Tag Archives: Bari

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh Fish

 

At the harbour someone had done a lot of clearing up and all of the debris from the previous night had been removed and now in place of the beer vendors there were marble slabs alive with fresh fish pulled only recently out of the sea and on the quayside a man pulverising an octopus to break down the skeleton and to tenderise it.

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Weekly photo Challenge: Street Life

Bari Italy Puglia Street Sweeping

Early Morning Walk in Bari, Puglia…

… Elsewhere there were steps and pavements to be swept, food to be prepared and shopkeepers were arranging their pavement displays, women were shopping to be sure of the freshest produce and old men were selecting shady corners in which to pitch a chair for the remainder of the day and everywhere motor scooters zipped past, engines cracking like machine gun fire, making deliveries regardless of any pedestrian right of way.

 

Eventually, with probably more luck than we were entitled to, we found our way out of the labyrinth of narrow streets and on to a main street that we thought we recognised and shortly we were back at the hotel for late breakfast and then for checkout.

Hardware Shopping Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Bari Night time Puglia Italy

The main square was  busy 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 unfamiliar as we were with the pavement protocol.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Bari Airport Railway Metro

Beginning of a Train Journey…

It turned out that this railway line was only opened six weeks earlier on 1stAugust and was so new that there were still staff on hand to help people with the ticket purchase procedure at the automatic machines.  The journey took no longer than fifteen minutes and outside the station we emerged into the balmy night air of Bari and being fairly confident of the location of the hotel we strode past the taxi rank, ignoring the various offers of a lift and walked in the direction of the old town.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Community – Italy and Puglia, People

 

 

 

 

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, Bari and the Mafia

Bari Puglia Italy

The Hotel Terranobile Metaresort was practically empty this morning and we shared the whispering breakfast room with just two German backpackers.  It was our final day and with a late evening flight home there was a full day to plan ahead for.  We thought we might spend the morning at the hotel and then the final afternoon in Bari with a last meal in Bari Vecchia.

Shortly after breakfast the Germans checked out and left on their way to Polignano and except for the two of us the garden and swimming pool was completely deserted.  I had arranged with the hotel that we could stay a couple of hours beyond check-out time but the place became so quiet and seemingly abandoned I became concerned that the staff had locked up and gone home and that we were stranded here.  So I went to check – every half an hour!

Finally it was time to go and after we had packed I went to reception to check out and was presented with a bill for a three night stay which I was prepared to pay but cheekily asked if there was a discount on account of the fact that all of the advertised facilities were closed. 

The desk clerk told me to wait while he disappeared into an adjacent office and came back with the good news that the hotel director had agreed that we should only pay for two nights and that was a lot more generous than I was expecting and I was especially pleased about that because the reduction in hotel cost was going to cover all of the taxi fares.  In two minutes the hotel just secured themselves a review score of 10!

While we took the taxi ride into the city the thought still nagged away in my brain that  €15 seemed rather expensive to go three kilometres compared to the €50 airline flight to go two thousand.  To put that into perspective I calculate that if we were going to the moon it would cost €3,000,000 by Bari Taxi but only €10,000 by Ryanair.

 

The taxi driver dropped us at the edge of the old town and looking at out bulging bags took our fare and told us to be careful.  It was that threat of crime thing again and I remembered this bit of scaremongering advice from one of the travel websites: “The city of Bari, is a great place to visit, however, it can be quite a disaster if you don’t plan ahead. Bari is a city with lots of pickpockets. If you find yourself in a bad area, with a purse or valuables, such as watches, prepare to lose them.” 

Now, I have been robbed in Barcelona and a pick-pocket helped himself to Kim’s camera on the Athens metro but I have to say that never at any time did I feel uncomfortable or threatened in Bari or anywhere else in Puglia for that matter and the only robbers that we came across were the taxi drivers.

I wondered where all of these crime stories came from and it seems that is linked to Mafia style crime syndicates that operate across all of southern Italy.  Sicily has the Cosa Nostra, Naples the Camorra, Calabria, the toe of Italy, has the ‘Ndrangheta and Puglia has the Sacre Corona which allegedly has control of the criminal underworld in Bari and elsewhere.

 

With only an afternoon to go and by now an empty wallet I was going to concern myself too much about that right now so we walked along the main street and sat in a leafy university park for a while and then made our way to our favourite trattoria in the old town, L’Osteria del Borgo Antico and took a table in the shade.

It is said that there are as many as two hundred different styles of pasta in Puglia but it is most famous for a regional variety called oriecchiette which translates as ‘small ear’ on account of the fact that the shape resembles that facial feature so as this was the last day I decided that it was time to try it.  I know that pasta is supposed to be different shapes for different sauces but to be honest it all tastes the same to me and oriecchiette was no exception to this but it did come with an exceptionally fine sauce and I was happy to declare it a very good choice.

The clock was ticking now and after stretching out lunch as long as we could and as the trattoria started to close down for the siesta we left Bari old town and wheeled our luggage back towards the central station where we caught the metro to the airport and checked in with plenty of time to spare and we used that time to review our time in Southern Italy and to make our final assessments. 

I will tell you about that in the final Puglia post next time.

Oriecchette pasta Bari Puglia Italy

Italy and Puglia, Cathedrals, Churches and Street Lamps

 

Lecce Puglia Italy

 

 

Italy and Puglia, Molfetta, Fish and a Forgotten Hotel

 

It was only a short walk from the Garibaldi monument to the seafront and we emerged from the tangle of streets onto a sweeping crescent of shingle and blue sea that was being softly caressed by a gentle breeze and Kim spotted a bar and as her hunger register was moving from peckish to hungry it seemed prudent to walk in that general direction.  It was siesta time of course and the kitchen was closed but the helpful staff provided us with little bowls of what you might call Italian tapas.

After the emergency snack break we walked towards the old town where there was a lot of activity erecting scaffolding and electric lights in preparation for an important forthcoming anniversary.  It might have been fifty years, it might have been five hundred years but it really didn’t matter to us because the celebrations were planned for a week or two after we will have left and returned home.

At the end of the street was a paved square and a statue of Giuseppe Mazzini, another hero of Italian Unification and in this square old men sat and chatted and played cards outside a sort of Italian equivalent of a British Legion museum with some interesting artefacts from the two World wars of the twentieth century.

Fish Market in Molfetta…

As we drew closer to the harbour where fishing boats were tied up against the harbour wall and fishermen were carrying out recently returned to port chores there was a lot of elbow pushing activity at a wood and glass fronted building close by.  This turned out to be the fish market and ragged lines of people were beginning to form in anticipation of bagging a bargain after the afternoon opening of the doors.

Fishermen continued to deliver boxes of fresh fish and inside we could hear the auctioneers fixing the prices and eventually the doors were opened and people were pushing and shoving their way inside.  Inside there were slabs and slabs of fresh fish and on closer examination of the produce it soon becomes clear why we have to put up with stock shortages whilst the Italians, and most of the rest of Europe as well, have such an abundance of choice – we are just far too fussy and our preference for fish is restricted to two or three species that we have fished into a crisis of extinction whilst the Europeans will eat a much greater variety of sea food.

We like to buy our fish in little blue polystyrene trays, trimmed and gutted and without heads or tails and ready for the grill or the oven but here the slabs were brimming with fish so fresh some of it was still alive and flapping about and winking at us as we inspected it.

Restaurant street Art Mellieha Malta

Excuse me a recollection here but this illustrates my point perfectly; once on holiday with my mother and presented with a menu that included a cod dish she actually asked the waiter if it was served with its head still attached!   These things can be two metres long for goodness sake!

There were crabs still frothing at the mouth and octopus with tentacles still writhing and with an eye open daring anyone to buy it and take it home and tackle preparation for cooking. The colours were eye-catching too, sparkling silver, gleaming green, radiant reds, blushing blues and trays and trays of vivid orange scampi and other intriguing and colourful crustaceans.

We couldn’t buy any of course but it was fun to watch the transactions and the negotiations but as the slabs quickly emptied and were reduced to empty cracked porcelain we left the market and made our way around the harbour walls where weary fishermen were taking a well earned rest before they set out to sea again later.  I liked Molfetta, it was a working fishing port and the harbour wasn’t clogged up with expensive yachts and leisure boats.

After the harbour we explored the streets of the old town and into the back streets were local people were just wasting away the end of the afternoon, housewives were preparing evening meal and children were playing football in the alleys and lanes.  We were really looking for somewhere to eat and a reason to stay longer but we could find anywhere that we really liked, it was that time of the day when restaurants are closed and seemingly camouflaged but you just know that they will spring back into life a little later, so we strolled back to the railway station and took the local train back to Bari where we arrived at about seven o’clock.

Bari, Italy…

We thought that we might walk back to the old town to the same trattoria but on the way we spotted a traditional sort of  pizzeria that we tend to like and dawdling around the front door and the menu too long we were spotted by the owner and invited to come inside and eat (actually, I think we were physically dragged in).  We were the only customers and he made a real fuss of us as he patiently took our orders and then provided a starter of salad and muscles and then a pasta main course and a tiramisu to finish.  It was a good meal and relatively inexpensive so we left an appropriate tip but I think we both instinctively knew that we wouldn’t be taking up his insistent invitation to return the following day.

Leaving the restaurant we made our way back to the central station and then in a moment of panic realised that I hadn’t bought with us the details of the hotel and neither of us could remember what it was called. Bugger!  Luckily the Tourist Information Office was still open but they struggled to help and I could see us spending a night on a park bench until we suddenly recognised a street name and the concerned staff were able to identify the hotel for us.  We found a taxi and I was so relieved I cannot even remember how much it cost to take us back home.

Molfetta Puglia Italy

Italy and Puglia, The Inevitability of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi Molfetta Puglia Italy

Garibaldi is the only wholly admirable figure in modern history.”                 A.J.P. Taylor (English Historian)

It was the last full day in Puglia and our plan was to stay at the hotel garden and swimming pool for the morning and then go sightseeing in the afternoon.  It was Monday and I guessed that the garage shop that was closed yesterday would be open today so I ventured out again onto the dangerous road and carefully negotiated the short walk and bought some wine and beer to see us through the last day and evening.

There were even fewer guests at the hotel today than there had been the day before so finding a perfect spot to sit and read presented no problem at all and we let the morning slip away in virtual solitude.

An hour or two of sitting on a sun bed doing nothing is quite long enough I find so shortly after midday we left the outdoor terrace, changed into our walking about clothes and called for a taxi.  It was cheaper than yesterday at only €13 but I still resented paying out such a huge sum as the driver dropped us off at the central train station.

Our intention now was to take the train in a westerly direction and visit the fishing port of Molfetta a few kilometres along the coast.  So far on these travels the Italian trains had been completely reliable and punctual but this time there was a fifteen minute delay and although the station address system provided some information in English I couldn’t understand a word of it as it crackled horribly through the overhead speakers.

Finally the big electric engine hummed into the station and after a few moments we were upstairs in a double-decker carriage and on our way through the untidy industrial zones of the city and out towards the coast and we arrived in Molfetta after about a thirty minute ride.

We didn’t have a map of course but we were fairly certain of the right direction towards the harbour and we confidently set off in our chosen direction and within a few moments came upon a leafy square and the inevitable statue of Italy’s great hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi who we have come across previously in (no exaggeration here) every town and city that we have visited in Italy.

After the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 the state worked hard at making sure Garibaldi would be perpetually remembered and the number of streets, piazzas and statues named after him makes him probably the most commemorated secular figure in history.  Such was the romance of his story of revolutionary heroism and daring-do that Garibaldi was at one point possibly the most famous man in Europe.

In London in 1864 for example people flocked to see him as he got off the train. The crowds were so immense it took him six hours to travel three miles through the streets. The whole country shut down for three days while he met the great and the good.  Literary figures including the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Walter Scott lauded him as the “Italian lion” and the noblest Roman of them all”.

Statues of his likeness stand in many Italian squares and in other countries around the world.  A bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi is prominently placed outside the entrance to the old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, a gift from members of the Italian Society of Washington. Many theatres in Sicily take their name from him and are ubiquitously named Garibaldi Theatre.

Five ships of the Italian Navy have been named after him, among which a World War II cruiser and the former flagship, the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

When I went on holiday to Sorrento in 1976 I took a bus ride along the Amalfi Coast the coach stopped at one dangerously precipitous hairpin bend so that the tour guide could point out to us an outcrop of rock in the sea which is said to show the profile of the great man.

Garibaldi Rock Amalfi Coast

The English football team Nottingham Forest designed their home red kit after the uniform worn by Garibaldi and his men and have worn a variation of this design since being founded in 1865 and there is a Nottingham Forest team magazine called the ‘Garibaldi Gazette‘.  Rather interesting that they choose Garibaldi and not Robin Hood in my opinion.  A college in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire is also named in his honour.

The Garibaldi biscuit was named after him, as was a style of beard, a pop group in Mexico and in Italy there is a cocktail drink called the Garibaldi (based almost inevitably on the Italian drink Campari). The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy has been awarded annually since 2007 in the European Six Nations rugby union competition to the winner of the match between France and Italy.

Garibaldi Six Nations Rugby Trophy

Other places and things named after Garibaldi include the Garibaldi National Park including Mount Garibaldi, Lake Garibaldi and a Volcanic belt  in British Columbia in Canada; the city of Garibaldi in Oregon, USA; a town and a gold mine near the city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia and a town in Brazil (his wife, Anita, was Brazilian).

There are Hotels in Naples, Palermo, Venice and Milan, but only a bed and breakfast in Rome. In England there are streets and squares named after him in London, Scarborough, Grimsby, Bradford and St Albans and a hotel in Northampton.  There is a Pizzeria in Memphis, Tennessee and in the Pacific Ocean near California there is a scarlet fish and a marine reef called Garibaldi. There is a museum on Staten Island, New York; stations on the Paris metro and in Mexico City; a café in Madrid, an area in Berlin, restaurants in Vienna and Kuala Lumpur, a Street in Moscow, a Museum in Amsterdam and a block of high-rise Social Housing flats in my home town of Grimsby.

If I have missed anything important out of my list then please let me know.

I have got rather a lot of photographs of Garibaldi statues from my Italian city visits but I took some more here and then we continued our stroll to the old town and harbour.

“We were for centuries
downtrodden, derided,
because we are not one people,
because we are divided.
Let one flag, one hope
gather us all.
The hour has struck
for us to unite.”

Italy National Anthem

  Garibaldi Fish  Garibaldi Metro Station   

Giuseppe Garibaldi Italian Navy   

Garibaldi Oregon