Tag Archives: Italian Siesta

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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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, Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

“There can’t be too many prettier seaside towns in Italy than Polignano a Mare. Its medieval old town features houses built into limestone cliffs and caves high above the deep blue waters of the Adriatic…. Don’t leave it all to the Italians – go now!”  Richard Field – WordPress Blogger

As soon as we arrived at the old town we understood our mistake – we had walked towards the sea when we should have walked away from it and if we had gone in the right direction then our accommodation was no more than one hundred metres or so from the centro storico but we had enjoyed the walk and at least it had given the town time to start waking and opening up.

Through the main gate was a different world from the Polignano of residential apartments and rows of parked cars as we entered a pedestrianised old town of sun-bleached, weather-splintered walls, flowers spilling down over balconies and shining limestone pavements worn down by the passage of travellers over hundreds of years. Narrow alleys looped around the town which sometimes took us to a new discovery and at others simply returned us to somewhere familiar.  It was only small of course so within half an hour or so we had walked virtually every street and agreed it was time for a break.

We selected a place with gently rippling parasol shade overlooking the Adriatic Sea called the Balconette and ordered wine and beer.  We were sat close to the door of the restaurant and there sat an evil looking chap with bad feet and crutches who was clearly the owner and who was barking out orders and keep a tally of orders, payments and tips.  He was an objectionable man who we both took a disliking to and a combination of this and the fact that I am certain that we were overcharged  we vowed not to return despite the excellent view

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

On the way back we dropped into the church which was mostly unremarkable but traditional – except the candles!  Traditionally a votive candle is lit in memory of someone and I have always thought there is something special about lighting a beeswax candle, or even a tea light and standing back and saying a little prayer or dragging up a memory or two.  I was often in the habit of lighting a candle for my dad.  Sadly these little candles seem to be increasingly replaced with a box full of flickering bulbs that, having paid your money, remain lit for a while and then after a pre-determined time simply switch off. 

A few years ago I remember going into Florence Cathedral and the heat from the thousands of candles was completely overpowering and I am sure that a little accident could easily have led to a raging inferno so I expect that this has something to do with health and safety.  I decided to find out and although I couldn’t find anything specifically relating to Italy or the Catholic Church I did find a UK website providing ecclesiastical insurance advice that advised against unsupervised candle burning so I am guessing that I am correct in my suspicions.  Alternatively, maybe it just saves on redecorating costs because all of that smoke must make a mess of the ceilings and they are going to be a real chore to repaint every few years!

Earlier on during the siesta we had found a supermarket that had been closed of course so while Kim returned to the balcony of the room it was my job now to find it again and bring back some appropriate supplies.  This was easier said than done because it was quite a bit further away than I normally like to walk for a supermarket and I had no idea of the most direct route and it took several attempts to find the right street and the shop.

After an hour or two on the balcony soaking up the late afternoon sunshine we returned to the old town in the evening and walked around the streets once more this time under the waxy glow of the street lights rather than the full glare of the sun and we took a while to agree on somewhere suitable to eat and eventually decided upon a traditional but untidy little trattoria with outside tables where we enjoyed a very reasonably priced meal of salad and pizza and a jug of house red wine.

Although it was getting quite late there was a lot of activity in the Piazza Aldo Moro (named after an ex Prime Minister of Italy) where there was music and a crowd of people.  It turned out that this was a sort of junior dancing festival so we wandered across to join in.  I would have liked to have seen a demonstration of the tarantella which originates from this region of Italy but instead we got young children performing dances from the movie ‘Grease’ which I have to confess was rather good and I suppose there is a tenuous Italian connection through John Travolta.

One thing though I did find perplexing; it was close to midnight and some of these children were no more than eight to ten years old!  I remember when I was a boy of that age being sent to bed by no later than eight o’clock and I wondered at what time are Italian children sent packing to their bedrooms with the lights out?  But then again I suppose they had been sleeping most of the afternoon during the siesta so even at midnight they were still full of energy.  It was certainly getting late for us so we walked back to the hotel and spent the last half an hour of our day on the balcony with a generous glass of amaretto. 

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy