This post will overlap somewhat with my Flying Solo post since my experience in this area came through a volunteer trip helping teach English in Ostuni. According to the travel guides, summer in the Puglia region of southern Italy is hot and dry which may account for the fact that there seem to be fewer trees other than the olive groves. But it’s closeness to the Adriatic and Ionian seas provides numerous opportunities for visiting a wide variety of cities and countryside. I was in this area in late October and the weather was perfect. However it had been very rainy the previous weeks. (As an aside, I’ve scanned my original pictures and those that friends sent me and unfortunately they’re not as good as today’s digital photos.)
I spent two weeks in Ostuni, la Citta Bianca, a lovely town in southern Italy. Like many Italian towns it rises above the plains, surrounded by olive groves. Each day after our teaching assignments our group would have lunch together then wander around the town. I also did some walks from our hotel, Hotel Novecento which turned out to be a bit more exciting than planned. While the area around the hotel was very pretty with lots of gardens and flowers blooming even in late October, I ended up on a wall trying to escape a pack of dogs.
The hotel itself was interesting. I thought I was used to teeny tiny rooms and bathrooms from previous trips but as I wrote in my journal: So took a shower and almost blew out the hair dryer ‘cause I forgot to switch it to the different current. I’m always amazed at Italian showers but this one is an unbelievable contraption. Tiny w/ an umbrella like gizmo holding the shower curtain. Of course water went everywhere. I’m either going to have to shave in the sink or the bidet; there’s no room in the shower.
On our first full day the group did a tour of the centro storico. I kind of got my knickers in a wad because we were delayed for a Today Show film crew who were following us for a few days. Still as we settled in and found our way around the city, stopping for lunch or a caffe macchiato after class, I decided it was a delightful place to wander.
On one of our first evenings we went to small town near Ostuni to see the traditional flag throwing which was astonishing. I didn’t write the name of the town in my journal and have not been able to find it on the web so if a reader has been there, please post a comment. (I’ve looked all over the web for towns in the Puglia with these types of exhibits but haven’t come across a likely candidate.)
It’s difficult to describe this type of demonstration so I’ve included some photos below. The flag throwers appeared to be young boys in Renaissance (or late Middle Ages) attire.
In addition to Ostuni our group took side trips to Alberobello with its small stone houses called trulli, to Otranto by the sea, to Lecce with it’s beautiful rococo buildings and churches along with Roman ruins and the town of Martina Franca which had lovely gardens.
Most of my journal entries from that trip are comments on my teaching experience which I included in my Flying solo post, but I did write this about our weekend travels: Waiting for our bus for our Sunday tour to Martina Franca, Alberbello to see the trullis and Polignano a mare to have lunch at a seaside restaurant. ( see http://www.thethinkingtraveller.com/thinkpuglia/guide-to-puglia/towns-and-cities/martina-franca.aspx and polignano-a-mare.aspx. Think one of the group photos was in front of the town hall in Martina Franca.) Yesterday’s excursion was to Lecce, a fairly large city and another sea side town, Otranto. I loved Lecce; beautiful baroque architecture and a smattering of Roman ruins plus some of the most gorgeous shops I’ve ever seen–as nice as Florence or Siena.
Otranto was equally lovely but totally different. Perched on a hill above the Adriatic. We had a sea food lunch then walked around the town. Some of us went to the 11th century cathedral with Byzantine mosaics while others dipped their toes in the Adriatic.
According to one of my travel guides Martina Franca is “one of Apullia’s most attractive towns and offers an alluring combination of a slightly Moorish flavour, fine baroque architecture, attrative shops and restaurants.” and certainly my pictures agree with that description. However in my journal I wrote: Martina Franca had a couple of pretty parks and the ubiquitous arch. The only interesting sight was all the town’s men strolling around in groups, gossiping. We were the only non Italians and the only women. One old geezer came up and offered to take his clothes off for Kitty. That was a shocker.
I, then, added: After a cappuccino and a pastry we headed to Alberobello, a little town made up almost entirely of trulli, little cone shaped stone houses unique to this area. People seem to live in them which is amazing given their size and the fact that they seem to have very few windows. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm with Colorado blue skies.
I’ve read that no one really knows the origins of the trulli but they reminded me of the Borie villages in southern France.
After about an hour of strolling around (fannying about as Marianne calls it) we were back in the vans, heading for Polignano. We had a 2 hour, antipasto meal of mussels, buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, crab, eggplant, linguini and orecchiete and of course wine. We walked around the old town, taking pictures of the winding streets and the views of the sea. We stopped in morbid curiosity to watch a funeral or at least a band playing the funeral music outside the church.
We also stopped to visit w/ a man and his gorgeous little boy, both with blonde curly hair. In several places we’ve seen children with red curly hair. Descendants of Norsemen? They look like Botticelli angels.
Returning to this area and spending more time in the lovely towns and along the coast has been on my bucket list for some time; however we always seem to start in Florence and it’s difficult to get to this area from there.
This fall (2017) is Verona, Venice and the Greek Islands so hopefully 2018 will be the Amalfi coast and the Puglia.
See you there!!