Gilly and I wanted a nice relaxing holiday with Mediterranean food and a glass of wine in a sunny piazza so we decided on this trip to go to Puglia in Southern Italy.
Floral windowA window in Monopoli.
We flew into Bari and headed to Monopoli and, before you ask, we were not sent straight to jail, nor did we pass GO or collect €200.
Monopoli was our base for the first few days. It is a small but pleasant old town with lots of great restaurants and a beach for swimming.
Gilly particularly enjoyed the odd glass of Prosecco.
We spent the first day exploring Monopoli and then on the second day went to the Grotte di Castellana where we took a 3km tour of the underground caves.
Grotte di CastellanaNo photography beyond this point!
A subterranean world.
No photography is allowed in the caves (presumably so that they can sell more postcards) but I managed to snatch these couple of shots while the guide was not looking.
In places the corridors were quite narrow but some of the caves were the size of a cathedral. The entire cave system is filled with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.
The bottom picture is of the White Cave which is supposedly made up of the whitest concretions anywhere in the world. If you are visiting the area then this is a 'must see' site.
Castel del Monte
And from a must see site to a don't bother site. While it looks impressive on the outside, the Castel del Monte comprises 16 almost identical empty rooms on the inside. The best thing about this place was the view of the surrounding countryside from the top.
Beach at Polignano di Mare.
The restaurant at Polignano di Mare.
There are not very many good beaches in the area so where there is a place to swim it tends to get very busy. This is the beach at Polignano di Mare and this was not peak tourist season!
Nearby the was a rather impressive restaurant set into the side of the cliff. Although it has an impressive view and a good reputation we did not eat here as it was quite a long way from where we were staying.
We explored the streets of Ruvo di Puglia where I took these charming pictures. I enjoyed the slower pace of life on this holiday as we took the time to meander through back streets, stop for lunch or ice cream or just relax with a glass of wine or fresh orange juice.
Regular refreshment was essential in temperatures reaching as high as 38'C.
After dinner in Monopoli one evening we came across a band playing in the street, where everybody seemed to be enjoying the music.
Dancin' in the street.
From Monopoli we drove to the Arco di Solé agriturismo, a self-catering apartment near Alberobello. This was to be our home for the rest of our holiday.
Arco di Solé
If the pace of life had been slow up until now, this was positively snail pace.
The Truli village.
In Alberobello is the Truli Village. Truli are the traditional dwelling in this part of Italy and are very easily identifiable by their iconic roofs.
The countryside around Alberobello is beautiful and is also scattered with truli.
In Martina Franca we came across a shop which, at first glance, seemed to be a florist and gift shop but the flowers were not what they seemed. On closer inspection the flowers were made of 'confetti' or sugared almonds.
In the evening I went for a walk near our apartment and took these images of the truli at sunset.
On another outing we took a look around Ostuni.
The ceramic quarter at Grottaglie looks like it is well worth a visit although you may want to research it a little first. I am not sure if we were there at the wrong time of year or the wrong day of the week but most of the shops were closed! Nevertheless we managed to see lots of beautiful (and some not so beautiful) ceramics and even bought some which the shop owner was happy to ship back to the UK for us. To our surprise it even arrived intact.
On the final day of our holiday we visited the town of Matera with its beautiful ancient churches.
Like all old towns Matera has a combination of modern and historic buildings but there is an extra layer here to explore. In a limestone gorge beneath the modern town is one of the oldest towns in the world.
These old cave dwellings, known as the sassi, were in constant use for around 7,000 years.
In 1952 the local government ordered 15,000 inhabitants to be moved to new quarters in the modern city. At that time this meant the relocation of half the population of Matera.
By giving homes in the new quarters the government became proprietor of the ancient dwellings. As a result 70% of the sassi are now owned by the state and managed by the town hall.
The sassi, having been incorporated into the UNESCO World Heritage list, are now undergoing a complex restoration and renovation to show off this impressive historic site. That is another way of saying that the whole area has become one huge tourist attraction. Although I would not wish to live in one of these peasant houses, it makes me sad to think that 7,000 years of traditional living has come to an end at the whim of the local authorities rather than by the choice of the inhabitants.
A church inside the Sassi.
After Matera we headed towards the airport via Bari where we stopped for lunch and a final look around.
And so this is where we leave Puglia with Gilly enjoying one last Gelato before we head off to catch our flight.
Overall we had a lovely and relaxing time in this beautiful part of Italy. There was the opportunity for some good (but perhaps not great) photography, hot weather, great food and friendly people.
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