Tag Archives: Ostuni

Italy and Puglia, Yours Trulli in Alberobello

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. Once awake and dressed we left the Trulli and walked into the town up and down the lateral streets and around and around the looping alleys and lanes.  It was rather cloudy but we still managed to get the pictures that we wanted and then went to the Truli Holidays reception and breakfast room for the first meal of the day which turned out to be exceptionally good and only the same price as the Nonna Isa which only served to open up recent wounds.

Kim now decided that she needed some face cream for dry skin so, because I didn’t want to drive, I volunteered to walk to the supermarket that we had driven past on the way in the day before and she went back to the room.  The problem with going on foot back to somewhere that you passed in the car is that distances can be very deceptive and although it had been only a couple of minutes the first time it now took me a good half-an-hour to get to it and then it didn’t sell face cream anyway (well, not the sort Kim wanted) so I bought some bottles of Peroni instead then took the long walk back just as the temperature began to rise.

Kim was sitting outside the Trulli so I opened a Peroni and joined her.  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 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.

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. It makes the larger clusters look like a scale model of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow that has been built by Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.

Trulli House, Puglia Italy, Alberobello

At about midday we did another lap of the town, had a drink in the main square, found a mini market and bought some  Parma ham, cheese and fresh bread for lunch and then Kim found a pharmacy and bought the face cream she couldn’t manage without which cost a massive €25!  Now, for €25 I would expect to get a bucket full but it was only the tiniest little tube so when we got back to the Trulli I went for a lie down and a bottle of beer, which for comparison purposes cost only €1.30 for half a litre.

The cost of the hire car was also a waste of money today because, to be honest, I couldn’t really face driving it again so we left it parked up all day while we sat about the Trulli as tourists continually wandered past taking snapshots and after an hour or so I was beginning to understand what it must be like to live in Bourton-On-The Water or in Williamsburg.

So many people came by and admired the exterior of our Trulli house that eventually Kim began to offer guided tours and during the afternoon we showed around some Australians from Melbourne, a German couple from Frankfurt and a Japanese family from Tokyo and I think we were missing a revenue earning opportunity there that might have offset the cost of the face cream because just around the corner a local couple were charging people for a peek inside a genuine Trulli house.

Eventually we tired of the tourist attention and walked to the new town for a change and visited the large cathedral and the surrounding streets where traditional Trullis were randomly tucked in between modern concrete apartments and shops and then on the way back I visited the Trulli museum but Kim turned down this fascinating opportunity and went back to sit outside in an exhibitionist sort of way whilst passing tourists took her photograph.  After the museum visit I joined her and we spent the rest of the afternoon and the early evening in the sun splashed street and then watched as it went down over our shoulders and left just a fleeting sunset as it sank like a stone in the west.

There was no debate to be had about tonight’s choice of place to eat – we had enjoyed last night that we both knew that we would be returning there and as it turned dark we walked away in the direction of the restaurant that had already become our preferred choice.  This is silly I know but once we find somewhere we like we get in the habit of going back even though there are others to choose from.  Once in Barcelona we went to the same place four nights running and I think we had paella every night as well (different varieties of course).

Well, the place didn’t let us down and we had a second excellent meal.

Oriecchette pasta Bari Puglia Italy

 

Italy and Puglia, Ostuni to Alberobello via Locorotondo

Ostuni Puglia Italy

Car Hire in Italy…

The dreadful Nonna Isa had one last sting in the tail for us.  The owner Giorgio assured us that he had arranged for the car hire company, Sixt ,to pick us up, but when, thirty minutes after the agreed time, there was no sign it was fairly obvious that this wasn’t going to happen so resigned to our fate we wheel-bumped our luggage down the uneven cobbled streets and made our way to the bus stop in the main square, the Piazza della Libertà

There was a thirty minute wait so I took the opportunity to have an early Peroni and then the bus was late so there would have been enough time to have two!  Eventually it arrived and took us to the railway station where I abandoned Kim and the luggage and went looking for the car hire office.  Looking at the map it was quite close by but that was as the crow flies and it was a much longer walk than I had at first anticipated and it took me thirty minutes or so to find it hidden away in the middle of an unattractive industrial estate.

As this was Italy I was hoping for an old car with a few battle scars but I was allocated a brand new silver Renault Clio with relatively little damage and after a few brief instructions I was behind the wheel and tentatively nudging my way through the Italian traffic and after being reunited with Kim I predictably took the wrong road and drove for a few kilometres before having to do the sensible thing and turn around.

Italian Drivers…

Once out of Ostuni we were on the open road and I thought I must have gone wrong again because the road surface was appalling with pot holes and bumps, no white lines and a fifty kilometre speed limit but after a short while it became clear that this was indeed the main road.  I stuck to the speed limit but this just had the effect of irritating everyone behind me because to the Italians this seems to be advisory rather than compulsory and most of them were driving at least twice as fast than the limit, usually in animated conversation on their mobile phones and forever overtaking at any precarious opportunity and after only a few kilometres I was beginning to regret the car hire decision.

Ostuni Puglia Italy White City

La Città Bianca, Locorotondo…

After only a short time I was ready for a break so it was lucky that we came across another of La Città Bianca, the charming little town of Locorotondo where we found a huge car park where I was delighted to pull in, leave the car for a while and then walk into the centre.

There was nothing especially remarkable or memorable about Locorotondo but it was peaceful and quiet and the narrow white streets were rather like Ostuni but flatter and without the touristy elements.  We visited the Cathedral and then immediately forgot about it and criss-crossed the old town through its network of lanes and then found a park and a viewing area with views over the agricultural valley decorated with the trulli houses that are a feature of this region.

I will tell you about the Trulli houses later because our next destination was the town of Alberobello where we would be staying in a Trulli house of our own.

We stopped for a drink and a sandwich in a little café in the centre of the town but eventually there was no putting off the remainder of the drive so we returned to the car and pointed it in the direction of Alberobello where we arrived in just a few minutes and, unusually for us, easily found the hotel reception office with the accuracy of a guided missile.

A Trulli in Alberobello…

After a long introduction and plenty of unnecessary advice the receptionist, Francesco, took us to our Trulli about five hundred metres away.  Based on the Nonna Isa experience in Ostuni this was a dry throat, white knuckle moment for me because I don’t think I would have got away with two bad hotels in succession but I needn’t have worried because it was delightful and everything that we had expected as we were introduced to our traditional Trulli with its immaculate whitewashed walls and grey stone bonnet roof.  Kim declared it to be an instant hit and relieved by that I instantly relaxed and opened my suitcase and took the cap off of a bottle of Peroni!

On account of the fact that we were due to stay in Alberobello for four nights we didn’t rush off into the town but stayed around the Trulli and enjoyed the sunshine and then later went walking and looking for somewhere to eat  and to cap off a good day Kim once again demonstrated her uncanny knack of finding a good restaurant and on the edge of town her instinct led us to a small trattoria with a short menu where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and even before we had finished agreed that we would return again tomorrow.

Things were definitely beginning to improve and it was so good to be here that it didn’t even matter that as we ate it started to spit with rain!

Alberobello Sunset Puglia Italy

Italy and Puglia, Ostuni, “La Città Bianca”

 Ostuni Puglia Italy

If the room in the accommodation was bad then the breakfast was truly awful.  I was sort of hoping that the place would redeem itself and live up to the gushing description that it gave itself on the website with the promise of a wonderful meal with home-made cakes and local specialities.

Not a chance, and no prospect of Kim cheering up either because the meal was absolutely woeful with cellophane wrapped supermarket cakes, those dried toast things that they have for breakfast in Europe and no proper tea – a good job then that I had had the foresight to bring some with us in a plastic bag in my suitcase. As we sat in a domestic apartment with an old man in his pee-stained underpants watching last night’s football on TV it was about now that I confirmed to myself that the Nonna Isa would be rather like Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest  and would score null points in my accommodation review.  It was a conversation less breakfast because Kim was speechless and too stunned to communicate.

The good news was that despite the dip in the weather the day before the sky was blue and the sun was shining so we left the apartment, walked past the funeral parlour at the end of the street that was full of grieving relatives saying goodbye to recently deceased loved ones and looked for a shop for some much needed beer and wine to use as a self prescribed anaesthetic.  We got lost and walked much further than was necessary but eventually we found the local Spar, made our purchases, took them back to the room and then went off sightseeing proper into the sun bleached old town.

Ostuni Puglia Italy White City

The old town, it has to be said, was wonderful, as pristine white as any Greek Island village and full of concentric roads that wound around like a buckled corkscrew as we climbed the steep slopes and stairs from top to bottom.

The old town is only quite small so even though we walked slowly it wasn’t long before we had seen everything there was too see in Ostuni including a visit to the Romanesque Cathedral which only served to confirm Kim’s opinion that all Cathedral’s are pretty much the same (including the electric candles) and I have to be honest that I cannot remember a single thing about it except that it cost €1 each to go inside.  There was another church with a slightly weird cinema experience and a film about illegal immigrants trying to get into the United Kingdom and that was all and our assessment was that Ostuni is a place to visit for a couple of hours and not for a couple of days especially when you are staying at the dreadful Nonna Isa!

After a drink at the top of the town and a street sandwich at the bottom we walked around the outside of the city walls, climbed staircases and explored small roads, strolled through alleys and arches where there were hints of the middle ages at every turn and from this elevated position there was a good view out to the velvet blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.

It was siesta time again now so we returned to the apartment and while Kim slept to try and forget about the place I sat on the sun terrace (sorry, I mean the roof) and enjoyed the view of the city through the forest of television aerials.

As the sun dipped and the clouds began to gather rather threateningly we returned to the city centre and walked the streets again in the darkness looking for somewhere to eat.  Ostuni was a different place by night and where there had been open spaces this morning now there were tables and chairs and a restaurant assault course to deal with.  We both knew where we would be eating so we turned down dozens of invitations and returned to the pizzeria that we had found on our first day and ordered a pasta meal each.

The outside tables were underneath swaying canvas sheets but these were designed for protection from the sun and were not a great deal of use when it started to rain, only slowly at first but later developing into a deluge which sent al fresco diners scurrying inside.  We appeared to be the lucky ones with the only table that, except for a few drips, remained dry, so we stayed put, finished our meal and then when the rain had passed over made our reluctant way back to the Nonna Isa bed and breakfast disaster zone.

The following morning there was an equally stunning bad breakfast which we finished as quickly as we could before paying up and checking out.  We couldn’t get away fast enough!

Ostuni White City Puglia Italy