An early winter has settled in Vermont, sitting by the fire my mind drifts back to spring in Italy:
In my last blog I left off in Agerola getting ready to make the trek across southern Italy to the east coast.
I had spent quite a few hours viewing maps and reading about towns along this region and discovered the ancient town of Matera where cave dwellings spread across layers of hillside rocks. This is where Mel Gibson filmed the Passion of the Christ along with many other films. We had a quick view of this ancient area from the town piazza where we had a lovely outdoor lunch. We continued on to Ostuni and as we drove closer to that area we drove by white cone shaped trulli homes and beautiful countryside. After almost 6 or 7 hours we finally reached a landmark called Ostuni Palace Hotel and called our host Joe. He met us there in about five minutes and we dragged our luggage along the road, where the most famous view of Ostuni welcomed us. We continued on into the Piazza, past a big statue of some past Pope and up a narrow street that led to a set of stone steps onto a narrow road with beautiful whitewashed buildings and our wonderful airbnb. Ostuni is the white city on the Hill and in the distance you can see the Adriatic Sea. This place was so beautiful! Every turn through the ancient streets met you with jaw dropping charm and wonder. We dined on amazing seafood nearby in a place packed with locals.
We had a full day in Ostuni, starting of with some cappuccino and then a shot of espresso with a croissant. Later we walked the city streets, peeking into churches, stores, and admiring the architecture all around us! We enjoyed a nice afternoon siesta and that evening we craved a salad and found a spot right on the piazza outdoors, where Eric enjoyed eating a fresh olive to my surprise (he hates olives)! My octopus salad was the best! We also switched to a local beer and took a break form the wine! An after dinner stroll led us to the full moon rising and the most amazing luminous view of the city where I caught some great photos!
That night I made sure to download google offline maps while I had wifi for our next journey south and our next journey north to Umbria because we would be without wifi for the next couple of days. I had to downloaded three separate maps to fit the whole area of where we would be traveling and then put in the destinations of where we would go as well. This technical challenge was getting a little bit easier each time I did it. It was key that I put in the destination so it would pop up when I did my search offline while driving. Once I figured this out then offline maps worked like a charm- all with voice prompts and no use of data!
Only a one hour trip deeper in the heel of the boot brought us to our next airbnb in Borgange just 2 Km from the ocean. This drive consisted of flat endless farms of huge olive trees as far as the eye could see. Eric found it unappealing being the mountain man that he is, but I appreciated the arid climate with a tropical ocean side beauty. Once again we did need the detailed directions from our host to find this hidden Masseria along a private road leading up to a gated entrance made of stone. The map took us to the town center but from there we used his directions. We had the most amazing warm welcome from Lucca and his family! They were so friendly and passionate about their place and being hosts. A lot of loving care went into the renovations of this very old walled farm creating three lovely units for guests. Ours had every comfort you could ask for. The bathroom felt huge compared to the past two and even had crazy cool colored lights that changed hues on it’s own and lit up the stone in the shower. They even greeted us with a cool bottle of rose, fresh mullberries from their garden, sheep cheese from their neighbor, cherries and sliced tomatoes stuffed with wild arugula (which grows like a weed there). This was so very sweet and yummy! They set us up with bikes and we went for a ride down their back road along the olive farms and out to the ocean road where we found a beach and went for a swim, while being entertained by local guys playing with a soccer ball alongside beautiful young Italians soaking up the sun. That night dined outside on fresh seafood again. The pub next to us had a guy playing guitar singing with a woman. We were immersed in a typical evening of local family, friends and babies in strollers living life with simplicity and grace. We walked down to the water along a huge modern boardwalk. There weren’t many people around except for a party scene in a bar right down by the water packed with a youthful vibe.
Our bed at the Masseria was so comfy and the room made of stone kept us cool all night. Luca asked us a time for breakfast and at 9:30 we were given an amazing fresh made juice from an orange, beet, ginger and mulberry concoction. Along with cappuccino, fresh pastry with cream filling, organic yogurt and cereal. Sitting outside under the pergola hearing the neighbors cow bells and distant roosters topped of the scene. Luca set us up with the bikes and a map leading us along a small gravel road away from traffic through olive farms and out to the main road that we crossed over to reach the ocean through a resort that provided public access. It was a bit tricky finding the trail but eventually we found it and it brought us along dirt road paralleling the coast until we came out to a public beach access where there was a small bar. We took our bikes off to the left of this area and found a trail leading along the ocean with spectacleular views of the cliffs and blue, blue water. We rode along until we found a small cove with a sandy beach-the perfect spot for a private place to settle in for some beach time. The Adriatic Sea was a perfect temp and so blue and clean- it reminded me of Hawaii a lot. After soaking up the warm sun and ocean water, we continued our mountain bike ride along the coastal trail for a few kilometers. We came out to San Andrea where we spotted a cool open air bar and pizzeria called Babilonia where we later went out for a dinner of pizza and beer. We rode our bike some more north until the trail ended and then we went back to San Andrea. I loved every minute of this day filled with warm sun, swimming and bike riding. Before dinner we finished up the cool Rose wine and local cheese made from the neighbor along with the fresh mullerries and cherries. A little siesta and back down to the oceanside pizzeria where we had the view of the ocean, listening to classic American music by The Beatles, Jethro Tull, and others. The servers were so friendly and the scene was very local. No crowds of tourist anywhere near here.
We had another lovely breakfast this time under a larger pergola in the garden area where a monster rosemary bush grew amongst mulberry trees, fig trees and beautiful flowers. Saying good-bye to Luca, Marco his brother and the parents was sad as they were the most gracious hosts I’ve ever experienced and the mom gave us a little ceramic bell as a token to bless our marriage and future. Their genuine hospitality made me want to come back just so I could see them again. I hope someday they visit us so I can take them on the kingdom trails!
Stay tuned for part III when we head up to Umbria- located in the heart of Italy.