Tag Archives: Alberobello

Entrance Tickets – The Trulli House Museum in Alberobello

Trulli Museum Alberobello

On account of the thousand or so Trulli houses and because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Alberobello is vulnerable to severe tourist overload so Kim’s plan was to get up early to beat the crowds and go and get some photographs of empty streets

We debated this before lights out and I suggested seven o’clock and Kim said six which I said was too early, so we agreed on seven and Kim set the alarm for six!

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A Postcard From Puglia

Postcard From Puglia

“Evidently, the God of the Jews didn’t know Puglia, otherwise he wouldn’t have given his people Palestine as the Promised Land.”  –  Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Puglia (1194 to 1250 AD).

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird – Avoiding the Crowds (2)

Trulli Houses Alberobello Puglia Italy

On account of the thousand or so Trulli houses and because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Alberobello is vulnerable to severe tourist overload so Kim’s plan was to get up early to beat the crowds and go and get some photographs of empty streets

We debated this before lights out and I suggested seven o’clock and Kim said six which I said was too early, so we agreed on seven and Kim set the alarm for six! Which was too early because it was still dark so we turned off the alarm, went back to sleep and woke at about eight; a perfect compromise.

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Entrance Tickets – The Trulli House Museum in Alberobello

Trulli Museum Alberobello

On account of the thousand or so Trulli houses and because it is a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site Alberobello is vulnerable to severe tourist overload so Kim’s plan was to get up early to beat the crowds and go and get some photographs of empty streets

We debated this before lights out and I suggested seven o’clock and Kim said six which I said was too early, so we agreed on seven and Kim set the alarm for six!

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Car Parking In Italy

In Italy there is no parking discipline because an Italian driver will gladly block you in, double-park, use the bumpers to nudge other cars out of the way, scratch and graze other parked vehicles on the way in or the way out and generally disregard all of the normal rules of parking a car.

It took me some while to find somewhere that I was reasonably happy with and found a spot away from the busy part of the town on the end of a street where hopefully no one could park behind me because I didn’t want to get back to the car later and find it sandwiched between two others like this.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

Trulli House Alberobello Puglia Italy

Trulli House – Alborobello, Puglia, Italy

Trulli houses are unique to this area of Italy, they are rather like an igloo with a conical roof and a single windowless room inside with shallow alcoves for bedrooms and storage.

Where they first came from is a matter of some debate. One theory is that since Trulli can be built up and pulled down in a hurry, in past centuries their owners would demolish their own buildings whenever the tax man came to town to assess property duty, and then rebuild them when he had moved on.  Interesting but that seems unlikely to me, it seems an awful lot of trouble to go to just to avoid a few pence in tax!

When one house became too small, the owner would just stick up another one next door, and knock the walls through – repeating the process whenever more space was needed.

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Italy at Mini-Europe

mini-europe-italy

Mini-Europe is a theme park located near Brussels in Belgium and has reproductions of monuments in the European Union on show, at a scale of 1:25. Approximately eighty cities and three hundred and fifty buildings are represented and Italy is represented by six mini-models.

In terms of the real thing I have visited five out of the six.

Reflection in a Venice Canal

First of all, and rather inevitably, Venice the second most visited city in Italy after Rome and Mini-Europe provides a model of St Mark’s Square, the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace.

Alexander Herzen said of Venice that “To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius”  but at least at Mini-Europe it is sensibly on dry land.

Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Doumo

Next is the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is probably one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in Europe and probably the whole World.  I can certainly remember it from a school encyclopaedia article and when I was a young boy I was always intrigued by the concept of a building listing so perilously to one side that it was apparently just waiting for a strong wind to topple it over.

I had secretly suspected that the pictures had exaggerated the buildings predicament so I was astounded when I actually saw it for the first time and was able to satisfy myself that this tower really does lean over a very long way indeed.

Siena piazza del campo

Nearby is the Palazzo Publico from Siena which I visited one day in pouring rain in March 2006 so didn’t see it at its very best.  I had always wanted to visit Siena ever since I saw the film star matinée idol Stewart Grainger swashbuckling to equine victory in the ‘Swordsman of Siena’ and to see the venue for the famous annual Palio horse race.

This is probably the most famous festival in Tuscany and was first recorded in the year 1273 and is a colourful medieval pageant that takes place twice a year on 2nd July and 16th August.   It is so-called because riders race each other for a Palio or winners banner and it is a competition where seventeen seriously crazy jockeys hurtle bareback around a confined square with dangerously adjacent buildings and perilously close spectators; I have concluded that they are probably taxi drivers for the rest of the year.

Vesuvius the crater

Although Mount Vesuvius doesn’t make it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, having been edged out by Mount Etna in Sicily it does get included at Mini-Europe where it regularly erupts to the delight of the visitors.

Guests may think this amusing but if it really was to erupt again then the consequences are potentially disastrous.  It is difficult to be precise but scientists think that Vesuvius formed about twenty-five thousand years ago and today the volcano is rated as one of the most dangerous in the world – not because of its size but because of the proximity of millions of people living close by and if it was to go off again with a similar eruption to the one that destroyed Pompeii in 79 then it is estimated that it could displace up to three million people who live in and around Naples.  The volcano has a major eruption cycle of about two thousand years so the next eruption is dangerously imminent.

Trulli Houses Alberobello Puglia Italy

Next are the Trulli houses of Alberobello which I visited and stayed in on my latest Italian journey.  Although our accommodation had been restored and modernised to make it suitable for holiday accommodation it was a genuine traditional house with whitewashed walls and a stone cap roof and there was a framed photograph inside that was eighty years old to prove it.

Trulli houses are unique to this area of Italy, they are rather like an igloo with a conical roof and a single windowless room inside with shallow alcoves for bedrooms and storage.  Where they first came from is a matter of some debate. One theory is that since Trulli can be built up and pulled down in a hurry, in past centuries their owners would demolish their own buildings whenever the tax man came to town to assess property duty, and then rebuild them when he had moved on.

So that is the five of the six and the one that I haven’t visited so far is Vila Capra at Vicenza which is a shame because a couple of years ago I stayed close by in Padova and visited nearby Verona.

Six good choices but surprisingly missing anything from either Rome or Florence but if you really need to see these places in a model theme park then they can both be found at “Italia in Miniatura” at a similar tourist attraction near Rimini in Italy itself.

Ancient Rome

Italy, World Heritage Sites

Italy Postcard

Following the visit to Puglia in Southern Italy I thought it was probably time to review my performance in visiting the Country’s World Heritage Sites.

The World Heritage list has been around for over forty years as a consequence of events in 1954 when the government of Egypt announced that it was to build the Aswan Dam, a project that proposed to flood a valley containing priceless treasures of ancient civilizations.  Despite opposition from Egypt and neighbouring Sudan, UNESCO launched a worldwide safeguarding campaign, over fifty countries contributed and the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were taken apart, moved to a higher location, and put back together piece by piece.  At last the World was collectively protecting its treasures.

Ostuni White City Puglia Italy

Not surprisingly Italy is the country with the most Word Heritage Sites, it has fifty-three, seven more than Spain which has the second most sites.  I have visited half of the sites in Spain but when I reviewed the Italy list I was disappointed to find that I have been to less than a quarter and in this whole fortnight in Puglia I had added only one – the Trulli houses of Alberobello.  I was genuinely surprised to find that Lecce, the Florence of the south was missing from the list and to find it marooned on the tentative list where it has been languishing since June 2006.

Venice The Gondoliers Gilbert and Sullivan

In terms of cities on the list I have been to Rome several times but my first visit in 1976 was four years before it became the first Italian site to be added to the list.  As for other cities on the list I have been to Naples, also in 1976, Florence, Pisa and Siena in 2006, Verona and Padova in 2012 and Venice in 2002, 2003, 2005 and most recently in 2012 because you can never go to Venice too many times.

Which brings me to the final two sites that I have visited, both of them for the first time in 1976 before they were even admitted to the list and which was in actual fact was  before there was any sort of list at all! WOW, I feel suddenly old.

The first of these is the Amalfi coastline and its famous death defying drive described so accurately by John Steinbeck: “Flaming like a meteor we hit the coast, a road, high, high above the blue sea, that hooked and corkscrewed on the edge of nothing, a road carefully designed to be a little narrower than two cars side by side.”    

The second is a joint listing for the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, two towns destroyed by the eruption in 79 A.D. of the volcano Mount Vesuvius which is surprisingly not included on the list even though Mount Etna in Sicily is.

Well, eleven out of forty-nine is not a good score so it means one of two things are needed to correct this rather poor performance, either I have to spend more time in Italy in the future or UNESCO needs to hurry up and include some of the places that I have already been.  They could start with Lecce and Lucca, both on the tentative list, and also Palermo that once applied but after rejection subsequently withdrew its nomination.

96 Rome

Italy and Puglia, Assessment and Review

Puglia Map

“Evidently, the God of the Jews didn’t know Puglia, otherwise he wouldn’t have given his people Palestine as the Promised Land.”                                            Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Puglia (1194 to 1250 AD).

As we waited at Bari Palese airport for the Ryanair flight home we began to review the holiday to Puglia and to come to some sort of agreed assessment.

Puglia Map

We had travelled to Italy before, to Pisa and Tuscany, Naples and Sorrento, the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, Rome of course, to Venice and the Veneto and the EPCOT World Showcase, but we had never before visited the far south east, the heel of the boot.

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

The food was wonderful and although we didn’t have time to try all of the two hundred varieties of pasta I am certain that they would all be just as delicious as those that we managed to sample – the sea food pastas were especially good.  We also liked the pizzas and I have to confess that my favourite meal was the horse meat stew in Lecce but please do not tell my granddaughters.

Our accommodation was generally good – all booked in advance through www.booking.com my favourite hotel booking website.  The exception was the awful dump where we stayed in Ostuni, the Nonna Isa bed and breakfast and the best was probably the Grand Hotel in Lecce but that is a tough decision to make.

Along the coast we liked Polignano a Mare and Molfetta but we didn’t care that much for Monopoli but that might be unfair because neither of us were at our best that day on account of the stress of driving in Italy which wasn’t a great deal of fun and one thing for sure is that I won’t be doing that again in a hurry!

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

Although we didn’t like driving we did like travelling by train and Trenitalia was generally efficient, value for money and on time as we used the railway to travel from Bari to Polignano, to Lecce, Ostuni and then back to Bari with one final excursion to Molfetta.

Lecce was a revelation and the ‘Florence of the South’ did not disappoint us with a wonderful Baroque old town, good restaurants and a vibrant night life and we both agreed that we would really have liked a little extra time in that wonderful city.

We didn’t like the taxis because generally I resent paying the exorbitant fares but we had no real choice for our last three days in Bari because I had chosen a hotel that was some way out of the city.  But it was a nice hotel and they gave me a discount on the final bill and that was enough to cover the cost of the taxi fares so I shouldn’t complain.

La Città Bianca, the White Cities, were a bit of a mixed bag.  Ostuni was lovely but busy, Locorotondo was probably the best of them all (in our opinion) because it was less touristy and had a delightful centro storico.  The one that we liked least was Martina Franca but once again this might be unfair, it was another day where we were stressed from driving, the weather was quite poor and we arrived in the middle of the afternoon siesta.

Ostunia Puglia Italy

And we didn’t like the siesta period very much because every day the towns and villages just put up a collective closed sign, locked the doors and the people retreated to their bedrooms.  We have come across the siesta before of course but never as rigidly and as complete as in Puglia.

The highlight of the fortnight was rather predictably the tourist town of Alberobello and our four night stay in a traditional whitewashed, stone-capped Trulli house.  Four nights was probably one too many because there are only so many times that you can walk around the same streets but one thing you can do over and again is go to the same restaurant and we thoroughly enjoyed our four meals at the Foggia trattoria where the chef obligingly gave me some important tips on making a perfect risotto.

Other things we liked were the Peroni beer, the ice cream and the Amaretto.

So that is our short assessment of Puglia and as we pulled our list together we both came to the same conclusion.  We had enjoyed ourselves but this sort of vacation didn’t really suit our travelling style.  For us Italy is a great place for a short weekend break to one of the famous cities but not for driving or beaches so the next time we go to Italy it will be for just a couple of nights or so and we will most likely return to Greece again next year for our main late summer holiday.

If you have been to Puglia and agree or disagree with us then please leave your views and comments.

Trulli House, Puglia Italy, Alberobello

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Italy and Puglia, Alberobello to Ostuni to Bari

Puglia T Towel Map

On Saturday we woke early, packed our bags, went for a final breakfast at the Trulli Holidays reception room, checked out and promised them a maximum ten points assessment on the booking.com website and then transferred the luggage to the car and left.  We had enjoyed Alberobello and when I returned home I was true to my word and gave the accommodation top marks.

It was only a short drive to Ostuni and when we arrived there I was really, really glad to be able to return the car.  The man at the hire car desk silently checked the documents and then looked up and with just a momentary look of threat and anticipation in his eyes asked one simple question “what damage to car?” as though this was surely inevitable.  I told him that I was absolutely certain that there was none and he looked at me as though I was the World’s biggest liar and came round from behind the desk and went off to check.  He inspected both inside and out and then had to concede that there was no damage and then, with a look that had turned from anticipation to disappointment, almost reluctantly it seemed to me, signed off the hire release papers.

Because we had enjoyed our first night there and one morning had simply not been long enough we were now moving back to Bari and this meant going back to the trains for transportation and I was relieved and delighted in equal measures that someone else would now be doing the driving and so while we waited for the Trenitalia train to arrive we sat in the sun at the station bar and had a couple of beers.

I had found a good bargain at a Spa hotel a little way out of the city so when we arrived at Bari station, being unsure of the location, we broke a golden holiday rule and hailed a taxi.

Bari Puglia Italy

I am not happy about breaking this rule especially when the fare came to €10, bust the daily budget and nearly broke my heart but I was mighty glad that we hadn’t attempted to walk it!  The hotel, a once grand mansion on the edge of the city, was quite a lot further out of town than I had imagined it would be and as the taxi continued to drive further and further away from the centre it became quite clear that there was absolutely no chance of walking back into Bari for evening meal but never mind we thought that we might eat at the hotel instead.

It was a lovely hotel with a very good room but when I enquired about the restaurant I was informed that it had closed down for the season a few days previously.  Oh dear it was beginning to look like more taxi fares again later.  Once again, never mind, this afternoon we would use the Spa facilities while we considered our options.  Not a chance because these were closed as well with conflicting stories from the staff about break downs and/or refurbishment depending upon who was making the excuses.

I was annoyed by this and tried to cancel the third night but the hotel staff were reluctant to allow this and I couldn’t find a suitable alternative anyway within our skinflint price budget and so we had to resign ourselves to three nights marooned miles from anywhere on the edge of the city.

Never mind, we would now use the outside pool facilities and have a lunch time snack but once again not a chance of that either because the pool side snack bar was closed and everything was packed and locked away and for certain would be staying that way for at least nine months.  I complained again but it made no difference and all I got was more apologies.

So, we had to take a taxi back into the city and going back was even more expensive at €15.  Actually it could have been even worse because when the metre hit €15 I told the driver to stop and we got out, paid and walked the rest of the way to the old town.

Before dining we walked around the city walls for a while and then choose a pizzeria and trying to compensate for the cost of the taxi fare choose a very cheap meal and a pizza between us which seemed to surprise the staff.  I really hate taxis, they are such robbers and all that they achieve is to suck money from the local economy because if I hadn’t spent so much on fares then it is certain that I would have spent more in the restaurant but later we did find enough loose change in the bottoms of our pockets to splash out on an ice cream in a gelataria in the main square.

The main square was just as busy as our first night in Bari with a tsunami of people coming in waves into the old town and then just walking backwards and forwards like an Atlantic tide. This was the  passeggiata where local people descend on the town at dusk and just walk and sometimes stop to talk. Some people had bought fold up garden chairs and were just sitting and chatting, others were playing cards, some were hanging around the bars but mostly they were just walking up and down and around and around and they were still coming in as we battled against the flow and then returned to the hotel rather earlier than normal.

This cost another whopping €12 so when I totted it all up that was €37 in one day on taxi fares – more than I would normally spend in a full year, more than the cost of the fuel for four days car hire!  I needed a lie down and a couple of large amarettos!

Bari Night time Puglia Italy