. I couldn’t buy them at the self serve because I don’t have a PIN for my credit card, and my ATM card doesn’t have a M/C or Visa logo, so I wasn’t sure if I could have used it in the self serve or not. Besides, I really wanted to use my credit card. So we get in line and end up in a really nice conversation with an Egyptian man who now works in Milan. We talked American politics and life in Italy. He told us that since we were buying seats on the train for the next day, we could go to a travel agency which would be much easier and quicker, but we were already in line, it was a holiday and not everything is open, so who wants to hunt down a travel agency, and we were enjoying his company. I made a mental note to buy train tickets from a travel agency whenever we can. The ticket line took an hour since it was a national holiday and only three workers.

    I now have our tickets in hand, we went back to Hotel Andreina, checked in and then we went to look for a bite to eat. We walked down Via Cavour until it dead-ended into Via dei Fori Imperiali, past barriers which had been erected for the parade celebrating a national holiday “Festa della Repubblica” which was long over, and somehow we struck up a conversation with a young man.

    He is a Danish policeman who was sent to Italy to interview immigrants from the south sea. He was to spend several weeks asking the immigrants why they came, how did they make the journey and other questions. After speaking with him for quite some time we all decided to get a bite to eat. We asked a man who was a guide for a suggestion and he suggested his friend’s place for a non touristy spot. After walking for 45 minutes we finally came upon it only to discover it was closed! So we popped into a bar a couple of doors away. The woman had no idea where we could eat at that hour on a holiday in Rome, so she couldn’t suggest anything. We walked 39 seconds and found an open Oseria! Food wasn’t bad (nothing to write home about or refer to you here), conversation with the young officer was great. He walked us back to our hotel and we said our goodbyes. He was awaiting his friend who was to arrive soon and we suggested they go to Pimms Good in Trastevere for some good music and food. We crashed.

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    Originally I had thought that we’d leave Rome, go to Pescara and make our way down the coast via bus to Peschici. Then we’d travel to seaside destinations, go to Lecce, then Matera then back to Rome, but after reading BikerScott’s travels, who was in Puglia in June, I thought it would be wiser to go inland first then do the coastal villages before heading back to Rome to finish our vacation.

    As a result, the first destination from Rome was to be Matera. When I looked at the train schedule from Rome to Matera, I noticed that one of the stops is in Trani. “Perfect!”, I thought. Two birds, one stone. I had heard so much about Trani that I was convinced it would be good for us. Plus instead of using public transportation all the way from Rome to Matera in one day, it would give us the much needed break we still craved from the lack of sleep we had endured thus far.

    So after a simple breakfast of pastry and coffee, we got on our train for Trani. An older woman sat across the aisle after saying her goodbyes to her daughter and for quite a while the train was empty. It began to fill up and the woman across from us was getting booted out of her seat so I suggested she sit next to me. That started a LONG conversation between her, and two of the ladies who had boarded. The woman next to me was Lucia and she had visited in Rome with her daughter who is a doctor. She was curious about us and asked us questions and vice-versa.

    The two women sitting across the aisle were from Romania and they worked for Puglian families doing cooking and cleaning. They were introduced a couple years ago by a mutual friend who thought they’d get along. They became best friends. They were on vacation and had made the trek to San Giovanni Rotondo. A very special place for a Catholic pilgramage. They told me how beautiful it was and told us we should go. We ended up not going, but if I were Catholic, I might have gone based on their impressions.

    After we all spoke for a while and R chimed in with questions in English which I translated, another gentleman came over and sat down next to R and said in English how he couldn’t help but overhear that we were from California, and since it has been a dream of his to visit California could he speak with us. Well R is not shy with words so he and the gentleman spoke in English while I chatted up the three women in Italian.

    By the time we all said our goodbyes, the precious Romanian women had gifted me some souveniers they had purchased in San Giovanni Rotondo. They each gave me a prayer on a wooden frame similar to this

    and then one of the women gave me a San Pio travel prayer card. Meanwhile I had learned that they were getting ready to take a long vaction back to Romania and so I said, I can’t take your travel prayer card, you’re travelling soon back home, but she assured me she had another so I accepted her gift. It was all so sweet and by the time the four of us ladies parted ways, we were kissing each other’s cheeks and I collected the email of the one woman from Romania since I am not on Facebook and have no other way of communicating with them.

    A funny side note is that the Romanian ladies had been in Termini the day before and she said, “You were in line to buy tickets at Termini yesterday weren’t you?” I confirmed the fact and she said that she noticed me and said to herself, “She is not Italian.” haha!


    We arrived at the Trani station just in time for the siesta. I had picked an apartment the day before which I found on Our hostess told us that we would not be allowed to leave our bags with her before we checked in at 3 pm. There were no taxi’s waiting at the train station, we were hungry, so I asked an officer who was heading into a store next to the train station where we might grab a bite to eat. She suggested a place across the street, and she told us we could call for a cab if we needed one. The place across the street wouldn’t let us sit down to eat, we’d have to get something to go. So instead of calling for a cab, we decided to head down the street in search of a place to get lunch.

    We stepped into a bar. They had one offering of pasta which included ham, so we passed. I called our hostess of our apartment and she said we’d have to wait another hour. We decided to just relax, use the restroom and then have a cold beer. After a half an hour we decided to carry on towards the port, grabbed some cash at the ATM, and wheeled our bags to the port asking along the way if we were going the right way. FYI, without bags it would be a maximum 10 minute walk. Even with bags, it wasn’t bad because Via Cavour is wheelchair/stroller friendly so your bag doesn’t have to tumble off curbs.

    I called our hostess and told her where we were. We were hanging out across from the bar Baracuda along the walkway of the port. She said she’d come right away. We kept looking for a car. After 15 minutes I called her again. Bad connection. After another 5 minutes I called again. It went to voice mail. I left her a message. Then I think I called her one more time. She sounded surprised and asked where we were and said she’d be there in a couple of minutes. I describe what we look like and what we were wearing. Finally I see her walking towards us. I had thought she’d be in a car, but the apartment is very close to any location along the port.

    The weirdest thing had happened. When we first had hung up and she walked toward Baracuda, she saw two women standing there in front of the bar, not across the street like we were, and she waved. They waved back. She told them the apartment was ready and they were really excited. She walked them into the apartment, showed them around, asked for their passports and when she saw they were Australian, she realized she had the wrong party! She kicked them out and explained that someone else had already booked the room. She thought it was really funny but R wasn’t happy and thought she was nuts.

    He wondered why she didn’t answer her phone when we called but I understood that she was with people who she thought were her customers so she gave them her undivided attention. In any case, we thought the room was cute. There weren’t any windows to the outside, but it had two skylights and a window to the interior of the building. It had really high ceilings too and had been modernized nicely, with a very large bathroom. She showed us around, how to work the coffee maker and the keys, and soon we were off to explore Trani. I noticed from here on out, everyone uses those one-cup-at-a-time coffee makers. They are really convenient and make great coffee so I understand why they are so popular here.

    We were REALLY hungry. We decided not to go to the restaurants which were right along the water as those that are open during siesta all have people hailing you to sit down. We walked to the end of the port but most everything was closed. We found Molo 4 along the water on Via Statuti Marittimi at the south end of the port. It's a bar, gelateria, and they sell salads and sandwiches. We ordered two veggie sandwiches and a salad. Fresh and good! Crashed and had gelato for dinner as we walked around and explored sections of Trani that we hadn’t seen thus far. We really liked Trani a lot and felt very comfortable here.

    The next day our hostess Roseangela insisted that due to the confusion the previous day that we move to her deluxe apartment next door. It’s really beautiful. Very large, spacious with gorgeous floor to ceiling door-windows. We also told her that we really liked Trani and wanted to stay a third night. She checked and confirmed she could house us. We made ressies for Corte in Fiore that night which was just a few doors away. It’s a favorite on Fodors and our hostess suggested it too. After touring around the fort and church, we ended up for a late lunch at Ferro e Fuoco based on a review here. The food was great! I had one of the same pastas (the ravioli) that HG001London wrote about and R had cozze and a pasta which he loved. It was a delcious meal and I felt bad that we were the only ones here because it should have been more crowded thanks to the atmosphere and quality of meals served.

    After a long siesta we decided to cancel our reservation at Corte in Fiore tonight and switch it for the next night because we were still full, so we had a late pizza at Antiche Arcate instead. This may have been my favorite pizza on our trip. R had an orecchiette plate and with a liter of beer and dessert it cost us 27E.

    As we were leaving we spoke with the couple next to us about Matera and they said we should stay at Agorà in Matera. I looked it up on the great wi-fi in our apartment and thought it would be nice to stay there but they were full. So I consulted my notes that I brought with me from home and made a call to Fra i Sassi. His price was the same as so I asked him if he’d like us to book direct with him or through booking so he said with him. I gave him my card info, so we were all set.

    The next morning we went to the panificeria not having realized that our hostess had left us some croissants at our door the day before. She showed up while we were eating and brought us some yogurt and pastries. We went to the travel agent in town on Via Cavour a short walk from the port. The gal, Laura was very helpful and she booked our tickets for us from Trani to Bari. She couldn’t get us tickets to Matera because that line is a private line, so we were told that when we arrived in Bari that we’d need to go to the station next door to buy our tickets to Matera. Laura offered us a driver from Trani to Bari, but we are fans of trains, and the cost was so cheap to go via train that we decided not to go with a driver.

    VilaViaggi: Via Cavour, 23, 76125 Trani +39 0883 482590

    Went to the ATM at the bank across the street and then went inside to get change. Getting inside was trippy. You have to step inside a booth, then put your thumb into a digital reader before the door will open to the inside of the bank. Seems like a simple way to keep out known criminals.

    When we walked back we decided that it might be nice to eat at one of those waterfront restaurants after all. We walked around and went into a restaurant suggested by our host’s husband La Banchina but when we looked at the menu, lack of veggie options and steep prices, we said forget it and ended up next door with a man who for the past couple of days always waved to us and invited us to dine with him. The greeter is Giuseppe Garro and the restaurant is Senzio. Just got some grilled veggies with cheese, arugula/tomato salad, 2 beers and a nice view for 27E. After a pisolino (nap) we walked over to the giardino off of the south end of the port. Lots of photo opps and we could see the new part of town and where the locals go for a swim.

    During the siesta I did a search on the restaurant we reserved for the night...the one we had canceled from the night before. I’m glad I did because this restaurant is all about fish, fish and more fish, plus it costs an “occhio della testa”. My vegetarian husband had already had some fish the day before and as much as he enjoyed it, he wasn’t in the mood for more. So I called the restaurant and said that I didn’t realize that it was all about fish at Corte in Fiore and that I was sorry but as vegetarians I need to cancel. He asked me my name and when I told him he said, “oh yes, I remember 'Dai'.” Oops! Oh well. Our reservations both nights were for 8 pm and I figure we made someone else very happy because we opened up a spot for people who love fish and want to dine in this popular restaurant.

    Instead we went to a place I found on Yelp and cross checked with TA. It was OK. Grabbed a gelato at Moro which is a sister gelateria to the place where we ate only a few dozen yards down the lungomare on our first day there. They had a chocolate gelato which is not made with milk- “senza latticini”. R is mostly a vegan so this made him very happy. We really enjoyed the passegiata along the lungomare then packed up for our morning trip to Matera.

    Our delightful host, Roseangela told us she’d drive us to the train station which was VERY kind of her! We really got a kick out of her. She has a GREAT personality. She worked for 20 + years with Alitalia both in flight and in the office. We would absolutely return to stay in any one of her apartments in a heartbeat. The location is perfect. The apartments are super clean. Plus she is a sweetheart!!! She speaks English too.: Homing Borgia - Via Cambio 7 76125 Trani Tel: +39 340 2284542 [email protected]

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    We are planning for two weeks in Puglia so await with great interest the rest of your report (i am assuming you havent posted it yet... if you have, I don't seem able to find it!!) And i do enjoy the details and links you include!

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    Hi Christie. Thank you for the encouragement. I am glad you're following along. We absolutely LOVED Puglia! I just need to type a little faster as I try to form my notes that I jotted down on paper into coherent sentences here.

    I forgot to make a special note of the places we liked in Trani.

    We loved the pizza and pasta at:

    Antiche Arcate: Via Ognisanti, 4 Tel: 0883.508646

    and a wonderful lunch with exceptional service, we enjoyed Ferro e Fuoco They bring you a little appetizer, a little prosecco, and a delicious meal. R ordered cozze (muscles) as a starter and got a bucket full. Quiet and classy but not formal.

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    When we got to Bari we were confused which way to go so we asked and were pointed outside where there were taxis waiting and a park across the street. Right next to the train station there was a bar. I asked where we buy tickets to Matera and he sold them to me from behind the bar, then he told me to go down the block a few steps away until we found the “portone” (big doors). I saw one set of doors, then another set which looked liked an entrance to a fancy office building. I wondered if we were to go around the corner, but some nice man basically shoved us into the office building like place and that’s where I finally saw the train schedule. We rode the elevator upstairs and saw an entrance to the trains which reminded me of the NYC subway system. You stick your ticket in and then grab it back from the machine, then hurry through the automated doors which open for a flash of a second.

    Just to backtrack a second, when we were on the train from Trani to Bari, I had seen a couple of blonde kids behind R’s seat and I said, “Those Italian kids have the blondest hair.” He said, “They’re speaking English”. So when we got to Bari I noticed their mom was across the aisle from the father and two kids and said something to them as we were getting off the train. So anyway, we get our seats on the brand new train to Matera and the same family soon joined our “carrozza”. I got up and asked them something and we had a little conversation. Across the aisle from the family there was an Italian woman and all of us got into a conversation with me translating for the family and the Italian woman. I go back and take my seat next to R, and about an hour into our travel to Matera, their little boy had to pee. The Italian woman said we’d have a five minute break at the Altamura stop, but the young man across from me told me that the stop may be 5-6 minutes or shorter depending on how the train was running and that it could be dangerous to get off the train.

    We were all surprised that there was no WC on our brand new train nor was there the ability to go to the next car. So we get to Altamura and we learned the five minute stop was reduced to 2 minutes. The dad and boy dashed off the train as there was a WC right there on the platform! The Italian passengers stood in the doorway of the train forcing the doors open. The dad and little boy ran back on the train and we all cheered! The little boy must have thought we were all nuts. We were back on our way. At some point the family asked me to translate again for the woman sitting across the aisle, we all had a nice conversation, and we soon arrived in Matera.

    As R and I were hauling our bags up the stairs, the family was at the top of the landing and said that they realized a bag with all of their documents and notes was left on board the train! I asked her husband to help mine with his bag, I told the kids to come with us, then I explained in Italian what happened to this poor family to the ticket office. The man responded, “Speak English?” I knew they were in good hands. It turns out that this particular train had only one more stop before it is scheduled to turn around and head right back to Bari. It would return in 15 minutes. So I asked the train guy if it would be in the first car since we were in the last car and he said, “They already have it”. Great news for them. Man they had a lot of stuff. Not easy to pack and ride trains when you have two little kids.


    We grabbed a short cab ride to Fra i Sassi. So glad I found this B&B. I thought I had found it here on Fodors, but my notes are more attributed to someone who wrote on TA. The owner is the sweetest, kindest, most hospitable person you’d ever want to meet. That’s no reflection against any of the other owners we met because believe me, we met such wonderful people, but there is something very special about Domenico.

    We looked up at the dozen or so stairs and Domenico’s assistant, Elena grabbed both of our bags like they were two loaves of bread and marched up the stairs. Thank goodness for youth. We checked in to room number 4 and thought it was really neat. Ancient yet new, great AC, wi-fi, clean as a whistle with a modern bathroom. Loved our patio with chairs and a table at the edge of the balcony, and another set of table and chairs right outside our door.

    We set out to get a bite to eat. As we were heading to the piazza in the “new” area (which was built years ago above the sassi), within just a couple of minutes we came upon a restaurant I read about here, “Osteria Pico”. Great find! R had a pasta with pomodoro and basil while I had a yummy pasta with mushroom and pistachio! Delicious bread, great ambiance in a large sasso cave, delightful host. A real winner.

    We walked up to the main piazza in the new area and walked around. Seriously, photo opps at every turn! We just kind of got lost as we headed toward the humongous church and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

    For dinner we took Domenico’s suggestion and ate at Baccus, a one minute walk from our room. SO GOOD! We had pasta dishes. One was called something like “Cicerchie funghi” which was to die for! It came with a lace-like crunchy bread placed on the edge of the pasta. Mine was tomato, basil, parmesan pasta that was very yummy. For dessert we had a fresh fruit plate which was a large plate with slices of watermelon, strawberries, melon, cherries, kiwi all side by side one another. Very fresh and flavorful. We tried to eat there a 2nd night but they were closed. :-(

    Baccus - Piazza San Pietro Barisano 5-6, Matera +39 0835 330124

    Breakfast is great at Fra i Sassi. So many choices! Cheeses, prosciutto for the meat eater, cereal, cookies, at least 5 different fresh locally picked fruits including cherries and strawberries. We had an orange everyday too. So flavorful. Focaccia, pies with jams inside, bread, jams and nutella for breads and pastries, juice, and delicious coffee served to order.

    For lunch we ate at another place one minute away. Oi Mari. We each had a grilled veggie plate and split a Margherita pizza. We ordered a liter of beer which looked like a keg but dang if we didn’t finish every drop! Again delicious bread too. We really enjoyed this meal very much. We were the only ones inside and had a lot of fun here just the two of us. The man gave us our bill when we asked but for some reason he decided to cross off the coperto. Nice!!!

    Oi Mari +390835.346121

    Being positively stuffed, we decided we better take a nap before our tour with the famous Nadia that everyone on Fodors writes about. Well deserved! Loved her! Our two and1/2 hour tour was more than four hours by the time it was all said and done. That’s what happens when you get three people who enjoy talking and a former lawyer who is accustomed to asking questions.

    Nadia is truly a gem. She has such passion for her city. She cares about it and loves it and you feel that love and care in return. She knows her city and its history well and I fully understand why she has so many fans. When I went to book the tour, the woman who answered the phone said that they had other guides but she’d see if Nadia were available. Thank goodness she was.

    This is a good time to tell you one thing, Do NOT book the optional tasting. When booking the tour with Nadia, I was asked by the woman if I’d like to pay a few euros extra to look at a museum, which I said yes, then I was asked if we’d be interested in a “tasting of typical Matera dishes” for a few more euros each. I said yes, but it’s a waste of time and money. We were brought to a couple’s store-not a restaurant as I had hoped. They opened up a couple of packages from a box and placed some dips from a jar on microscopic pieces of bread. It left a sour taste in our mouths (so to speak) but it certainly wasn’t Nadia’s fault. I tried to text the woman from the tour agency who suggested it, but my text wouldn’t go through. This experience with this couple put a little damper on our tour as we both got the impression that they were money hungry by their behavior, so it is my pleasure to warn you to say “NO thank you” if you are asked if you’re interested in trying the “tasting”. The other options are worth it, just NOT the tasting.

    The tour with Nadia was really enriching and I can’t imagine exploring this city without someone like her explaining its history while showing you around. Highly recommended. Here is information from her card as opposed to the agency which we booked her through:

    Nadia Garlatti 0835.333214 or mail: ngarlat(at)

    We had gelato for dinner and loved walking during the passegiata which was packed with people in the new area.

    Next day we didn’t know what to do. I was sore. All of that walking with Nadia had taken a toll on my bones. I was craving an aspirin because I knew that since I rarely take any pain killers that it would do the trick. I asked Elena where I could find some aspirin on a Sunday. We thought about relaxing and reading a book, that kind of thing, because up until this point we had been pretty much on the go non stop, but I was also interested in seeing if we could hike to the abandoned caves in the nearby valley. R was interested too.

    She called around some pharmacies for me, called Domenico to ask him too where I could find an open pharmacy, and I told her I would just wait until the next day to purchase the aspirin when we get to Lecce. The next thing you know, Domenico walked in with a package of aspirin he had just purchased from the pharmacy in the new town section. He let me help myself to a pill, and thankfully the aspirin knocked out my pains right away.

    So here we were with one more day in Matera and when I asked Domenico if it’s true that we need to watch out for snakes if we go explore the caves, he said no. Then when I told Domenico we didn’t know what we wanted to do for sure, he came up with an amazing suggestion. He said he'd bring us to IL PARCO DELLA MURGIA MATERANA in order to enjoy an ethnic lunch (including an absolutely scrumptious soup called "crapiata"). The visit would also provide us an education and deeper understanding of the Matera history, and when we were done visiting, it would give us the opportunity to hike back through the valley or we could call him and he'd come and get us. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. OMG!! We had the BEST time!

    Our host at the Murgia Materana Park, his name is Paolo, was so incredible! He showed us a short film that is so amazingly well done, everyone with an interest in Matera should view it. It's called, "Città della Vergogna". It's in 5 parts. You can view it on Vimeo, and it's subtitled.

    Paolo also suggested that we take a 10 minute walk to a man living nearby who makes cheese the way it was done in the old days. All by hand! The EU says this way is not proper, but it's been done like this for generations. He works at making the cheeses from his herd of cows for two months straight. After that, he no longer milks his cows. He said after the two months are up, only the baby cows get the milk. His wife invited us into their farmhome and got us a couple of chairs. We watched as her husband stretched and pulled on the cheese, describe to us the types of cheeses he made, etc. One of them was a cheese which is wrapped around a big ball of butter. There were about 60 huge balls of cheese hanging from poles in their farmhome. There were a couple of beds and an oven inside, but most of the space was filled with buckets of milk and large wooden round containers. There was no air conditioning and the flies were plentiful. The work looked hard and laborious, but you can see that he loves it, and he doesn't seem to mind all of the effort involved. His teenaged kids were there with him and his wife and they were hanging out watching their father make this cheese. He offered us a sample and it was delicious.

    Going to the park, watching the short film, eating the traditional stew with wine and bread, and meeting that farmer was awesome. We were thinking how traveling without having everything planned before we leave really works for us. We ended up talking with a man named Raffaele who is an Italian language tour guide in Matera and is a friend of Paolo's. He offered us a ride back to Fra i Sassi, so instead of hiking we gladly accepted his kind offer. First though, Raffaele took us to a look out point where we could take photos of the two sassi villages with the new town on top. I got some great photos. We returned and grabbed some pasta at La Talpa because Baccus was closed. It was just OK, but the pizza looked good, and when I asked the Italian girl sitting at the table next to us what when thought of it she said it was "buonissima". So I can't recommend the pasta but the pizza looked good, and maybe their non-vegetarian food options are better than our OK vegetarian pasta. The service was really good.

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    I had heard from tdk320n on Fodors about our B&B in Lecce. Cross checking it on TA I saw that 100% of reviewers would stay here so that seemed like a big plus. When figuring out where to stay, I would do a lot of cross checking with TA and I’d compare hotel website prices with prices and choose with whom to book it accordingly.

    I decided to call DIMORA SAN GUISEPPE to see if they had a room for us. I was surprised that they did because as I recall it appeared as if they were full via “booking”. I told the owner that we wanted to stay at least three nights and we may want to stay four. He was kind enough to hold the room for us the next day and he didn’t ask for my card. He also told me that they close for a couple of hours during mid-day but if we knew when we’d arrive they’d make sure someone was there to greet us. I told him of our anticipated arrival time and that I would call him when we were on the train from Bari to Lecce to let him know if we made the intended train, and to notify him of our time of arrival, and he was good with that.

    Can we say “gooooorgeous!”? What a great room! We had their San Giuseppe room and it was so lovely! This palazzo has been completely re-done with such taste.

    It has about 20’ ceilings with a loft built in. There is a desk and sofa in the loft. They made this room really sound proof. I was impressed when I went to close the exterior shutters late at night and only when I opened the door-windows, did I realize how busy the street is when it’s filled with people. You can make the room blacked out, or bring in plenty of light.

    Comfortable bed and linens. Great AC. Small balcony. Beautifully decorated. Nuovissimo! They could have told me they opened a week ago and I’d believe it.

    The bathroom is very large. Just the shower alone is the size of a roomy walk-in closet. Like every place we stayed, this one had a bidet too. I was finishing up my breakfast one morning enjoying some fresh pineapple and R emerged from the restroom with water all over the front of his t-shirt. I asked him what happened and he replied, “40 years of using a bidet and this is the first time the front of my t-shirt has gotten wet!” He remarked about how in Italy the bidet’s direction of the water stream is more horizontal instead of coming straight up as he is accustomed to in the homes he has had in the US. He decided that in Italy they “are all like that, but this one has power!” He said that this one cleaned everything but its intended target; the floor, his huevos, t-shirt, etc. I nearly spewed the pineapple out my nose, I was laughing so hard.

    Speaking of the breakfasts here, they were very generous and tailored to each guest. They brought tray after tray of goodies to our room to enjoy on our large table. They also had a mini fridge, a coffee maker and microwave in a kitchenette area that can be closed off with the sweep of a door.

    There was only one negative and I would be remiss not to include it. The wi-fi was horrible. Worst reception in our 30 night visit. Didn’t matter if I brought it right out to the wi-fi device in the office. It said that the signal was strong, but we had a 20% success rate in connecting. Sometimes it would work well for 4 minutes then decide it couldn’t work. It was very frustrating. On the other hand, we had originally decided to stay three nights but we added a night in Lecce. We loved the room, breakfast, location and the staff so much, we were not going to move due to lousy wi-fi reception for our last night.

    You can’t ask for a more centralized location either. We spent a lot of time in the nearby Piazza Sant’ Oronzo. We liked the bar Cin Cin. This was the first place that I found which sold the beer, “Ceres”. They don’t sell it here in the states so I try to have it often while in Italy. It’s very much a light beer with great flavor but it packs a punch and you shouldn’t have more than two before you see how it affects you. Anyway, they also have a good snack called Rustico, a well-known-in-Lecce cheesy pastry thing as I recall. Cin Cin is a very good place to have a drink, a snack and hang out. Piazza Sant'oronzo, 4, TEL: 0832 309888

    Based on a couple of people who recommended Natale, we had some good gelato and some chocolate there. It's around the corner from Piazza Sant Oronzo.

    Pasticceria Natale Via Trinchese 7, TEL: 0832256060

    We also tried a “Bruschetteria” just around the corner from our B&B called Osteria Mamma Lupa

    Osteria Mamma Lupa Via Acaja, 12 Tel: 3407832765

    This was a good one for us as we tried a sampler plate with five different veggies-we could choose from a selection of about 10 different veggies. The dish is brought to you with toasted bread. The idea is just to spoon it on the bread. We really enjoyed this with some house red wine. Super casual atmosphere.

    Another place we ate twice was at this popular, tiny sandwich shop called Piadina Salentina:

    Piadina Salentina Via V Fazzi, 2 TEL:324/05.99.820

    It’s on the corner of Piazza Santa Oronzo. Just a few steps from our B&B. They are into super fresh vegan, vegetarian deliciously made sandwiches (they have prosciutto too) where even the pita bread is made fresh. They take some dough (which was made from scratch) and when you order they shape the dough and press it on the grill to make it into a pita type of bread. Then it is stuffed with your pick of grilled and fresh veggies, cheeses, meats, etc. It’s all made fresh to order and it’s very popular. Sometimes you might even have to wait up to 25 minutes or so after you have ordered, but it seemed that when the owner was working there that the turnaround time was much quicker. Great prices!! We picked up two huge super filling veggie panini, 2 Ceres, a large water and brought it to our room for around 14E. LOVED this place.

    A second shout-out to tdk320n for telling me about going on two tours while we were based here in Lecce. GREAT PICK!! LOVED DARIO!! He was so good to us and he checked on us a couple of times to make sure we made it to our destinations. He also had good suggestions for us

    Dario Cava tel. 339.6988163

    The first tour we did we had stops in:

    Galatina, Otranto, Castro, Santa Maria de Leuca, Specchia

    Then the next day we went to:

    Ostuni-Martina Franca-Cisternino-Locorotondo-Alberobello

    The tours were 50E per person, per day. He doesn’t speak much English, but he and some of his colleagues are hiring a teacher to teach them English. They will concentrate on learning enough English to be able to explain things and speak about what people will see. Kind of a specialized English course for guides, which sounds like a good idea to me.

    The first tour felt to us like we were on the go a little more than the second tour we did. I think it’s because we stopped more on the first tour. For instance soon after we left Lecce we went to a castle in Corigliano d'Otranto for just a few minutes. There was a moat and a statue of the pizzica (pee-tsee-KAH)-the folkloric dance of the Salento.

    We also briefly stopped at some gorgeous Adriatic Sea swimming destinations as we headed down the coast to the tip of the heel. We took in the view at Santa Cesarea Terme, and another beach/cliff place whose name escapes me. We stopped at the most eastern point of Italy, “Capo d’Otranto” where on a clear day you may see Albania on the horizon. We went underground and saw how they stored olive oil and produced it all underground. On the return right before Lecce we stopped at an ancient church that had frescoes in it. We really enjoyed these tours.

    We’d leave around 9:30 in the morning and then return to Lecce around 7 pm. We would spend about an hour to an hour and a half in the different cities. He would point out that we should try to view a certain castle or a duomo, but otherwise we’d wander and explore.

    Originally I had thought that we’d stay in Ostuni, but after seeing these villages with Dario, we were both drawn to Otranto. So we went there for three nights after Lecce. I had also thought that we’d HAVE to stay in Castro since a couple of unrelated Italians that I know who live in the states both told us we have to stay in Castro. We had lunch in Castro but the town didn’t call to us so we dropped it from our proposed itinerary.

    We probably should have stayed 5 nights in Lecce because the first day was a travel day and we got there in the afternoon. The next two days we were gone all day touring the salento, and the last day we got out of the room late and just kind of wandered around with only going inside one large church. There is so much to see in Lecce, I hope we can return and get to know the city. I think a guide would be a good thing to try in Lecce.

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    Pronounced with the stress on the first “O”. The train ride from Lecce to Otranto indicated that we’d have to switch trains twice, but this is one of the reasons why I suggest you ask and ask again. We were told that we did not need to get off at Zollino after all but we did have to get off at Maglie. I would always ask the guy who checks the tickets and I’d double check with anyone sitting next to us. The people who ride the trains really know the schedule and how they run. We met and spoke with a beautiful woman during our ride and she and the ticket inspector made sure we got off the right spot.

    We were waiting at Maglie when we got into a short converation with an Englishman. The train arrived, we all boarded, and just sat there for a long time. The Englishman came to our car and we started speaking again and this time he told us how much they liked Gallipoli. I took it into consideration because of all the cities we had seen with Dario, I knew we wouldn’t choose any of the towns we saw. As I mentioned earlier, after seeing Otranto we changed our minds from staying in Ostuni, but none of the other towns beckoned a three night stay. Of all of them, I can say that we discussed Cisternino, but it didn’t speak to us like Otranto.

    When we arrived at the station in Otranto, some young men saw us struggling with our luggage - we had a carry-on and a 22”, so it’s not like we were traveling heavy, we’re just old with a bad knee here and there and sore feet. Anyway the boys grabbed our bags and brought them up and down the stairs. People all over were really sweet that way. Many helpful offers with our luggage were greatly appreciated.

    No taxi was there to greet the train but the Englishman said that the port is a short distance and all downhill. He said that he "walked" from the station to his hotel with google earth, so we decided to follow them. In no time at all we were near all the hotels and all I had to do was follow the signs and ask a couple of times to find our hotel.

    We chose Hotel Albania. I had found it on and I saw their website. I called and asked how much it would be for a three night stay. She quoted me 90 E per day. It was about 15 E less per day through booking so then I needed to decide if we would take the three day rate and pay now (all three days up front) or choose the option to pay later (and pay an extra 9E to do that). R prefers not to get tied into anything so I chose the latter.

    We arrived and were greeted by a woman who was manning the desk while her colleague was on a lunch break. She was kind enough to notice that we were hot and so she brought us a bucket of ice and some cold water. We used their great wi-fi in the comfortable lobby and looked at a book they had on Otranto.

    When the lady arrived to check us in, they let us check in early but we weren’t thrilled with the room. It was very ordinary, painted orange, the bathroom smelled funny, only one medium sized window, and it all felt kind of cramped. Especially in comparison with the other places we had stayed. We returned to the lobby and thankfully since the hotel wasn’t full, they were kind enough to upgrade us to a room with an extra twin bed, a triple. There was a lot more square feet, and it just felt far less cramped so we took it, gratefully.

    Being hungry we set out to find something to eat. We found that most places were closing down for lunch but there was a place open which sold all kinds of things. They had a sandwich station, a cafeteria type of set up, pizza by the slice, gelato, etc. The location is right inside the centro storico walls and also on the big and stretched out lungomare overlooking the sea.

    It’s called Bibbó and we had two veggie panini and two Ceres. The sandwiches were so good we decided to split another one and split another Ceres. The women there were friendly to us, the food was fresh, and we left very happy. Tel: 0836 801964

    That afternoon I saw a procession going up our street with something like an altar on the shoulders of some men, a band playing music, and followers. Then later that night there was an amazing fireworks display which lasted such a long time. It was great! I later learned that it was the patron saint’s holiday.

    That night in the hotel, in the middle of the night I awoke sweating. It turns out that the AC was turned off from a switch downstairs at reception. So at 4:30 am I got up, went downstairs, but I couldn’t find the man who had graveyard duty manning the hotel. So I found a piece of paper and wrote that I really needed the AC and to please put it back on. After 10 minutes the red light for the AC came on and the AC kicked in.

    The next morning R. commented on how well he had slept. I told him what had happened and he was not happy to hear what happened with the AC to put it mildly. We talked to about our three day rate that we had signed up for, and asked them if we could leave. They said that first they could talk to reception for us and ask them if they will let us out of our commitment, but there are no guaranties. I asked her if I should talk to them about it myself and she thought it would be best because she said that when a guest isn’t happy, and they hear from, they inevitably ask, “Why didn’t the guest just talk to us first?”

    So I went down there and told them how I awoke sweating and that if it is their policy to always turn off the AC in the middle of the night that we would need to check out early. They said that if we need it on, then it is OK with them. With their assurance, we stayed hoping that they would keep their word. They did. As a matter of fact, when we’d leave for the day, I’d turn off the lights and AC but by the time we returned, it would be on and the room cool, so I really appreciate how they went the extra mile to accommodate us.

    I thought the location was really great. It was really close to the centro storico, and pretty much right in the middle of Otranto. The reception employees speak English, the wi-fi is great, although in the lobby only, but yet it was so strong that being one floor up near the stairwell, we could pick up a signal on our tablet from our room, and my old iPhone could get a signal in the stairwell.

    The breakfast was good with fresh fruit available which we always appreciate, and it’s served on the terrace with a really nice view of the water.

    Let’s talk gelato! We found the BEST (well almost the best--the best of all was in Polignano a Mare) gelateria artigianale in Otranto. You walk through the arches into the centro storico. At maybe the second left (the first Tabacchi shop you see) turn left. It’s tucked in between Bibbó and the Tabacchi. It has a 5 foot tall ice cream cone sitting in front, they only sell gelato, and the ice cream here is REALLY GOOD!!! L’ottimo!

    The next day we asked around and found a delicious organic restaurant near our hotel and centro storico. Really scrumptious, fresh food at Primo Trattoria. They have gluten free options, vegetarian, and vegan recipes. This was a real winner and we were very tempted to return for dinner since our pasta was so dang good. Beautifully decorated, fresh quality ingredients, friendly staff, very, very nice and highly recommended. Plenty of fresh whole fish, eyes and all, to choose from too for the fish lovers. Just a short walk up the street from the centro storico arches. Via delle Torri 3/5/9 TEL: 350 502 1356

    That afternoon they erected a stage on the lungomare just outside the centro storico. It was all about the first soccer match for Italy in the world cup. That evening we got a pizza at a pizzeria which is right there where all the action was.

    They had a couple of DJ’s dressed up and Vegas type of showgirls/dancers each of them dancing to their own beat, a ginormous screen with really loud speakers blasting. It was very much a party atmosphere. It began around 9 pm and was scheduled to go very late since the game didn’t even start until midnight! There were a LOT of people with high hopes who must have come from all over the area. It was the place to be, and all along the sea. It was great.

    The next day we decided to go to the beach. Being very pale, we didn’t stay long, did some shopping, and noticed that the weather was changing quickly. Deep black clouds starting rolling in. Most places were closed for lunch by now so we returned to get a sandwich at Bibbó again. The heavens opened and it started pouring rain, with really LOUD thunder and lightning. R got nervous and suggested that I take my necklace off for fear that it would act as a lightning rod. ha!

    Dinner was at a place with lousy service so I will forgo writing about them. We walked along the sea in the opposite direction of the centro storico and happened upon a bar with tables out front called “Santi & Briganti”. It caught our attention because there were two guys singing loudly and basically entertaining anyone who would listen to their songs while a third friend sat and played the accordion and a fourth the tambourine in accompaniment. We probably stayed a good half hour clapping along and thoroughly enjoying their music. They sang folk songs, pizzica songs, and other Italian songs that the audience knew. They gathered quite a crowd, and they were a lot of fun.

    One thing that i must mention is DO NOT MISS going inside the Otranto Cathedral. The mosaics are amazing and they are so old. It’s incredible that you are permitted to walk on some of them. There are bones of 813 martyrs who would not denounce their Christian faith, and the stone on which they were beheaded. There are also some colorful panels just inside the front door to the left. They remind me of cloisonne and I took a photo of them because it’s not often you see a blond Jesus, plus they are really lovely.

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    Hey, DAI.

    I'm really enjoying your report. I appreciate you taking the time to write down all of your adventures for us! I've written a few trip reports myself (one on Puglia, in fact), so I know it takes time and effort.
    My wife and I visited the Puglia region a couple of years ago and your report is taking me right back there. Have you ever seen so many olive trees? Amazing. We stayed at Fra i Sassi in Matera, too. As you said, Domenico was a terrific host. We loved our tour with Nadia, too. She's a sweet person and so knowledgeable.
    It's exciting to read how easily y'all were able to get around the area of Puglia using public transportation. We had a car and I thoroughly enjoyed driving around that part of Italy.
    I look forward to seeing where in Puglia you take us next!
    Thanks again, Dai.


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    Heeeeyyyyyy Robbie! Wow, are you ever a sight for sore eyes! I was feeling quite alone the last few days. I bet that I found Fra i Sassi here from your report (considering I think I read all the Puglian TR's here on Fodors) and then cross referenced it on TA. When I saw that it didn't have a ton of stairs and was easy to find via taxi, I added it to my notes.

    You know I should have made mention in the beginning of this report or even in the title that this was all done with public transportation. Maybe then one or two more people would have found this report helpful. Too bad I can't go back and edit to include that.

    In any case, thanks for the input, I really needed it!

    Next is Polignano a Mare. We were there five nights so I may write up the first few days and post before the last two days which included day trips to Monopoli and Castellana Grotte. We LOVED Polignano a Mare.

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    Hi Dai

    I am enjoying your report very much and I've already bookmarked several of your links.

    I have been to Matera, but not Puglia. My grandparents were all from Matera and nearby Corleto Perticara. While reading your report, I thought, "I'm going back."

    And I am. I haven't been able to convince any of my family members to come along, despite telling them they don't know what they are missing. Inspired by your report, I'm going back to working on them right away.

    I look forward to reading about Polignano a Mare.

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    bilbo: Thank you, and yes, it seemed most logical to me. Just discuss it, but R was appalled by the idea that they would do that, and since it was only one night that we had invested, and since he would have preferred a room right next to the water (didn't even know if one was available in town) he was prepared to just leave. He was really put off by the action. So I asked him if they cooperated with our wishes, would he still prefer to leave and try to find another place, or move to a different town, and he decided that he would stay. So we made the call to booking to determine all our options. Upon learning of the options we decided that we may not want to book anything ahead of time for more than one night, since we are traveling at a time when we could get away with that. It all worked out well.

    tuscanlifeedit: Hooray! I am so glad! YOU of ALL people should watch that film that I linked to earlier regarding Matera. It links to part one (I think) and if you click on "6 videos" after viewing the first part, you'll be able to watch the rest of it. I don't think it's longer than a half an hour.

    I gave Paolo information on how to get it on PBS through their series "POV". He is going to send the info to the film maker. It is PERFECT for POV and I think it'd be a real ratings generator when word got around because it is such a captivating story.

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    Polignano a Mare (with a brief side trip to Gallipoli)

    The last day here in Otranto, I was trying to figure out our next move. When we had taken those wonderful trips with Dario while in Lecce, I was sure that I’d want to stay in one of those towns that we had visited, but alas, I wasn’t feelin’ it. R was good with wherever I wanted to go, and he had no particular feelings one way or the other with all of those towns we had seen (except Otranto). I knew we were going to stay in Polignano a Mare (PaM-from here on out) but what held me back from going to PaM after Otranto was the weather report. It indicated that PaM was in for a lot of rain for the next 4 days. I thought it’d be wise to stay south of that and then make our way north.

    BTW, When we were in Otranto, we found ourselves talking with a bike guide. They hang out in a three wheeled motor bike that has an umbrella type thing to act as shade hanging over the bench behind the driver. Like a three wheeled golf cart. You sit on the bench and they cruise around and point out things to see. I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was Dario! He introduced us to the guy and his son, Diego who was sitting in a different cart. They were friends of his. Dario was back in Otranto having dropped off another group of tourists to visit this great little town. He told me at that time that if I need any help with anything to give him a call or text. I tucked that thought away.

    The Englishman on the train to Otranto said how much he and his wife like Gallipoli, and in conversations with strangers along the way, we had heard from a couple others that thought Gallipoli was a nice place to visit. The forecast looked great, so I started looking at train schedules. To go from Otranto to Gallipoli (as I recall) meant we’d have to go north on the train to Lecce then south to Gallipoli. In any case, whatever the circumstances, it sure as heck wasn’t a quick, straight train ride from east to west, as it would be if we had a car.

    I decided that I’d much prefer to get a driver to take us directly from our hotel to a B&B in Gallipoli. I called Dario and asked him for advice. He said he’d find me a guy, but he strongly advised that I pick another city. He just didn’t see any good reason to go and stay there a few days. i told him that I had heard otherwise from a few people and that since the weather looked good, and since we hadn’t been to the ionian sea in Puglia up until this point, that I’d like to give it a go.

    Now a word about accommodations...we decided that we need to avoid booking any place in advance. We were in the shoulder season, the villages we were visiting were small, and the main thing was that if we didn’t like it, we’d be able to grab our bags and carry on. This decision of ours could not have come at a better time.

    I looked on booking for a place in Gallipoli. We always prefer centro storico so I kept my search focused on that zone. Nothing particularly great was apparant or available as I searched. Then I found one B&B that looked promising. It got good reviews on both TA and booking, the price was right and it didn’t seem to be booked yet for the three days we needed. Rather than book it, we took the chance that it’d be available and decided to wing it if it were indeed booked.

    So Dario sent Diego to come and drive us to Gallipoli for 50E. I had heard it was only about a half hour to the other coast, but that wasn’t true. It took at least 50 minutes. Right before we rolled into town, Diego pulled to the side of the freeway and set his GPS for the B&B. After a few minutes he stopped at a street in a nondescript part of town thinking we were nearby, so I said that I didn’t think it could be here since the B&B is in the centro storico, and please God tell me this is not the centro storico.

    We continued on and the streets were packed with traffic, then as we neared the centro storico, about half a mile of the road was torn up due to construction and it felt like we exited the peace and calm of one sea side village in exchange for chaos and confusion of another. We drove around the exterior of the centro storico and asked, then found the street. Diego came with us, (thank God) and we found the B&B. Turns out it was full! The owner told us that they had an apartment we could rent if we wanted, which they use in an emergency. She walked us over. I thought it was OK, I could see that it needed to be cleaned and that there were a lot of flights of stairs but R looked around, and looked in the bathroom, and said no way. So the lady walked us to another apartment they had which was on the ground floor. Technically it was sub-ground. We walked down a few stairs and the door opened up to a motorcycle in the very modest living room. That oily bike may have been the best feature of this extremely small and very old apartment. I told R not to bother coming in.

    So here we were in this city, surrounded by narrow winding streets leading to nothing more (it seemed) than more narrow winding streets, in a very residential area. I wanted out of Gallipoli and R did too. I decided that we would take our chances and go to PaM come hell or highwater, come rain or sunshine because I knew we’d like it. As much as we loved the salento, it was time to take our vacation north.

    I thought about asking Diego to take us to the station in Gallipoli so that we could train our way to PaM. Diego said that the train would take us to Lecce then we’d need to find a train to PaM. So I asked him how much he’d charge us to take us to Lecce. He called Dario and came back with 120E. I spoke with Dario who reminded me that I should pay attention to his suggestions and warnings ;-) and told him, fine, let’s go with Diego to Lecce. I just wanted to get outta there.

    So we left chaotic Gallipoli, got dropped off at the Lecce station and only had to wait 9 minutes for our train...which ended up being an hour late. Dario kept checking in to make sure we were OK since he had heard that there may be a train strike. So after a day when we thought we’d find ourselves traveling only 30 minutes to our next destination, it ended up taking us 6 hours to get to our next town!

    Polignano a Mare (really this time)

    When we arrived here (with the help of the ticket taker on the train and fellow passengers) from Lecce, we didn’t know how long we’d stay, where we’d stay, all I knew is that it sounded like our kind of town, so we took the plunge. After hauling our bags down the stairs we were relieved to find two longs ramps to get us out of there. At the top of the ramp, it didn’t “look right”. I asked a guy in a semi-truck if he could please tell me”...dov’ è il mare” (where’s the sea) and he pointed to the opposite side. Down and up the ramps to the other side where we found what seemed to be a very nice little village. I explained to a man outside that I was new to town and if he could tell me how I can get to the sea and he replied, “sempre dritto”. So straight ahead we went, all downhill (not a steep hill at all).

    We ended up in a huge piazza. The air was fresh, there was no chaos, they were setting up a stage, there were huge light decorations wrapping the piazza, and continuing down the streets, and it all seemed like a cool place to be. Most everything was closed for the siesta so we popped into an open bar on the piazza called Minerva. Gianni was behind the bar and didn’t seem to mind when I told him that we’d love to get a couple fo beers in exchange for letting me use his restroom. He was curious about us and asked us where we were from and what brought us here and where we were staying. When I told him we didn’t know, he told of us the nearby Tourist Information and how they can help us find a place. Then a patron told R about a lady who has a brand new B&B. “Nuovissimo!”, he said. So he called the lady, the lady came over and I told R that since he was the picky one, that he should go and look at it and that if it was OK with him, then it’s OK with me.

    I stayed and drank my beer and chatted with Gianni who gave me advice about the town, gave me a map, told me about things to see, he asked how I came to speak Italian so well (as did so many people I met) and I told him. He laughed, like everyone else. Then R returned and said that the place was really pretty but there isn’t any AC yet. He said it is so new that they aren’t quite done because there are still wires exposed and brand new furniture wrapped in plastic, stuff in the stairwell, etc.

    We said our goodbyes to Gianni, bought the guy a beer who set us up with the prospective B&B owner, and as we headed toward the tourist information office, we saw that people were emerging for the early evening. At the TI, I asked the gal about the Hotel Grotta Palazzese.

    I remember reading a trip report from a long time fodorite (Patrick?) writing about his experience staying at this place and eating in the restaurant. He made it sound so beautiful and I always thought of how nice it must be. I had thought that the price would be too much so I was surprised when the girl from the TI called the hotel and when she said that we’d want to stay at least three nights and how much would it be, they said a standard room is 140E.

    We walked over and they showed us three rooms. Two standard rooms, and the other was one step up (deluxe?) and 20E more because they had a mini balcony over the sea.

    The first room smelled like cigs, the second standard room we saw was amazing. It had its own glass door which first opens up to a HUGE brick terrace which housed four lounge chairs, a table and chairs, a bunch of cactus plants, and had an incredible view of the sea and pounding surf. The room itself was really cute and very bright. It had a bathtub! The first bathtub we had seen since our very first night. It had two large windows which either opened from the top or you could swing open from the side and the door which all opened up onto the terrace. There were no other rooms off this glass door. I guess it was “standard’ because it opens up to a terrace which is on the sea, as opposed to the “better” room which is smaller but has a window with a tiny balcony which is right over the sea.

    It didn’t take us long to decide we’d stay longer than 3 nights. By the time we picked our great room, and walked back down to reception, we decided to stay five nights. R would have stayed a week, but I really didn’t want to spend a week out of four in one place.

    OK, so now we’re very happy with our choice and this town, we decided to heed the advice of Gianni and the TI gal to go to the celebration of the patron saint for PaM, San Vito. It was soon to take place in the piazza in the old town. We got there as the priest was talking. The piazza was full and the band was there in the piazza too and we were behind the band. The lights that were erected all over the city were lining this piazza too and they all lit up. Then as the saint statue (very) slowly descended down a ramp in what looked like an altar on the exterior wall of a church, the band played its slow dirge-like music. Then after it descends all the way they hoist it up in a carriage and on the shoulders of some people and they start walking through the city streets. The band got behind the statue and some of the people who were following it, and since we were behind the band and saw a bunch of people drop in and follow the band, we followed them too! The photo in the lower right corner shows the wall of the church and the ramp where the saint statue descends

    It didn’t seem right to wave at the people who lined the streets as we passed them, like I do in our local Christmas parade (I did our local parade with our Zumba class), so we just looked straight ahead and joined in. There were archs of light every 15 feet or so from one end of the narrow street to the other. Hundreds if not thousands of little lighted bulbs in all the colors of the rainbow forming a decorative pattern. The piazzas were ringed with other lights on poles, reminiscent of lace (for lack of a better description) trimmed with the same bright bulbs. In the huge piazza that we passed when we first arrived, and were now passing with the procession, the band was on stage itching to get started. There was a whole bunch of merchants in the streets selling their wares. Families were everywhere. It was a great summer night.

    As the procession drew to a close, R said something to a girl in front of us. Something like “We’re from California”. Then we heard a woman she was with ask, “What’d you say?” So R repeated it and she said she was from New Jersey. R is from Brooklyn so the next thing you know the procession is over and we end up gabbing for an hour with this woman who left the states 15 years ago and decided to live in a nearby Italian town to be near her relatives. She was very nice and interesting.

    We got a delicious pizza and a delicious pasta dish close to our hotel at Pepe Nero Pizzeria and Spaghetteria

    Ristorante Pizzeria Pepe Nero Via Roma 33, TEL: 0804033548

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    what a fun report. I remember your planning process of a couple months ago, so it is nice to learn the outcome. I am going to be posting my own report from our May trip soon. Meanwhile, I am enjoying yours!

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    Oh yes, aprillilacs you were there while I was planning the trip. I'll look forward to your report too.

    Tuscan, thanks so much! Will you please come back and tell me your impressions of the film? For some reason R and I really were impacted by the film, it makes me wonder if you would feel the same way or not.

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    During our dinner it rained really hard, while the thunder and lightning was fierce. After an hour it was all over. We both happen to enjoy rain like that. Everything smells so great after a good rain, and it doesn’t slow you down with sightseeing with a quick rain here and there.

    The next day we set out late in the morning to explore the south side of Polignano a Mare to see what we could find. We wandered along the sea stopping frequently to take more photos. When we eventually made our way back, we happened upon a small restaurant/pizzeria (pizza only for dinner) where it seemed like they had a couple of vegetarian pasta options. A very casual place with outdoor seating on a huge piazza by the sea. They had white tables with blue tablecloths and a blonde woman was sitting there waiting for some guests, so we gave it a try. R ordered the contadina which was just some orecchiette with tomato sauce, I ordered the trofiette pasta (delicious, and my first time trying this shape of pasta) which came with mushrooms and salami but I noticed another of their dishes had zucchini, so I asked her if she’d substitute the zucchini for the salami, and she agreed. She tried to get us to order the same dish so that we could get our dishes at the same time, but we declined. Then she came out and asked if the chef could add some tomato to my dish, and I said yes. Then she came out and asked how I felt about adding panna to my dish, so I said, sure. What I got was this great dish that wasn’t on the menu and it was scrumptious. R’s dish was simple and good. With three beers it was 21.50E. The reviews on TA are mixed to say the least, but we got lucky, so I’ll mention it. It’s called Zanzi Pizza Via Magg. Toselli, 16 Largo Ardito

    After our siesta we found Super Mago which is a note I had made for great gelato in PaM. VERY quick service as there are a lot of people on staff waiting to take your order. The owner heard us talking and asked in his American accented English where we were from. He was traveling in Italy (15-20 years ago, as I recall) a former hippy type of guy, who came to PaM and fell in love with a girl. He is still very much in love with his wife and they have been running the family business for quite a while now.

    We talked American and Italian politics, Italian bureaucracy, lack of consistency in laws, exorbitant taxes in Italy (which we heard from several proprietors), etc and we really enjoyed his company. It was a non stop conversation with a guy that we could have sat and gabbed with for hours. He then gifted us with a taste of their famous chocolate gelato (which tastes like pudding) and he also gifted us a coffee drink that he says is their recipe that they are known for-it has amaretto and lemon in it. He himself makes the gelato since the recipe is a secret which has been handed down, and when he’s done adding the ingredients, one of the employees comes in and blends it. They didn’t have stracciatella but said that they’d add some chocolate chips, which they did. It was very good, and we were glad we stopped in here.

    As we wandered around, the storm reappeared so we started heading back towards the hotel. It was dinner time so we popped into Vizi & Sfizi because it seemed like there was always someone going in there. I got a Margherita pizza and he got a funghi with no cheese, and we just sat there by ourselves in a back room while the storm raged and we drank beer and ate our pizza and just took our ever loving time gabbing while the storm soaked the streets.

    The next day we went in the opposite direction towards the centro storico to seek out a museum we heard about, and see what we could find. What we found were photo opps at every turn. At one lookout point, there was a beach which I bet is packed in August and we decided to cross over the bridge to take photos of the statue of the man who sang, “Volare”, and to see what else we could find.

    I also noticed a lot of B&B’s in the centro storico, and I would say that this could be a perfect spot to be for a few days. We stayed in PaM for five nights and we spoke to a LOT of people during that time and when people asked us where we were staying everyone said that our hotel was too expensive and that they knew of a nice B&B for half the price. We’d always talk about that spectacular terrace on the sea that “belonged just to us” and how we just loved it. In fact, not a day went by where we didn’t just soak in the view for a while, a few times a day, on that terrace.

    Anyway, we wandered over the bridge and walked north, and found the statue, and continued taking photos galore. There were many places where people can swim in the sea, and the waters were very clear.

    Heading back to town it was time to try the gelateria that two people at our hotel suggested. Now as much as I loved the guy Russell from Super Mago, I have to say that without a doubt “Caruso’s” has THE best gelato EVER! It’s about a 45 second walk up the street from Super Mago’s. It’s across the street. Across from the Tourist Information (and up the street just slightly). The first door you come to is always locked. Walk a few paces more and through the doors you will find an area to sit and enjoy your ice cream, and then you’ll find a beautiful, large, white room with friendly staff who will greet you and a large selection of delicious, creamy ice cream made with organic milk, and fresh ingredients. The selection changed just a little everyday. They had an amazing chocolate ice cream “senza latticini” made with almond milk that R absolutely LOVED. I loved how they poured some chocolate sauce in my cone first then gave me two flavors to choose from on my “small” cone and the Pièce de résistance was a disc of a cone dipped in chocolate sauce and stuck in the middle of my ice cream. Mamma Mia!!!

    For lunch we went again to Pepe Nero for another delicious spaghetti dish, and for dinner we wanted something light and simple, so we stepped into a tavola calda which had chains hanging down the doorway and was located across from the huge piazza. A lot of businesses have strings which hang down the doorway enabling fresh air to come in while keeping flies out. Most people use plastic thin ropes, but this was silver chains which I thought was unique. Anyway, there were three or four guys behind the bar and i told them that we just want vegetables and more vegetables on some bread, and a couple of Ceres. They kind of all just stared at us in a friendly way but with wonder in their eyes. I tried to pay him after our sandwiches came up but was told to sit and relax. There was another world cup game that was getting ready to take place with Italy and a lot of people came in and out. During a lull, I got up and went to the counter and tried to pay again but he told me that eating all of those veggies isn’t right and to “try this”, which was a deep fried triangular thing with melted cheese and tomato sauce in the middle. Then he told me to sit and relax. We’re not exactly into deep fried anything but we did as we were told and finished up our Ceres with his gift. He got packed with orders and when things calmed down we tried again to pay. It was 12E total. To be honest I really liked him much more than what we ate, but this guy is really busy with lots of locals so maybe his pizza al taglio or other meaty things are great. I don’t know. I would go back for a beer and try something else just because I liked how well he treated us. The receipt indicates the name is “Happy Food”, but the front of the restaurant says something else. The address is Via Atropo #5


    The next day we decided to do a day trip to Monopoli. We had heard from several people that it is a nice town to visit. We have to agree. It’s only one stop by train but the schedule of the train wasn’t fitting into our schedule so we asked our hotel to call us a cab. We paid 20 E to have a nice guy drive us to the port right outside the centro storico walls.

    We walked along the centro storico, and happened upon an accessories store called Castrignano. R loves his wool English cap and when we saw this store with hundreds of hats, I suggested we go in and have a look. We really enjoyed the owner Luciano whose family has been in this same spot for a few hundred years! Even the ceiling of this store has frescoes and ornate plaster work which are photo worthy. R tried on lots of hats in different sizes and fabrics. I told him that if he ever lost that one wool cap of his, he’d be really bummed if he didn’t have a replacement. R left with two linen and one wool English caps. He loves them and is glad I talked him into it. They sell gloves, hats, luggage, accessories.

    Castrignano Largo Plebiscito, 11, monopoli

    Our taxi driver suggested a place to have lunch. When I told Luciano, he said that he would recommend a place that is just as good but is much closer so we followed his advice. La locanda dei Mercanti. We loved the food here. They start you off with a bunch of frittelle, which are battered, deep fried potatoes (or was it cheese?) and sauce. They also bring you a bunch of delicious olives. We ordered grilled veggies to start. I had orecchiette, basil, pomodoro pasta and R had homemade pasta with prawns and mushrooms in truffle oil. Simply scrumptious. After your meal they bring you fresh carrots and a squash that looked like honeydew melon. Then he brought us over a warm-in-the-middle mini pastry as a gift called sporcamuss that was amazing. The one thing I will mention is to check your bill. I had to bring to his attention that his addition was off by 8 euro and I believe the prices on the menu from what I remember was slightly off from what we were charged, but I wasn't about to scrutinize the menu for 1.50. We either had wine or a beer too and received all of this for 25.50 E. We would absolutely return. Hail to the chef! Si mangia bene qui!

    La locanda dei Mercanti Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 44 TEL 080 937 6621

    We needed to walk off that meal which left us too full, so we walked around and took photos and popped into a souvenir place where we got into another nice conversation with a gal. She explained the images of the lady with the little boy that you see all over. She laughed when R said that he had declared that the lady was me and the boy was him (I’m much taller than R) It turns out that this same image you see all over is Mary and Jesus. It felt a little sacrilegious when we learned that. She wasn’t offended, thank goodness.

    We walked to the train station and 2 E got us both back to PaM. Made a beeline for Caruso’s and had a chocolate/caramel wonder with a licorice flavor ice cream. R had milk free chocolate and mango. Spoke with the VERY helpful TI girl regarding Saturday’s departure and about taking a trip to Castellana Grotte and we skipped dinner.

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    Dai: my husband and I just finished watching the Matera film. It is a beautifully done short film, and moving too. I hated those thieves! Felt like they stole my birthright.

    Another thing that strikes me is that I've always been proud of being a Materese, because it's such a fascinating place, but the narrators talk about the shame they once felt. Of course I'd heard the stories of terrific poverty from my relatives, but still, I had such a connection to the place, even before I visited. I read about it, studied, and even wrote about it during my nascent journalism career.

    Stories of the Lucano, wolves and witches, brigands, land pirates, cave dwellers; it all struck me as so romantic. Of course, my ancestors were peasants that lived in the Sassi and walked for miles to their agricultural work. It's not a romantic history but myths and tales of wild Basilcata are exciting.

    The film made both my husband and I even more anxious to return.

    By the way, did you visit the Modern Art Museum in Matera? It is first rate, with a decent collection and outstanding architecture and presentation.

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    WOW, tuscanlifeedit! Thank you for sharing that. I can really understand your connection. I am so glad that you thought that the film was well done too. It was stunning to think that a professor would steal something so precious. No, we did not visit the museum. I wish I had known about it. I do hope that I can find my way back to Matera some day. It is so unique and so special.

    jmct714: Thank you so much for dropping in to offer feedback. I appreciate your encouragement very much!

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    Castellana Grotte

    On Friday our last day in PaM, I decided to heed the advice of so many in this area who all said Castellana Grotte is something special to see. They are caves which went undiscovered until fairly recent history, 1938, and they are in a town called Castellana Grotte, which up until 1950 was known only as Castellana. It’s a small town with a big attraction. The caves are very popular:

    I went to the PaM tourist office to find out how we could go to the caves with public transportation. She told me that I’d need to buy two tickets at 1E each to the town of Castellana Grotte. Then I’d need to take one of two different bus routes to the caves. She gave me the schedule from PaM to Castellana and the return schedule. She also gave me a copy of each of the green buses (two different numbers: Circolare 1 and Circolare 2) schedule to and from the caves.

    I asked her where we pick up the bus to Castellana Grotte, and I asked her what color the bus is. This is a good question to ask because I was told that it is white (they have buses in many colors) but it also prompted her to describe the bus as being really small, almost like a van. She pointed outside and told us that the bus would arrive in front of a bar under the trees.

    While we were waiting there another man stood in the same area and it appeared to me that he was also waiting for our bus. Our bus was not on time so I finally asked the man if he too was waiting for the bus to Castellana. He said no, he was going to (I can’t remember) but that my bus was not going to stop here, but was going to stop across the street, basically in front of the TI. It seemed odd to me that the TI would get that information wrong, so I noticed another type of red “train” sitting across the street and since it was just sitting there, I figured I’d go ahead and ask them. The people in the “train” said that I was standing in the correct spot, and that the man who was waiting with us was in the wrong spot and that he should be waiting across the street in front of the TI. So I came back and told the man what they said. He told me that he has been taking the bus every week, and he thought that both the TI and the train man (and his wife sitting next to him) were wrong.

    Soon enough I see a white van driving towards us with a white placard with “Castellana” written on it, tucked onto the dashboard of the van. I pointed at the van and it went right past us and stopped in the spot that the passenger said it would. I trotted over, spoke to the driver, and confirmed that it was going to Castellana. I beckoned R to run over and off we went. Ask, and ask again.

    We arrived near the train station in Castellana Grotte and the driver told us where he picks people up to take them back to PaM. It was under a Kodak sign a block or so away from where he dropped us off. 10 seconds later one of the green buses showed up where we were dropped off and I hailed him and verified that it goes to the caves.

    We got to the site 15 minutes before the ticket office opened from their lunch break. They shut down for lunch for at least an hour. R wanted to take an English tour of the caves. Based on the bus schedule to get us back to PaM, we had to take the 50 minute tour. it cost 20E and is 1 KM in length. The longer tour is about 3 Km as I recall and you get to see all of the caves including the white cave which is the most popular. R was happy with our tour, but I would have taken the longer tour whether or not I understood the guide. I thought it was a neat thing to see and I'm glad we went.

    After the tour we waited a 1/2 hour for the bus which dropped us off near the Castellana Grotte train station. R wanted me to ask at the train station how we could get back to PaM by train since there was a station right there. We learned that we would have had to get a train to Bari and then a train to PaM. It would have taken a long time, like at least 2-3 hours or more, and a heck of a lot more $$ than the 2 Euros the bus would cost us.

    We had two hours to kill before our bus back to PaM so we decided to find something to eat even though it was during the siesta. There was a friend of the train employee who was hanging out, and this gentleman told us that he’d walk us over to a bar to get a snack. As we were leaving to follow him into town, the gentleman pointed out the Kodak sign and bus stop for us to remember. I was glad he reminded us because I soon saw another Kodak sign on a different adjacent street, so I made a mental note of street names this time. When we got to the bar they only had ready made sandwiches with ham. We decided to carry on.

    We came to another bar and they offered the same thing so someone in there told us where we should go to find something with a better variety. A street that has a lot of trees and a place on that street with more of a selection. Since I like to ask and ask again, as we passed a gelateria I asked a man where the “viale” with the trees were and he pointed us in the direction and gave us a name of a restaurant. We found it and the man behind the bar only had the same types of sandwiches but he said he could make us a salad so that is what we had. It was actually quite delicious and very fresh, and since the bar was decorated so nicely, with a friendly person behind the bar, we really had a nice little relaxing time. It’s called Cafe Bistrot.

    We found our way back, found the bus, and upon our return to PaM, I had to go to Caruso’s again for my last favorite gelato.

    Backtracking a bit, on Thursday we were told by the TI that the train departure we wanted for Saturday to take us to Peschici had really cheap tickets and we should buy them soon. I knew I’d be buying them the next day so I took our chances that the price would be low. On Friday morning, before we waited for the bus to take us to Castellana Grotte, I went to a nearby travel agency to purchase our train tickets from PaM to San Severo--gateway to Peschici (for the public transport passenger). Unfortunately, not only were the tickets with the great prices gone, the travel agent said that we’d have to wait in Bari for the later train. Right after I paid for the train tickets from the travel agent, I said to the woman that if she knows of any hotel in Peschici that we would be interested in hearing her suggestions. She suggested that we come back after visiting the caves to see what she could find.

    After our visit from Castellana we walked into her office and she got to work on the internet searching for a place for us. I didn’t intend for her to do the legwork which I had been doing to this point, I was just looking for a name or two of a hotel. Anyway, she found a place which seemed like it would work for us. It was “nuovissimo” and she called and asked how much it would be for three nights. As she held the phone with the owner, she said to me 500E. I asked how much per night and she divided it and said 165E. I knew 165 x 3 did not equal 500 so it seemed odd. Usually prices are quoted by the night. It was THE most expensive price we had encountered. I thought that it must be pretty special, and since it was my birthday, I thought that “special” is a great idea. But since we had decided not to stay anywhere three nights without seeing it first, we only booked one night. I heard her ask the owner about her “commissione”. She took my credit card, charged us 165E, and asked us to let her know if we end up staying three nights (I assume because she wanted her commission) and R assured her we would.

    We left and ate yet again at Pepe Nero so that i could get one of his pizzas again and so R could get another spaghetti dish. We really loved this little place (obviously) and we got to know the owner and the gal who was the waitress. He has a dream to move his family to Hawaii (one of his customers has a place there) and open up a restaurant there. We spoke about his dream and offered suggestions and just really enjoyed the time we spent with him.

    Next stop Peschici...

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    Nice report! Thanks for taking the time to write it all up. Am enjoying reliving our time in Puglia and Matera. Its interesting to read how a trip with so many of the same destinations was done with public transportation.

    @tuscanlifeedit - We did go to 2 museums in Matera, Museo della Scultura Contemporanea Matera & the Modern Art Musuem, and enjoyed them both. Nadia who I agree was an excellent guide provided insights to the feelings of being from Matera.

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    Thank you yestravel. I am so glad we were able to get to the Gargano Peninsula with public transportation. The other destinations were pretty easy to do with trains. It's the lifting of the bags up and down the stairs of the trains and the different platforms that seemed to be the biggest bother using public transportation...and we traveled light!

    Thanks you tuscan for hanging in there!

    kja: Yes, we loved it so much there was a part of me that considered returning to Trani when at one point we weren't sure how to fill three nights. We really liked the vibe of the town.

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    A quick little word about wi-fi and Italian towns. I found it very interesting to learn that PaM had wi-fi zones where they offered free wi-fi. About three zones as I recall. A couple of them were by the sea, and Piazza Aldo Moro.

    In Lecce they have free wi-fi also. Too bad I learned about it today whie trying to find out something else. Our B&B had the worst wi-fi and had I known there was free wi-fi in Piazza Oronzo, it would have really been handy.


    Got a cab to drop us off at the PaM station. BTW, if you’re young, this walk is easily doable on foot from the center of town. Once we got to the station, we got confused with those ramps again. We went down two long ramps with our bags, saw the other set of ramps on the other side and went up them only to realize we were on the other side of the tracks. Back down the ramps we go until we found the stairs in the middle. Too bad every station doesn’t have ramps, even if they only take you half way to the platform. Every time it was move-to-the-next-town day, we’d always think about the items we brought that we could have lived without, making our bags even lighter.

    We got to Bari with a two hour wait for our train to San Severo. With tickets in hand, purchased the day before at the travel agency, I decided to talk with the employee who was helping passengers purchase tickets through the self serve machines. I showed him my tickets and he verified that the early train for our destination which was getting ready to depart any minute was full. He suggested that we go to the binario and speak with the capo and ask if there was any room for us. With four minutes to spare before the train departs, we ran to platform 3 using elevators (thank goodness). The conductress radioed her colleague to inquire, then she said to me if we paid 16 more Euro we could climb aboard! We didn’t have a seat assignment so we could potentially get booted out at some point. No worries. We were never asked to leave, it never got full, we had a great conversation with some young people and we found ourselves in San Severo.

    I went to the ticket office in the San Severo train station to get the train tickets to Peschici, but the man barked at me, pointed, and said for me to go to the “giornali” (newspapers). I was in the Trenitalia line and the train to Peschici is run by Gargano transportation and is sold from the man in the newspaper stand. If he would have said calmly and slowly, “I don’t sell those tickets here, you need to buy them over there.” I would have understood, but it took him a couple times to yell and point “giornali” or “giornaleria” before I understood him. I went over there and told the man that we wanted two train tickets to Peschici. An employee of the Gargano transportation was right there getting ready to take off on his bike but he stopped and said that there wasn’t a train to Peschici. I asked if there was a “sciopero” (strike) and he said no. He kept insisting that there wasn’t a train to Peschici and that we’d need to buy a bus ticket. I didn’t understand him well as he spoke too fast for me. I did understand that there was no train to Peschici. Disappointed while holding a train schedule printed out for me by the PaM tourist information saying that there was a train departing at 1:38, I bought the bus tickets.

    We had to wait an hour or so for the bus. I thought I had better find a bathroom not knowing how long this bus was going to take us, so I went into a bar outside the train station and told him that I’d like to buy something and use his restroom. I bought a big bottle of water for the journey and thought about the irony of the cycle. Many times I had bought water in exchange for using the restroom.

    Finally our bus arrived and off we went. About two hours into our journey I seriously wondered what I was going to do. I really needed another bathroom break. At one point we took a “road” that was so pitted and unpaved it seemed like a cruel joke. Finally at one point the driver stopped and got off the bus. I decided it was now or never. I followed after him and told him that I could not ever recall a time in my life where I had to “fare la pipi” like I do right now. He pointed to two bars across the street and I literally ran while trying to cross my legs at the same time. “Very awkward looking” as I was told by R upon my return.

    I run into this bar and I see at least 9 men inside at the bar laughing and having a great time. I ran to the girl behind the bar and repeated my claim of never recalling a time when I had to go, and how I’m on a “pullman” to Peschici! She pointed to the restroom. As I ran, I heard laughter from a few men. It took a while but when I was empty I ran out of there while proclaiming that she is “the best”, and “Dio ti benedica” (God bless you).

    By the time I ran back on the bus, R told me that a passenger asked what the problem was and that the driver started to get anxious by looking at his watch, and that’s when he saw me running back.

    After a while a young female passenger was beckoned to one of the stops we made. It was really in the middle of nowhere and as the driver spoke to her, she kept shrugging her shoulders. I asked her if she spoke English which she confirmed, and I said that maybe I can help her with translation. I translated for her that she was to wait here for another bus and I told her what the destination will read on the bus. She asked “wait here?” as in “by myself?” I asked the driver what color is the bus and told her. I asked how long before the bus arrived and he said “soon”. She was a Canadian who came to the Gargano Peninsula to volunteer for a triathlon. The driver waited until her bus showed up.

    We finally made it to Calenella. The driver got off and I thought we would too, but instead we waited for a while and suddenly some other driver got on. It all started to make sense to me. Calenella is the train stop for Peschici. There is no train that drops you off in Peschici. I knew that from my research. However I believe that the man in the train station at San Severo was telling me that the train doesn’t stop in Peschici but if we take the bus we won’t have to transfer anywhere and will simply be dropped off in Peschici. I can’t stress this enough, from San Severo, do not take the bus to Peschici, instead buy a ticket for the train to Calenella, then take the bus to Peschici. I can’t help but think that if I would have said, “I know it doesn’t stop in Peschici.” that everything would have been fine. A lot finer than riding at least three hours on a bus! The man kept saying that the bus will drop us off in Peschici. However, the train from San Severo to Calenella takes only 1:38. About half the time! Yes, you do need to grab a bus from the train station, but that ride is only about 15-20 minutes to Peschici.

    When we got to Peschici I called the B&B to let them know we arrived and the owner was kind enough to send the “governess” to come and get us. She drove a short distance into town and she parked on a street. We followed her quite a ways. We entered the centro storico and the pavement really changed. There are two rows of slippery stones and surrounding the slippery rows they have rocks of all shapes and sizes. The governess was moving quickly, much more quickly than R who was trying to keep up as he schlepped his roller bag past hordes of tourists down the slippery street. We got to the B&B and there was a flight of very steep steps. He wasn’t happy. Then we got in and saw the room and he really got PO’d.

    This was the most expensive room of our trip and possibly the worst. It was billed as being full of antiques yet completely restored. Not so much. When we made mention of the price we paid, the governess showed us on her cell phone a message from the owner that they were charging us 144E a night. That’s when we learned that the travel agent took a commission from US TOO! Long story short we didn’t want to stay. The owner’s husband came and said that if we didn’t want to stay, that was fine. He didn’t want anyone to stay who didn’t want to be there. He hand wrote a letter declaring that the TA should give us our money back 100%. He also said that he sent a letter to the TA and asked them to reimburse us. He also said that this was the first and last time he would ever work with a TA, and that it’s better for people to find it online themselves.

    We found a table in front of a restaurant that we wanted to dine in later that night. I told R to settle in with his book while I wandered around Peschici sans bags to find us a place for the night. A few steps away I found a B&B and a cute room that we could only have for one night. There were a lot of steep steps up to the room, but it was clean, with a view of the sea and only 60 E for the night. I told her that my husband would really love a place with an elevator. She said it’s all about stairs in Peschici, but she called her friend and asked. Her friend told her about Hotel Peschici, thinking they have an elevator so I said I’d give it a try. It’s outside of the centro storico, but I found it, confirmed it had an elevator, and looked at a room. They had a little balcony with a great view over looking the sea, it was a pretty large room by Italian standards, decor was kind of 80’s but very clean and the bathroom was all tiled with no mildew or anything and was large and clean. I asked how much and when he said 70E, I said I’ll take it. After collecting R and showing him the elevator and room, he was very happy with it. He LOVED the balcony and its view. He loved how quiet it was. Quite the opposite of the centro storico.

    After settling in, we got cleaned up and I asked the owner if he’d call and make a reservation for us at Porta di Basso. The man said that we didn’t need one. OKay. We took his word for it and decided to just go over there at around 8 pm. We were fine without the reservation. It was my birthday and I was coming down with a chest cold/infection. I kind of wanted to eat, then come back and get an early nights sleep after hours of traveling and dealing with the memory of a bad room that we ditched, and a grumpy husband.

    I learned about this restaurant from a woman I met on Trip Advisor. Back in 2011 when I was looking into Peschici, I wrote to a woman who had left a review of this restaurant and asked her about Peschici. She and I became email buddies. She asked me to bring her greetings to the owner if we went so we did, and I brought “saluti” to the chef/owner from her.

    This was by far our most gourmet of all the meals we had. R loved everything about it. They brought us things besides what we had ordered like some tuna and before that some olives and two little hors d'oeuvres. Maybe even more things to try. I don't remember because I didn't write it down. The service was impeccable. We had a waiter and waitress, the chef made the rounds to check on everyone. The waitress gave me a hug when she found out it was my birthday. She was so precious.

    We paid 62 E which made this the most expensive place we ate, but for fish/wine people it could easily be much more. We did split a half bottle of organic local wine, and we had some interesting dishes. Mine was a ravioli. This is a restaurant made for a romantic evening and a creative feast. The owner is opening up another restaurant in Miami and we have little doubt that he will succeed.

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    "I stayed and drank my beer and chatted with Gianni who gave me advice about the town, gave me a map, told me about things to see, he asked how I came to speak Italian so well (as did so many people I met) and I told him. He laughed, like everyone else. "

    So, how did you?

    Continuing to enjoy your report. Sorry your journey to Peschici was so arduous.

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    Thank you jmct714. It was a pain in the butt but we ended up staying there 5 nights, so it was definitely worth it.

    Back in '94 I rented a video called, "Johnny Stecchino". It was Italy's highest grossing film back in '88 (I think). It's a comedy with Roberto Benigni and his wife, and for some reason I LOVED it. After seeing it I said to myself, "I have got to learn this language!" I think they laugh because they expect me to say that I have Italian ancestors, or lived/studied there, maybe married an Italian, but not because of a funny film.

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    Thanks so much for this very entertaining and informative report. We too are public transportation travelers and have had many wonderful trips that way. We were having a vacation in Puglia several years ago but only made it to Vieste where I injured my knee so badly we had to return home. I was SO disappointed not be able to continue on to Matera and south, and your report is inspiring me to continue on our aborted trip.

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    linawood: well bless your heart! You made my day. I sure wish I could go back to the very beginning and draw attention to the fact that this was done with public transportation because a lot of people said that it would be tough to get around and see stuff. But like my fellow public transportation passengers agree, where there's a will there's a way.

    Your input has inspired me to get busy and finish up this travelogue.

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    Sunday morning we decided to stay another night since it’s not always easy to get around with public transportation on Sundays. In addition, R. loved the view from the room and the peacefulness of our hotel, and this little town. We went for a walk and loaded up with a fruit/veggie vendor so that I could get some vitamins and minerals in me. I went to Vege Market next to the TI and bought large waters for only .40 each! So much cheaper than at the bars where we had been purchasing water, and I went to a bread place where they had this huge wheel of bread and she cut it into a quarter loaf for only .80! We hung out in the hotel’s patio area outside and ate fruits and bread and read for a while.

    We had thought that we’d check out their procession scheduled for tonight. They were honoring their city’s saint that night so we waited by the main church and gabbed, but after two hours we gave up.

    Dinner was at the large pizzeria right at the entrance to the Centro Storico. Pizza was just OK, salad was good, and the limoncello was outstanding. It was homemade and frozen. Kind of reminded me of a slushy. Service was really good too, and it was a great spot for people watching. The procession made its way past us into the centro storico, so we got to see it after all. Amazing how we happened upon three cities each at the time of year when they honored their saint.

    Sitting there I noticed the very large bar across the street La Terrazza with all of their tables and they had free wi-fi. The wi-fi at our hotel wasn’t working and the hotel computer that was free for guests was so slow with ancient software, it was pointless to sit there while pages tried to load. Watching paint dry is much faster. I spent the weekend without wi-fi and I missed it. I did have 1 GB of data, but I wasn’t sure how many downloads that gave me nor how much I had already used.

    The next day was Monday and I wanted to call the owner at the PaM travel agency which sold us the room for 165E that we didn’t take, and ask if he got the message from the B&B owner, and my email, and if he was going to reimburse us. Since the coffee at our hotel wasn’t very good, I suggested that we go to La Terrazza for a nice coffee (delish!) and some catching up on email by using their wi-fi. The owner of the PaM Travel Agency said that he will try to reverse the credit card charge but he won’t know if he is successful until Tuesday, but he agreed to reimburse me. No website for Bar La Terrazza.

    Bar La Terrazza with lots of tables right at the entrance to the centro storico

    Then we went to the Tourist Information to get needed info on getting a train to Foggia. We knew that we needed to get to Foggia in order to leave that area since our vacation was winding down. The TI lady seemed more bothered than helpful. She told us we could get train tickets from a nearby travel agency. We had three nights to kill before returning to Rome. I had wanted to go to Pescara, but people said there isn’t anything to see. I just really wanted to stick to small towns by the sea since we live in the desert and I love the smell of the sea air and don’t like sweating, and in small towns I figured I had a better chance to continue speaking only Italian. Plus it seemed like Pescara was equidistant from here to Rome. R had been reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno which all takes place in Firenze, so we talked about going there for three or four nights.

    By now my cold was pretty bad. My voice had been very hoarse for over two full days. R loved Peschici and thought that instead of traveling that we should stay not only Monday night, but Tuesday night too, so that I can try to take it easy and get well. We returned to our hotel and told the man we’d like to stay through Tuesday night. He was happy with that considering the fact that when I had first spoke to him about staying there I had asked to stay only one night. Now we were in it for four.

    After relaxing a little we wandered and found a nice little place for lunch called Ristorante da Mario. R had orecchiette with tomato and I had a side of grilled veggies and another side of arugula and tomatoes. The grilled veggies were really good, but a little too salty for my taste (we never cook with salt) They had a nice drizzling of olive oil on top so I just put my large plate of fresh arugula and fresh tomatoes on top of my grilled veggies and stirred it all together to make a really healthy meal. All of the arugula took the edge off of the salty flavor. It was quite perfect, actually.

    It was time that we saw the beach in Peschici. Since our hotel would bring people down to the sand and pick them up, we asked if we could go down and see the beach. He took us, and we told him that we would return on foot, so he showed us which set of stairs to take to get back to town. After we took a ton of photos, we walked back up, but mostly we walked along the road instead of all of the stairs. We took more photos as we walked up. Then I saw a flight of stairs I had recognized from having walked past here at lunch. We went up, and the next thing you know we’re smack dab in the centro storico in front of the most popular gelateria, Michel. We were hot and the ice cream was cold and it was a beautiful thing.

    Then we went for a walk into The Castle in the centro storico. Wow! I didn’t realize that it was dedicated to torture. Very disturbing place. Then we went to the TA and decided that we’d take a day trip on a bus to Vieste the next day while I continued to try to get rid of this cold. We got our bus tickets and also our train tickets from Calenella to Foggia. I wrote down all of the bus times that the bus leaves Peschici for Vieste. The TA girl was very sweet. It's called Agrifoglio Tour and it's on a side street across from the main church. I am referring to the church on the main road, two blocks away (and across the street) from the tourist information building. It sits on a really large brick foundation. There are trees and benches around the church, and stairs that lead up to the church walkway. Piazza Sant’Antonio, 3 TEL: 0884 962643 ‎

    For dinner we walked down a street which is directly in front of the church's main front doors for two blocks until we came to the Corso Garibaldi. Corso Garibaldi is the main drag which I believe is only open for pedestrians. We found a pizza/bruschetta place called Garibaldi on the corner of Corso Garibaldi and this street that I am trying to describe. It is NOT easy finding the name of the eatery. They have a bunch of wooden picnic tables and benches. You will see the words, “Pizzeria”, “Bruschetteria”, “Paposceria”, but the word Garibaldi is on the receipt and in tiny cursive writing on one sign only. I tried to find it online, but the only thing I found was a photo of it with the wrong name! Just walk along the corso with everyone else and you’ll find it. Around the corner from it is a foto studio. Anyhoo we had the BEST most delicious vegetarian bruschetta that filled us up for 5.50 Euro each. Freshly grilled veggies alongside a large roll of bread cut in half and grilled with olive oil and sitting on top was a ton of fresh tomatoes and arugula! It filled the plate and was gorgeous with all of those colors. As people walked by, they would stare at our plate and salivate. We got this dish more than once. Here is the photo, but the name is wrong.

    We celebrated that delicious meal by heading towards the centro storico and stopping just outside the entrance to the old town at the Bar La Terrazza once again but this time we wanted to give their limoncello(s) a try, and enjoy some people watching, and use their wi-fi. The limoncellos were good and packed a punch.

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    I really like your detailed info on traveling by public transportation and I wish there were more reports like yours. I know over the years of reading Fodor posts, many people feel that you just can't get off the beaten track without a car, but we have had years of going to out of the way places on buses, trains, boats, cable cars... You might start a new post titled something like Puglia by Public Transportation and link it to this thread with your name? Thanks so much for posting this.

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    Linawood, Hey!! That is a really great idea! When I am done (hopefully this weekend) I think I will do just that. It would help others in that region without a car. As a matter of fact, in the next segment I will be explaining how we waited over an hour for two buses that never came, so we gave up...but if I had known then what I know now, we wouldn't have been left wondering why they had never arrived..

    Thank you!

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    I am in the process of reading your trip report from top to bottom. It is so helpful! I am going to Italy in October (starting in Napoli)for a month. I will be relying on public transportation. Do you think it's reasonable to go from Matera to Lecce in a day? I don't want to miss Lecce and thought I would start there and work my way up the Adriatic coast. Grazie mille.

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    Hi jen: Thanks for checking in. we did just that. We got a cab to the train station in Matera (maybe 10-15 euro) then we got our train to Bari, you have to exit the train station and go to the main Trenitalia station in Bari right next door to get your tickets to Lecce. It was easy.

    One option is that while you are in Matera, you should be able to get your train tickets at a travel agency. You will at least be able to buy your train ticket from Bari to Lecce from a travel agent. That way when you arrive in Bari from Matera, you will have your ticket in hand and can go and find the Bari Centrale station and look for your "binario" (platform) to Lecce.

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    Tuesday was a great day because the owner had someone come in to find out what was wrong with the wi-fi. They fixed it and it ran great! Catching up online, we were running late getting out of the room so we went to the bus stop to catch the 11:05 bus to Vieste. It never came, so we waited for the 12:00 bus, which also never came. The bus stop is next to a bar, so as we waited there in the heat, I asked a patron if he understands the bus schedule and why it is that the bus would not show up. He looked at the schedule and said something about how it is probably late. I showed him that he was looking at the Vieste to Peschici schedule, then I showed him the schedule I was looking at. I directed my finger to the top of the time slot and pointed to the word “fest” and suggested that perhaps it only runs on holidays. No, he thought it was just late. Then the guy inside the bar came out and agreed with the patron. Since I was still obviously sick going through kleenex after kleenex, we gave up, walked back and ate from our stash of veggies and fruits and bread and stuck close to the room watching World Cup soccer. We did go back to Garibaldi for another veggie bruschetta before calling it a night.

    The next day still sneezing with watery eyes and a nose running like Niagra Falls, we decided that instead of taking a 45 minute bus ride to Vieste for a day trip, and instead of leaving Peschici for another town for a couple of nights, that we would stay here one more night and then spend four nights in Rome before heading home. At least I got my voice back so I knew the cold was working its way through.

    We went back to the TA and gave our round trip Vieste tickets to the owner and asked her to give them to someone who looked like they could use a gift, thinking it would brighten their day. She liked that idea. I asked her about the buses and why they didn’t show and asked if it could have been the word “fest”. Did it mean only on holidays? She confirmed my suspicion. No wonder neither bus showed. As sweet as the girl was who sold me the bus tickets, it’s a shame that as she watched me write down the times of departure that she didn’t mention anything about noting “fest” (signifying “festivo” or “holiday” in Italian) and “feriale” (“weekdays” in Italian). Così è la vita. (That’s life) Oh well, we’ll just have to return to see Vieste some other day. :-)

    I haven’t spoken much about our hotel in Peschici. We spent five nights here and enjoyed our stay very much. It was clean, simple, and inexpensive (70E). The breakfast was modest, coffee was so-so, and a stupid dog would start barking at 5 am but remain quiet from 8 am on. There wasn’t any A/C, but they did have a ceiling fan. The fan had two speeds, Off and Tornado...but we really liked staying here! The view of the sea from the balcony was so beautiful. The sunsets were stunning. It was in a quiet neighborhood but very close to the centro storico. R loved the elevator. The owner Tomasso was professional, courteous and very accommodating. The cleaning lady was so sweet. The first time I spoke with her she had such a warm smile, and as we walked back towards our room to grab some towels she put her arm around my waist and walked with me as I spoke to her. So cute!

    On the day that the buses to Vieste didn’t show, I had asked Tomasso if there was a taxi which could take us to the train station. Nope. It didn’t exist. I told him how wary I was of relying on the bus so Tomasso was kind enough to offer to take us. I told him I would gladly pay him because I really didn’t want to miss our train, since there aren’t frequent trains out of the area. On Thursday we were ready to depart and Tomasso took us on the 15 minute ride to the station. I had our tickets already having purchased them a couple of days prior at the TA. Tomasso wasn’t expecting any money for the ride, but I told him that we enjoyed our stay so much and we appreciated the ride so very much, and to please let us buy him and his wife a lunch. I think he appreciated having us stay five nights instead of the original one night too. If we return I am sure we would stay with them again.

    When we got to the station we immediately struck up a conversation with two of the train employees. One of them drove the train and the other, Gino took the tickets and whatever other duties he had. In any case, it was a lively, fun conversation that lasted at good 15 minutes before we boarded for San Severo-gateway to Foggia--from Peschici. This train ride follows the coast for quite a ways. Every stop looked like a nice outing for the beach. At the Ischitella stop Gino pointed up and said that he has a family home here that he uses every August. Then he said if we ever come back outside the month of August we can use his home because otherwise it sits empty! How about that!

    About an hour into our train ride Gino came to us and told us that we would have to get off the train and take a bus into San Severo! Oh no! “No more buses” was my thought---that I said out loud. He assured me that it wasn’t a big deal and that we wouldn’t lose any time and that the time on the bus was equal to what it would have been on the train. He said that they were working on the train tracks for two more days and so the next stop would be the end of the line and a bus would be there waiting for us. Then he gave me his email and phone number so that if we ever find our way back to the Garano we can contact him.

    By the time we got to San Severo about a dozen of us grabbed our bags and hurried to see if the train to Foggia had departed. We were a few minutes late as compared to the time we should have arrived. Thank goodness they held the train knowing that a bunch of us were expecting to take it to Foggia.

    When we got to Foggia the train to Rome was booked solid. We really wanted that train because it was scheduled to arrive Rome around 5:30 in the evening which would get us into Rome in time to see the US in the World Cup. The next train to Rome wasn’t scheduled until after 5 pm and wouldn’t get us there until after 11 pm! That would not work so our only other option was to take a bus to Napoli and then a train to Rome which would get us in 20 minutes earlier than the train we wanted to take. Ugh! We had 6 minutes to go outside and find the bus and get on board before it left. Thank goodness it wasn’t any big deal. The ticket taker charged me for our tickets from Napoli to Rome, drew me a quick map on where the bus was sitting outside and told me what to look for, “Napoli”. As we exited the train station and looked to the left it was right there. We paid the bus driver and off we went. Two hours later we were in Napoli. We waited maybe 25 minutes in Napoli and we boarded their fast train, and we were in Rome in about an hour. Wow! This fast train is new to us. We hadn't been in Italy in 11 years and were very impressed with the speed (nearly 300 KM per hour) and the train itself was so nice. You can bring your roller bags and tuck them away and out of sight between your seats on the ground, which I hadn't noticed until a passenger showed me. This journey from Gargano to Rome worked out really well for us after all. I realized that I can handle a two hour bus ride easily enough but much more than that and I feel antsy.

    The next and final post will be a word about Ostia Antica.

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    kawh: I am so glad that our adventure brought back good memories for you. (I am assuming they were good, anyway :-) ) I am also really glad that you took time out to watch the incredible Matera film. When we were shown the video, he had some sort of link where the videos were shown to us back-to-back and he clicked the button so we could view it in full screen. To us it was so gripping because we had just taken that long tour learning about the people of the sassi. Our guide Nadia as a child didn't even realize that there were people living in caves under her city! It was her brother that prodded her into going down to have a look. What a fascinating village. I am sure that as more of us go there and come back with photos and stories that Matera will be a "don't miss" destination in the south.

    Thanks for your feedback!

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    hi dai... nadia was our guide as well and i loved her stories. the films were gripping and added a lot of gorgeous images that were missing for me. we just loved the area and hope to go back one day. thanks again.

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    kawh, you are so welcome, and thank you for letting me know. We felt the same way. We felt like the film filled in our guided tour, kind of making it "complete" in a way.

    Rome and Ostia Antica

    I did some research and somehow found our hotel in Rome which looked really great on both Booking and Trip Advisor. We decided to abandon our idea of booking only one night, and went for it. The prices were much better on the hotel’s website so I tried to book it but had trouble doing that online. I called the hotel and she gave me an even better rate for four nights. We got a great room in a great location overlooking Via Corso with a really cool jacuzzi tub. They’ve been open a year and I anticipate that the next time I want to book it that I will be priced out and they will be full---it’s that good. It’s Hotel Caravita

    Now I want to speak about getting to Ostia Antica. I always wanted to go there ever since I heard about it here on Fodors many moons ago. Our gal at the Hotel told us how to get to OA by looking it up on the internet for us. She wrote down everything we needed to know, all the stops to look for. I bought our bus tickets for Termini from the newspaper stand next to the bus stop (across the street from our hotel). The bus took forever. So many other buses arrived before ours. As a matter of fact, upon our return from our trip to OA, we waited and waited at Termini for our bus but got so tired of waiting (at least a half an hour) we gave up and grabbed a cab.

    Anyway, we got to Termini and I asked where I could buy our tickets to the metro and train station for OA. We went downstairs and purchased them, and I learned that our tickets would get us both on the metro and also on the train to Ostia Antica.

    As we made our way down to the metro, I stopped and asked a cop a question and that is when I learned from him that the bus ticket which took us from our hotel to Termini was good for our whole journey all the way to Ostia Antica! At Termini, I had purchased our round trip tickets from Termini to Ostia Antica unnecessarily...although since the ticket is good for 100 minutes, we did need two tickets to get us back to Rome. In other words, I had mistakenly thought that bus tickets, metro tickets, and train tickets to Ostia Antica would all be different, but they weren't. One ticket fits all, in this case. (I just gave the other two tickets away)

    A very cool thing happened when we got to OA. We were speaking to each other and an older woman looked over at us, approached us and said that she was a history major and a tour guide. She said that she had just finished giving a tour and if we were interested, she’d take us around for an hour and a half for a rate less than her normal rate if we were interested. She spoke of her qualifications and spoke of places she could show us that we probably would not find otherwise. R decided to give it a try. Boy were we lucky to have met her! Her name was Alexandra. She showed us an old palazzo owned by a wealthy owner, she showed us homes with the mosaics still in tact and not roped off (they should be). She showed us the baths and spas and group potties and explained how they worked with men and women and their time slots.

    Time flew by and we agreed to pay her more so that we could have her show us one more area. R tried to get her number or a card but she wouldn’t agree. She and her husband live in Rome, they are retired, and she has promised her husband not to book or commit to providing tours so that they can have the freedom to travel themselves. She speaks five languages and they love to go all over the world to visit their favorite places and see new sites. It was fascinating and we both agreed that it was so much more enriching to have gone around with her.

    So that is what I wanted to say here. You can go and tour on your own, but a knowledgeable tour guide will make your visit 10 times better!

    She said that many tour guides for Ostia Antica take a course on giving a tour, but when it comes to ancient history, many of them can’t answer questions. Nor can many guides answer questions for the more recent history when Mussolini hastened renovations. They're trained to repeat the same information and don't have the history background to fill in other questions that may arise. So what I suggest is find a referral for a guide to Ostia Antica and book it!

    Thank you to those of you who made it this far! Happy travels!!

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    I just wanted chime in and add another appreciation for this entertaining and informative thread. My husband and I also use public transportation, and I also speak enough Italian to conduct transactions (not conversational like you unfortunately)--so we often have similar (mis)adventures. Oh, to have a month! That is where any overlap ends, so we have to book accommodations in advance. Can't wait to make it to Puglia!

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    Hi Holly, Thank you for your input. I hope that it does help you, and if you go for it, I really hope you'll write about your adventure because I would love to re-live our journey through this area again vicariously with you. We've been back one month and I still look at my photos almost every day!

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    Great report--question on the trip to OA. It sounds like if you plan to be gone for more than 2 hours you still have to by another ticket. Is that correct? Does it make sense to buy the one way to OA? Can you buy a return ticket at OA? Thanks.
    BTW-your hotel looks lovely. Good find!

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    Thank you yestravel. Yes, what I would do now that I understand how the tickets work is instead of buying "two bus tickets to Termini", I would have purchased four tickets at the tabacchi. The two bus tickets will get you to Termini and then once you arrive to Termini, you can make your way immediately to the Metro to find your subway car followed by your train to OA...all with the same ticket.

    What I did though was buy two bus tickets to Termini then when we arrived in Termini, I bought four tickets to OA, leaving me with six tickets that all looked alike!

    At the station in OA, it's dinky, I didn't see anyone in any ticket booth so if I hadn't already bought the return tickets, I would have had to use the automated ticket machine.

    We totally lucked out on that hotel. I was stoked when she gave me a better rate than the one I was trying to book on their website. I will definitely look to them first the next time we head to Rome.

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    You can purchase a day ticket which is good for the buses, trams, metros and some trains (includes the one to Ostia Antica) and then you won't have to worry about return tickets. An individual ticket is 1.50€ (it's good for 100 minutes). A day ticket is 6€. There's also a 3 day ticket (16.50€) or week (24€). These tickets are good until the stops in red on this metro/train map (basically city of Rome coverage). The gray train lines (Roma/Lido and Roma/Garbinetti) are good to the end.

    There are other day/week/month tickets that include the entire province of Lazio, but you probably wouldn't need that and the cost is quite a bit more (1 day is 24€).

    If you are going to be using public transport much and visiting a few sites in Rome, the 3 day Roma Pass (36€) might be more beneficial as it includes transport, first two site admissions free (Colossem/Forum/Palantine count as one entrance and you bypass the lines), discounts at the other sites after that.

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    Yes, kybourbon, very useful indeed. Great map, and thank you for explaining the significance of the red stops. BTW, It's pretty neat to be able to go all the way to the beach on one ticket. Coming back from Ostia the train was already filled with teenagers who were coming back from spending the day at the beach.

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    Hi Deborah,

    Thank you for your note. That is very sweet of you. :-) It makes me happy to know that you're not put off by the length of the detailed trip report, and that you (hopefully) may find a helpful hint here or there to aid in your Puglia planning. You're gonna love Puglia!!! Lucky you!!!

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    puglia was one of our favorite italy trips. if interested, we have a trip report from several years ago here. beautiful, varied, and different from any other part of italy. be sure to post after you go so we can all breathe it in again!

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    kawh, thanks for directing me to your TR.
    I'm guilty of creating itineraries that will take me some years to wade through :)

    We are off to north Italy in July (our first trip to Italy) as I really need to be in the mountains but eventually I will tackle the south.

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    adelaidean... we did a lot of n.e. italy 2 summers ago and loved it. if you like thermal water. bagni vecchi in bormio is beyond for views, food and fair price. we also really loved the area around udine...
    so much to see! so much to love!

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    Thank-you so much Dai for sharing your travels. They are extremely helpful and give me hope that a car is not necessary to see this region. I wonder what you thoughts are on Matera for someone who who has respiratory troubles (my 64 year young husband) and what I think is quite a steep place? We only have 9 nights in Puglia and won't be driving. I was hoping for a couple of nights in Matera but am leaning toward the following..4nights Lecce (arrive from Rome by train). 3 nights in either Martina Franca or similar, or 3 nights in Polignano al Mare then 2 nights Bari before flying to Sicily. Matera would then be a day trip, probably through a driver/guide. Any advice appreciated. Allison

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    I was in Matera for a couple nights last March. There are A LOT of steps there. While I don't have respiratory problems, I did get out of breath at times with all that climbing. I stayed down in the sassi area; if I were to return, I would stay up in the Piazza Vittorio Veneto area, which is above the sassi and is flat. You can still see much of Matera by walking the perimeter road that goes around the city, with a few short climbs here and there to visit particular churches.

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    I loved reading your report . It brought back many great memories of my very enjoyable visit to Puglia and Matera 2 years ago.
    I am happy that you also used and enjoyed my recommendations as to my lodgings and driver in Lecce.

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    alanjo91 Hi Allison! I stop by now and then to see if anyone has happened upon my trip report and has a comment. It was so neat to see that the trip report helped encourage you to go for it! Lucky YOU!! So happy for you!!

    As far as Matera is concerned, I am so glad that you intend on arriving there to experience it. It is amazing. It's not high in altitude like Denver, and doesn’t have super steep streets like San Francisco, but there are roads in the sassi area that can be considered a steep ascent. I think that while you're down in the sassi area, it could be taxing on your husband if you were to try to explore that area on foot. To ascend from the sassi to the higher (new Matera, as I call it...) you will find a lot of steps. To avoid that, you'd probably have to call a cab to drive you up there from your hotel if you were to stay there. It is very flat in the newer section, but the real charm and fascination is by experiencing the sassi section (old Matera).

    A day trip out of Bari with a guide would be ideal. You could either arrange for a guide from Bari to drive you to Matera and show you around, or you could just hop on the direct train from Bari to Matera and have a pre-arranged Materan guide meet you at the train station. In any case, I am so glad to know that you will definitely, for sure, NOT MISS seeing this amazing section of Italy. You will NOT regret it!

    Since you’re giving yourselves 4 nights in Lecce, if I were you, I would definitely consider using one of those days for one of the day trips by van that I spoke of with darling Dario (thanks to tdk320n’s suggestion!!!)! You can briefly experience some towns that may be too time consuming or logistically more difficult to get there via train due to more limited train schedules. And if you have any questions or concerns before your trip, and if you don’t speak/write Italian, and if you’d like me to ask him anything, let me know. I’d gladly write to him for you. I am sure that he will remember me and be just as helpful as he always is!

    As you know, we adored Polignano a Mare, and I would definitely choose it over MF, not that there’s anything wrong with MF, but if you like the smell of the sea, really nice people, a quaint centro storico, a flat town with plenty of restaurants to choose from, and nearby Monopoli which could be fun to tour around for a couple of hours, I think it would make a very nice three night stay.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read my very long report, and for commenting. Buon viaggio!!!

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    tdk320 Yea!! I am so glad to know that you read the report and were able to learn that I highly appreciated your recommendation for Dario in Lecce. It was really the most wonderful trip, and your recommendations really helped me a lot!!!

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    I was answering a question today for someone regarding Matera and directed them to the video link which shows some of the truly fascinating history of the sassi during the 60's. The link I had posted twice (July 9 and July 12) on this thread no longer applies. It only shows the 1st video. The following link shows all five videos to view. They are very short videos and I can't recommend them highly enough for anyone interested in this incredible town:

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