Puglia and Rome Trip Report

Old May 20th, 2008, 02:51 PM
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Puglia and Rome Trip Report

Day One – Arrival in Rome
We arrived in Rome at 8:00 a.m. We bought tickets for the FM1 train to Trastevere then took the number 8 tram to reach the general area of our hotel, Hotel Arco del Lauro. I wasn’t as careful about directions for this hotel as I had been with others for this trip. The directions I had from the hotel website instructed us to get off the tram at the last stop before the river. The trouble was that we couldn’t really see out of the front of the tram. Fortunately we were able to recognize the area approaching the river and managed to get off at the proper place. We then wandered around a bit before more or less stumbling upon our street which was tiny and therefore not on our map. There was no sign for the hotel, but it was listed on the call box directory of the building in which it was located. Another reason to come armed with a complete address.
We arrived before noon and left our bags since our room wasn’t ready. We wandered through our Trastevere neighborhood a bit and went inside Chiesa Delle Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was Sunday and a mass was in progress which included the participation of a lovely choir. We listened for a time and then continued our walk eventually returning to the area of our hotel for a very nice lunch at an outdoor table.
After lunch and completing our hotel check-in, we decided to walk to St. Peter’s Basilica by way of Janniculum Hill. Nice views of the city from Janniculum Hill. It was a very nice day and I know the walk was good for us but I was struggling to stay awake even as I walked. I literally stumbled my way along to St. Peter’s. When we arrived we saw the line of people waiting for entry; it nearly circled St. Peter’s square. We decided against joining it and planned to return early the next morning. We returned to our hotel for a nap.
After our nap we set off again into the Trastevere neighborhood. We found a bookstore and I purchased an Italian dictionary. We then stopped at an enoteca for a glass of wine and some cheese. The evening passegiatta was in full force. We kept noticing teenagers walking by carrying pillows. An astonishing number of teens with pillows. We were puzzled – and entertained since of course from time to time one of them would have to smack the other following which a chase would ensue. After our drink we returned to the Piazza in front of the church. The piazza was full of pillow feathers and foam pillow stuffing. There had, apparently, been an enormous pillow fight in the square. We returned to the church and heard more lovely singing in participation with the evening mass. We then returned for dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel.

Day Two – Rome
We were up very early and set out for St. Peter’s. This time there were no crowds. We have been to St. Peter’s before; it is not really a favorite for either of us, but we did want to see Pieta again. DH is an enthusiastic amateur photographer and had brought a tripod. No one was near Pieta and we were able to spend some time taking photos of it with the aid of the tripod. After maybe 10 minutes a guard approached us and told us not to use the tripod. No flashes I get; no photos I get; no tripod seems odd.
We returned to our neighborhood for breakfast. We had been given a breakfast voucher for a nearby restaurant. It was closed. We returned to the hotel and called Daniela, our hostess. She gave us a voucher for a different place.
We spent most of the rest of the day looking at some churches including Santa Maria Maggiore and Basilicata di San Givanni in Laterno. We returned to our neighborhood for lunch. This was thankfully the only real restaurant mistake we made during the trip. The restaurant for which we were given the original voucher was now open. We just assumed it would be a good place to eat since it was apparently utilized by our hotel generally for breakfast. We did not see a menu posted out in front and did not look carefully enough at the one we were given when we sat down. We each ordered a plate of pasta, in addition we ordered a bottle of water and a total of three glasses of beer. 60 euro! No wonder hardly anyone was eating in this place. The menu did reflect the price for pasta. It did not include the price for beer and there was a 12% service charge added one. We should have paid closer attention and made no assumptions about the price of anything not listed on the menu.
After a nap we set out for Campo di Fiori. In our past trips to Rome we have stayed in Campo di Fiori. It has become quite touristy, but still has a special place in our hearts. We had a glass of wine and watched various musicians play for tips. Some were quite good. Others were bad and appeared to make their living by approaching a table, playing loudly and poorly and not really moving away until you paid them something.
While seated at Campo di Fiori, my cell phone rang. It was the owner of the hotel where we were scheduled to stay in Trani starting the following night. Where were we, he wanted to know. Rome, I answered, puzzled. But it was evening, he noted and we were supposed to have been there at their hotel by mid-afternoon. I had a bad moment when I wondered if I had made a mistake with our reservation dates. I attempted to clarify the dates. He later sent me a text message indicating I was right and they were wrong. He would see us tomorrow. Whew.
We had dinner at Osteria del Pegno. It was excellent. And not much more than lunch!

Day Three – on to Trani

We were again up early and went for a walk along the Tiber. It was a beautiful morning. We returned for breakfast and again found the place closed. We were to meet Daniela at 8:30 a.m. to check out. She had not appeared by 9:15 a.m. so we simply left, having paid for our accommodations upon our arrival. Needless to say no breakfast voucher.
We returned to Fiumicino to collect our car. I had booked our car on the Hertz.it website. Doing this, as opposed to using the Hertz.com website saved us over $200.00. When I compared it with the price of booking the same car through AutoEurope, it saved us over $100.00. We collected our car without any problems and set off for Trani. It was raining but not particularly cold.
We had a lovely drive to Trani once we exited the main freeway near Benevento. We arrived at our hotel (Domus Angelo) and met the owners, two nice young men. We had a very nice, spacious room overlooking Piazza Repubblica. After checking in we walked down to the port area. It was very pretty, but also fairly deserted. We had an excellent dinner at Rosa dei Venti and returned to our hotel.

Day Four – Gargano Peninsula

We were up early and walked back to the port. It was a lovely morning and the morning light was perfect for photographing both the port and the cathedral. We also saw some fishing boats come in and watched some negotiating over the price of the various catches.
The hotel owners had given us breakfast vouchers so we returned to the bar/café at the building in which our hotel was located. A very nice and friendly young woman gave us breakfast each morning. She enjoyed visiting and at one point wanted to talk politics, asking us what we thought about “EE-lar-ee”. It took me a minute to figure that one out.
Our destination today was the Gargano Peninsula. We drove north out of Trani toward Barletta. North of Barletta is an inland salt sea/marsh area which is habitat to many different types of birds. We stopped at one point to walk a short distance from the car to get a closer look at some birds which had caught our attention. As we were combing the area with our binoculars, we came across a large flock of flamingos. Other than the pink plastic variety, we had never seen flamingos, so this was quite a treat. Apparently they migrate through that area.
We continued our drive along the interesting and beautiful coastline. We had lunch at Vieste and from there took an inland route through the remarkable Foresta Umbra as we drove back to Trani. The Foresta Umbra is an incredible, dense forest of enormous deciduous trees. Mostly beech, as far as we could tell, but also containing some other varieties.
We returned to Trani and walked to a restaurant in the port area where we had a fixed price dinner for 15euro each. It was absolutely excellent. We were the only ones in the restaurant.

Day Five – Finding the Airstrip

Today our main goal was to find the location of the airstrip where my father-in-law was stationed during WWII. We knew the name of the nearby town, Spinnazzola. We drove first to Gravina in Puglia. We were very surprised to find everything closed. Finally I asked a gentleman if it was a holiday. Of course. May 1st! Labor Day. We walked around a bit and saw our first example of what we came to refer to as the rather “dark” aspect of some of the art and architecture of the churches. In this case it was the placement of two skeletons on the outside of the church over the main door.
We then watched a parade which included a band, what appeared to be the local politicos, as well as numerous people carrying flags, including one “Communisti Italiani” flag.
We drove on to Spinnazzola. We had no idea where the airstrip had been other than that it was out of town and had in the years since the war, returned to farmland. Our plan was to drive through town and try to find someone who looked old enough to have been alive during WWII and ask. My husband speaks no Italian so it was my job to make inquiries. We found a couple of likely looking gentlemen who were standing on the street visiting. I approached them and asked if I could ask them a question. They were very kind and courteous. They did know of the airstrip, but not precisely where it had been. They gave us general directions to drive out of town toward the “Palazzo” continue until we saw an Esso station and ask again. I was puzzled about the “Palazzo” part, but did follow their directions for leaving town and we did see some signs for what appeared to be a park with “Palazzo” included in the name. We did not, however, find any Esso station, or any other gas station. Eventually we came to another town. By now we were discouraged and we also needed some gas. We found a different type of place that appeared to sell gas, decided to stop and buy some gas. When the station attendant approached us and appeared to be at least 70 years old I decided to ask him. He was so excited!! It was right there. He pointed to a more or less run down building which he advised us had been the command center (and it did bear a resemblance to a photo my husband’s father had shown us which was taken during the war). He told us they still occasionally found buttons and medallions in the field. We left and drove up the road to take some pictures and after a short time he got in his car and followed us. He stopped and wanted to talk some more. We had a really delightful time visiting with him and he really seemed to enjoy it that we had actually come in search of this place after so much time.
We continued on the explore the area driving to Castel del Monte and then on to Bisceglie before returning the Trani. In each place, everything was very quiet and shops and establishments (including restaurants) were closed.

About 6:00 p.m. everything changed. For the past two evenings, the lovely waterfront port area had been very quiet and largely empty. Labor Day evening everyone was out strolling along the port sidewalks, visiting, eating gelato and just enjoying a beautiful evening. We again selected a restaurant in the port area and had another excellent, reasonably priced meal.
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Old May 20th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Thank you for posting this report, it is very informative. Isn't it wonderful to interact with local people and have them actually enjoy it? Looking forward to more of your trip.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 11:18 AM
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Thank you SeaUrchin. The interactions with some of the people we met on the trip was a real high point for me; I enjoyed it enormously. It was interesting that people seemed somewhat puzzled by our presence and my ability (albeit limited) to speak Italian. They assumed we must have family in the area. I wish it were so!

Day Six – on to Polignano a Mare

This morning we left Trani after having breakfast at our usual bar/café. Our friendly waitress asked where we were going next. After I responded she asked us to send her a postcard. I agreed to do so.
Our first destination today was Bari. Before we left the States we had purchased a city map of Bari. We were very glad we did. Bari is a large city and with the help of our map we were able to find our way to the old port area fairly easily. We also were lucky in obtaining a parking place. We were a bit uneasy about leaving our car with all our luggage. While the car had a trunk, it wasn’t large enough for both suitcases so one was readily visible in the back seat. Fortunately no one touched our car.
We walked to Basilica di San Nicola. A beautiful basilica. A wedding was in progress in the front of the church. The church was full of lovely flowers. San Nicola is large and famous and there were several tourists standing quietly inside. We joined them and watched from the back of the church. An excellent organist was playing the magnificent pipe organ. At the end of the wedding he played the traditional Mendelssohn wedding march. It was quite a treat. We later learned that San Nicola, to whom the basilica was dedicated is our Saint Nicholas, or Father Christmas.
After the wedding ended, we walked down to the tomb area of the church. A small mass was being held there.
We visited the cathedral and then walked to the castle area, found some lunch and then continued on down the coast.
Polignano a Mare is a charming town with a small old central area. We had reservations at Covo dei Saraceni. This hotel is stunningly set on a bluff overlooking the Adriatic. After reading Skedoo’s review of his stay in this place, we were anticipating the world’s smallest shower coupled with a room with spectacular views. Our shower was actually quite large, in fact the bathroom was the best part of our room. We did have a balcony but directly across from the balcony was a building in various stages of construction. If we looked to the right and up the street we could see the sea. Nevertheless, after walking through the old town a bit, we sought a salumeria and bought fruit, cheese, bread and wine and had wine and cheese on our balcony. It was very pleasant, the unfinished construction notwithstanding. One last comment about this hotel: there is a large roof-top terrace on the fourth floor which is available for all guests and does have a commanding view of the sea. We didn’t choose to utilize it because it was windy and we were too lazy to carry chairs up there.

Day Seven – Valle d’Itria

We packed our car for a day of sight-seeing and decided that today we would have a picnic lunch. Our first destination was Rutigliano. We enjoyed walking through the town and there was a public market operating in the main piazza. We bought fruit and olives (the vendor made a point of including a couple of his apples at no charge). From there we went to Conversano, a very pretty place. As is our habit, we went inside pretty much every church we came across. We then found a salumeria and bought wine, water, chocolate and bread. We then realized we forgot to bring our corkscrew. Despite a determined search, we were unable to find a corkscrew. These are not sold in supermarkets, nor could we find one in a house goods establishment. We found one wine shop but they didn’t stock them either. We pulled out our map and determined we were really not terribly far from Polignano so we went back and got our corkscrew. We drove out of town again this time toward Castellaneta. The Valle d’Itria countryside was remarkably beautiful. Red poppies were blooming in abundance along with a variety of other wildflowers. We picked a pretty spot where we were able to pull of the road, laid our picnic out on a wide rock wall and ate while we watched a farmer raking recently mowed hay.
We continued on to Castellaneta. I was interested in seeing the grottoes there. When we arrived we realized I was probably inappropriately dressed since I had on sandals and had not brought a jacket or sweater. So we decided we would return the next day.
On to Alberobello and the trulli houses. Very interesting and charming area. From there we drove to Monopoli, another beautiful place with two interesting churches.
We returned to our hotel and following a nap and a walk, had a very fine dinner at a restaurant called Cena al Neuro. We were seated in an area toward the back of the restaurant. A short time later our waiter asked if he could move us to a different table. They had just learned they were expecting a large family from Naples and needed to make a table for 12. We were happy to oblige. The 12 Napolitani arrived, ranging in age – it appeared – between 2 and 70. They were a raucous, happy, entertaining bunch. We enjoyed sharing the back end of the restaurant with them.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 12:35 PM
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Marta thank you so much for posting this report. Puglia is an area we need to hear more about!
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Old May 21st, 2008, 02:26 PM
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You're welcome Ekscrunchy. I will try to add more tomorrow. I must say both my husband and I were amazed that such an interesting, beautiful and charming area is -- with some exceptions such as Alberobello -- largely devoid of tourists.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 10:24 PM
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Marta!! You're back!! I was awaiting in anticipation of your return and reading about your trip. So far sounds like it was really great, I am so happy for you.

Sounds like Domus Angela was a nice place to stay? Rosa dei Venti - glad you liked it. We actually went there twice because we liked it so much !!

Looking forward to continued reading!!
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 04:35 PM
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Hi Flame, We are indeed back and had an utterly fantastic trip. I have never done a trip report before but decided to do this one since you were so helpful to me and indicated before we left that you wanted to read our report. Regarding Domus Angelo, we did love it. Very nice room and location.

Day Eight – Valle d’Itria

Today we returned to Le Grotte at Castellaneta, this time prepared with better shoes and sweaters. There are two separate tours to choose from, one lasting about an hour and one lasting about two hours. We opted for the hour long tour. The English version was only offered in the afternoon so we took the Italian tour. It was absolutely amazing. I very much recommend it to anyone traveling in this area. I believe the longer one is even more impressive.
We drove on toward Locorotondo, another interesting and pretty place. It was Sunday and we arrived at one of the churches just as what appeared to be a First Communion was ending. Many children and families all dressed up and chatting happily with one another. Because it was Sunday not a great deal was open but we did walk around the old city. As we drove out of town we stopped for some photographs; the old city really does deserve its name – it really is round as is apparent when viewed from a distance.
We had again brought a picnic with us and as we drove toward Cisternina we began to look for a place to stop. We found a nice spot in some shade and then realized we forgot our plastic cups. We had strawberries, cheese (asiago), bread, olives, chocolate and wine, but no cups. Luckily we had a knife and two more or less empty plastic water bottles. DH used the knife to prune the plastic water bottles so they more or less resembled tumblers. For posterity, we took pictures. Our picnic was delicious.
On to Cisternina and Martina Franca, both attractive places, but mostly quiet and closed since it was Sunday afternoon.
Our next stop was Ostuni. We drove into the old part of the city and things here were really lively. There was a parade. Actually there were several parades. The first involved flag throwers accompanied by musicians dressed in medieval costumes playing long, single-stop horns. They were quite good. These was followed by a Cisternina middle school band whose performance far exceeded any of the high school bands we have in our area. It was a special day for fund-raising for a local charity so there was lots of entertainment. We liked Ostuni a lot.
Back to Polignano a Mare only to discover that the central part of town was now completely closed to traffic. We managed to make our way back to our hotel and then set out to find a restaurant for dinner. There were people everywhere, walking, visiting, eating gelato or panini. It was a beautiful evening.
We had dinner at a place called La Nonna. The waitress told us that every Sunday evening the streets are closed to traffic and what we saw is typical. Dinner was very good.

Day Nine – on to Lecce

We had breakfast at the hotel before we left for Lecce. I should comment on the hotel breakfast. It is quite good and included in the price of the room. In addition, it is served in a room with a stunning view of the sea. I know that the restaurant here is also reputed to be excellent, but it was more than we wanted to pay so we didn’t try it.
We took a somewhat indirect route to Lecce because I wanted to go to Grottaglie for some ceramic dishes. In particular I wanted some Gaetano Fasano ceramics. We managed to find our way to that particular shop. I had originally planned to simply buy some pasta bowls – something I thought we could probably manage to pack with us on the plane without too much trouble. But when we were in the shop some plates also caught my eye. . . About an hour later we left packing 8 large dinner plates and 8 large pasta bowls. The clerk had wrapped them in two separate packages, the dimensions of each would certainly meet any “carry-on baggage” dimensions. But the plates were heavy. We loaded them into our car as I assured my worried husband that we would have no problem getting them home.
On to Lecce. As with Bari, we had purchased a map of this city before leaving home. We had reservations at the Centro Storico B & B. The owner had arranged to meet us at Piazza Sant’ Horonzo, just inside the old part of the city. In retrospect, even with the map it is somewhat amazing we were able to locate this spot relatively easily. He met us and then drove our car to his B & B. I have an absolutely abominable sense of direction and could not, under any circumstances have retraced our route. DH, thankfully, has a very good sense of direction, and had a good sense of where we had gone. We were staying in the old part of the city where there is very limited parking – we were given a pass by our host.
After we checked in (and learning we were sharing a bathroom with another couple) we set out to explore the old city. We both really loved Lecce. It is a beautiful city with charming streets, numerous churches and interesting piazzas. We continued to see the rather “dark” theme in the churches. Many paintings featuring brutal scenes, as well as regular appearances of skulls and skeletons. We also learned it has been known for a long time for its papier mache creations, some of which are quite old and appear in some of the churches.
We had an excellent dinner at Alle Due Corti before returning to our hotel.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 08:51 PM
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:47 PM
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Wonderful report Marta. More please.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:14 AM
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bookmarking-- don't want to miss reading this later!

thanks for posting your trip report!
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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Thank you for the encouragement. Here's a bit more:

Day 10 – Lecce

We decided we would spend today in Lecce. It rained during the night and we awoke to cloudy skies. When we were planning what to pack, we planned to do a bit of hand-laundry in Lecce. This plan had to be revisited when we discovered we were sharing a bathroom with another couple. We couldn’t leave our wet laundry hanging in a communal bathroom and there was absolutely no way to hang anything to dry in our room. So our itinerary for today included finding a lavanderia. I had also written some postcards (including one to our barista in Trani) so we would also be looking for a post office.

Our guidebook suggested a couple of walking itineraries and we chose one and followed it more or less. We saw numerous churches, the main piazzas, castle remains as well the Roman amphitheater. We then walked into a tourist information center to inquire as to the locations of a post office and lavanderia. Not surprisingly, there were none in the old city. We were given directions to a post office, but the only information our tourist aide had regarding laundromats was that there were none in the old city.

Our walk to the post office was only a couple of blocks outside the old city. The post office was very crowded, no doubt in part because Italians do many things in post office including paying their utility bills. There was a “take a number” system and care was needed to make sure you took a number for the proper service (Paying utilities? Sending a telegram? Mailing items?) We waited and as in the States it appears that anyone needing assistance with mailing anything never has a transaction lasting less than 10 minutes. Except me. Four postcards, three for the US and one for Italy. 3 minutes.
We continued on in hopes of finding a laundromat. We needed to make a purchase in a Farmacia so I inquired and we were given directions to one which was thankfully close. We located it and determined to return later than afternoon with what we needed to have laundered.
As we began our return walk to our neighborhood, it began to rain hard. We were trying to stand under part of the doorway to a restaurant (without impeding traffic in and out) and the kind proprietress came out and gestured for my husband to open her awning which then gave us plenty of space to stand while we hoped for a passing shower. It was not to be. It continued to rain so hard that within a very short time several inches of standing water had accumulated in the streets. I was completely unprepared for rain. After we accepted that this was not a brief shower, we began to run and hoped to find an umbrella vendor. We did in fairly short order. We made our way back to the old part of the city, taking refuge in a cozy trattoria while we had lunch, listened to incredible thunder and watched the rain.
We decided the down pour provided a perfect excuse for an afternoon nap. After the nap it was still cloudy, but no longer rainy. We walked back to the laundromat with our wash and made arrangements to collect it two days later. We than wandered again in the old city.
We happened into a papier mache shop where the proprietress was working on a papier mache creation. She did not speak any English, but upon determining I could speak some Italian, launched into a lengthy and very information dissertation on papier mache. She was friendly and did speak relatively slowly. She was listening to a tenor when we walked in. My husband loves Italian opera. “Ask her who the tenor is.” He said to me. So I did. He was Lecce’s own famous tenor. She and my husband then had quite a conversation (with me acting as translator, as best I could) about the tenor and Italian opera. Ultimately she went into the back and brought out several of her music CDs to show him. We so enjoyed our time visiting with her. We bought a piece of art from her, although we both noted that selling her merchandise did not seem to be of particular importance to her.
We had had a late lunch and were not terribly hungry so we picked a spot for a quick pizza for dinner.

Day 11 – Salentine Peninsula

Today our plan was to drive to the coast, follow the coast road south to the end and then up to Gallipolli and back to Lecce. We took picnic supplies with us. Our skies were clear and it was pleasantly warm.
Somewhat to our surprise, we managed to drive out of Lecce without getting lost. We drove east to the coast and arrived at San Cataldo, a resort area with little apparent activity at this time of year. The Adriatic continues to be very beautiful.
Our next stop was Otranto. We walked through an open-air market into the old part of the city. We were interested in seeing the castle. Entry into the castle required paying to see an art show which was on display in a portion of the castle. We walked through the castle, marveling at the size of some of canon balls on display there. Some were so huge they must have been launched by a catapult.
We then walked to the cathedral and were disappointed to find it closed. We finished our walking tour of parts of the old city and enjoyed some nice views of the lovely port area and then continued on our way down the coast.
We found a beautiful spot on a bluff overlooking the Adriatic and decided to stop and have our lunch. In addition to a lovely view of the sea, we could actually see Albania from our picnic spot.
We drove on down to Santa Maria di Leuca (more of less the southern point of Italy’s heel). This was another seaside resort area and it was very quiet. We had gelato and took some photographs and continued on our way. We stopped at Gallipolli and walked through part of the old city. It was, as has been reported on this website, a hardscrabble looking place. The portion of the port area in which the smaller boats are docked is very picturesque, however. We got some lovely photographs of this area.
We drove further up the coast turning inland toward Lecce when we reached Porto Cesareo. It was dusk when we got back to Lecce. Bad timing. We had a very difficult time trying to figure out how to get back to our neighborhood parking spot in the old city. At one point, we actually drove through the Piazza Sant’ Horonzo (a pedestrian only area). Then we discovered we couldn’t get out and had to turn around and drive back through it. This was definitely the low point of our driving experience as well as the testiest time between spouses. Finally, we found our way. (A map did virtually no good with this challenge since it did not include many small streets, if it did include them, it didn’t name them and in no event did it indicate which streets were one-way.)
After parking our car, we returned to our B & B to find the door to our room unlocked. This was the second day in a row this had occurred. We were troubled, but nothing appeared to be missing. We were still somewhat shaken from our driving experience so we hustled out in search of wine. I had hoped to make our way to the restaurant Flame so highly recommended, but it was too late for such a long journey so we ate locally and went to bed.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 03:23 PM
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Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I'm enjoying every word. How was the driving? Do they drive nuts in the heel?
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Old May 27th, 2008, 03:40 PM
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:12 PM
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I continue to enjoy "re-living" my Puglia experience through your trip report. The best times of our trips are always these wonderful chance encounters with lovely local people (like in your papier mache store), these are the things I most cherish and remember of our trips!!

I must ask, how did you manage with a shared bathroom? And why were you not told beforehand of this?

Did you ever get to our favorite eatery there?
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Old May 28th, 2008, 03:53 PM
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Pilates --

Driving was insane, just like in northern Italy. My husband did all the driving. Luckily he seemed to have necessary combination of Italian aggressiveness and lightening reflexes. He didn’t drive as fast as the locals on the open roads, but his approach in the cities and towns fit right in. Here are the rules of the road as he saw them:

1. It’s every man for himself;

2. He who hesitates is lost;

3. It’s OK to drive down the wrong side of the street if you are looking for a place to park;

4. Last, but not least: if approaching a traffic light and as you approach it turns red, do not stop. We learned this particular rule as follows: We were approaching a light and it turned red. We had a reasonable amount of distance before the light so we stopped. Not abruptly. The car behind us screeched to a stop narrowly missing rear-ending us. The car following him also made a terrible racket from slamming on the brakes and had to veer into the other lane (on-coming) to avoid rear-ending the car directly behind us. A few days later we were again approaching an intersection with a traffic light. DH was distracted for a few moments (bad move in Italy) and drove through the light on red. I gasped loudly and then we both were astonished to see the next 3 cars following us sail through the intersection. Hence, rule number 4.

Flame: My dearest memories of the trip are of just the sorts of encounters we had in the papier mache shop. As to the shared bath: I’m not sure why we weren’t told. We managed in part because of dimensions. The dimensions of the shower were extraordinarily small. My husband is not stout, but he is fairly tall. He was unable to reach his feet while in the shower. He couldn’t bend his knees nor bend at the waist. Too little room. He had to resort to washing his feet in the bidet. Our bathroom-mates were both stout. Husband noted there was no possible way either of them could fit in the shower. While we certainly did not linger in the bathroom, we noticed that they spent very little time in the bathroom. Fast spit-baths had to have been the order of the day.

Sorry to say we did not make it to your recommended restaurant. We did really love Lecce and that will be another reason to return some day.

More trip details tomorrow!
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Old May 29th, 2008, 08:56 AM
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MartaD: OMG!!!!!

Looking forward to the next installment......
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Old May 29th, 2008, 03:23 PM
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Day 12 – on to Matera

Today we were up early and walked to the laundromat to retrieve our cleaning before leaving Lecce.

Our B & B was laid out in such a way that the rooms and breakfast area where in one section of an old and interesting building. We had one key to the main door of the building, one for the area of the building in which the B&B was located, and a third key to our room. Our room opened directly onto the common room in which breakfast was served. Breakfast was provided each day by a young woman. As noted in my last post, each day when we returned to our room after being out for a time, we would find the door to our room unlocked. I asked our young hostess if she also cleaned our room. She said that she did. I then told her that she had forgotten to lock the door. She was very defensive and protested at length that she had not forgotten to lock the door. She then showed us that her key to our room was actually kept on a hook (readily available to anyone inside the B&B, I guess, who knew where to look). She told me that if the room was unlocked it must have been Mauro, the owner. I let the matter drop and after breakfast we returned to our room to finish our packing. Mauro was to meet us at 9:00 a.m. so we could pay our bill and checkout. He arrived while we were finishing our packing and apparently was apprised of our conversation by his employee. He was immediately very defensive. No one had been in our room. If the door was unlocked we must have forgotten to lock it. And nothing was missing was there? I was surprised and somewhat taken aback. No, nothing was missing. But we had not left the door unlocked. Each day we would leave, during our absence our room was tidied (bed made, etc.) and when we returned, the door would be unlocked. We paid our bill and the woman who provided breakfast and cleaned then insisted on helping us carry our luggage out to our car. When we got to our car she told me that Mauro had been in our room spraying for mosquitos (there had certainly been some following all that rain) and it had been he who had left our door unlocked. I didn’t then, I don’t know think that anything untoward was going on. I think someone made a mistake, (most likely it was Mauro) but boy were they determined not to admit it.

We were able to find our way out of Lecce without too much trouble. We drove north, making a stop along the way to buy food for another picnic. As we approached Matera we found a nice spot on a hill so that we had a view of Matera as we enjoyed our lunch.

We continued on into Matera and found our hotel, Hotel Sant’ Angelo, without too much effort. Hotel Sant’ Angelo is in the “sassi” area of Matera. Matera is an ancient city believed to have existed since prehistoric times. The early inhabitants lived in the natural limestone caves. What makes the area unique (atleast by European standards) is that people continued to live in these caves until the 1950's at which time they were apparently “discovered” by Carlos Levi (author of “Christ Stopped at Eboli”). After the discovery, they were involuntarily relocated by the Italian government who was apparently embarrassed at the existence of people living as “Troglodites” in the middle of 20th century Italy.

Our hotel was very nice and quite interesting, existing, at least in part, in some of the original caves. We were given a mini-lecture about the area by one of the hotel personnel, which included the above-descriptor, “troglodites”.

After his dissertation we began our walk through the old city area. Just as we began, we were more or less accosted by a tour-guide offering us her services. We politely declined. She would not take no for an answer and continued to pursue us insisting that she was extraordinarily well-qualified to show us the city, that she spoke excellent English, etc., etc. We were compelled to be quite forceful in declining to utilize her services.

From an architectural and anthropological viewpoint, Matera was interesting. However, the old part of the city was virtually empty of inhabitants and we both found it rather sad and a little depressing. Efforts are being made to preserve and restore this important place, but we noticed as we walked, that many areas, including cave areas, were not only neglected, but filled with trash.

We walked up into the newer areas for a bit and then returned to our hotel for a glass of wine before dinner. We sat out on the hotel terrace and enjoyed a lovely view of the bluffs around the city, as well as parts of the old city itself. We had a very nice dinner at a restaurant quite close to our hotel which was also established inside the caves.
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Old Jun 5th, 2008, 11:17 AM
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I keep checking in, looking for an update. Please don't give up on the report Marta. I find the information very useful, and surely you will also be helping others in planning for their trip to Puglia.
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Old Jun 5th, 2008, 11:35 AM
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Yes, please, Marta: you are helping me re-live many pleasant days spent in Vieste, Bari, Trani, Cisternino et al.
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Old Jun 6th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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I promise to finish this next week. Thank you for the encouragement.
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