Tag Archives: Molfetta

Italy and Puglia, Molfetta, Fish and a Forgotten Hotel

Molfetta Puglia Italy

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

Italy and Puglia, Driving and Rain

Trulli House Alberobello Puglia Italy

Simply because we had a hire car we felt obliged to use it even though my personal preference would have been to leave it in its safe little parking spot close to the Trulli house where we were staying and just waste the day away in the tourist town of Alberobello.

I wasn’t really sure where to go, I didn’t want to drive too far and yesterday the places that we had visited had been rather disappointing so without a real plan we headed out of the town and made for the naval city of Taranto on the other side of the heel of Italy’s boot but with an idea that we might stop off in Mottola and Massafra, two towns that both featured in the guide books.

First we drove to the nearby town of Noci which was reasonably straight forward and we rather enjoyed driving through the countryside and along narrow roads with verges decorated with pretty wild flowers and next to fields of grazing cows and the inevitable olive groves twisting away as though in a Chubby Checker dancing competition but this all changed for the worst when we arrived in Mottola and the minor road came to a sudden end and we were obliged to join a main road.  I say main road only because it was marked in red on the map but the standard of maintenance was no better and now we had to share the tarmac and the potholes with hundreds of demented Italian drivers.

Perched on a hillside Mottola didn’t look anything special so we rather unfairly wrote it off as not worth stopping for and we carried on to Massafra where the driving deteriorated even further where I swear the drivers were all competing in some sort of scrap-heap challenge.  Caught up in the flow of speeding traffic I was terrified by the narrow lanes, the closeness of the steel barriers at the side of the road and just how close people were prepared to drive to the rear end of our car.

At every junction I had an expectation of a collision – at a roundabout I showed some hesitation and a twenty tonne truck just cut straight across me, missing me by inches!  I realised by now that stop signs are completely meaningless as, on approaching one, an Italian driver just ignores it and simply pushes the front of his car into the flow of traffic while he continues to chat away on his mobile phone.

My nerves were in shreds and it was in the middle of all this mayhem that Kim confessed that she was feeling rather stressed as well so we both agreed that probably the best idea was to abandon any ideas of visiting Massafra and the planned trip to Taranto (there was still fifty kilometres to go), turn around and go directly back to Alberobello.  Luckily this meant that we could leave the main highway and get back onto the country roads which although tricky and at times dangerous were thankfully not completely murderous.

Incidentally if anyone has been to Mottola or Massafra can you let me know if I missed anything by not stopping off?

I was so pleased to get back  to Alberobello and park the car in a safe place where it was now going to stay until tomorrow morning when happily we would be returning it to the Sixt car rental office in Ostuni.  You have probably guessed this already but I didn’t enjoy driving in Italy and it will be a very long time before I do it again!

While we had been driving and concentrating on the roads and staying alive we hadn’t taken much notice of the weather but now we could see that it had become horribly grey and soon after arriving back it started to rain, gently at first but then turned into a real down pour that kept us confined to the room for a couple of hours.  This was reminiscent of childhood holidays in Wales where it always rains and where as bored children we spent hours staring out of the door looking for weather improvement and watching raindrops racing down the windows of the holiday chalet.

Thankfully we had a nice room in Alberobello in Italy and not a damp holiday chalet in Wales.

Eventually the rain finally cleared away, the sky brightened, the sun came up and the streets quickly dried so released from confinement we had one last walk around the Trulli houses but to be honest there are only so many times that you can walk around the same streets and we had had enough of Alberobello by the end of the fourth day and we looked forward to moving on again tomorrow.

Alberobello Sunset Puglia Italy