Believe it or not, we have had very few hiccups in our trips but this one started out with a doosey. Is that a word? Anyhoo, after our late night flight to Bari, and a long wait for the transfer to the car rental place we were left without a rental car. We rushed back to the airport and had to spend a small fortune for a last minute rental. While this experience was extremely frustrating at the time it made us realize how few issues we have run into during our travels. I don't know if we are incredible lucky or incredibly over prepared or maybe a little of both but I am happy that we don't often run into these issues.
Luckily the owner of our apartment and home for 3 nights was incredibly understanding and kind and did not make us feel even a little bit bad for showing up at 2AM! Poor guy. Our place was super cool and was located inside of the building seen below. It was a cave type house and super cool inside. The owner and his wife had painstakingly restored this apartment that in the early 1900's housed about a 12 people. It was built in the 1500's! I love places like this. He did a really cool job with uplighting and the whole place felt very special. Here is the outside of the place at 2am.
One thing I love about staying at independently owned places is the interaction with the host. The following morning I received a text from him saying, "Today the sun is shining. Forget about the difficulties of last night and enjoy the beauty of Ostuni." What a wonderful and thoughtful man. I will follow this up with views from around the town of Ostuni. This is a town on the hill that has a bunch of Greek influence and the typical white washed buildings you often see in the Greek isles.
We heard that Ceglie Messapica was the mecca for food in the area. We ate at the most amazing family run restaurant and basically had all we could eat and a liter and a half of wine for about 30 euro total. It was fantastic. The owner of the restaurant spent tons of time explaining each dish to us in a combination of English, Italian, and German. In the Bari area you get 6 or 7 appetizers as part of the antipasti. The variety was really fun and gave you the opportunity to try many different dishes from the area.
Something very unusual in this area is that the meals come with a plate of raw carrots, celery and fennel. It comes out with your pasta. All the other diners were crunching away as this is apparently a thing people do here. We found it very amusing.
As we drove back to our town, we saw a little for sale sign and decided to pop in. After we "sidestepped" the fencing we were able to wander around a beautiful property with some conical houses that are typical of the area.
We had some intel from our restaurateur that Martina Franca town was worth a visit. We arrived just in time for the rest period where everything in Italy shuts down for 3-6 hours. So here are some pics.
We met two little adorable girls from Albania who were super interested in Quinn's camera. The little girl took this picture of Quinn and then he took the next picture of her.
I was feeling artistic in Martina Franca, which does not happen often.
The next morning we set off for "Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre San Leonardo." That's quite the name isn't it?! It is a regional park that includes sand dunes, farms, olive groves, and coastline. We rented bikes from a very informative fellow who gave us a beautiful book of national parks in the south of Italy. We set off on the bikes for a fun day of adventure. The first few pictures are the view from and of Ostuni before we left.
Our tour included about a million 100+ year old olive trees, a friendly farmer and some of his delicious ricotta cheese and pecorino, a tunnel that was definitely too small for Quinn and us pushing our bikes through the sand along the coast so we could get an upclose view of the ocean. Our bike rental guy recommended an amazing restaurant to us for lunch. We got the last reservation and we saw about 3 couples get turned away. The grandmother luckily saved us from not getting seated by letting her family members know that we made a reservation with her. Thank goodness for Nonna! These pictures show the multi plate appetizers that are typical of the region.
Our next few nights we spent in the beautiful town of Lecce. This town is full of grandiose historical monuments. They are not polished like you might see in Rome but instead have a bit of patina which really appeals to me. On Saturday night, the streets were filled with people going for the before dinner walks and all of the buildings were uplit. It felt like actually living in Italy.
The next morning we set out bright and early for the town of Gallipoli. On our way out of town we saw this amazing man with his very unique bicycle. Gallipolli is a quaint fishing village turned tourist mecca. All of the tourists on this day were Italian but I am sure that during the summer people visit from all over the world. As you can see in one of the pictures, sea urchins seemed to be the popular item to eat here. I didn't partake but there were lots of people standing at tables around the fish market enjoying them fresh from the shell.
The next day we checked out some more towns including Taranto and Leuca which is the southeastern most point of Italy.
We also came across a beautiful sea cave, a man with the coolest car with suicide doors and some secret beaches.
We had to drive back up the coast to head out to the airport and we stopped again in Polignano al mare. Frequent readers of this blog will remember that we went there with my parents a couple of years back. This time we were treated to a beautiful sunset and some ice cream.