Tag Archives: Polignano a Mare

Thursday Doors – Bari in Southern Italy

Bari Doors

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.

We especially liked the old town in the evenings where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  With some difficulty we found a traditional trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

Those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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: Fresh Fish

Octopus preparation Bari Puglia Italy

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: Achievement

Volare Domenigo Modungo Polignano a Mare

In the Italian seaside town of Polignano a Mare there is a tall statue of a man with arms theatrically outstretched as trying to attempt flight.  This is likeness of singer/songwriter Domenigo Modungo who is perhaps the most famous son of Polignano who after a career in show business went on to become a member of the Italian Parliament.

Domenigo who? I hear you ask.  Well, let me tell you that Domenigo is renowned for writing and performing what is claimed to be the most famous, most copied, most successful, most lucrative in terms of revenue, Italian popular music songs of all time.  Think about it…have you got it…

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”

The song was written  for and performed at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest where it came only third after France and Switzerland but was later translated into several languages and was covered by a wide range of international performers including Al Martino, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Luciano Pavarotti, The Gipsy Kings and my personal favourite Dean Martin.

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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.

Octopus preparation Bari Puglia Italy

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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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, Cathedrals, Churches and Street Lamps

Lecce Puglia Italy

Lecce Puglia Italy

Alberobello Puglia Italy

 

Italy and Puglia, Doors and Windows of Polignano a Mare

Shuttered Door Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

Italy and Puglia, Polignano to Lecce

Tea Towel Map of Puglia

The plan today was to catch the one o’clock train to the city of Lecce in the Salentine peninsula right in the heel of the boot of Italy and just about as far as you can go in the country with the next stop east being Albania.

With a morning to while away, after breakfast we checked out, stored our bags and set off for one last walk around Polignano but this time we ignored the tourist old town and slipped instead into the chessboard, grid pattern streets of the adjacent residential quarter.  This was the old part of the new part if that makes any sense with narrow criss-cross streets and sharp right-angled corners.

At this time in the morning there was more washing of clothes, more scrubbing of steps and more food preparation as housewives prepared fresh pasta and then left it out in the sun under wire mesh to dry.  I don’t suppose the people of Polignano get many northern European tourists wandering about in this part of the town and as we walked there were looks of bewilderment and suspicion as we carried on towards the sea through confusing streets bristling with local endeavour. Our favourite moment was when a mobile hardware store clattered over the uneven cobbles, dangerously overloaded and looking as though it would surely topple over at any moment.  It reminded me of Mr Tuscon’s mobile shop that used to stop in the village where I lived when I was a boy.

And then it was time to turn our backs on Polignano and say goodbye, we had liked it here but we had to make our way back to the train station.  The automatic ticket machine was broken so I worried about how to buy one and we had a wait of about one hour so we found a bar and I had a beer and forgot about the problem for the time being.

Shuttered Door Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

The train arrived on time and soon a ticket inspector was lurching from side to side along the carriage in time with the side to side motion.  He already knew of course that the Polignano ticket machine was out of order so we purchased our tickets from him in a rather long winded and inefficient triplicate form palava which made me wonder why Trenitalia don’t issue hand held tablets to their staff.

The journey to Lecce took just about seventy-five minutes and the train stopped several times along the way.  In between the towns the train clattered through mile after mile of olive groves which stretched out endlessly towards the horizon.  There are an estimated fifty million olive trees in this region of Italy and some are said to be almost a thousand years old.  Here were gnarled old trees with heavy branches supported by stout stakes and I think some of them may actually have been even older than the Roman Empire.

After a while the train began to enter the suburbs of the industrial port town of Brindisi.  Maybe we should have stopped there for a while but as with Bari the guide books were less than flattering making it sound like Middlesbrough or Pittsburgh and so we let it slip past.  Brindisi marked the end of the Roman road, the Appian Way but where Roman Emperors stopped (Julius Caesar apparently declared this to be the end of the World) and where Crusaders left Europe as they set off for the Holy Land we carried on a few kilometres further to our next destination.

Lecce Puglia Italy

The railway station in Lecce was hot and busy but outside the main entrance we walked straight into the siesta time again and the streets were as deserted as an abandoned ghost town.  I wasn’t going to call for a taxi of course and although I was taking a bit of a chance here after my sorry performance in Bari, I told Kim I was absolutely confident of the hotel location and then I had a massive stroke of good fortune when I came across the entrance barely one hundred metres from the station.

This was the Grand Hotel, Lecce, or perhaps more accurately, the Once Grand Hotel, Lecce because although we immediately liked it, it had a slightly faded elegance, was past its best and was clinging on by its fingernails to its once grand status. But it had a wonderful room full of proper furniture, crisp linen on the bed and a well stocked basket of complimentary bathroom essentials.

There were a couple of important jobs to do now so we walked into the city to find somewhere that we might like later to eat and to find a supermarket for some wine.  We dipped into the outskirts of the city as far as the Cathedral but we wanted to save the sightseeing until tomorrow so after spotting some likely dining establishments we walked out of one of the city gates and with another stroke of luck found a supermarket almost straight away.

Ostuni Puglia Italy

For the rest of the afternoon we sat in the sunshine in the garden around the swimming pool and drank some wine and then upon going back to the room came across a problem – the standard UK/European plug adaptor doesn’t work in Puglia because for some strange reason they have a different socket system in the south of Italy so four days into our travels and we couldn’t charge anything up and the hotel was unable to help except to give directions to a hardware store somewhere on the edge of the city.  It was a problem but it would have to wait until tomorrow to get sorted out.

Later we walked back to the centro storico and in contrast to the siesta period it was vibrant and busy with lots of trattoria to choose from but there was disappointment when we found one that we really liked but it was fully booked and couldn’t squeeze us in.  We found an alternative which was fine without being memorable and when we had finished Kim was so determined to eat in our first choice that she led me round and around in circles through the confusing streets and getting hopelessly lost in the process until by chance we found it again and then booked a table for the following evening.

Lecce Doumo Puglia Italy

Italy and Puglia, Speedos and Siestas

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

Close by to the statue of Domenigo Modungo we passed the iconic and most photogenic beach of Polignano, a small cove carved out of the rocks with a part sand, part stony approach to a sheltered bay, just perfect for swimming and sunbathing but we didn’t stop there but continued our stroll along the coast to a small beach where fishing boats were drawn up onto the grit and sand and where Italian holidaymakers were enjoying the sunshine and men were strutting around looking for a mirror to admire themselves in and women were working on impossibly deep summer-long mahogany tans.

Interestingly, regardless of shape, most of the men were wearing Speedo swimming trunks.  These are generally associated with energy and fitness, speed and grace, but are not entirely suitable for less athletic body types that include those that are overweight, those that are wrinkling or sunburnt or those in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

On the other hand for those of us like me that are in peak physical condition they are perfect for the beach and that’s why I like to wear them when going on holiday or visiting the pool.

The fashionability of Speedos varies greatly in different parts of the world.  They are commonly worn by men of all ages in Asia, Australia, South America and mainland Europe and in China and Japan men almost exclusively wear them as swimwear.  In some countries, Speedo-style briefs are often compulsory in public or resort swimming pools, in France for example it is common to see “slip de bain obligatoire, shorts interdits” or “swimming briefs required, no shorts allowed” because this is considered to be a matter of hygiene and public health, as shorts which might have been worn as street wear prior to entering the pool may be dirty and pollute the water.

It’s a strange thing that the French, who as a Nation are unlikely to win any prizes for personal hygiene get almost hysterical about observing excessive standards at the lido.  The Los Angeles Times once reported the shocking results of a series of polls and studies that over 50% of French men and women do not take a bath or shower daily and 40% of men and 25% of women don’t change their underwear daily.

To be honest I think I could happily live in France!

Polignano a Mare Puglia Italy

After a quick paddle in the sea we retired to the back of the beach and to a seafront pizzeria and bar and we sat in the shade for a while with a couple of Peronis and some plates of grilled fish and local pasta and then we made our way back the way that we had come towards the old town.

It was hot now and the time was approaching the afternoon siesta as we returned to the hotel through curiously deserted streets as though someone had declared a national emergency and everyone had left town.  The concept of an afternoon siesta is not something that I am unfamiliar with but I think that I can say that I have never before seen it so rigidly observed; not in Spain, France or even Greece but here in Polignano and all across Puglia the whole place closed and nailed itself down for the afternoon.

Across the streets abandoned laundry remained hanging on overloaded balcony rails, starched and bleached by the sun, occasionally a loose shutter kissed a window frame and a whispering pigeon looked for a shaded spot to spend the afternoon.  Sitting on the balcony it was so quiet that I could hear the paint lifting and splitting on the wooden doors, the gentle creaking of rusty shutter hinges, the squeaking complaints of rattan as sleeping residents shifted a little in their balcony chairs and the faint crack of seed pods in the flower planters.  It was hot under the full glare of the sun and breathless too, without any sort of breeze as we sweltered away  in pizza oven temperatures of mid afternoon.  Luckily I had a good supply of cold Peroni in the room fridge!

After a couple of hours of shutdown and inactivity life started to slowly return to normal and the little town began to stir into life once more.  Shutters rattled open, washing lines were cranked inside, car ignitions began to chatter, Lambretta scooters croaked into action and sleepy people began to reappear from their front doors.  The hotel reception opened for business, shops began to open and within a short time normality was fully restored.

Later in the evening we returned to the old town for the last time because we would be leaving in the morning and then we ate at a restaurant of Kim’s choice and had a posher, more up-market and more expensive evening meal than I am generally comfortable with.  There was no street entertainment tonight but there were a lot of young people hanging around the streets outside our accommodation making a lot of noise and we were glad of the fact that our room was on the back and not affected by the noise of the street chatter and the revving engines of the scooters.

Polinano a Mare Italy Puglia