Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Tuesday, October 28th

3 girls and a baby...sounds like the start to a movie. Instead, it's the start to our adventures of Southern Italy. Liz, Steph, baby Henley and I flew from Venice to Bari Tuesday morning. We'd be visiting the towns of Bari, Alberobello, Matera and Ostuni before leaving from Brindisi in a little over 72 hours.

 I will never understand Italian flying etiquette. There is NEVER a line for boarding. People crowd and push like a mob. It doesn't matter if you have a child in your hands; they will push you. I've gotten better at giving dirty looks and pushing back. Also, the second the plane parks once it's landed, everyone jumps out of their seats to get their bags. I've never seen anything like it. I tolerate it considering the flights are dirt cheap. :)

We rented a small 5-speed Fiat Panda. I was impressed how well we fit everything in the rental car. We had considered having a fourth person on the trip, but there wouldn't have been any way to fit all of us.

I was a little intimidated to drive a manual because I've never done it regularly. But I did it! I was so proud! And in Southern Italy no less. Southern Italians definitely do not abide by the rules of the road like their northern counterparts.

My GPS, Jan, took us through some rather sketchy places for the first half hour. We eventually found our parking lot, and walked into the Old Town of Bari.

Castello Svevo di Bari
When I first arrive to a destination I try to be as observant as possible of things going on around me. On our walk from our parking structure to the Old Town, I saw many locals. Some were sketchier than others. Once we arrived to the Old Town, I saw tourists with their cameras cocked. It always makes me feel more comfortable when I'm not the only one walking around with a camera. 

Castello Svevo di Bari
This castle was once a prison. It's now used for art exhibitions.

Castello Svevo di Bari

Steph and Liz - my great traveling buddies.

The weather was pretty spectacular in Southern Italy. It was nice and cool at the end of October.
The clouds and lighting in the afternoon made the Old Town seem more like a movie set of an old western film. Maybe it was the dirty buildings that made it seem like a western. :)

Initially, I thought this was St. Nicolas' Church. We discovered later that this is the Bari Cathedral. (Cattedrale di Bari.) 

I overheard several tour groups, while I was taking photos. One was in Japanese and the other was in Italian. I love that Italians tour their own country.

Bari Cathedral

I tried to be sneaky to catch a photo of this sweet, old woman, but she saw me and went back in. I love taking photos of locals, but I don't know enough Italian to make them comfortable with me taking their photo. 

We walked down some of the tiny alleyways to find ....St. Nicholas' Basilica. The real one! 
(Basilica San Nicola)

I had pinned a local bread store on my map just around the corner from the Basilica. It had outstanding reviews online. It was known for their delicious focaccia. Unfortunately, they were closed. :(

We had heard of the women in Bari making orecchiette. It's a small pasta rounded on the tips of fingers. That sounded delicious especially since we were getting hungry. 

Looks like St. Nicolas is throwing up deuces to us as we were leaving. 


This totally looks legit. 

We found the women selling orecchiette. They make the pasta in their kitchens and then sell it just outside their doors to any passerby. I was thinking we would be able to try some, but I was wrong. You can buy the pasta to take home and make for yourself. 

Here's a group gathered around to buy orecchiette from several different vendors/neighbors.

I took this woman's photo and she just slowly shook her head back and forth. I didn't know if that meant she didn't want her photo taken or that she didn't care if I took her photo. I took it anyway.:)

None of us bought any pasta because it really should be eaten sooner than later and that wouldn't have been easy while we were traveling.

We were, however, getting very hungry after looking at all of that delicious pasta. We stopped at a cafe just across the street from the castle, and decided to get dinner. It wasn't the best food any of us have had, but just about anything would have tasted good at that point.

Henley looked so cute riding on top of his stroller on our way back to the car. I imagine him singing, "Rollin' with my homies..."

We jumped back in our awesome little rental car, and headed to Alberobello where we'd stay for 2 nights. Alberobello means "beautiful tree."

After about 2 hours, we made it! We drove past our reception and almost got stuck on a hill before getting to our destination. 
We were staying in a Trulli house in Alberobello. They're small, tower like homes. The woman at the reception desk showed us our Trullo. When I made the reservation online, I had asked for 4 separate beds. She showed us a king bed and a full. DOH! I also asked for a baby crib, but she said there wouldn't be one available until the following night. That meant Steph and I would share a bed, and Liz would share one with Henley. :/ At that point, I was REALLY grateful we hadn't invited a 4th person. I don't know what we would have done.

We decided to go for a walk around the downtown area to help us forget about our situation back at the trullo. 

The downtown looked beautiful at night. I couldn't wait to see it during the day.

This was one of the few pictures I got inside our place. I had to duck every time I went from one room to the other. 
I also found out the hard way that there was very little hot water in our Trullo. I was the first one to shower, and the 2 other girls didn't get any hot water. :( That's one way to earn friends fast! :P

Bari and Alberobello were beautiful from what we'd seen. I think we were ready to forget about our sleeping arrangements and start a new day. :)

Wednesday, October 29th

Our first full day in Southern Italy we had planned to sightsee in Alberobello a bit before heading to Matera for a tour. 

First, breakfast! It was located one block away from our trullo, in this shnazzy room. I had yogurt and honey every day. I must be missing Greece. :) 
Afterward, we hit the town.

Henley riding around Alberobello

I think this is what Henley thought our trip. :)

Many of the Trulli houses had primitive, religious, and magic symbols on the roofs. The heart was a Christian symbol for Mary's pierced heart. The cross was obviously another Christian Symbol. It wasn't clear what the moon was symbolizing. I could try and make something up...:)
I bought a book on Alberobello to help me decipher the symbols and give me some history. The moon symbol was not listed in the book. :)

The shops around the area were cute to walk through. We were there on a cool, crisp and quiet day. I noticed we were some of the only tourists there. It was nice!
The shopkeepers were so sweet. They were all wanting and willing to strike up a conversation. I felt this way about most people in Southern Italy. They all seemed so kind.

A few shopkeepers invited us in to take a peek of the panoramic view they had at the top of their shops. 

Rooftop views...of rooftops! Haha!

Loved having the sun out on our walk! 
You could also smell wood fires. It felt a little like walking around Sedona, Arizona.

Model shots..

This was probably my favorite spot to take photos of Alberobello.

I could have taken thousands of photos of the trulli houses. 

We strolled back into the main square to see it during the day, and to hunt down some lunch.
We found a little cafe with lots of people sitting outside. It's always a dead giveaway that a restaurant is good when you have a crowd. They didn't disappoint. I ordered a burger, of all things. It was enormous. 

It's hard to tell from this photo, but there were about 4 patties on this burger. I wish I could say that I ate it all, but there was just no way. Haha! I needed Nick there to help me eat it. :) 
Not to mention, it was so messy that the waiter brought me a stack of napkins without me prompting him. He KNEW I couldn't handle it. :)

After lunch, we drove a few hours over to Matera. It's more recently known for the filming of "Passion of the Christ." 

This is overlooking the historical Center of Sassi di Matera from Piazzetta Pascoli. Sassi di Matera means the "stones of Matera." 
It was here where we met our tour guide, Antonio. He was very enthusiastic about his home town. Our tour lasted about 2 hours and he spoke almost the entire time. That's a lot of information to take in! Too bad my mind only remembers facts like: a movie was filmed here. Haha! I'll try and write some of what I do remember.

Most of the buildings you can see were not really built, but carved into the stone. Many of the buildings are much bigger inside than they appear from the outside. They go deep into the rock.
Sassi was built from the top down. The oldest buildings had the best views. 
From a bird's eye view, this area is split into two sections that looks like the wings of a bird. The section we started was called Sasso Caveoso and the other section was called Sasso Barisano. Basisano was somewhat newer and wealthier than Caveoso. 

It was right about his moment when it started to rain...on our walking tour. :) Allorah! 

After slowly, and carefully walking down the wet marble steps we reached this wall. It actually had a seashell in it from billions of years ago when this area was at the bottom of the ocean.

Matera had an intense water system with vast cisterns beneath it. 

We got to go inside one of the largest ones. They used to put live eels in the cisterns to help prevent the water from becoming stagnid. Eew. I can't imagine pulling one of those up in my bucket from a well!

Next our tour guide took us back outside to show us some courtyards. Homes were built around courtyards with a well. The wells were where all the latest gossip was shared. It was more like the present day water cooler in the work place. The families that shared the wells became very tight knit. Eventually, the government gently forced families out of the unlivable homes in the 1960s and into subsidised housing. The only way the inhabitants would agree to it was if they were able to continue being neighbors in their new housing.   

Caves across the ravine from Sassi.

We had been standing here taking pictures of the view for a few minutes before our guide informed us that we were standing on graves. When he pounded on the stone, it sounded hollow. No body there now! 
These graves were above homes below. Can you imagine having dead bodies in your ceiling? Eek!
There was very limited space to bury people long ago, so they recycled the graves. 

We stepped inside Santa Lucia all Malve church. It had been transformed from a church to a home, and then to a museum. It was a nice break from the cold and rain.

Next we walked to Piazza San Pietro. We had the option of ducking into an old home, but we passed because I think we were all a little cold, and tired.

San Pietro church
Whoever did the lighting in Matera was a genius. It was pretty spectacular all lit up at night.

Finally, got a photo of the 4 of us! 

These were the steps used in "Passion of the Christ" as Mel was holding up the cross.

One last look of Sasso Caveoso.

We walked up to an overlook with a view of Sasso Barisano.

One of the last interesting sights Antonio showed us was the Purgatorio. It was literally a church called purgatory! There were skulls and crossbones all over. You could write letters and prayers to your loved ones. Wow.

After our tour we did some shopping, filled up on some warm drinks and then headed to dinner.

We ate a delightful meal at Soul Kitchen. Haha! That name cracks me up. It, too, was built in a cave. The all male staff got a big kick out of 3 girls and a baby. 
Liz and I tried orecchiette for the first time. It was good...not my favorite, but good.

Our drive back was interesting. We decided not to follow my GPS, but to follow Google maps. (Which I am usually all in favor for!) Google took us down some very dark farm roads. Other than the occasional car, we were the only souls out there. After about 20 minutes of driving from Matera, we had no reception. That was set up for a disaster. Google Maps...you failed us! About half way through our drive, we switched back over to Jan the GPS and made it home! 

By this time, the hotel delivered the "crib." It had a huge hole in it, which (if you didn't know this like me) is not good for babies. Liz got to sleep in a bed with Henley crawling all over her for the second night in a row. Not the best set up. We were ready to be done with our Trullo. On to day 3!!....

Thursday, October 30th

In the morning, we had a delicious breakfast followed by a last-minute walk around Alberobello...and then another quick breakfast. :) Haha! I like having 2 breakfasts. It makes me happy. :)

The last town on our list was Ostuni. Jan, our GPS, took us a direct, but strange way. We arrived to Masseria Salinola. Masseria means that the property was a working farm, and now it's used as a hotel or place to stay. It was beautiful!
The family that ran it for almost over a century was so sweet and welcoming. We sat down and were offered tea and cake, while we waited for our room to be cleaned. I was ready to move in. I just wanted to live with this amazing family on their beautiful property. 

There was a patio overlooking a pool and spa. 

This 1200 year old olive tree welcomed us as we entered and exited the property. Henley liked the grass more. :)

We took a quick 5 minute drive into the town of Ostuni. First stop...food! We found a little (somewhat) vegetarian place called Evo. 

This is Steph's excited vegetarian face.

From lunch, we walked up the main street to the top of the town.

Ostuni is known as the "whitest village." (I beg to differ.) It's known as the white village because villagers used to cover  everything in lime to try and keep infection and disease at bay. 
Even today, bags full of stones of lime are thrown into wells to purify the rainwater.

On google maps, this is just called, "Cathedral." Haha! Good job, Google maps. :)

I loved exploring the small alleyways in the hilltop town.

Ha! I found some color!

We made our way to the edge of the walled city.

There was a storm rolling in from over the ocean.  I love the clouds with church in the foreground.

All 3 of us are crazy cat lovers. On our way back to the car, we saw this cat. She looks so cute and innocent in this photo. At first. Steph called her. The cat seemed a bit skittish, and wouldn't get near her. I called her to me and she came walking over. I pet her a few times. As I pulled my hand away she swipped at me with both front claws. She didn't get me, but she was very close. Next, Liz went to pet her. I warned Liz that she might swipe. Seconds later, she got Liz, and got her good. We tried so hard to love her!
Moral of the story: it may be better not to pet stray cats even if everything inside you tells you to hold and squeeze and love that cat.

Ostuni was pretty, but I think it was our least favorite town of the 3 small towns we'd visited.

That night for dinner, we had a delicious 3 course meal at our masseria. The service and food was  amazing. And the company was even better! We had such a fun time talking and laughing. 

After dinner, we walked 20 feet to our room and discovered that the heat wasn't working. The staff fixed it within minutes. They were so awesome! I can't say enough about our stay there. What a difference between our first two nights in southern Italy.

Friday, October 31st

Our last morning in southern Italy we had to bid adieu to our wonderful Masseria Salinola after a delicious breakfast.

We wanted to see Masseria Brancata because they're known for their ancient olive trees. We discovered they weren't taking any visitors the week we were there because they were harvesting the olives. Darn! We'll just have to come back.

We did get to drive there and see it from the road, before driving to a different orchard.

We stopped for a few minutes to jump out and take some photos. I wanted to shoot a movie in this field.

We hopped back in the car and drove to the beach town of Villanova as recommended to us by the family at Masseria Salinola. 

It was a fairly deserted town other than the stray dogs sunbathing in the streets. 
We strolled along the waterfront for about 20 minutes.

We stopped for a quick gelato and focaccia break. It was our first time trying focaccia in southern Italy. That's one of the foods they're known for! It didn't disappoint. That was some of the most delicious bread.

It was hard to believe, but we'd reached the end of our trip. I would say my favorite towns in order were Matera, Alberobello, Bari, then Ostuni. I loved the people and how welcoming and hospitable they were. Southern Italy really surprised me. I'd be happy to go back!

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