Puglia, Gargano, Matera: Oh, My!!!

Old Jun 1st, 2024, 03:17 AM
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Puglia, Gargano, Matera: Oh, My!!!

Puglia, Gargano, Matera: Oh, My!!! Part 1

Here's a report on our recent trip to Puglia (with a few nights in Matera), at the very end of April, through mid May. We were away for 19 nights total, including overnight flight and last night in a B&B near Milan MXP prior to flight home, so 17 nights in Puglia/Basilicata.

Flights: Delta round-trip JFK-MXP, with connections on Ryanair to Brindisi at the start of the trip, and from Bari at the end. We usually try to fly from Boston, which is our “home” international airport, and about 1.5-2 hrs. away, but schedule/price/class combination was far better for the JFK-MXP itinerary this trip, with better options for local carriers to the Puglia airports. We found a driver whose price (with tip) for the round-trip from our house to JFK was less than the cheapest parking option at JFK, which was a delightful surprise.

All of the flights were on-time (a first for us with Ryanair!) and pretty comfortable. The only hassle was that on our flight to Milan, my husband’s boarding pass didn’t show TSA pre-check status, despite having Global Entry, and although the agents could see all of his (correct) information in the system, could not change the pass.

Local Transportation: we rented a car for the entire trip, through Avis via AutoEurope. We always use AutoEurope to find a car, and choose whichever is the best price for a small, standard car with complete coverage (i.e. no deductible). The process was easy and smooth at Brindisi, and we had a Fiat 500 Hybrid, manual transmission, which my husband loved driving.

Itinerary: putting the itinerary together and making all of the arrangements is both fun and maddening, like working on a jigsaw puzzle with tiny pieces and having no idea of what the finished picture will look like at first. We knew wanted to see the Salento, Val d’Itria and work in the Gargano Peninsula, if possible, plus a few days in Matera. Because we were starting from Brindisi and ending in Bari, visiting the Salento first was the way to go, and we knew we needed to end our trip with close proximity to the Bari airport. We also decided not to spend time in Bari itself, for better or worse. (note that going into it, we had no preference on order or direction of our circuit, that was totally dependent on the best schedule and price of the connections from MXP.)

We don’t mind moving accommodations every few days, as needed, to create the kind of trip we want. We prefer being close to sites and activities that are most appealing to us, rather than staying in only one or two locations and taking day trips. We travel very light, and are pretty tidy when we’re away, so packing up is quick and easy. This allows us to try different types of places to stay, and also means we’re closer to “home” for afternoon siestas.

Salento: total of 6 nights, including Lecce. We ended up with a 4/2 night split between Otranto and Lecce, and that was perfect. Originally, we had considered a 3/3 split, but 2 nights in Lecce was more than enough for us.

Otranto: We chose Otranto because there are some good options for hiking, the historic center is charming and most of all, because we loved the look of Masseria Longa. Our instincts were spot on, this is a gorgeous property and the folks there could not have been nicer. We stayed 4 nights in a suite with a rooftop terrace, nice small sitting area and a Turkish steam room (there was also a huge spa tub, which we didn’t use at all). This was a soft landing for us after travel, and a wonderful way to start our trip.

Activities: hiking along the coastal path, and to the Bauxite cave and lake; hiking in Castro, through the fields and woods to the marina, then a visit to Zinzulusa Cave; strolling around the historic center in the evenings; seeing the incredible mosaics in the Cathedral; relaxing and adjusting to the time zone; morning visit to Galatina, to try the ‘original’ pasticciotto and see the frescoes in the cathedral

Meals: breakfasts at the Masseria were wonderful – the fruit!!! We had fresh local eggs, pasticciotto, croissants, yogurt, toast, coffee in some combination or another each day. For lunch on a couple of the days we had sandwiches made at one of the local supermarkets and ate on our terrace. Dinners: we had two dinners, 1st and last nights, at Arborvitae, in the old town near the Cathedral, and it was really delicious. One night we ate at an agristurismo restaurant near the Masseria, Il Diavolicchio Goloso, and it was delightful and quite stylish. We also at Classe80, near the port, and it was very good but we preferred the other two restaurants.

Lecce: leaving Otranto and Masseria Longa was hard, and entering Lecce was like culture shock after the quiet of the countryside. Took a little while to find our parking lot and walk to our B&B, but once we entered the gate of the old city, we were entranced (and still overwhelmed). We stayed 2 nights at Palazzo Charlie, a small B&B in a renovated palazzo near Porta Rudiae. We were tired, hot, hungry and got there just in time to drop our luggage during the noon window (check in wasn’t until 4:00). They were a bit frazzled, as apparently all 4 parties were checking out of their rooms and 4 new parties would be checking in. So, we dropped our bags and headed to Crianza, a wine and craft beer bar, for lunch before our 2:00 tour at the Museo Ebraico. Turned out to be an excellent choice for us: delicious sandwiches and a good selection of wines by the glass. We were among the first people to come in (on Google, opening hours were listed as noon, but we got there a little after 12:30 and they were just starting to open up. This frequently throughout our trip: listed business hours were merely a suggestion) but it soon filled up.

After the tour, we walked around a little bit, then headed back to P. Charlie for our proper check in and a rest before dinner. We had a great suite, with a quiet and comfortable bedroom at the back of the building, a spacious, clean bathroom and a large sitting room at the front of the building, with a Juliet balcony overlooking via Giuseppe Libertini. Dinner was at 63Osteria Contemporanea, on Viale del’Universita. Small-ish place with eclectic décor and excellent home style cooking. Reasonably priced, including the wine list. Our pastas were very good, not great, and we shared the braciole, which was delicious, as a second course. Dessert was a sublime lemon torta caprese. Chef Anna Cortado came to each table, and she was just lovely and very warm.

Next morning, I took a morning stroll to take some photos and get “lost” in the area around the B&B, then returned to a great breakfast at the B&B -- served at the table, not buffet – with small portions of muesli or focaccia, eggs cooked to order, a selection of cheeses with different breads and jams, great coffee and a cookie or two if so desired. The owners, a Swiss couple for whom this is a semi-retirement plan, were friendly without being intrusive. We had arranged a walking tour with Sara Bianchi, who was recommended on a couple of travel forums, and she is fantastic. We had corresponded on Instagram and WhatsApp to arrange the date, meeting place, etc. and I had a sense of what she was like, so when we met it was like seeing an old friend. The 2+ hours flew by as she guided us through the historic center and showed us the main sites, sharing information on history, culture and architecture….and, not a single church entry :~).

We had dinner at Il Vico del Gusto that evening, after a stroll around town and through the public garden. Excellent meal, one of the best on our trip! It’s a small restaurant, and was almost full on a Sunday night, about half locals, half tourists. The owner of our B&B recommended it, and she was spot on. We shared our pastas, ciceri e tria, and calamarata with yellow tomatoes and monkfish and then shared the grilled turbot as our second dish. We lingered over coffee and grappa, but were too full for dessert.

Next morning I took another early morning stroll, then we had breakfast and packed up. Before leaving Lecce, we met up with new Fodor’s forum friends and enjoyed a delightful hour or so sharing trip talk, getting to know one another, and I finally tried the famous Caffe Leccese, or caffe in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla……so delicious! (when I returned back to the States, I ordered some decaf espresso and Italian almond milk/syrup to recreate the drink at home).

Val d’Itria:

Martina Franca: the drive to Martina Franca from Lecce was about 1.5 hours, and we arrived to our AirBnB trulli about 10 minutes outside of town early afternoon. Lovely place, restored by a couple from the Yorkshire area, and right next to their own trulli home. The outside areas were lovely, with herb gardens, loungers, a pool, outdoor cooking area, and some shaded spots. The inside was compact but very well designed, with two nice bedrooms and two bathrooms. Thoughtful touches, like a Bluetooth speaker, household essentials, robes. The owners are super nice, and had some local suggestions for groceries, restaurants, places for drinks, etc.

That first evening we were tired, and starting to get a bit tired of eating out, so we went to the supermarket and picked up some supplies and food for a simple dinner: chicken cutlets, pasta w/sauce, and salad. This is a go-to, comfort meal for us and Italian markets have such fresh and excellent choices! The pasta and sauce aisle alone was enough to make me weep….and the strawberries were gorgeous. We also had a spritz in the piazza and got some great people-watching time in.

We had booked two activities for our stay in Martina Franca, a small group eBike tour of the local Val d’Itria towns, with a tasting of local products, and a private cheesemaking experience. Both of these were excellent, and highlights of our trip. The eBikes were so much fun, and made climbing the hills into Cisternino and Locorotondo manageable. Damiano, the owner of eBike Puglia and leader of the trip, kept us off of main roads as much as possible, so we were riding on some bike paths and smaller roads on slight rolling hills, through fields dotted with olive groves and trulli homes. We didn’t spend much time in either historic center of Cisternino or Locorotondo, but we did walk our bikes through the narrow, charming lanes and spent a bit of time on break at the overlook in Cisternino. The tasting was at a local masseria and included cheeses, bread, focaccia, pizza, roasted potatoes, capocollo, polpette, wine, olive oil and chocolate gelato. There were 8 of us, a very congenial group.

The private cheesemaking experience was booked through Terra Che Vive, with Marco. I like to make simple, fresh cheese at home, and we’ve done a tour of a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory near Bologna, and this cheesemaking experience was a blast. The farm and dairy, Masseria Le Pianelle, was about 20 minutes from our place, and is a beautiful property. We had a tour of the farm and an introduction to the dairy operation, before going in to the cheese shop area and the dairy floor. The cheesemaker, Umberto, explained the process and showed us how to make the curd for mozzarella, stretch it and shape it, while Marco translated. It was very relaxed and fun – we arrived at around 11:00, so they had already finished the day’s operation and we didn’t feel in the way at all, and we had his undivided attention. We shaped fior di latte, nodini, stracciatella and also made some burrata. Afterwards, we enjoyed the cheeses we made, plus some fresh ricotta, caciocavallo, bread, olive oil, wine and masseria-made capocollo. Couldn’t finish it all, so we packed up the leftovers to take “home”. Highly recommend either this experience, or anything else that Terra Che Vive offers in the area – I know they offer other options at this farm, as well as some pasta and pizza making classes.

Meals out: we had a fantastic meal at Braceria Granaldi, in the room upstairs, above the butcher shop. The menu has extensive meat choices, and we settled on traditional bombette, a cut that is very similar to hanger steak, and lamb, accompanied by salad and the local roasted potatoes. Our server recommended a few local red wines, and we chose Il Falcone, a Castel del Monte DOC wine and we really enjoyed it. The meats were all fantastic, and perfectly cooked but the local yellow potatoes, baked in the wood fire and dressed with olive oil, were almost the star of the show. Another evening, we drove to a local suburban pizzeria, Zio Giacomo, and shared a couple of Neapolitan-style pies that were quite good.

We arranged for a late checkout on our final day in the area, and drove to Alberobello in the morning to have coffee and pastry and take a short stroll through the trulli district, before visiting one of the museums. At 9:30 it was already getting a bit crowded in the small lanes, and the buses were arriving……………about 20 minutes was plenty for us, and then we waited a bit for the Museum of the Territory to open. Very interesting small museum, with a lot of information on trulli construction and the history of the town. Overall, we were very happy that we had not chosen to stay in Alberobello, nor to devote more time to the visit.

After returning tour own trulli, we packed everything up enjoyed a delicious lunch of our leftover cheeses and capocollo, with salad, strawberries and bread, then said our good byes and headed to the car for our drive to Matera…………..to be continued…………………….

Last edited by Moderator1; Jun 4th, 2024 at 09:12 PM. Reason: merged trip report segments
adlmllr is offline  
Old Jun 1st, 2024, 04:20 AM
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Following; we will be in the area in October. Sounds like a great trip!
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Old Jun 1st, 2024, 06:01 PM
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Thanks for the details. Can't wait to get there in October!
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Old Jun 1st, 2024, 10:56 PM
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Thank you for posting, and glad you had a good trip. We were in Puglia/Basilicata/Cilento for the first time last October, and also enjoyed this region.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2024, 03:42 AM
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nice report
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Old Jun 2nd, 2024, 06:45 AM
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Thanks so much for the details, descriptions, and opinions. It's always great to know when one of those booked excursions works out.... or doesn't. Especially since you are already a cheesemaker! Looking forward to more.

Truly (pun intended), a wonderful area to visit..
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Old Jun 3rd, 2024, 08:28 PM
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Will be there in November so hurry with the rest of the report--please!
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Old Jun 4th, 2024, 01:37 PM
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Puglia, Gargano, Matera: Oh, My!!! (Part 2)

Matera (Basilicata):

The drive to Matera from Martina Franca was about 1.5 hours, and pretty easy. We arrived in town at around 2:45, were lucky to find parking not too far from the Sassi Barisana and our Air BnB apartment, and followed our host’s excellent detailed instructions on finding the apartment and getting in.

Just a note on parking in general, throughout our trip: we downloaded the EasyPay app before leaving home, and it was indeed easy to use, most of the time. Because we were in Puglia before high season, it was sometimes confusing to understand the parking rules in each town – in some places, parking was free most of the time, and in some areas, there were still fees required during the busiest times of day. So be sure to check the signs (I am pretty sure we’ll be getting a ticket for staying longer than 30 minutes in our first parking spot in Otranto….). In Matera, we paid 25 euros for about 70 hours of parking in a great location, so that was a win for us! In Lecce we opted for a spot in a parking lot, that was 30 euros for 2.5 days. In Trani we had a tough time because they don’t use EasyPay, they have two other parking app options but I couldn’t download and register them on the spot, because we didn’t have an active phone number for texts that weren’t Wi-Fi based. In Trani, we had to park and then search for a kiosk where we could manually enter our plate and pay for parking. Not insurmountable, but not exactly convenient. Overall, though, the benefits of having a car far outweighed these small hassles.

The apartment we rented was just fantastic: spacious, elegant, three terraces with views!!, and a great location. Our first afternoon we just wandered around a bit, to get our bearings and scope out nearby cafes and markets. Dinner was at La Lopa, which was wonderful. Mostly tourists while we were eating, on the early side at 7:45. After a great night’s sleep, we got up early to have coffee and pastry at a Sicilian shop not far from the outdoor market, then prepared to meet our guide, Amy Weideman, for a morning walking tour. Fantastic guide, an American ex-pat who has live in Matera for 25 years and knows how to weave together historical, geological, cultural, and social details into a great storytelling approach. We thoroughly enjoyed our time walking through Matera with her, and sharing thoughts and observations on a whole host of topics. We visited one of the local cave house museums, and one of the rock churches together. After we said our goodbyes, my husband returned to the apartment and I ventured forth to pick up some focaccia for lunch and some supplies for dinner and cold drinks.

After lunch I went out again, to visit MUSMA, the contemporary sculpture museum. Got a bit lost trying to find it, but that’s the fun of walking around Matera. The museum was very interesting, and I admit to preferring the upper, more well-lit galleries than the cave rooms because, you know, BATS. Yes, I am afraid of them and did a quick turnaround at first sighting.

Drinks on the terrace, while playing cribbage and people-watching, then a very simple dinner of pasta with sauce, salad and bread.

Next morning we made coffee in and enjoyed it with some local pastries and strawberries. We had hoped to make an early start for our hike, but decided to give ourselves a bit more leisure and wait until some of the morning fog lifted. We made our way over to the trailhead for the Tibetan bridge and Belvedere overlook (on the other side of the ravine) hike. The trail is fairly well marked, and we had the All Trails app as well, which helped. We also took a slightly longer path to the bridge, which was a bit less steep and less studded with loose stones, and took us along the riverbed which was filled with the cacophony of frogs. There were hundreds!

The hike wasn’t too difficult, but in the more exposed areas the sun was intense, and there was some scrambling to do. Overall, it took us about 2.5 hours to complete the loop, so we’re guessing the All Trails estimates are for folks a lot younger and who don’t care about stopping to identify birds :~). The views from the other side of the ravine toward Matera were outstanding, and we could see all of the other rock churches as well. We finished around noon, and although we were exhausted, headed right for the market street to pick up some excellent sandwiches and a couple of beers for lunch……..and before we could even think about siesta, we walked over to have gelato at I Vizi degli Angeli. Superb artisanal gelato.

After siesta we relaxed again on the terrace, reading and playing cards. Before we knew it, it was time to get dressed and head out for dinner at Tierra. This was meant to be a special dinner to celebrate our anniversary, but we had to shift the dates since they’re not open on Thursdays. The food was innovative and very good, though some courses were better than others. Very nice modern décor, and very good service……. but, in truth, by this time in our travels we were reaching our “foodie limit”, so that may have affected our opinion.

Vieste, Gargano Peninsula:

Next morning we got up early, finished packing our things and enjoyed some coffee and strawberries before heading northeast to Vieste, on the Gargano Peninsula. This was one of our longest drives, and we wanted to hit the road in time to reach our B&B before 1:00. We stayed off of the autostrada, preferring to stay on smaller roads but that gets old after a while, especially when they’re not in great repair and/or you’re stuck behind farming vehicles on a windy road. The final climb up onto the peninsula and along the coast to Vieste was stunning on this beautiful Sunday, and there were several motorcycle clubs that thought it was a great day for a drive as well……can you say “white knuckles”? :~).

Vieste is a beautiful town, and from a distance appears to be all white, with the buildings shimmering next to the turquoise water. And the limestone cliffs and karsts are simply beyond picturesque! Made it to B&B Cumma Mari just before their lunch break, so we were able to check in and get a bit settled before having an adequate pizza lunch just across the street. The restaurant is next door, but they have a large covered terrace with tables across the street views onto the water and the lighthouse.

The B&B itself is really nice – far nicer than the photos on their website suggest. It is just outside the main entrance to the centro storico and is run by a lovely young couple who renovated the building. There are just a few rooms and suites, and the one we stayed in was quite spacious, with a separate kitchen area and small loft upstairs with a daybed for relaxing or as a reading nook. All of the furnishings were thoughtfully chosen, and we had a narrow balcony off of the bedroom, with a folding table and a couple of chairs, which was a perfect place for a snack, drink, and to play cards and people-watch. Breakfast was a really nice buffet spread with meats, cheeses, bread, tomatoes, cookies, cakes, coffee and fruit. Highly recommend!

One of the things that attracted us to the Gargano was the hiking options, but after breakfast the next morning we decided we did not want to drive anywhere, and since it was a gorgeous day, simply walked from the B&B to Pizzomunno Beach, along the shore to the end of the beach, and back up to town, a total of around 6.5 miles. As we were there pre-season, not all of the shops in town were open, and many of the restaurants were also closed. But it was lovely to not have throngs of people around, and we’re not huge shoppers anyway. We did, however, buy new eyeglass frames at a local optical shop which carries locally designed frames – the young designer actually helped us choose – and my husband found Cuban cigars for the first time during the trip right across the street from the eyeglass shop, so he was quite pleased. And then we went next door to buy a roasted ½ chicken and potato croquette to share for lunch on our balcony, so it was a win-win-win situation!

Our dinners in Vieste were at Al Duomo, which was in a cozy, cave-like room and served excellent traditional food with a twist, and at Donlu, which has a more upscale vibe and modern décor and superb food. Both evenings we drank white wine, a Greco ‘Anais’ from Kandea winery, Anais, and a Verdeca from Masseria Li Veli. Discovering new wines, local to Puglia, was one of the delights of our trip.

We had to leave Vieste by 9:00, at the latest, next morning to drive 30 minutes to Peschici for a visit to Gelateria Pina Gel for tastings and gelato-making. It was another beautiful, winding drive into the small fishing town, where it was easy to find the gelateria and someplace to park. Felt very much like other small seaside towns in New England, with a lot of the same smells and sounds. Not much going on in mid-May, but by now the season must be getting busy.

Pina Gel is a clean, light, sleek shop and the gelato maker in chief, Iginio Ventura and his wife Antonella, were very warm and welcoming. They clearly have a passion for making excellent gelato, using the best ingredients and putting a premium on taste and quality over trends and novelties. There was another couple participating as well, a young couple from France who hope to open a gelateria in Marseille sometime next year. We tasted all of the flavors, and Iginio explained the profiles and where the ingredients are sourced. He did not speak English, but Antonella is fluent and did a great job translating into English and a little French as well. The shop is named after his mother, Pina – who made a guest appearance – and was started by his grandmother. The time just flew by, and we made chocolate gelato together that was scrumptious. He also showed us his freezer where fruit purees and juices are neatly stacked and stored, to preserve the taste and freshness of their peak flavor.

Given that it was so quiet in town, nothing was really open to grab a sandwich or something to eat on the road, but we were eager to get going since we had another long drive ahead and restaurants weren’t yet open for lunch. After a few missed turns (and some words exchanged), we were on the correct path to leave the Gargano and head along the coast to Trani. We drove through the Forest Umbra, nearly dark despite it being a sunny day, and on gently rolling roads through olive groves and pastures. All of a sudden, a group of hikers appeared: where did they come from? Where were they going? I know there are some pilgrimage routes in the area….and then around a curve was a magnificent looking fox!

Trani:

We arrived in Trani at about 3:00, at an Air BnB a few kilometers outside of the town limits, very close to Bisceglie. The property consisted of a restored trulli home, with several outbuildings, also trulli, for storage, and lots of fruit and olive trees, gardens, pathways and places to sit. There were mulberry trees, apricot trees, cherry and fig trees. It’s a private community, with beach access for the homeowners. The beach is stone, largish white pebbles that have been polished smooth by the tide. Definitely walkable with caution, and great for securing the legs of the camp chairs provided by the owner. You can walk a few kilometers along the shore, to the outdoor amphitheater in Bisceglie. The water was a little chilly, for my taste, for swimming but it was delightful to sit by the water and listen to the sound of the pebbles tumbling in the waves.

The indoor living space was a bit rustic, but well designed and stocked. The trulli bedroom was a little dark and damp, and there was no indoor living room or den – one of the bedrooms had a small table and chairs for dining or using a laptop, etc. The kitchen was outdoors: a sink, some shelf units underneath for cutlery, etc. a full-size fridge w/upper freezer compartment, a coffee pod machine, moka pot, three-burner propane cooktop, and a cupboard for plates, cookware and all of the garbage and recycling containers. A teak table and chairs set for 6 was under a covered trellis and made a lovely eating area. There were also several loungers on the grassy areas, and a covered seating area as well. We had great weather while there, though it was a little windy, and the outdoor living areas were perfect for enjoying it.

But back to no lunch: we were tired, hungry and cranky and it was siesta time. I munched on a few cookies that the owner left for us (the fridge was stocked with water, milk, butter and juice, and there were plenty of coffee pods and some taralli and shortbread cookies to get us started for breakfasts), took a nap and we regrouped later to get some additional supplies, walk about Trani a bit and have dinner. The nearby supermarket, bakery and café were all terrific, and we stocked up on beverages, cheese, pasta, sauce, chicken cutlets, salad, melon and eggs. Then we eventually sorted out parking, strolled by the stunning seaside cathedral (already closed at 7:00) and headed to our first choice for dinner: a small restaurant specializing in Roman pasta a food. Except….it was being renovated, and not marked as ‘temporarily closed’ in Google. On to choice #2, a roasted meat restaurant Caccianferno, which allegedly opened at 7:30…..nope, at 7:35 they were just having family meal before service started at 8:00. We were barely hanging on, but sitting in the large plaza and watching the sun start to set made the time go by quickly. And, gentle readers, it was worth the wait! We shared bombette and a perfectly cooked T-bone steak, plus some roasted potatoes and a bottle of Susumaniello. They have an open wood fire inside the restaurant fireplace, and it really imparted the meat with great flavor.

Next morning we had a leisurely, lovely breakfast outside and then walked down to the beach and along the shore, then walked back along the road. After the long day of driving, we didn’t want to do anything much, so we just dashed out to the bakery to pick up some focaccia and small sandwiches for lunch (plus a scrumptious pasticciotto with cherries for me!) and enjoyed a nice siesta. Later in the afternoon, we drove into Trani to visit the small Jewish museum and stroll around the port area and small shopping streets, then returned to our trulli to make a simple dinner and read and relax.

Our last full day in Trani we had breakfast at home and then drove to Castel del Monte, around 30 minutes away, for a hike and visit. Super windy day, so some of our walk was kind of chilly and too noisy to even talk. But we took a path that wove through some fields, and around the back of the Castel so we were protected from the wind. The structure itself is awe-inspiring, but we opted not to go inside for a visit and simply spent some time walking around the perimeter and enjoying the views of both the castle and the countryside. We drove home a slightly different route, to have lunch in Ruvo di Puglia, at a small bistro that was charming and wonderful. Gnocchi alla sorrentina for me, and mullet with speck for my husband, along with some rose wine. Unfortunately, by the time we finished lunch the gelateria we wanted to try, Mokambo, was closed but on the other hand we were saved from ourselves!

We lounged outside reading for most of the afternoon, and were witnesses to an amazing sight: a pair of Eurasian blackcaps tossed their two baby birds out of their nest, deep inside the curry plants, to fledge. It was a Wild Kingdom moment as we watched these tiny creatures stumble about and try to fly. Within thirty minutes or so, they both appeared stronger and were starting to vocalize. After that, we lost sight of them but trust that their instincts kicked in.

Dinner that night was at Lab57, a fresh pasta shop that also does a few dinners most nights of the week. It was great food, but the portions were a little larger than they needed to be, and there was no air conditioning, so we were full and uncomfortable after 2 courses and stopped there. We should have simply shared a starter and one pasta, but it’s not always easy to gauge….and we had walked around town and were already kind of warm.

Final day in Trani ended up being a bit different than we had planned at the outset, but worked out well in the end. We had a 7:45 evening flight to Milan from Bari, and I had arranged to do a private afternoon cooking class in Bari as a fun educational activity, planning to end with a late afternoon meal and not have to think about dinner. We were both looking forward to it, but exactly one week before, the chef had to cancel due to family issues. She did offer us the option to do a cooking class the day before, but it would not be private. We opted to pass, mostly because we really were interested in something to fill the gap between checkout and our flight, and also because I make pasta on a fairly regular basis at home and wanted to do a private class to build my skills and get personalized attention and tips. Fortunately, our host was flexible and allowed us to stay until 3:00 so we were able to enjoy coffee and pastry at the café in town and spend the rest of the morning on the beach, before making a wonderful late lunch and enjoy it outside. We ended up saying our final goodbyes and hitting the road around 3:30, so we had a stress-free drive to Bari and car rental drop-off, and not a crazy amount of time to kill at the airport. Once again, Ryanair were on time and efficient in boarding, and we arrived in Milan at MXP right on schedule.

MXP-JFK:
We stayed at a B&B/serviced apartment near MXP our final night of the trip. It was a little confusing figuring out which shuttle would take us to Il Giuelin, but once we got there, we were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable, spacious and well stocked it was. And the beds were super comfortable, so we had a great night’s sleep. In the morning, we had coffee, and I had a yogurt, and we got our things together in a leisurely way, took nice showers and took the shuttle back to MXP. We had enough time to do some laser-focused shopping in the duty-free shops – we know exactly what to stock up on for good prices on things we consume, and I had done some online reconnaissance for Dyptique perfumes – so we were efficient, and the staff helped us further by maximizing some discounts. At the gate, I tetris-ed our new purchases into our carry-ons and personal items so we could board and store everything efficiently. Flight home on Delta was great, very little turbulence, decent movies and having gotten enough sleep the night before, we weren’t tired and cranky at all
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Old Jun 4th, 2024, 02:19 PM
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I notice you started a new thread for the 2nd part of your Trip Report. It is best to have all of a TR on the same thread - maybe ask the moderators to combine the two . . .
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Old Jun 4th, 2024, 09:06 PM
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Sounds like a fabulous trip. This area sounds fascinating, and I thought mid May would be pretty busy already.
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Old Jun 4th, 2024, 09:13 PM
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Parts 1 & 2 of your Trip Report have been merged.
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Old Jun 5th, 2024, 04:16 AM
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thanks for combining! this is my first trip report on Fodors

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Old Jun 5th, 2024, 05:39 AM
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Vieste and Trani are further away from the rest of Puglia, so maybe not as well. Also there is a Gargnano town on Lago di Garda in Lombardia whereas the Garagano peninsula, the spur of the boot, is where Vieste and Trani are located.

Yeah I learned about the limestone cliffs of Vieste as an advert while waiting for a train at Napoli Centrale, where they had TV screens running it.

Prices were so low in April when I went, though ran into some windy, rainy weather, which prevented seeing as much of Trani as I would have liked.

As it happens, Food Network is airing now a cooking competition show in a villa near Lecce. But they feature gorgeous shots of Puglia scenery, though not from Gargano. Show is called Ciao House, season 2.
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Old Jun 5th, 2024, 07:59 AM
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@adlmllr
My kind of trip! We made a similar trip in 2016 and we loved it.
Stayed in masserie in Puglia, in a cave room in Matera and in a small hotel in Vieste.
Really enjoyed your trip report.
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Old Jun 18th, 2024, 08:38 AM
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Fabulous trip report! So happy we had time together there, too!
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