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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!