Southern Italy part 2

A half an hour train ride from Brindisi brought us to Lecce (pronounced Lechi). We moved to here as it had better connections via train to other places. We were wanting to visit Italy in our motorhome but we only have 3 weeks spare and it’s cheaper to fly and travel aound via train. Our average train fare per day is €8 return and we get to visit a different place every day.
We use airbnb a lot as you can rent a persons house for less than Β£35 a night. In Bangkok we paid Β£18 for a full house!! If you’ve never used airbnb before use this link to sign up for an account and get Β£30 credit off your first booking over Β£55.

So on arriving in Lecce we planned on leaving our backbacks in left luggage as we couldn’t check in until late afternoon. No left luggage at the station so a change of plan!! We walked to our airbnb apartment that we’d rented hoping to leave our bags somewhere or try check in early. We were lucky the hosts were in. We dumped our bags and went to explore the city. The apartment had only cost us Β£31 a night and it was a bargain! We even had a nice little garden with pomegranates, apples, plums, fresh basil, sage and rosemary growing in it. The owners had left us a bottle of wine and some local speciality bread and freshly ground coffee. What a nice welcome 😊

Walking through the streets you can’t help but admire and appreciate the old buildings. They’ve stood the test of time with their ornate balconies, gargoyles and shuttered windows. The architecture is mesmerising. The walls look like they need a lick of paint, but that would spoil them. 

The town squares are full of old men chatting away to each other whilst the women sit chatting outside their houses. A lot of the squares have churches in them that stand high and proud. I’m not a religious person but can appreciate the architecture in the buildings.

As we’re walking around we spot a lovely church and some people stood around outside. We realised that a wedding was taking place and they were waiting for the bride to arrive πŸ‘°. We sat on the steps waiting to get a glimpse. The sun was shining, there was a nice cool breeze..a perfect day for a wedding. The bride arrives in her car and the photographers jump to attention snapping away as she gets out of the car with her father. Next thing the wind blew our map and Kev goes charging after it, trying to repeatedly stamp on it so it didn’t blow away,  right in the brides pathway! πŸ˜‚ Hopefully she won’t have any photos with a tourist chasing a map in it wearing a blue and white stripey “Bill and Ben” hat!!  Haha. She looks like she found it funny anyway. 😁

Down each alley way was a cafe or a bar with outdoor seating, and a little stall with someone sat making crafts to sell. People sat outside bars enjoying the Aperitivo, which is a small buffet of hot and cold food with an alcoholic drink for around €10. The drink of choice is usually an Aperol Spritz. Which looks like Irn Bru but is Aperol, that tastes of Martini, with Prosecco and soda water, served in a large glass with plenty of ice.

We took a train the next day to Gallipoli. What a stunning place, a lovely little old town with a small beach on the edge and a harbour filled with small boats. 

We walked around the edge of the small town and sat on the beach for a while. It was pretty quiet and only had Italian families on it. No English voices apart from ours…perfect 😊. At 1pm the beach was practically deserted. They’d left to have lunch!  Food is a huge part of Italian’s lives. If you sit and listen to them you will hear the word “mangare” (to eat) at some point. The pizzas are like none you’ll have in a pizza take away in the UK unless you go to a genuine italian pizzeria. The crusts are thin with a fresh tomato and basil topping then topped with fresh ingredients. They may sound the same as one you’ve had in the UK but taste wise they’re so different. Italian’s don’t use many ingredients in their cooking, fresh and simple and tasty. Where we would have a pasta dish as a main course they would have this as a starter (primi piatti, first plate). A smaller dish but pasta is a staple of the Italian’s diet and in days of old and still the same, it’s cheap and fills you up so when you have your second course (usually meat or fish) you don’t need as much.

From the old town beach we took a walk along the coastline and saw many motorhomes parked up enjoying the sea view, with their windows wide open trying to get as much of the sea breeze as possible. We sat for a while on some rocks. Most of the beaches in Italy that we’ve visited are stones or rocks. They can be quite comfy and you don’t get covered in sand! We sat watching the sea planes taking off and landing and the fish swimming around the blue rock pools. 

We got an early train the next day from Lecce to Otranto. It was 2 train journeys and a coach ride. We were told it was well worth paying the €7.40 for the return ticket and 1.5 hour journey πŸ˜€.  We weren’t disappointed. We got off the coach to blue skies, searing heat and a smell of fresh seafood. This place was better than yesterday’s jaunt. It had a 4 small bays with sand on and the sea was crystal clear and didn’t get very deep until you got quite a way out so it was perfect for children.

We climbed some stairs so we could take in the heady sites of the Adriatic. Although it was a tourist resort it had a small town feel to it. There were small restaurants overlooking the sea that were just starting to fill with Italian’s enjoying fresh seafood pasta and salad dishes.

There was a castle in the middle of the town with a harbour surrounding it. To get to the harbour you had to walk through the little narrow streets again filled with locally produced leather goods, shoes and various souvenir shops.

You can’t help but fall in love with Italy. It has so much to offer, culture,  fashion, good food and wine, beautiful scenery…what more could you ask for?

I don’t think I could do a “holiday” anymore, where you sit around a pool or go to the beach, and this is your life for 1 or 2 weeks. We like the variety of seeing different towns/cities and get bored if stuck in one place for too long. That is one reason we decided to sell the house and live in and motorhome so that we have the freedom to travel whenever and wherever we want. πŸš™πŸŒ 

From Lecce we took the train to Bari. We stayed here for 3 days, again using it as a base to see other places. Bari shocked us. In the guide book it said it was nothing special and the old town was dirty. Wow. It was far from it. When we stepped.put of the train station it had a totally different feel than the other places we’d stayed at. It had the “big city” feel.

 The old town was beautifully charming. It was brimming with life. Women cleaning their bit of path outside their houses, drying their homemade pasta on racks near their doorways. Washing hung from racks outside their apartment windows. They don’t have a garden so their balcony becomes alive with potted plants. There was the obligatory little square surrounded by restaurants too. 😁

We could have wandered around here for hours just looking at daily life in the old town. 

Stepping just outside here brings you to the harbour with a small fish market just on the outside where the boats bring in their catch, early in the morning and sell to the local people and restaurants.

We wondered around here before sitting on the sea wall watching some locals picking shells off the rocks and eating whatever was inside them! One was washing octopus and then hitting it with a piece of wood, before kneading and turning it over and over on a huge stone, then rinsing it with sea water. It was fascinating to watch but we had no idea why he was doing it. It turns out to be what the Barese people do. They like to ear their seafood raw and it takes a long time of preparation and cleaning before it is tender enough to eat.

After watching this for half an hour they then sat on the wall near us and started eating it ….raw! πŸ™ they then walked further past us to a guy stood under an umbrella  (which we hadn’t noticed) and bought some beer to wash it down! 🍻. Now that was a good idea. Kev got a bottle himself while I got ice cold Fanta lemon πŸ˜€. I asked one of the guys, in Italian, if it was good raw. He said he always ate raw seafood and preferred that way. Ugh. Don’t do sashimi. (Raw fish).

They guy went past us a few more times to buy more beer and gave one to me and and Kev. It was nice just sitting and listening to them chatting loudly and animatedly. You’d think they were having a full on row with the way they talk to each other. They get so heated in their conversations.  It just made us laugh. The guy with the umbrella was doing a roaring trade! People were pulling up in cars just to have one of his beers (at €1.25 a bottle who wouldn’t? ) a group of men were playing cards for beer, which is another Barese past time.

We sat there taking it in whilst basking in the sun before heading back to our apartment. We called in at the supermarket to get provisions for meals. Tonight we dined on gnocchi with pesto, topped with parmesan. This cost us €1.50 for both of us. πŸ˜‰

Our second day in Bari and we took the train to Albarabello and Locorontondo. 

We had been told and also read about Albarabello, with its unusual Trulli houses. Kev read up about the area and it advised to visit a place called Locorontondo that was the next stop after Albarabello. The train was crowded with Italian and European tourists. Most got off at Albarabello. There was only 6 of us that stayed on to see the next village. It was described as one of Italy’s most beautiful and picturesque towns. Could it be as nice as they described? Take a look.

It was a white town with loads of little winding streets. Each house had flower boxes or plant pots outside, mostly with red Geraniums in. It was breathtakingly beautiful. You could get lost in the maze of streets. Some had little restaurants tucked away in them and you could hear the buzz of people eating and chatting inside. We walked around for about 2 hours just taking photos. There was a market on running through the streets so I got a couple of dresses for €8 each. I do love a bargain 😁.

In all the places we’ve visited in southern Italy the women take great care of the outsides of their homes. It is kept spotless and you never see any rubbish on the floor near their “casa”. The tiled streets look like they’ve been highly polished, and can be quite slippy.

We walked past a little shop where a woman was selling hand made fridge magnets and various painted souvenirs. “Come in and have a look” she said in Italian. I translated it to Kev and he said “Thanks but we’ve and ready eaten!” Haha he thought it was a restaurant. I just laughed and walked on.

We had to leave here to visit the main tourist attraction,  the Trulli houses of Albarabello. I wasn’t looking forward to it as the guide book (Lonely Planet) said it was very touristy and most of the houses had been turned into shops! 😣

On arrival we saw a couple of houses and they were very quaint and different to anything we’d seen,  it was pretty deserted so I was pleased.

We walked on through the town to find an exhibition of old Italian cars, mainly Fiat and Alfa Romeo. It was nice to see them as I used to work for a Fiat/Alfa Romeo dealer so to see the older version of the cars was great. I always wanted a red Spider…the updated version of this.

We saw a sign for the main part of the old town so walked towards it. Omg! Tourist hell! Lol. It was packed with people, the houses had been turned into over priced shops and the whole thing was all let down. The houses were quaint from a distance but we only stayed an hour and got the early train home to Bari.

Kev trying to get in to take a photo. 

We walked into one shop and could have taken everything in it. The guy inside was fast asleep and never woke up whilst we were looking around πŸ˜‚. I think the 37 degree heat had knocked him out 😯

We got the train back and it was heaving. Friday afternoon and everyone seemed to be going to Bari. Italian’s don’t wait until you’ve got off the train before they try get on, they just push through you! They don’t step in so you can pass them in the street or on stairs. They will happily dump their bags in the middle of the pavement and chat on their phones,  not thinking to move in to the side. If you’re buying tickets at the train station and taking too long they will try get served before you and interupt. I learnt how to say “just wait please” in Italian. Haha.   It can be quite annoying at times but you get used to their culture after a while.

We walked into town after we’d had dinner in the apartment.  It was Friday night, 9pm and we wanted to see what it was like. Woah. ..very different to anything in the UK. Young groups of lads walking with a bottle of Fanta or water in their hand. Whole families, 4 generations, sitting on the town square eating pizza, ice cream. Just enjoying quality time, whilst sat on a wall. Some even brought their own chairs! At 11pm we left them to it. There was still young children running around playing and young groups of lads sat eating pizza. In Leeds they would have been really drunk at that time and shouting and carrying on in the streets. πŸ˜•  Instead they were enjoying time with friends/partners and family. The restaurants were packing them in still as we were going home to bed! 

 So our last day in Bari was spent in Matera! What a fantastic place. 2 hour train journey and €10 return fare took us to a city carved into the rocks. It was fully inhabited until the 1950’s when the government got embarrassed that it’s citizens were living without electricity or running water. It relocated it’s inhabitants to better accomodation. They have since started a renovation project on it to bring it into the 21st century and have started moving people back in! It’s now a huge tourist attraction but doesn’t have the touristy feel to it.
These are pre renovation. They literally are like something from the stone age. A few films have been made here and you can understand why. I said I felt like I was in Jerusalem when in was there and the remake of Ben Hur is being made there, as Jerusalem was his home town in the movie. The passion of Christian starring Mel Gibson was also filmed here.

The inhabited ones.

Walking along we saw a hole in the rocks with something inside. Someone was taking photos. On closer inspection we saw these 2 baby Falcons.

It took us around 4 hours to walk around it all taking in the sights. It was fascinating to see how they lived. The whole town is so picturesque in a run down sort of way. Around the outside is a gorge where there are still some houses set hidden away in the hills.

Whilst stood looking at the view below I got chatting to an Italian family, and one of the daughter’s friends, Natalia,  who was Polish. Lovely friendly people.  We chatted for a while and Maria, Nino and his wife (sorry I can’t remember her name) said they would email me different places to visit in Italy that are both beautiful and not full of tourists. πŸ˜€

The sun was fierce walking around there. The official temperature was 39 degrees but it felt way hotter than that. On our return to Bari we for a quick shower and headed in to town to join the locals. We’d been told about a good restaurant in the old town. We went to have a look but it was full of tourists. It seems a lot of people are recommended to go there. We decided to do what the locals were doing..We grabbed a take away pizza and two large ice cold Peroni and sat and listened to them chatting away in the town square. We were being stared and laughed at quite a lot as our hair was stuck to our head, skin was glistening and sweat was pouring down our back.

We got all this for €15. It would have cost us triple this for a meal at the restaurant!

The following day we headed off to see the beach. It was only 10.30 am so didn’t expect too many people to be there yet. The streets were empty. The roads had been closed off to cars so the cyclists were out in abundance. On nearing the beach we could see loads of things in the water. We weren’t sure what it was but there was a lot of them. Wow! When we got close we saw it was pepole!! Hundreds of people in the water and on the beach at this time. 

Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine and cooling off in the water. The one thing we didn’t like, we saw a few people smoking in the sea then just dropping their tab end in and leaving it floating in the water. There were also empty bottles of beer in there too! πŸ™ one young boy threw a plastic bag full of sand in the sea but his mum never said anything. There was just no respect for the environment. 🐳🐟🐠🐬. After sitting for 2 hours we were perspiring profusely and our clothes were showing the tell tale signs. The sweat running from my head into my eyes was stinging with the salt. We couldn’t drink more water if we tried but we were obviously not hydrated enough if our sweat was salty. 

We planned to have lunch out as it was our last day before we headed off. How wrong could we be. Shops and restaurants don’t open on Sunday’s. It’s family day. They go to church,  eat copious amounts of food and chill out with their families.  We had to have a Burger king mea near the station…scandalous! πŸ˜‚ 

We’re now on the bus to Napoli (Naples). My next blog will be in a weeks time. If you’ve enjoyed this please leave me a “like” or a message πŸ˜€ thanks to those that do. It’s nice to know people actually read them πŸ˜‚

4 thoughts on “Southern Italy part 2

  1. Your story’s on the locals brought back fond memories. When I was 19 i lived and worked there for 6 weeks. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been back there since and Andy’s never been. We must rectify this.

    We are leaving our family and friends tomorrow and going it alone in CΓ³rdoba a place we have wanted to visit for a long time, though I fear this is the wrong time of year due to temperatures of over 40 degrees. (No, we will not be using the tent. haha)
    Safe travels xx

    Liked by 1 person

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