Cone Zone – Alberobello, Italia – 19 ottobre 2015

This was our last full day in Italy.  I had a terrible cold and the last thing I wanted to do was get up early and make public transportation connections.  I wanted to sleep late, wake up slowly, hang out on the large balcony and seek food and drink as the mood struck me.  And, I wanted to explore Ostuni a bit.  We’ve seen very little of this town.

But, we kept with our plan of going to Alberobello.  Honestly, I wasn’t very committed to seeing what I affectionately call the ‘cone zone’.  I’d heard it’s very touristy and that there’s not that much to see once you get there.  Time to find out.

Ostuni has a visitors’ center with a very friendly staff.  They gave us an information sheet with directions for getting to and from Alberobello – without a car.  It looked easy peasy.  We would take a bus from Ostuni to Cisternino (€1,10 and roughly 10 miles), then trains from Cisternino to Alberobello, with a transfer in Martina Franca (€2,10 and about 15 miles).  This would have been an easy 45-minute/30 mile drive by car.

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I threw new necessities (Kleenex, cough drops, cold tablets) into my pack and we were off.  The bus stop was in, as of yet, an unexplored part of Ostuni – outside of the historical center.  Amy has a very good sense of direction, so, my pumpkin head and I followed   While Amy dashed across the street into the tabaccheria for bus tickets, I dashed into il bar for coffee!

This was our bus stop…

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We waited and waited for the 09:15 bus.  We wondered if this was really a bus stop.  We wondered if we were on the wrong side of the street.  The other side had a nice bus shelter with schedules!  If we missed the bus, the next one wasn’t scheduled until 11:15!  Finally, it came – about 20 minutes late.  I know Italy’s reputation for efficiency, or lack of, but, honestly, their public transportation has been pretty good to me.

The 20 minute ride through the countryside to Cisternino was nice.  Our bus stop in Cisternino was non-descript.  It would have been easy to miss it and realize the mistake miles later.

We started our ‘800 meter’ walk from the bus stop (Piazza Navigatori) to the train station (Cisternino Città).  The next train was scheduled to depart at 10:38.  We had plenty of time to walk (downhill).

Cisternino Citta

We passed a market in a piazza.  If we weren’t leaving the next day, I would have bought some of this gorgeous food.  We asked for directions in the piazza to make sure we were on the right track.  We thought it was weird that people had to confer with each other to figure out how to answer our question.  We got the impression that there was more than one train station in Cisternino, but, I haven’t found anything to confirm that.

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The walk to the train station would have satisfied my desire to see trulli – the cone-shaped houses of this area.

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We arrived at Cisternino Città, the train station, with plenty of time to spare for our 10:38 train, but there weren’t any ticket machines and the door was locked.  And, they have one of those clocks that is right twice a day.

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Eventually, a woman arrived and sold us our tickets.  We never saw the 10:38 train – had to wait for the 11:58.  Time was a wasting…

We boarded a train, per instructions given to Amy.  It wasn’t long before the woman came out of the office anxiously waving her arms.  We were on the wrong train.  Well, we had a 50/50 chance.

We finally arrived at our transfer city, Martina Franca, only to encounter more Ferrovie del Sud Est (FSE) craziness – train schedules that were posted too high for even me to read, employees not knowing their right from their left, and passengers, including Italians, scratching their heads in collective confusion.  I don’t know how we made it to Alberobello, but, we finally did!  And, I’ll just tell you now, that catching trains back to Cisternino was even crazier!  Honestly, it was indescribable…

We arrived in Alberobello, which, interestingly enough, translates to ‘beautiful tree’ in time for everything to be closed.  No surprise, there.  The crowds were non-existent – a perk of traveling in Italy in October.  The way I saw it, there were two distinctly different areas of Alberobello – a touristy area and a residential area.  We headed to the touristy area first.

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The sky was blue.  The sun was hot.  And, the truilli were white!

 

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Where the wild things are…

 

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There are a lot of ways to say ‘watch your head’!

 

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Patiently waiting for his person.

 

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I loved the fruit trees – so tempting.

 

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la chiesa – the church

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After wandering through this portion of Alberobello, I was hungry – and, out of Kleenex.  And, after much wandering on the more residential side of the little city – we finally found a small quality restaurant.  We truly found this place by following our noses – stuffed up or not.  Through a beaded curtain and down a few steps into Ristorante La Cantina…

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Amy was a little concerned that her sausage dish might contain horsemeat. But, I think she dodged that bullet.  The little kitchen in this little restaurant (maybe 8 tables) was directly behind our two-top table.

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We were grateful for a quality meal.  And, I was grateful for the handfuls of T.P. in the bathroom.  I really did try to find a place to buy it!

We saw an Americano in the restaurant that we had previously talked with on one of the trains.  He talked about his numerous and lengthy trips to Italy – and, I was surprised at his lack of ability to speak even the simplest of Italian phrases.  Don’t be that American…

After lunch we meandered through the residential homes and back to the train station.

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Because I can’t resist a pretty balcony.

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Mamma mia – that’s some garlic!

 

When we finally arrived in Cisternino, we ran, UP the hill, to the bus stop, to catch what I thought was the last bus back to Ostuni.  Oh, my lungs and legs protested!  Luckily, we found a small store to buy our tickets – and, got on the bus after the driver had his cigarette break.  I later found out there was another bus, but, I guess it was good we got back when we did.

Back in Ostuni, we shopped our way back to the apartment for last minute gifts.  And, then the packing commenced – my least favorite activity on a trip.  There was a little hitch in our get-along when the electricity in our apartment took a break.  We hoped it wasn’t a sign.  I was dreading the trip home – I wasn’t ready to leave.

If I had do-over capability, I would have skipped Alberobello, and checked out Cisternino, Martina Franca or Locorotondo.  But, that’s just me.  And, I know I don’t want to live anywhere where I have to rely on the FSE!

Ciao for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Head over Heels – Lecce, Italia – 18 ottobre 2015

It’s Sunday.  It’s a beautiful morning.  Our Ostuni apartment has a large terrace overlooking the town, but, it also has a terrace at the front door.  This is the view.  It really is a great way to start the day.

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You know that feeling of elated anticipation?  That feeling of waiting for something remarkable to happen, but, not wanting to rush it once it’s here?  That’s how I feel about visiting Lecce.  I’m trying to find a place I’d like to live in Italy.  Lucca and Perugia are high on my list.  Maybe, surprisingly, even Napoli, but…  Something is telling me Lecce might hold the key.

I saw this feather on the street as we walked from the apartment to the piazza to catch the bus.  It reminded me of a story we heard in Pompeii.  The guides told us people  would tickle their throats with a feather to induce vomiting – so, they could return to their gluttonous meals.  How’s that for disgusting?

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We caught the 7:25 am bus (€0,90) from the piazza to the train station and then the 8:04 am train (€10,50) to Lecce.  The train takes about an hour to get to Lecce.  There are less expensive trains, almost half the price, at other times of the day. 

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Those of you who know me, know I am not an early riser.  I am the ‘stay up until 2 am and get up at 9 am’ person.  These early mornings are painful.  Compromise is tiring, isn’t it?  It will be worth it, today!

We saw this as we were leaving the Lecce train station.  The advantage of the two-handled duffel.  It was about a 10-minute walk from the station to the historical city center.

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Well,  by now, almost everyone knows my iPhone was stolen in Napoli weeks ago.  And, I lost my camera, but got it back.  If you find yourself without a smart phone (or a connection), take a photo of the You Are Here (Voi Siete Qui) maps.  They come in handy!  I need a compass, too.  I’ll have to remember to attach an inexpensive one to my pack next trip.  Or, take better care of my phone which had a great compass!  I remember seeing a bin of compasses at a sporting goods store in Colorado.  I don’t any of them agreed on North!

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Prepare to be inundated with photographs!  When you see someplace that might become a part of your life, you start making memories immediately.

Big windows. Big doors!

 

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I want to be wide awake for this day  – which means C O F F E E !  The espresso here was less than a euro and absolutely perfect.  And,  I love those lights.  Pretty clever…

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There were few people out and about this morning – probably sleeping!  Nary a car in sight.

 

Lecce, with its Baroque architecture, is often referred to as the Florence of the South.  These photos were taken at Piazza del Duomo.

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Lecce enlarged

Enlargement of the above photo…

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Hell on wheels – soon to be hell in heels!

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He pulled up on his bike.  Walked in.  And, came out a few minutes later.  A short prayer.  Little to confess.

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I always take notice of accessibility signs – and, try to decide whether my sister could really get around the place, or not.

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Double parked.

 

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Such a Mediterranean feel to this photo.

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The architectural details, the peeling paint and the tiny clothes pins..

 

 

A reminder of Colorado.  I love to browse book stores in Italy.  I take the opportunity to stock up on greeting cards!  The clerk in this particular store was very patient with me – and, my neonatal Italian.  Generally, I have found this to be the case in il mezzogiorno.

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The animal kingdom supporting the balcony.

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I don’t know how this woman found the time to weave baskets.  Wow!  I’ve never seen anyone smoke cigarettes with such voracity.

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Montana is Italian for Montana.

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Scaffolding didn’t stop us from admiring this building.

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<<<Villa Comunale di Lecce – the main green space in the historic center.  There were plenty of benches, shade, a fountain and music.

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>>>

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I look at a home and try to picture myself living there.  Look!  One of the decorative ceramic toppers on the balcony.

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Somebody is about to get ambushed.

 

The pigeon porta potty.

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This was a chatty catty – but, tired all of the same.

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Missing its better half.

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Arco di Trionfo di Carlo V (Porta Napoli) – I’m the 5’10” figure under the arch!

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Full on attack from the pigeons!

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A little insight…

 

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I wonder how many people can’t resist this doorknocker.

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Time to buy olive oil, fig reduction, coffee and cheese!

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If you have OCD, this is not the balcony for you.  I see some positive points about the slant, though.

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Oops!

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For the afternoons of eating, resting and making love.

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Mocking the mime.

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Wranglers in Italy?!

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I liked this street musician – Amy did not.

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And, so it is!

 

Our Lonely Planet meal suggestions didn’t pan out, so, we chose this restaurant.  We were the only customers and sat outdoors.  It was a very quiet street.  Before long, there were more customers and we were able to resume people-watching.

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When we were leaving, I heard a man comment to his lunch companions about the stranieri – which is the Italian word for ‘foreigners’.  In a very polite and friendly tone, I told him, in Italian, that we were, indeed, stranieri.  Italians seemed to be shocked to find out you speak and understand a bit of Italian.  His attitude changed from smug to friendly and he engaged us in conversation.  He was from Milan – and, his parents lived in Ostuni.  They seemed very pleased when we told them that’s where we were staying.  I would never discourage anyone from talking to strangers – they may turn out to be your new best friend!

 

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This was motorized – with training wheels!

 

Amphitheatre Romano

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Love the McDonald’s in the background – not!

 

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We don’t know what this place is.  It was fenced off and there were no signs.  But, the buildings and grounds caught our eye.

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Love the pink bicycle in front of the wedding dress shop!

 

So, we stumbled across this private museum.  We gave each other the perchè no shrug of the shoulders and went inside.  Maybe you read their story in the New York Times?  The story of a home repair – gone historical!  (There was a €3 entrance fee.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/world/europe/centuries-of-italian-history-are-unearthed-in-quest-to-fix-toilet.html?

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This young man is one of the sons of Luciano Faggiano.  His passion for his family’s work was palpable.  Photos were allowed inside, but, I took few.  After the self-guided tour, this man sat down in front of us, like a parent having a heart-to-heart with his children and talked about the adventure in Italian – very slowly.  I think we understood most of what he said.  And, he let us flip through the photo albums.

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The pottery shards in the wall caught my eye!

 

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We resumed our walk after touring the museum.

 

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Boot and bonnet baskets.

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I liked her hair, but, that top makes for a lot of reading!

 

 

Ahhh…the old water bottle in the doorway technique.  Supposedly, this keeps cats from urinating on the doorstep.  I suggest spaying and neutering your cats!

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“You gotta cat  problem?!  I can help you with that!”

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Synchronize those smart phones!

 

 

We headed back to Ostuni – and, browsed the shops from the piazza to our apartment.  Amy’s been eyeing a lamp.  While she went in a shop to look at the lamp, again, I stood outside the store eating my gelato (during the passeggiata – the nightly evening stroll).  I saw an older man sitting on a stoop and commented on the beautiful evening.  He started talking/mumbing to me in Italian . I told him I understood little of what he was saying, but… I asked him if I could sit with him and he nodded his head . So, I sat and he continued to talk.  He told me he was 97 years old.  Then, he put his arm around me and we just watched the people walk by.  Imagine my surprise when he tried to kiss me – as in smack dab on the lips!  Got to love Italian men?!  A few minutes later, his daughter came by to pick him up in her car.  He waved and blew me kisses from the car window.  She has her hands full!

I feel a cold coming on – guess I haven’t been wearing enough neck scarves.  Tomorrow is our last full day before we head back to the States.

I’ll be dreaming of Lecce when my head hits the pillow, tonight…  I loved it.  There is easy access to Trenitalia.  It’s less than 10 km to the sea.  The people are friendly.  It’s flat!  The streets aren’t cobblestone – I could probably wear heels and not turn an ankle.  These are important considerations, don’t you think?  Time will tell.

 

 

Sea-renity – Polignano a Mare, Italia- 17 ottobre 2015

 

Good morning, Ostuni!  The views from our terrace are great.

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I think it’s just me, Amy and the cats this morning.

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Is the coast clear?  Good question for the cats – and, us!

 

We’re headed to the sea, to the sea, to the beautiful sea…to work out the blues – the blue sky and the blue water.

We took the local bus from Piazza Libertà to the Ostuni train station (€0,90 and about 10 minutes) and, then the 8:45 a.m. Trenitalia train (€3,2  for a 42 km ride) to Polignano a Mare.  This gorgeous little town is just a short walk from the train stop.  It’s always nice when you don’t have to wait for a bus or a taxi!

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Blue sky?  Check!

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Blue sea?  Check!

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Some small samples of the characteristic ceramics found in the Apulia region.

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It was a great day to fish.

 

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Cool door.  Opened differently than I thought it would.

 

If we passed a person, or even a few people, we always spoke a clear greeting – which sometimes turned into a conversation.  People like to be acknowledged.

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Looked like important business going on – we didn’t interrupt.

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She was carrying her pug because he was hot.  The plight of the brachycephalic dog.

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The watchful woman.

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The Reader.

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Postprandial pleasure.

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I don’t have the courage to interrupt Don Johnson.

 

Some of the sights as we subconsciously made our way down to the beach…

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My obsession with laundry continues.

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I liked the symmetry of the plants on this balcony.

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I wish the Broncos didn’t come to mind every time I see blue and orange!

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Dutch doors.  Perfect way to keep dogs in and allow for fresh air.

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Walking while their wives prepare the afternoon meal?  This was about as crowded as it got along the sea walk, today.

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High tide tire detritus.

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I can relate to this adventure in moving!

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Talk about a friendly crowd!

 

 

I went into a bar and ordered un caffè.  I think if you have camera in your hand, they want clarification – to know if you really want an espresso or the large cup of American joe. (I really wanted the smooth, creamy and addictive espresso!).  You don’t pay when you order, but, when you are ready to leave.  When I finished, I asked, “Quanto costa?” He shook his finger at me and said , “No.  Quanto pago?” He explained (in Italiano) that since I already drank the espresso, I should ask how much I should pay, not how much it costs. He told me the caffè was 1 euro and the language lesson was free.  Those are the kind of lessons I don’t forget.  It was a nice interaction.

 

We found what is probably the most prominent, or at least easily accessible, beach in town.

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Time for lunch…

Before we left for this trip, Amy told me she wanted to eat at Grotta Palazzese.  It’s a beautiful restaurant set in cliffside caves – and, it’s really expensive.  I’m a practical person.  I know I can get beautiful all over Italy.  And, I know a I can eat delicious meals without blowing the daily budget.  I told her I might consider an overpriced afternoon cocktail, but, that was about it.

While looking for a lunch spot today, the little trattorie and osterie kept getting the thumbs down from my travel mate – and, ta da, guess where we ended up?!  When Amy gets something in her head, it’s best just to give in.  She generously offered to buy lunch in return for my trip planning, so perchè non?

The ambience was all it was cracked up to be…  The food was delicious.  And, I know the bill was impressive.  Grazie mille, la mia amica!

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Amy is sitting with her back to the camera at the third table from the left on the lower level.

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You don’t want to know how much this fish cost.  I bet the fisherman at the pier wish someone would pay them a fraction of the price for the fish they catch!

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“”No signorina, you may not wash dishes in exchange for your meal.”

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You can’t beat fresh calamari.

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A drive-by snorkeler.

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Ravioli with lobster, zucchini flowers and baby spinach.  I always try to order in Italian – turns out ‘baby spinach’ is not ‘spinaci bambino’.  Oops!

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He looks pretty thrilled about filleting the fish, doesn’t he?

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Sea bass – my new favorite fish.

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Our taxi has arrived.  Ha!

On our way into the restaurant, we overheard an American woman complaining to her husband about the choice of restaurants.  As it turns out, she was there with her husband, son and Italian daughter-in-law to be.  I think she was as disgruntled about her son’s choice of spouse as she was the restaurant.  A long road ahead for that family!

 

 

Some more sights as we headed back to the train station to catch the 15:34 back to Ostuni…

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In spite of the plastic chairs, this is surprisingly one of my favorite photos from the trip.

 

Oh, I haven’t told you about Antoinio!  Meet Tony.  I’m certain he’s an icon in these parts. Amy and I came upon him while (s)trolling the hood.  He played a song (especially for us, of course) and when a group of German tourists came along, we went on our way.  But, who should we see at the train station later?  Uh huh.  We had quite the conversation – mostly in Italian.  We talked about music (of course), how his wife died, his past careers, religion… And, he asked about a dozen times if we wanted to go to his house for a ‘nap’, a snack (he suggested mushrooms) and a ride in his friend’s car to Alberobello (because we were talking about trying to go the Alberobello, later) at exactly 9:00 p.m.  He didn’t give up easily.  Honestly, he was a nice guy.  Blues we weren’t expecting…Apulia Blues.  You can check him out on youtube.com.

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Well, on that musical note, I’ll call it a day.  Tomorrow?  Lecce!

Headed to the Heel – Ostuni, Italia – 16 ottobre 2015

It’s pouring rain – must be a travel day!  But, first, our last B&B Donna Eleonora breakfast.

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Remember the bottle of wine gifted to us in Positano?  I carried it from Positano to Matera.  Now, it’s Amy’s turn!  I don’t think she was happy with me handing it off to her, but, fair is fair.  Our bags are stuffed – the struggle is real.

I only acquired two small items while in Matera.

I bought a silver charm shaped like this logo:

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When I got back home, the charm slipped from my chain and went down the sink.

 

And, I bought a ceramic cuccù.  It’s actually a whistle.  In the 1950’s it was a ‘status symbol’.  In ancient times it was a symbol of good luck and serenity.  It also became a symbol of fertility – and, was often given to newlyweds.  (This actually made it home intact!)

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Great opportunity for a chicken/egg joke, but…I’ve got nothing.

We checked out of our B&B.  My bill was only  €137 for three nights!  I really liked this place – wish I would have had better luck with the internet.

We’re headed to Ostuni, today.  It’s the last leg of our trip.  It pains me to write that.  But, I am laughing to myself when I look at this map.  Talk about taking the long way around!  But, without a car, I think it’s the fastest.  I think…

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Luigi took us to the FAL train station in Matera.  Be advised, the ticket window isn’t always manned and there isn’t a self-service machine in this station.  So, plan accordingly.  I’m guessing an agent always shows up just prior to train departures to sell tickets, but, I don’t know for sure.  Our train ( €4,9) left Matera at 10:42 and arrived at Bari  Centrale at 12:17 – a little behind schedule.  The train ride was nice.  We saw a lot of ag land, orchards – and, trulli.

Another little travel tip?   You must have your train ticket scanned (even though it’s already been validated) when you get off the train!  So, keep it handy!

The Trenitalia station is a stone’s throw from the FAL station.  Our train ( €5,6) left Bari at 12:57 and arrived at Ostuni at 13:49.

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I’m so happy to finally be in the Apulia region!

 

We were so grateful to our host, Will, for picking us up at the station and taking us to the apartment – smack dab at the top of Ostuni!  The rain was impressive!  Rivers of rain were running through the olive tree orchards.

Here’s the apartment:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4521707

Will gave us the low-down on the apartment – complete with instructions on what to do if the electricity got tripped.  Amy and I flipped a coin to see who would get the bedroom and who would get the sofa bed.  I guess I won the toss because I got the bedroom.

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The door leading to our rooftop apartment – with a huge balcony and sweeping views of Ostuni.

 

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The door leading directly into the apartment.

 

OK, time for food!  We started walking toward the town center…  Ostuni is referred to as “the White Town” (“La Città Bianca“)…

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Piazza Liberta

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Our lunch spot…one of the few places open mid-afternoon.

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The owners of this bar were so kind to us.  They made me a special panino, gave us a complimentary sweet after lunch (they saw us eyeing the display case) and shared their music with us.

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No, this wasn’t our lunch!

 

 

Later in the evening, after the rain stopped, we walked in the hood.  Cats everywhere!

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And, the cat-free zone…

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We stopped into Sax for, yes, more food and drink.  Again, the owners were fantastic!  I’m liking the vibe here!

So, until tomorrow…

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Shake, rattle and roll – Craco, Italia – 15 ottobre 2015

 

I truly don’t remember how Craco came to my attention.  But, I knew I wanted to explore this ghost town – even though there was still so much to see on our last afternoon in Matera.

Our B&B host tried to discourage us from going.  And, I wasn’t sure how Amy really felt about going – but, she agreed to the adventure.  One of our favorite expressions was “perchè no?” (why not?).

It was mid-afternoon.  The only way to get to Craco, at least at this time of day, was by car.  So, we called Luigi, the driver that took us from the bus station to our B&B when we arrived in Matera a few nights ago.  He charged us a total of €90.  We thought that was a pretty fair deal.

Craco map

So, why is Craco a ghost town?  Well, in addition to failing infrastructure, Mother Nature was not kind to Craco.  It was ravaged by landslides, floods and earthquakes.The last the of the Crachesi were forced to leave in 1980 after an earthquake.  I can’t help but wonder how it lasted so long.  It was impossible not to imagine the lives of the people that had lived here.  And, it must have been devastating to be relocated to Craco Peschiera, a few kilometers away.

There it is…IMG_1693

 

Uh oh…there’s a perimeter fence.  When we got out of the car, Luigi warned us about lupi, volpi e cinghiali  (wolves, foxes and wild boars).  Thanks, Luigi!  By the way, the fence was there to keep us and the animals out.IMG_1695

How did I not know this?IMG_1703

We respected the fence.  Check out the views!IMG_1696IMG_1697IMG_1712IMG_1713IMG_1714

Almost every window and door was open or missing.  It was very eerie.IMG_1701

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As we walked around the town, we did see two men slip through the fence.  I  hope they’re hard headed!  These buildings are definitely unstable.  Admittedly, I’m disappointed we couldn’t go in for a closer look.  I guess they have guided hard-hat tours.  Too little information, too late.

We did run into a goat herd – complete with shepherd (human variety) and German Shepherd.IMG_1715

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The curiosity seekers are separating from the herd.

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This one had us looking for higher ground – as if we could out-climb a goat.  Sheesh!

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Merging traffic.  People should do so well!

 

Apparently, the goats didn’t get the memo!  They passed through the fences and made themselves comfortable.

As I walked down a dirt road, flanked by high weeds, to get these photos, I thought about Luigi’s warning.  I could definitely see the possibility of cinghiali surprising me.

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The ‘new’ digs – morphed from a tent city.  Not much of a trade off.IMG_1798

Luigi was a trip!  His car was immaculate and comfortable.  Speed limit signs were merely suggestions.  And, Luigi, is your seat belt fastened?!  He had more cell phones than hands.  He’s Italian and Cuban and had a great selection of music.  Some people can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but he can dance and drive.  And, proudly show pictures of his family and drive.  I’ll deny it all if questioned by the caribinieri, Luigi.  He told me he takes four coffee breaks a day.  Wow!  I would never sleep!  On the way back to Matera we stopped at a gas station.  I thought it was to get benzina.  No, it was a coffee stop.  This station had the most gorgeous coffee counter.  Amy and I were duly impressed.  Thanks for the coffee, Luigi!  He also weighed in on the next day’s transportation possibilities – including stopping in at a Hertz Car Rental store so we could get a quote.  If you need a ride, this is your guy!

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Once back in Matera, Amy and I went back to Ridola to formulate a plan for getting from Matera to Ostuni.  And, to drink a little wine…

(As an aside, the Greek name for Craco was Montedoro.  There is currently a movie by this name.  I hope it comes to our local film festival in Boulder, CO.)

http://montedorofilm.it/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back on track – Matera, Italia – 15 ottobre 2015

There’s never enough time.  It looks like I’ll just get a taste of Matera, which is a shame, because it’s an incredible place!  I already know the people are wonderful!

So, why did I choose to explore Matera?  Mainly, because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1993).  And, it has been designated the  European Capital of Culture 2019.  Get it while the getting’s good.  For readers in the U.S., you’ve seen Matera if you’ve watched The Passion of the Christ (2004).  I’ve got to see the Sassi di MateraSassi is Italian for ‘stones’, and, refers to the cave-like dwellings carved out of the stone in the historical center of the city.  The sassi are thought to have been around for 9,000 years!  People lived in these dwellings, with their livestock – and, without electricity, running water or sewer systems as recently as the 1950’s.  The public health part of me cringes.  Disease was rampant – especially malaria.  The government forced the sassi dwellers to move after the conditions of the sassi became more well known (after the 1945 publication of Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli).  Many of the dwellings have been restored and are now homes, shops and restaurants.

It’s raining this morning.

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If that green, white and red umbrella had been collapsible, there would have been a sale.

 

Amy explored the Sasso Caveoso area yesterday, so, we will check out the Sasso Barisano area today.

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Step down – back into time.

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We found a small private museum (admission €2) which had re-created a typical sasso.

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The entrance

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That is one large mortar and pestle!

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A ‘pot’ in the bedroom would certainly take the romance out of the bedroom.

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Is this supposed to be an Italian horn – to ward off the ‘evil eye’?

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I guess they didn’t have to go far to tend the livestock!

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la cucina

 

We have been spotted!  This sweet mangy dog stayed with us as we walked up the hill.
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It wasn’t easy to convince Amy this was a pomegranate tree.

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la gravina (the ravine)

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On the prowl…

Ok, time for lunch.  We timed this perfectly.  There’s was only one other occupied table when we arrived.  A short time later, there was an influx of a group of about 30 people.

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The waiter (son of the owners?)  offered to make us a vegetarian appetizer plate.  The descriptions are very general – sorry!

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Beans and chicory.  Bread balls with red sauce.

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Counter clockwise starting with the cheese – crostini with a bean pate, ricotta with marmalade, fried red chili peppers (addictive), combination of potatoes, onions and red peppers

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Ferricelli con crema di caciocavallo podolico, pistacchi e porcini – we shared this.  A perfect lunch.

 

I could wander through the sassi for days.  Just another place I’ll have to revisit.  Today, didn’t end with lunch.  We’re headed to Craco!  You won’t want to miss it!

La macchina fotografica – Matera, Italia – 14 ottobre 2015

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Karma.

Go away.

Amy will be exploring the sassi without me today because I need to look for my camera!  The camera with more than 1600 photos on it!  The camera my ex-husband loaned me.  Who could have seen this coming?  I can’t believe I let my mental foreshadowing turn into reality!

I was fairly certain I left my camera on the bus, but, I checked with Luigi, our taxi driver, first.  I carefully crafted my question for him in Italian, then called.  He hadn’t found a camera in the car.  One of our hosts, who didn’t speak any English, also called Luigi – just to be sure.

So, I skipped breakfast and headed back to the bus station.  I really just had a general idea about how to get there – things looks so different in the daylight.

On my way, I passed an older woman on a sidewalk – plodding up the hill.  I politely said ‘buongiorno‘ to her.  She mumbled ‘magari‘ to herself.  It means ‘I wish’.  Yep, I get it lady.  I asked another man to point me in the right direction.  He dismissed me with a wave – like a was a minion.  Geez, I asked politely in Italian!  Two seconds later, he was asking another for directions.

I finally found my way to the station, but it looked like the train station, not a bus station.  Is this where we got off the bus last night?  It sure looks like it, but, there aren’t any buses.  There’s a train underground.  And, a train ticket window – which was closed.  Shocker, right?

I asked around.  A man pointed ‘over there’.  A woman pointed me in the direction I just came from.  Miles later, I ended up back at the train station.  Finally, there was an agent in the window.  And, he was being a pill with two English women at the window.  He actually told her to go look ‘it’ up on the internet – whatever ‘it’ was.  She told him she didn’t have internet and showed him her unimpressive flip phone.  Ok , I like this lady (flip phone camaraderie).  She left the window really angry.

I decided to give the agent a go – and, got the same chilly reception.  I decided to head back to the B&B to regroup.  Miraculously, during my walk, I saw a tiny bus ticket office tucked away.  By the way?  This train station is also a bus station.

Matera stazione and bigletteria

the biglietteria

 

M to B

The biglietteria was only a three minute walk from the station, but, as you can see on the map, it’s not visible from the station.

 

The woman in the ticket office told me no one had turned in a camera.  She made a phone call – I heard her ask for Franco.  I think he’s in charge of the buses at the end of their runs.  He hadn’t come across a camera either.  I left my phone number and email address with the woman – and, left the biglietteria with little hope of getting the camera back.

I walked back to the B&B.  I decided my afternoon mission would be to find an inexpensive digital camera to get me through the rest of the trip.  The B&B host told me to try a shop called Gaudiano – and, to hurry because they would soon be closing for the afternoon.  Well, I did find it – but, they sold smart phones!

Time for a break…  My Acer Chromebook won’t connect with the internet at the B&B.  And, when I tried to use their computer to check my Hotmail account, I was denied access because the computer wasn’t recognized.  Hotmail requested I verify my account with my phone – you know, the phone that was stolen in Napoli.  Roll eyes…  So, I took my little notebook to Ridola Caffè I had no problems connecting and it felt good to sit down, eat a bit and drink a little.

Amy was at the B&B when I went back.  We kicked around town for a bit.  I passed on a disposable camera (10 € for 27 photos- ouch!), but found an inexpensive digital camera (99 €) at Foto Genovese.  The owner, Antonio, was so nice.  (Wow! I have met a lot of Antonios on this trip!)  I didn’t commit to buying the camera because I was going to make one more trip to the bus station.  But, he opened the package and started charging the battery anyway.

Amy continued shopping and I headed back to the bus station.  I figured the same buses would be making the same stops, tonight, so, I was hoping to find the driver we had last night.

There was a controller at the bus station.  I told him my dilemma and he called Franco.  Poor Franco.  He had already been called by the woman at the ticket office.  Soon, three more controllers and a couple of teens were involved in my dilemma.  The teenage girl made a comment to the controllers about my red legs (I had on leggings with a tunic).  She was pretty shocked when I responded – thinking I didn’t understand any Italian.  There was a lot of loud talking, laughing, and joking.  At one point, Franco showed up in a car with a camera.  But, it was not mine.

A short time later, all of the controllers and the teenagers got on buses and left, but, the first controller told me to just stand there and wait.  I had no idea what I was waiting for!  Half an hour later, Franco returns in his car – again.  WITH MY CAMERA!  I was so happy.  I smothered the poor man with kisses and hugs.  Who would have thought I would ever see that camera again?!  I stopped into the biglietteria and shared the news with the woman who had helped me.  Good peeps!

I returned to the B&B.  Amy and our host couldn’t believe my good fortune.  After discussing it with Amy, I sheepishly returned to  Foto Genovese. He was very happy for me and not the least bit upset about losing a sale.

Dinner was really enjoyable – especially after this emotional day.

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Amy and I were seated in the lower level of the restaurant.  There was a table of three next to us.  They were from Grand Junction, CO!  Two adult children were celebrating their mother’s birthday in Italy.  Nice!  I was really shocked to hear the young man speaking Italian.  He told me he had worked at an Italian restaurant in Junction – and, that’s where his learning began.

Our waiter was adorable…

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Amy and I shared una panna cotta…

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But, our waiter thought we needed another…

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I missed a lot of sight seeing today, but, learned a lot more about people. Buona notte!

Oh, and a quick Italian lesson – camera translates to ‘room’ in English!

“Scusi! Can we take a left, here?” – Matera, Italia – 13 ottobre 2105

Travel day!

When I was a teenager, my dad, younger sister, family friends and I went on a multi-day raft trip down the Green River in northwestern Colorado.  We had to completely unload the boat every night – and, re-load it every morning.  (Camping was anything but light back then.)  After that trip my dad would mutter ‘load the boat,  unload the boat’ when doing mundane chores.

That’s how I feel about checking out of hotels.  My backpack was stuffed to the gills!  I didn’t think it could hold another thing.  Then, Antonio offered us a bottle of wine (Greco di Fuco) as a peace offering for the reservation conflict on the first night.  (By the way, this regional wine is delicious and inexpensive.)  I can’t believe I’m carrying wine across Italy again.  During my last trip to Italy I carried a bottle of Orvieto Classico from Orvieto to Cinque Terre.  So tempting to open it and pour in into my colored water bottle!

We really enjoyed our stay here.  I think the only downside was the poor internet connection.  For the fiscally-interested, my half of the hotel bill for the three night stay was  €240/$282 USD, which included the 10% IVA.  (At this point in the trip  €1 = USD 1.17)  For whatever reason, my main credit card couldn’t be processed.  That’s why you bring a back up or two!

Since the start of planning this trip, I knew getting from Positano to Matera was going to be challenging without a car.  Most of the advice was to return to Napoli and take a bus to Matera.  Or, take a train from Napoli to Bari and then a train from Bari to Matera.  I didn’t want to do either.

So, here’s what happened…

First, we took the 10 a.m. ferry from Positano to Salerno ( €12,00).

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There’s Amy pretending not to be nervous about getting on another ferry.

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Everyone except me and a man and his two kids went on deck.  I wanted to check out the cabin.

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Man overboard!  No, just bringing up the anchor.

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I sat with this family.  The kids were singing – the dad was a happy camper.

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We got a sea view of the towns along the Amalfi Coast.  This is the comune of Amalfi.

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Eeek!

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Salerno, our stop.

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Tired babe…

 

With the help of one sign, and friendly locals, we made our way to the train station.  And, then the most fortunate event occurred.  A Trenitalia employee was actually standing at the self-service machines assisting travelers!  It was a good thing because she informed us our train to Taranto was actually a bus!  We bought our tickets ( €12,90 each) at 11:31.  The bus was leaving at 11:35 and we found ourselves running to another unmarked bus stop.  Holy hell…

The bus was nice and comfortable.  (FYI, there wasn’t a bathroom on the bus and the stops along the route were too short for a break.  Yep, so no restrooms from about 9 a.m. to 15:30.)

The ride was really interesting – a lot of hill towns in the distance, vineyards, fruit trees, olive trees…  I’ve never seen a large herd of livestock in Italy – or a feedlot!  The largest herd I saw today was about 100 goats.

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Which hill town is that?!

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I also had this view.  I loved the curly-Q!

 

Amy and I were totally baffled about why we weren’t on a different bus heading north by now – instead of continuing eastward only to double back.  I tried to research it afterwards, but, finding on-line bus schedules is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.  Supposedly, there are shuttles from Ferrandina to Matera, but, even when I found the website, I couldn’t find a shuttle timetable.  No lo so…

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Our longest stop – 5 minutes.

P to M

Our inefficient route…

 

We arrived at the Taranto train station, on a bus, at about 15:30.  The next step was to bus it to Matera.  We knew our bus was leaving at 16:30 – and, it was the last bus to Matera.  Of course, the bus we were taking wasn’t leaving from this train station.

We asked a Trenitalia agent how to get to the nearest bus station.  He said he didn’t know.  Ya.  Right.  Jerk.  A man on the street gave us directions (to Porto Mercantile).

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It seems like bus centers are almost always in less than desirable areas.

 

We asked a woman in this bigletteria if we could buy our tickets here.  She said no, but, we could buy them on the bus (SITA Sud bus).

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This made me laugh.  If you have a question just pull up to the bus on your scooter and ask away!

 

I started getting an uneasy feeling about not having tickets.  I asked the woman again – just to make sure there wasn’t a ‘lost in translation’ problem.  I got the same reply.

Our bus finally arrived.  Well, guess what?  We couldn’t buy tickets on the bus!  We had to buy them from a tabacchi (€4,60).  My Italian temper was heating up.  This bus is ready to leave and we have to find an open tabacchi!  We just started moving swiftly down the street trying to find an open business at this time of day.  We found a place close by, bought tickets from a woman who is more computer-challenged than me and hauled ass back toward the bus.  I kind of feel badly, but, not really, for stopping into the bigletteria and sniping, “Grazie per niente!”  Karma will get me for that…

The ride to Matera was great.  Instead of looking at the towns from a distance, we went through them.  I had been taking photos along the way.  When the sun went down, I set my camera on my daypack – next to me.  I remember thinking, “I hope I don’t forget that camera when I get off the bus.  It’s kind of hard to see.”

We arrived at Piazza Moro at about 18:20.  We had no idea how to get to our B&B, but some women in a nearby office got a taxi for us – and, are we glad they did!  Because that’s how we met Luigi!

We are staying at Donna Eleonora Bed & Breakfast.  I was a little concerned about the location when we arrived.  As it turns out it is perfectly located – easy access to the sassi!  This B&B has three guest rooms, a cozy breakfast area and a small office area.  Amy and I were the only guests for the evening.  I had the room nearest to the entrance (Guerricchio).  Amy was down the a hall – an empty room was between us.  I loved my room!  Our hosts asked us when we wanted breakfast.  (How nice is that?)

I can’t wait to explore the sassi in this gorgeous city, tomorrow!

Perpetual Beauty – Positano, Italia – 12 ottobre 2015

Too much of a good thing?!  I think not!  Another gorgeous day with no agenda.  Here are some photos and a funny story or two…

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There are more boats out today – the water is calm.

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I wouldn’t object to sitting on the balcony all day, except I might miss something.

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You don’t have to be able to read Italian to understand this sign.

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This kitty isn’t worried about missing anything.

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Hot fun in the sun!

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We’ve made our way to the docks.  A woman after my own heart – a cat at her feet and a kitten in her palm.

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We’re walking north along the coast…

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I wish I could do this at a moment’s notice.

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The local wildlife.

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We have arrived at Spiaggia di Fornillo.

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The beach was quiet.  I’m sure it’s a different scene in the summer!

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These rocks were difficult to navigate barefoot.

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We had a snack and drinks at Pupetto’s.  This is grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves.

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On the walk back to Spiaggia Grande, the water sparkled like diamonds.  It was impossible to for me to photograph, but, I will long remember it.

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Helping the baby up the hill.

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Freaky cloud – reminded me of a trophozoite.

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When shadows are better than the real thing…

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Loving laundry

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I had to lean against the opposite wall so I wouldn’t fall over when I looked up!

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I waved when this Fiat drove by.  The passenger shot up out of the sun roof and waved back.  Ha!

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Donald Duck and the Italian flag.  What did you expect?

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I like use of the vertical space for pots!

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These steps just needed a little TLC.

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Look down – lots of stairs.  Look out – big views.

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Initially, the barking dog got my attention.  But, the sign still baffles me.

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“I’ll get to you when I get to you.”

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I wish I had more than one step leading to my house!

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The Three Sisters

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A break, a snack and a drink…

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Almost lost our rear ends getting this photo – had to negotiate a narrow road with speeding cars and scooters.  We’re getting good at it!

 

We had dinner at Ristorante Max.  We sat on the back patio – it was lovely.  It was a bit fancier than I expected – and, with fancy comes inflated prices.  That’s just the practical side of me coming out.  Same fish – same ocean…

The couples on either side of us offered menu suggestions.  A couple from Texas, celebrating their anniversary, offered us life advice as well.  Some weird 80/20 rule.  (You bring home 100% of the money.  I’ll spend 80% of it and give you 20% of my time.  Something like that.  Some people are not my kind of people.)  When they left some ”Valley” girls were seated at the table – we think they were sisters.  In no time at all, they were quarreling and left in a hurry.  Sheesh.  Lighten up folks!  You’re in beautiful Italy!

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Tonight we pack – read ‘stuff still damp clothes and heavy bags of sea glass into backpacks’.  Tomorrow, we travel inland – not an easy feat in il mezzogiorno when you don’t have a car.  We had a lengthy discussion about renting a car, but, decided not to.  We’ll see how that turns out.

Picture Perfect – Positano, Italia – 11 ottobre 2015

While Amy enjoyed a 4-star breakfast, I extended my 4-star rest.  Ahhh…

Antonio, from Albergo California, is picking us up at 10 a.m.  While waiting outside, I watched a man across the street deal with a woman patron.  When she left, he made a hand gesture to the concierge at our temporary hotel.  He put his palms together as if praying  and shook them up and down.  I’ll have to find out what that’s all about!

When Antonio arrived, I asked him about the hand gesture.  He seemed hesitant to answer.  I think he thought someone made that gesture after an encounter with us.  He told us it meant ‘patience’.  Hmmm…I don’t know about that.

We finally made it to our beautiful hotel – room #60.  Remember the movie ”Under the Tuscan Sun”?  Part of that was filmed in room #62.

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Room #60

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Let’s talk about photography.  You could put your camera upside down and behind your back  and take a great photo in Positano.  You could set the timer, throw your camera up into the air and take a great photo (provided you catch the camera).  You could hand your camera to a toddler, let them play with the buttons, and take a great photo.

The rain slowed, then stopped.  The clouds cleared.  The sun shone.  The light changed constantly.  What a magical day!

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Why are fruits and vegetables more appealing when they are displayed outdoors?

 

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An inviting outdoor ristorante!

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Sea glass!  Because you can never carry too many rocks across Italy!

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There was a lot of green sea glass.

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This photo makes me laugh.  It looks like Amy and this man are playing leap frog!

 

I commented to Amy that picking up sea glass was addicting. This young woman overheard – and, agreed.  This is a necklace she made with sea glass.  A few moments after we went our separate ways, she called to me – and, handed me a large piece of glass.  The kindness of strangers…what a sweetie!

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Oh, is it time for lunch?  How about this ristorante on Spiaggia Grande?

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Ohhh, Antonio -yes, another Antonio!  First, we had the bad jokes. Amy asks where the restrooms are and he points to the ocean. We watched him repeatedly hands a plate to guests and tell them it’s a mushroom omelette – regardless of what it is.  He checked out every woman that walked into the restaurant and pointed out his favorites to the other waiters. Mamma mia!

Oh, and I don’t think that guy is picking his nose.  I think it’s another hand gesture I haven’t deciphered.

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Il mio pranzo…(my lunch). Penne pasta, eggplant, mozzarella

 

Good looking man, right?  His name is Gianfranco Russo.  Chez Black is his family’s restaurant.  Come to find out – he’s an actor!  http://gianfrancorusso.com/

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Gianfranco Russo

 

Back to kicking it through Positano…

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Maybe she’s been walking all day too?

 

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If we had drug disposal containers like this in the U.S., they would never make it intact through the night. 

 

We also noticed outdoor dispensing machines – which included beer!

 

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And, now it’s time for dinner!

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Ristorante Bar Bruno

 

So, back to the hand gesture…  From what I can tell this gesture is called Mani Giunte (clasped hands).  It is used to express disbelief or exasperation – the ”Mother of God” gesture.    This could come in handy!

Hope you enjoyed today’s walkabout!