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