|After the mad dash up the foot o' the boot, we bedded down for a couple of nights in a town called Monopoli. On first sight, in the dark, Puglia was looking promising. We had several articles from the travel sections of papers in the travel journal, and were looking forward to spending a while travelling down the heel, looking at all these interesting places.
The landscape is very distictively different from other areas of Italy that we'd been to. Still very agricultural and rural, with the ubiquitous olive groves, but it was beautifully tended with gorgeous little stone walls separating out the fields. Sounds daft but we hadn't seen anything like it, especially in the south. The most distictive thing about this area, though, is the fact that there are little "trulli" houses spread out all over the countryside. I don't think anyone really knows what these small buildings were for, with their distinctive conical roof, and all painted white and sometimes with symbols on top. I do know one thing: they are the perfect size for little Martlands! The town of Alberobello has a mass of them in the middle of town, which was great, but they are sprinkled all over the countryside, and even brand new houses in the area have the addition of the little pointy roof.
We headed off from Alberobello, down through Locorotondo, skirting the city of Lecce and heading right down to the tip of the heel of the boot at Gagliano di Capo and Leuca, where we stayed a night. The only problem was, lovely as the countryside of Puglia is, everything was sort of dead. It had the feel, if not the looks, of any British seaside resort in the middle of winter; just a bit sad. We drove up the east coast the next day to Otranto, via some gorgeous little whitewashed towns huddling into the cliffs and coves, and again the scenery was stunning. But here, and further north of Otranto, the towns were shut up with not much happening and not many people. I can imagine that it's completely different in summer, but at the end of October, with the weather not so good, it didn't really do it for us.
We found a place on a beach that night to do some wild camping, which is always great fun, and we had a good walk on the beach. Next day we visited the city of Lecce, which was another one of these brilliant surprises. After our frankly depressing tour of southern Puglia so far, we were pleased to find a buzzing, interesting, and beautiful university town with lots to see, and loads of cafes to while away time in.
It also gave me the opportunity to post a couple of parcels I'd had in the van for AGES (birthday presents for the nephews, and wedding present for the Taylors respectively) as there was a big post office in the centre of town.
Walking in, I was presented with a machine which was dispensing tickets so you know your place in the queue. Trouble was, there were three buttons to choose from, depending what your business was. OK, my Italian is not the best, but I managed to figure out the option for parcels and post, pushed my button and joined the rest of the throng, clutching my little ticket and waiting to see my number flash up. My number did indeed flash up eventually, and the cashier gave it exactly one second before she hit her button for the next in line. Bloody hell, you'd have to be Usain Bolt to get to the window that fast, and when I sprinted up an old lady with the next number was already on her way so I let her go. No point starting anything, you never know who keeps horses around here, if you know what I mean.
Finally got to the window and in my halting Italian I believe I said "hello my good woman, I would like to send these two parcels first class to Blighty please" (although it may have been more like "tea porcels Brootan").
After the parcels had been done, I asked if I could buy some stamps. Apparently not. I not only had to go to another window for this, I had to go to another room in the post office, which I duly did. There was one little window for stamps, and there was a wee old man there who was obviously sending out cards to everyone in Italy to tell them who knew what, but after waiting 15 minutes I gave up and left. Those postcards are being sent from Greece. Nephews, Alison - you should think yourselves lucky if you eventually get those parcels, I'm telling you.
We decided at this point that we didn't really want to hang around in Puglia and so legged it up to Brindisi to see if we could get ourselves on that evening's sailing to Greece. No places until Monday. OK, then we legged it up to Bari, arrived at 6pm, rocked up at the desk and asked for tickets for the 8pm sailing. Of course madam, no problems. I was going to like Superfast Ferries, I just had a feeling.