I trained from Barletta to Bari, then had a bit of trouble finding the onward connection to Alberobello. It turned out it was a regional train that had its own little station at track 11 in the main station. The train was standing there as I bought my ticket and the doors closed just as I approached it. I pressed the green button, the doors opened again and I got on; they closed and we pulled out! On the Barletta-Bari train, the conductor punched tickets, looking like an executive. On the Bari-Alberobello, a young man got on with his bicycle, tipped up the seat next to me and racked his bike. It turned out those four seats, when tipped up, became bicycle racks.
As we approached Alberobello, isolated trulli began to appear. When I arrived at the station, I found my hotel quite easily, then went downtown to see the trulli and eat linner. It was really cloudy, but luckily, the next morning it was sunny.
There are hundreds of trulli in this town. The history is that from the 15th C. houses were built out of the local limestone ‘a secco’ meaning ‘dry’ or without mortar. The reason was that the town was under the control of the King of Naples, and they didn’t want to pay taxes, based on houses. So the local count advised them to build like this so that if an inspector was reported in the area, they could quickly demolish the houses, avoid the taxes, and then build them again.
In 1797 Albeobello became an independent town, and from this time on, trulli were built using mortar. The Trullo Sovrano is celebrated as the first house built at this time. The most clever workmanship was used, and the house was built with two floors.
It was most interesting just to walk along the streets admiring these unique houses. Some houses had symbols on the domes to keep away bad luck—or to keep the tourists interested! The Church of St. Antonio was built like this in 1926, with trullo domes. It had quite a splashy altar—an interesting structure.
The Trullo Siamese was one structure with two domes. The story goes that two brothers fell in love with the same girl, causing problems. A wall was erected to divide the structure with half for each brother. I don’t know what happened to the girl—did one of them marry her?
I went back to the Piazza del Popolo to have linner, and while I was sitting outside, eating under an umbrella, it started to pour rain. Luckily it let up after awhile so I could walk back to my hotel without getting wet.
The following day I took the train to Trani, a lovely little town on the coast. I hunted forever for my B & B, which was in a former monastery very near the Cathedral. I got there in time for linner, which I had at a restaurant on the Port. I had very good Ensalade di Pulpo (octopus salad) followed by a pasta with seafood, accompanied by white wine frizzante (fizzy white wine). I first had this kind of wine in 2001 with Marlys and Jim Gretz in Arezzo. It’s really good.
I enjoyed the B & B, which was an old monastery. There are so many places in it to see the past, and conjecture what it would have been like to be a monk, living here. I doubt that they had my private bathroom or my very comfortable bed. There was a lovely garden in which I had my breakfast, alongside a lemon tree. And there still remained art that probably graced the walls long ago. The proprietor told me that the middle figure (above) is Frederick II, and the one on the right is his son, Monfredo.
After breakfast I walked along the water to the 13th C. Cathedral, which is dedicated to St Nicholas the Pilgrim, famous for being foolish but THEN, several miracles were attributed to him after his death at 19. His bones are in the crypt, where there are some old frescos. There is a 12th C. floor mosaic near the altar.
My next stop was the castle built by Frederick II in 1233. It looks almost modern, but there was a 1738 wooden model of it, which verifies the present design. It was used as a prison from 1844 to 1974. There was some kind of festival going on, so many of the large rooms were set up for meetings.
These towns along the Adriatic became rich during the Middle Ages as they were important stops for the Crusaders. The Ognassanti Church, built by the Knights Templar, was one such stop for the pilgrims on the First Crusade.
Well, here was a first! When I was eating, two men sat very near my table. At first one had a salad and the other sat motionless. Finally the second was served spaghetti with three huge prawns, which he carefully removed from his plate and put on another plate. He ate the spaghetti, soon was finished and ignored the 7-inch prawns that he had removed to another plate. Well! I couldn’t bear to think that they would go to waste, so I got up out of my chair (I had had a couple glasses of wine) and gestured to him, if he were going to eat the prawns. He indicated by gestures that he was not, and that I should take them, if I wished. I did!! I ate the prawns—they were lovely—and he indicated that it was fine! Weird! But fun!
I was going to take the train back to Bari, and couldn’t figure out why the machine wouldn’t give me a ticket for one of three trains between eight and nine o’clock that I had looked up when I arrived. I finally figured out that it was Sunday and none of those trains ran. I had to wait until 10:34. When I got to Bari, I did a little sightseeing. One fisherman was tenderizing his octopus by whapping it vigorously on the cement over and over. Then I found the column in the Piazza Mercantile where they used to whip debtors.
Remember when I missed out on seeing “Rigoletto” in Bari by one day? Well, it was still playing and so I bought a ticket and went to see it. It started at 6:00 PM and, with only one intermission, I was out and back to my hostel by 9:00. The production had modern
costumes and sets, and the voices were not top drawer, but still it was very enjoyable. The orchestra was terrific. The theatre was from the 1890’s, so quite spectacular. I had a nice conversation with a man who sat next to me. He spoke Italian to me, and I responded some, but immediately got in over my head and so gave up. He said he couldn’t speak English but it turned out that his English was much better than my Italian. Besides, I know how to speak to someone who isn’t too proficient—slowly and with deliberate pronunciation plus choosing simple words.
The next day was prep for flying to Madrid. A trip to the ATM, getting help checking into my flights (all was in Italian and confusing), getting info on a bus to the airport, and organizing all my data took up much of the day. The last two nights I had a lot of trouble with ‘bites.’ The worker at the hostel said it was mosquitoes, and I did hear them sing several times during the night. I hardly slept at all and in the morning especially my arms were a mass of bites that did look like mosquito bites. The next night I assumed that if I kept the room door/window shut from the afternoon, and used ‘Off,’ I would be OK. That night was again miserable, but I couldn’t tell if the old bites were still itching or if I really was getting new ones. I know I’m especially susceptible to mosquitoes—they love me, and leave big welts. Just to be sure, both mornings I showered and shampooed thoroughly and washed my nightie, too. Yes, it really could have been bed bugs, but I guess I’ll never know.
Tuesday I got the 6:20 AM bus to the airport, flew to Rome, then Barcelona, then Madrid, and took the metro to my hostel, arriving at 10:00 PM—a long day. My hostel was delightful with a wonderful bunch of youngsters. They invited me to go for a beer with them, which I did. It is really hot in Madrid, so the beer tasted good!
The next morning after breakfast I took the metro back to the Madrid airport and met my two grandsons, Marco and Lorenzo, who flew on their own from Minneapolis. So the next chapter (Spain) now begins!