Yesterday we said goodbye to the historic medieval town of Vieste with its maze of ancient houses and narrow alleyways. We followed the Gargano coast (looking down on the shoreline where we went for our boat cruise the previous morning) and the views were spectacular.
We continued our drive down to Bari and then across to Alberobello. Along the way we saw so, so many olive trees - some terraced and some in orchards, fields of vineyards, kiwis growing in the fields that were all covered to keep the birds out, fields of kale and other vegetables and empty fields where various grain crops had already been harvested.
In Alberobello we visited a Trulli (whitewashed cone shaped hut made with limestone blocks assembled without mortar and topped with grey, cone shaped stone slab roofs) and learned a little bit about the history around them. The woman who told us about the Trulli explained that the one we were in was where her grandfather actually grew up. Then we went across the street and enjoyed a 4 course sampling of regional cheeses, meats, olives and other goodies. Each course was paired with the appropriate local wine. It was an interesting and tasty lunch!
After a little bit of free time to explore, we got back on the bus and headed to our destination of Matera. Matera is famous for its Sassi, or cave dwellings that line the ravine on which the town is built. We had about a 10 minute walk to our hotel from where the bus dropped us off. We started in the new modern part of Matera on top of the ravine, then walked through the historic district to get to the steps that lead down into the Sassi area. From there it’s a combination of steps (all varying in heights) and paths all made out of stone. It’s all quite uneven and we’ve learned to always pay attention to where we are walking! Our tour guide told us that two weeks ago when she was leading the last group to the hotel the sky’s opened up, there was a flash flood and they were all calf deep in water. This stone is slippery enough when it’s dry...can’t imagine how dangerous it would be covered in water! Luckily we’ve had sunny skies.
Our hotel room is in one of the caves that’s been renovated. The hotel is spread out with different stair cases and paths leading to all of the individual “cave rooms”. It’s very different and kind of cool.
Last night we all went to a local restaurant for a typical regional dinner. So much good food....antipasto, pasta, pork and potatoes and a dessert made from bread stuffed with fruit.
This morning we had a walking tour of old Matera including a cave church and an original Sassi. It was quite fascinating to hear the history of this region and how it’s gone from shame to being the 2019 selection for the European Capital of Culture. We really enjoyed our time here.
Tonight our group had an antipasto party where everyone brought something. There were a lot of local treats to taste test. No need to go out for dinner tonight! Thank goodness we’re doing a lot of walking to wear off all this amazing food that we’re enjoying!
Sharon and John