Southern Italy & Rome Trip Report

Oct 19th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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So, we were lost in Ostuni with no immediate prospect of finding our way out when we saw an elderly gentleman approaching us on the sidewalk. I had a brainstorm to show him on my digital camera display, a photo I took of the place where we were dropped off at and ask him how to get there. (Luckily I took a photo of the place, otherwise we still might be wandering around Ostuni to this day!) So, we approached him and I said in my creaky Italian "Dov'e?" and showed him the photo. He squinted at it and said "ah, centro storico!" I said "si" and he proceeded to say a whole lot of stuff in Italian of which I understood about 1%. He was saying something about being my "papa" and I don't know what else. I had no idea what he was talking about. Suspicions entered my head that he might be the local crackpot.

Just then, 2 young Italian guys walked by and Millie asked them if they spoke English, which they did, and thankfully they translated for us what he was saying. They were not from Ostuni so they could not help us. What the elderly gentleman was saying, was he was going to be like my papa and show us the way back, and that we were to follow him. So we followed him for about 20 minutes while he jabbered on in Italian the whole time, me nodding and saying "si" and understanding very little. He was such a nice man, we were so grateful to him and I can't believe he went out of his way to lead us back. The Italians are wonderful people.

Thank God we found him because we were headed in the complete opposite direction of where we wanted to go. If we kept going in that direction we would have probably been on the other side of the hill. We made it back to the piazza near where we were to be picked up, had lunch and did not leave the sight of the piazza until we left. A very exciting day. We learned an important lesson though that day...always bring a map.
Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 06:24 AM
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Found your trip report only now. your drink was a San Pellegrino Bitter.
cigalechanta is online now  
Oct 22nd, 2006, 05:19 PM
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The next day we went to Lecce by train. We drove the car to the Ostuni train station and left it there.

Lecce has lots of baroque buildings which are very ornate and the buildings are made out of a stone which has a yellowish tinge to it. The historic section is very pedestrian friendly as some streets are closed to most traffic. There are lots of signs so it is hard to get lost. We got a map first thing though when we arrived in Lecce, we weren't going through that again!

I would have liked to have stayed overnight in Lecce because I think it would be beautiful at night with the yellowish buildings lit up, but we left in the late afternoon because we wanted to get back to the hotel by dark. We weren't keen on driving/navigating in the dark.

When we got to the Ostuni train station the car would not start again. The key just would not turn in the ignition. An Italian lady who spoke fluent English was coming out of an office building nearby and we pounced on her asking for her help. She got in the car and it started right up for her. She said she did not do anything special. At this point, we named the car Christine or Devil Car.
Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 09:06 AM
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The Masseria Refrigerio has a restaurant at the hotel so we thought we'd try it. It turned out that there was no menu to order from, the menu changed every night. They would tell you what the antipasto, first and second course was, and you had to tell the waiter which courses you wanted. It was interesting trying to decipher the Italian. I was not always successful. Millie was always afraid that she would order fish or seafood by accident. She does not do fish or seafood. So, I tried my best at translating for her. One night they had meatballs and I thought they were saying octopus so she did not get that course. Instead she ordered the pasta which had fish in it. Oops!! It was an adventure for sure. The food was excellent though.

On our last day in Puglia, we got brave and took the Devil Car out for a spin along the Adriatic coast, stoppping at little resort villages along the way. They were mostly deserted this time of year which made them all the nicer. The coastline was lovely with it's blue-green water and rocky shoreline.

We stopped for lunch at a seafood restaurant. I had a mixed seafood plate with the heads on the fish and shrimp. Millie freaked when she saw it. She had spaghetti pomodoro.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to get gas at an Agip station. When we went to leave, the Devil Car would not start again. A trucker nearby got in the car and it started right up for him. We pretty much decided at this time that the car was defective. We went right back to the hotel and drank the rest of our wine.

The next day we were leaving for Rome on the train. We only had to start the car one more time so we prayed it would start. Relief washed over us as Millie put the key in the ignition and it started right up. We dropped off the Devil Car for some other unsuspecting soul to deal with.

Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 03:57 PM
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Some observations on Puglia:

Language: Not a lot of English spoken. It is very helpful to know a little Italian. I found it to be fun to try out my Italian and rewarding when people could understand me and I understood them.

Transportation: This is definitely an area where you need a car unless you are only visiting cities on the main train line. Navigating is a little tricky due to the lack of route numbers on signs, but once you get the hang of it, it is not hard. Traffic was not bad at all when we were there in early October and the driving was easy if we stayed out of the towns. In the towns it was not hard to get around, there was just more traffic and a little nerve wracking.

People: Everyone was so nice to us and very helpful when we needed help. From all the people we asked to help us with the Devil Car to the gentleman who walked 20 mins. out of his way to show us the way back to where we needed to go. There were many other encounters with wonderful Italians also.

Countryside: Varies from the seaside with clear blue-green water lapping at a rocky shoreline to farm country with olive trees that go on forever. Grapes and other crops were growing too. Trulli poking out from unexpected places still being used as houses or farm buildings.

Food: Lots of seafood. The specialty pasta of this area is orrechiette served various ways. Octopus seems to be popular as is calamari and fish. Fantastic food.

I loved Puglia, from the food to the landscape to the people and towns. I would definitely go back. Next time, I would like to base myself in Lecce and maybe see Otranto. We did not go to Otranto, but I saw postcards of it which made me want to go there. Maybe next time...
Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 05:53 PM
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Excellent! Once again thank you for posting. Now I'm convinced that I'd like to go to Puglia on our next trip to Italy.
Pilates is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 06:21 PM
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Great trip report! I need ideas for my next trip!
mcnyc is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 07:26 PM
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Really enjoyed that. Thanks for posting.
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 07:45 PM
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A charming and interesting trip report Scullysioux! And thank heavens for your adopted "Papa" that got you back to catch the bus. Italians are usually so kind and generous. In the large cities they unfortantely can get abrupt and upset travellers but they get on "tourist overload". It is so wonderful that you got away from the heavily travelled places but imagine that Puglia will some day be overloaded with tourists too.

Thanks for sharing your trip. BTW, my daughter always freaked out about the heads on the fish and shrimp etc. I still tease her about it to this day.
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 24th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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Thanks everyone for reading my trip report. After Puglia we went to Rome for 2 days so here is my Rome report:

We took the train from Ostuni to Rome and arrived at our B&B Via Fornaci about 9:15 pm. The room at the B&B was very nice, decorated with antiques, nice bathroom and quiet. The room overlooked a rooftop so we did not get any street noise. We had never stayed at a B&B before, but decided to stay at one because it was only 95 Euro a night and we were on a tight budget. The B&B was located on Via Fornaci which is very close to the Vatican. It was a nice neighborhood, but it could use a couple more restaurants. We found we either had to eat early (no later than 7 o'clock (that's early for Italy time)) or later (around 9 o'clock or we wouldn't get a seat.

When we arrived at the B&B the hostess greeted us warmly and proceeded to give us instructions.
First instruction: No suitcases on the bed. They must be placed in the closet. That would be fine, but there was no other place to put the suitcases except the floor. So everytime we had to get into our suitcases we had to haul them out of the closet, put them on the floor, rummage around for what we wanted and then put the suitcase back in the closet. It was kind of inconvenient.
Second instruction: Don't leave with any money in your purse, put it in your bra. Well, that is a no brainer to not walk around carrying a lot of money. We told her we had money belts and we would watch out for pickpockets.

Third instruction: I was given 3 keys, one for the room, one for the apartment and one for the building. She made me demonstrate for her that I was capable of unlocking the door to the apartment. Apparently she has had some problems with people not knowing how to use a key. I passed the test with flying colors and we were allowed to go out.

She meant well, but she was smothering.

The first day in Rome we walked all day. I swear we must have walked 10 miles. Millie had developed some rash on her leg too which was very red and itched. We stopped at a pharmacy to get something for it and the pharmacist said it was a rash very common with tourists, caused by walking on hot pavement. Never heard of that, but it was making Millie miserable. Being the trooper that she is though, she kept on walking, although walking seemed to make it worse.

We went to St. Peter's Cathedral in the morning. We tried to get Scavi tickets before we left, but were denied. Then we walked along the Tiber and took a Tiber cruise. I gotta tell you the Tiber cruise was very disappointing. It sounds nice, but the Tiber is so low below the city that all you can see is the dirty water and the walls going up the edge of the river. You do get a nice tour of the homeless and their cardboard houses. I do not recommend this tour unless you are just tired of walking and want to sit, but your time would be better spent sitting at a bar with a drink watching people.

We also did some shopping, hit the Trevi Fountain (what a crowd!, but we had to throw our coins in so we will come back to Rome)and Piazza Navona. At the end of the day we were beat. We decided that the next day we were not going to walk, we were going to take buses and the metro to get where we wanted to go.

The next morning we planned to go to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini's St. Teresa sculpture. I have always wanted to see that sculpture and in several trips to Rome I have never seen it so I made it a point to make sure I saw it on this trip. We also wanted to hit the Cappuchin Crypt and in the evening the Colosseum and Forum just to see them lit up at night.

We left the B&B under instructions from our hostess to put our money in our bras and went to the bus stop which was conveniently located practically right in front of the B&B. A guy came out of the shop next to the bus stop and informed us that the buses were on strike that day. It was like someone punched us in the stomach and took all our wind out of us. We were tired and achy and had big plans for the day. So, we decided to try the metro and walked to the closest metro station on the other side of the Vatican (not a short walk). The metro was locked up. This was not looking good. We walked to the next metro stop, it was also locked. It was then apparent that the metro was on strike too. Millie could not do all the walking that we did the day before. The rash was getting redder too the more she walked. So, we walked to Piazza del Popolo, went inside some churches. I found a statue by Bernini in one of them that reminded me of his St. Teresa sculpture and a Caravaggio painting too that I did not know was there. Since I have a degree in art, this was the highlight of the day. And no, I never did make it to see the St. Teresa sculpture. I guess I will have to go back to Roma!

We also did some more shopping and went in some more churches as we moseyed back in the direction of the B&B. We got back to the B&B about 5:00. On the way back we noticed the buses were running again. The strike was over, yay! We went back to the room, rested and went out about 6:30 to catch the bus to the Colosseum & Forum. At least we could do that. The buses were supposed to run every 20 mins. We waited 30 minutes, our feet were killing us so we said to hell with it and went to dinner.

We left the next day. We used Limoservice Rome to pick us up. Excellent service, they are highly recommended. We have used them before.

It was a great trip, I want to go back, but it probably won't be for several years. I miss it, especially the food!!
Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 01:35 AM
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Hi Scullysioux,

Great report! I really enjoyed it, specially the Puglia/Procida part. I want to go to Puglia on my next trip to Italy, so it was very nice to read about it. I have come up with a rough itinerary of one week in Campania and one week in Puglia, but I have to work on it.

Thanks for sharing your experience!
Castellanese is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 08:42 AM
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Hi SS:: Thanks for the epilogue. I'm topping this because I'm curious if anyone else out there has had the leg rash caused by walking on hot pavement.

At first I thought you were going to say she had a bedbug rash. There's been more and more talk about problems with them world wide. If that were the problem, you'd probably would have gotten them too. How long did it take for her problem to disappear?
Pilates is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 09:13 AM
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On that note, did the B&B owner ever explain why you weren't allowed to put suitcases on the bed?
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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The rash actually started in Naples (Millie blamed it on Naples at first because Naples is kind of, shall we say...dirty?) and then when we got to Puglia there was a couple of days where we did not walk as much and the rash started getting better. When we got to Rome though and did all that major walking the rash really took off and spread and got really red. It stayed that way until we got home and the next day she started massaging her legs and the redness went away. It was very bizarre, but the pharmacist in Rome acted like he saw it all the time. I'm sure it was not bedbugs though, thank goodness!


The B&B lady never did explain why we were not allowed to put suitcases on the bed, but we figured she did not want to get the bedspread dirty because it was white. She probably has learned from experience, but she could at least have provided some suitcase stands or something. The room was very nice though, otherwise. Not sure if I would do a B&B again though, because of all the mothering. I forgot to say that we received another instruction on how to use the elevator. It was one of those old fashioned ones where you have to shut the door yourself. Almost every time we went out she would follow us to the elevator to make sure we used it properly. I don't know if she just doesn't trust anyone or if she has only had idiots for guests, but we felt smothered by her attention. I don't mean to be too harsh on her, I know she meant well.

Scullysioux is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 12:27 PM
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Really enjoyed your report, Scullysioux. Not many people here write about Procida or Puglia.

I get that weird leg rash too. Thought it was just me!
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