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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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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