Posts tagged Puglia
Lecce, in the deep south of Puglia, Italy is a town that overloads the senses. It has over 40 churches and just as many squares. The heavenly architecture which dots the town reaches a crescendo at the Basilica di Santa Croce. My guide book declares that he stone masons must have been hallucinating when they created this masterpiece. I concur, for this fresco contains all manner of creatures including, believe it or not, dodos! It is rather overwhelming and we had to take refuge inside the church to recover. The interior is rather more sedate although still beautiful in its own right. The rest of this city follows the Baroque trend and also has not one, but two Roman theaters. This cultural overload contrasts with the abundance of crude graffiti scrawled over the ancient walls.
We made our way into the city via bus from our area di sosta (camperstop) 6km out of Lecce. We knew we’d found the bus stop when we noticed a little piece of cardboard tied to a road sign with the words “fermata bus” scrawled on it. While the bus stop might have been very third world, bus driver wasn’t, and surprised us by being perfectly on time both on the way there and back. Odie, was in luck. Instead of being relegated to the luggage compartment (as he was in Spain), he was able to ride in style with us! Bus tickets came in at a trifling €0.80 and were available from the camperstop.
After a welcome break in our nomadic lifestyle we uprooted once again and pottered down the Adriatic coast to Alberobello, Puglia. This town is famous for trulli – the round, dry walled, white washed houses that dot the landscape. Some say that they were built as an early form of tax evasion. Being made without mortar they could be dismantled every time a royal tax inspection was carried out.
We stopped in a lovely olive plantation, now an area di sosta (camperstop), in the heart of Alberobello. Little did we know that we were adjacent to the Trulli neighbourhood. In our search for groceries, we bypassed this area and looped all round the town only seeing a few Trulli as we marched ever onwards. However, we weren’t disappointed as the town is beautiful in its own right and we were lucky enough to be about during the Italian passegiata, or evening stroll. The next morning we stumbled over the Trulli neighbourhood. There are two main Trulli areas, one full of shops selling trulli tacky touritst tat, and another where people still live in these hobbity homes.
A short hop took us to Locorotondo, a hilltop town in Puglia with a beautiful historical centre. The old town has narrow lanes that all lead to the church. Most buildings are cream or white and this colour contrasts beautifully with the red geranium-filled window boxes. After a rejuvenating gelati we continued on to Lecce, right in the heel of the Italian boot.
We are constantly moving, packing and organising . You would never think that we are on a permanent holiday. Our days somehow fill themselves up with these ‘admin’ tasks. We often find that after a month or so of regular, almost daily journeys we feel run down and need to stop for a few days to recharge our batteries. I find this is particularly true if we are wild camping regularly, and although I feel most at peace when we are on our own in nature, I worry that we will be asked to move on by the locals.
The time had come to put down some roots, at least for a few days, by the beach. We found a great campsite near Vieste, Puglia in the Parco Nazionale del Gargano. The site was a short walk from the sea and had a very relaxed, holiday atmosphere. A couple of other English couples were also staying for a few days and we were able to swap information. The respite from traveling allowed us to catch up on work and chill out with swimming and general holiday activities.
The Adriatic coast is stunning. Verdant forests crowd the hills which drop down to the ever changing blue ocean. Limestone rocks give the area an idyllic landscape, riddled with caves and coves. Vieste was our closest town, but unfortunately in our laziness we didn’t visit except for a hair raising journey out of town. It looks like a perfect holiday town, full of bars, restaurants and endless sandy beaches dotted with palm trees.
Saepinum, a unique and deserted Roman settlement, greeted us after a short drive on some very bumpy roads in the Molise region of Italy. This Roman town was an important gateway for goods and travellers within the Roman republic. Part of the amphitheater had been used as a foundation for a number of medieval cottages. The archeologists excavating the site decided to leave these standing and they give an interesting insight into how buildings expand organically upwards over time. There is a large square with a recreated entrance gate and original carved fountains and pillars.
What makes Saepinum unique is that it is not very well known. We were virtually the only visitors to the site, and even had to shake the parking attendant to wake him from a snoring reverie. The ruins gives you a chance to recreate the Roman town in your imagination without having to fight your way through hordes of other tourists. The site is so unvisited that I actually had difficulty locating it. The closest town is Altilia (you can park here), close to Campobasso.
Living in a motorhome is somewhat claustrophobic, but discovering just how small the houses were back then made us feel extremely grateful for the space and amenities we are so fortunate to have. Never have so many trees been chopped down to warm so few dwellings. On the other hand thick stone walls are quite soundproof, making domestic altercations and unwanted TV channels very much unheard.
We made a quick diversion on to Lucera; a supposedly interesting town in Puglia. We were keen to see the massive castle with its endless towers. Unfortunately the castle office is clearly not interested in having visitors. Locked gates barred our entrance and, much to our dismay, the informative sign displaying the opening hours had been desecrated with a black permanent marker. We had a short walk around the perimeter and then went on our merry way.