Puglia (Apulia) and Calabria 2016

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October 14th 2016
Published: October 16th 2016
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Puglia and Calabria

2016 trip to Puglia and Calabria

Additional maps: Puglia and Calabria

Puglia (Apulia) and Calabria 2016

NOTE: This is our 6th trip to Puglia and Calabria since 2009. If you are reading this blog with plans to visit either area, I would suggest that you check my blog entries of 2015 and 2014, where I give detailed addresses, phone numbers and GPS locations for all of the places that we have stayed at. There are also entries dating back to 2009 that include different b&bs as well as Basilicata and Abruzzo. This year was a near duplicate of the last few years.

For some useful cell phone/tablet apps, see text at the end of the blog entry.

Monday September 12, 2016.

Our friends drove us to Pearson Airport in Toronto for a 10:25 pm departure time with Alitalia. As usual neither Carol nor I were able to sleep much on the overnight flight.

Tuesday September 13

At Rome, we always have to transfer for our flight to Brindisi and the transfer was fairly smooth. Problem began when we arrived in Brindisi and two of our suitcases did not.

We stood, for an hour, in a lineup of 4 other people at the lost and found to register for our lost luggage. This was a new experience as we have never lost luggage before. Spent another hour at the Hertz rental counter, while we waited for a Fiat QUBO to be cleaned and prepared. We have had the Qubo 3 times before and we like it due to it being diesel, has sliding rear doors and our 4 suitcases fit in the trunk.

For our first night I again had chosen the HOTEL MINERVA about 6 km from the airport. It is away from the city in a rural setting and I knew how to get to it. It is on SS16 Via dei Normani or as the Romans knew it, the Appian Way. The day was dark and gloomy, unlike most days in Puglia.

We had an overpriced dinner, a pretty good sleep.

Wednesday, September 14

We had a light breakfast at the hotel. We had expected that our suitcases would have arrived but no luck. Two phone calls by hotel to the airport were unsuccessful.

At 10:30 we drove back along the Appian Way into Brindisi and picked up the North-South highway (SS379) along the Adriatic Coast to Ostuni and then inland to Casalini (3 km east of Cisternino)

As we have for the past 5 years, B&B Antica Aia is one of our first and longest stays. Our hosts are Franco, Elvira and their children Andrea and Martina. School had just started today so the 5 Trulli rooms at Antica Aia were all booked and we were not able to get our favourite room but instead we got the biggest room, with 2 bedrooms, a loft and a full kitchen. We had been in this room 5 years ago as well.

Two Austrian ladies had been at the B&B waiting for 3 days for their lost luggage to arrive! Elvira called the airport and our luggage had arrived in Brindisi and would arrive by 6pm.

We found another couple at the b&b from northern Italy, Hannibal and Giuliana, that we had met 2 years ago. Apparently for about a week before we arrived this area had received a rare deluge of rain, with roads, bridges and walls giving way. Our first day there was the first time that people had been able to use the pool.

At 4pm we took one of our many long walks along the rabbit warren of country roads (which we know well by now!) At 7:30 we drove into town for dinner at LA LOCANDA. I have RAVED about this restaurant every year so I won’t say much more except, “best food, most food, best price” of all the places we eat at.

Our baggage did not arrive. Now it is to be 10am next day.

Thursday September 15

Fantastic, huge breakfast by Elvira, as usual. By 11:30 still no baggage. Called again and this time it was to be by 6pm. By now I figured we might not get our luggage at all so started to do some online research on how to go about making a claim. At 3:30 I went up to see Elvira and she suggested that perhaps I should call and I might get better results. As we were discussing this in their front porch, a great big van appeared --- with our luggage and that of the Austrian ladies (4 days for them!)

Meanwhile the weather had returned to normal, with lots of sunshine and tempts in mid to high 20s. Went for another long walk.

For dinner we were invited to join Elvira and her family along with Giulia who was celebrating a birthday.

Friday September 16

After breakfast we drove into Casalini to get a few groceries and came across a wedding party with a horse drawn carriage outside a church. I was taking photos of the carriage when one of the drivers invited Carol to sit in the carriage for a photo!

Spent the afternoon by the pool with a sunny day and a gentle breeze swaying the hammock. Perfect.

Every year when we come here we say that we should revisit the towns of Locorotondo and Alberobello but after a while we say “been there, done that” and instead relax by the pool.

Went for a 2-hour walk on the back roads and for supper we drove into La Piazetta and picked up two individual pizzas (total of 10Euros) and brought them back to our room. This was our third year getting pizza here.

Saturday September 17

After breakfast we drove about 3 km away to an olive oil factory to get some bottles as gifts. We have been to this Frantolio every year. I know that we will also get olive oil as gifts later!

Afternoon by the pool, long walk and me stuffing my face with figs (that grow wild by the side of the road everywhere!) For supper we returned to La Locanda.

Sunday October 18

As always it was sad to be leaving Elvira and her family. After 5 or 6 years, they could almost be cousins!

We returned along the Adriatic highway past Brindisi and Lecce then turned east towards San Foca and Torre dell’Orso where we turned inland again for a few km to get to Borgagne and MASSERIA BARONALI.

I had arranged to arrive around 3pm but since we were early, I stopped in Borgagne and asked someone if they would call ahead for us (to make sure the gate was open) Well it took a call to 4 different numbers but finally we connected. The Masseria is about 1.5 km outside of town and completely surrounded by thousands of olive trees.

We have been to this Masseria 4 times and we know Amalia and her daughter Federica very well. Federica speaks English and she told us that she is getting married on September 23, 2017.

We presented the family with a 2017 calendar with photos of Canada and of our visit with them last year. We enjoyed their pool (the biggest and nicest of all the pools!) for a few hours.

Went for a walk and then tried to find a pizza place open, but being Sunday we had no luck so we “ate in” The Masseria had stopped serving dinners a few days ago.

Monday September 19

As usual an amazing breakfast buffet! We drove the short distance to Sant' Andrea with the rocky shore and grotto, then up the highway to Torro dell’Orso. This is a beach that we have been to many, many times (2-3 times every year) Our very first time, we spent a night at a b&b here, but since then have stayed at Masserias & B&Bs close by. Years ago they built a modern 3 storey hotel right beside the Torre (Tower.) From the beach we thought that this was terrible decision. Last year, I visited the hotel to enquire about rates etc. The hotel has an awesome view of the tower and the beach. We checked out the rooms and decided that we would spend our one “extra day” here and reserved a room for next week.

The beach was the busiest that we have ever seen it, but there was still lots of room so we enjoyed some sun, surf and frisbee!

We returned and spent some time by the pool. At 6pm we had a torrential downpour, a rainbow and then sunshine! At 7:30 we drove in to Borgagne and had dinner at BIG MAMA RISTORANTE on Via de Amicis. This was our first time here. We had meat, pasta, salad and wine. For the first time we asked for a doggy bag. This concept has not been common in Italy, but this year the government started encouraging restaurants to not throw so much food away.

Back at the Masseria we had a long talk with Federica, mostly about her family and her wedding next year.

Tuesday September 20.

At breakfast we received a free beach umbrella from Michael and Anita, a British couple that was returning home and had no use for it any more. We found out that Federica does all the baking for the breakfast items. On departure she gave us a free bottle of their olive oil. We also talked about the new b&b that their family is building a few km away.

On our way out we stopped in to see Gaetano Innoncenzio, the barber. I met Gaetano 4 years ago when he cut my hair. Every year since then, I save a haircut for him. We have become good friends!

Rather than taking the direct route south, we went back to the Adriatic and stopped off briefly at another favourite beach (Alimini.) From OTRANTO south the road offers spectacular cliff top views of the Adriatic. We stopped at PONTE CIOLO with the intent of going for a swim in the grotto, but a quick thundershower happened, so we skipped it.

Continued to the tip of the heel then NW to Felline. This whole area we know very well.

We arrived in Felline at B&B DOLCE FELLINE and our good friend Olga Pantovic. Olga speaks perfect English. As usual the fridge in our room was loaded with wine, water and fruit! We brought her some gifts, which she really seemed to like!

Had supper at IL MURAGLIANO restaurant and had a great meal. Two pizzas, salad, water and wine for 20E and we got to take some pizza home!

Wednesday September 21

Had breakfast outside and Olga had a bowl of fruit picked form her garden. Later we took our usual run down to the beach at PESCOLUSE, which we have visited almost as much as Torre dell’Orso. It was a perfect day! Stopped by at the STORK café/bar/gelataria to get gelato at the end of the day and got back home around 4pm.

Tonight we asked Olga to be our dinner guest and we returned to IL Muragliano. There are a number of restaurants in the village but this year we stayed with Il Muragliano.

Thursday September 22

After breakfast Olga gave me a set of 6 socks. The story is that 15 years ago she and her husband had started up a business in their home making socks, until competition from the far east shut them down!

Headed back down to Pescoluse. Water was nice and calm and we were able to play frisbee in the water. Returned to the STORK for another gelato and then back home where we relaxed and made a number of internet phone calls to Canada.

For dinner tonight, Olga invited us to dinner with her daughter Valentina.

Friday September 23

After breakfast I walked to the post office to mail some post cards that Carol had bought (why??) It cost 11 euros to mail 5 cards or about Cdn$3.50 each!

We decided to stop off once again for an hour or so at two of our favourite spots at the headland of SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA (where Adriatic and Ionian seas meet the Mediterranean) and at the Sanctuario, on the opposite shore. We have been here so many times that it feels like our hometown, but it is a very scenic location!

From here we drove to Ponte Ciolo, since a few days ago we had been rained out. Got my wish to once again descend the 145 steps and swim into the grotto. BEAUTIFUL.

Just like last year, our GPS failed on the second day. And just like last year, a week or so later it magically decided to work again, not that I really need it anymore.

Our destination was the town of CURSI, just south of Lecce and B&B DONNA GIULIA (see my blog of 2012) to revisit our good friend Ada Moscara and her family. In the past we have always stayed in a room at their house with a great roof top garden. This year since we are early, they are still living at their “summer home” which is at most 1.5 km from their town house!! Beside their home, they have three separate apartments with bedroom, bathroom and kitchen/dining area. Outside there are olive trees, fruit trees and lots of flowers, as well as a barbecue, hammock, and tables and chairs.

We were saddened to hear that just a few days ago Ada’s father had died after a fall. Two years ago he taught me how to pick cactus pear fruit without getting pricked and we had many photos of him. Also no longer, around was Ada’s cute dog, Punto!

By coincidence I had created a 2017 calendar gift for Ada and had included photos of her father and of Punto. I think Ada almost cried and for the short time that we were there she was proudly showing off the calendar.

Since we had a full kitchen, we drove into town to the Eurospin supermarket, that we knew well and stocked up on groceries.

Carol was suffering from back spasms, so I took over dinner and made pork chops, pasta and a salad. Later Ada brought us a bowl of cooked vegetables.

Saturday September 24

Since breakfast was not provided, for the first time, we did not have to get up at a given time. We made our own breakfast with cereal, milk, fruit and Canadian coffee!

Since yesterday Carol has been having painful back spasms. Last night Ada drove into town and brought back a hot water bottle. This morning we drove back into the grocery store to get a bag of frozen peas, that she could use on her back, but nothing seemed to help much.

Figured out how to say “back spasms” and “muscle relaxant” and went to see Ada. Right away she offered to drive us to a pharmacy, where we were able to buy a muscle relaxant.

We decided to cancel our planned trip to Alimini beach and instead relax around the property. In the afternoon, Ada brought us a snack of meatballs and her husband Salvatore cooked up zucchini flowers filled with cheese and ham. DELICICOUS!

We made our own dinner again and enjoyed not having to go out.

Sunday September 25

Even though we had finished our breakfast, Ada came by with 4 apple filled pastries. Before leaving, we took lots of photos. By the way, the official name of the apartments in the countryside is Tenuta Donna Giulia

It was only about 20 km to Torre dell’Orso. On the way we went by and stopped to look around at Tenuta Kyrios, which is the hotel being built by Federica’s family. It is just outside of Borgagne and is a basic 28 room hotel. I later emailed Federica and told her that if/when we return, our first choice will be their Masseria Baronali!

We arrived at HOTEL BELVEDERE in Torre dell’Orso at noon on a hot day and on a Sunday. The beach was crowded and of course parking was nowhere to be found. We finally found a spot right beside the hotel! Our room was modern with a large balcony offering a fantastic view of the famous “Torre dell’Orso (Bear Tower), the Adriatic and the beach way down below. There is a small infinity pool on the roof top where you get an even better view of the surroundings. This one night was our splurge on accommodations for this trip (about 150 euros!)

We spent some time on the rooftop and on the beach below. We had dinner in the restaurant and I was surprised that the service was excellent and the prices were reasonable. At night crowds gathered by tower and it was great sitting on our balcony sipping a vermouth and taking it in!

Monday September 26

Breakfast at the hotel was great. Buffet style and pretty well everything you could ask for. We left at 9:45 for the longest drive of the trip so far. We followed the coast north then over to Lecce and up to Brindisi where we picked up the highway to Taranto and then into Calabria. This is a route that we have taken many times and is mostly 4 lane for the 300 km.

We arrived at MASSERIA TORRE DI ALBIDONA, near Trebisacee, around 2pm. This is our 4th visit here. Of all the places that we stay at this is the only place that we do not have a personal relationship with the owner. Rosa at the front desk, however did remember us. This Masseria has over 100 hectares of every fruit tree that grows in the area and is a going concern.

We were once again able to get our favourite room, JAZZ 4. We were surprised to see the many renovations that had been made to the rooms. Doors, windows, tables, benches, sun covering were all new with what appeared to be a light blonde pine. The new extra single bed in the room was large and more comfortable than the previous one. We have a full kitchen with a full size fridge and for the first time EVER in our stays in Italy a MICROWAVE oven!

This year the pool was still open. Coming close to La Locanda restaurant in Casalini is the dining room here. Huge windows look out over orchards and 180 degree view of the Ionian Sea way below. They had a “fixed menu” for 20Euros. We were allowed to order one meal and split it. Not often can you do this. As usual it was more than enough food for us and the cost was just 20E (or about CDN$30) The service was also exceptional.

At the front desk this evening we met, TIZIANA an English and French teacher out of work so working here. Excellent English and really a nice young lady.

We spent time on our front porch in the evening making internet phone calls back to Canada.

Tuesday September 27

The breakfast choices were not as good as previous years but we were able to order eggs and I had 3 cappucinos!

Tiziana made us aware of a nature trail ½ way up the mountain. We walked around the orchards and of course down to the TORRE (tower) and I managed to find the nature trail. I was very impressed with the interpretive trail built on the side of the mountain with a wide path, signs, picnic tables, great views. This is not on their property. More pool time and another great supper.

Wednesday September 28.

It is always so exhilarating to open the shutters in the morning with the early sun rising in the east and reflecting on the entire bay down below. We had another breakfast, with eggs.

We had a long chat with Tiziana and she offered us a free jar of jam made from their fruit.

Since the early 2000s we have been stopping at SYBARIS HOTEL near Trebisacce. They had a great “tavola calda” (hot cafeteria style) restaurant. It was popular with buses and truckers. This year it was closed and it looked like maybe it was permanent.

We got back on the highway (SS106) and less than a kilometre away saw a sign for another Tavola Calda at a Q8 gas station. We were surprised to find that this one was even bigger and better. For what it is worth, the men’s washroom had 18 stalls!!! This will be our stop in the future!

This was another long drive today, entirely on 2 lane road, but very scenic as it follows the Ionian Coast. We arrived at AGRITURISMO CASA DI BOTRO in Botricello where we met up with our good friend Luigi Colucci. In the past we have been able to get their best room, which has 2 bedrooms and a separate living room, but this time it had been reserved a long time ago, so we got another room. Spent a bit of time by the pool.

At super we met with another old friend, Giovani, the waiter who speaks English and has been there as long as we have been coming.

Thursday September 29.

At breakfast we met up with our other friend Magdalena (Maggs.) On Feb 18 of this year she and Giovani had a baby which they named, Rocco. Carol had purchased 3 different sized GAP t-shirts and a ball cap for him!

Since Luigi speaks great English I asked him to make 3 phone calls for me this morning: To the next two places that we planned on going to and to my friend Tommaso in Catanzaro Marina, inviting him to dinner.

After breakfast we packed up the lawn chairs, umbrella and cooler (supplied in each room) and headed for the private beach. This year we had no problem finding it ourselves. Passing through the farming area of the property we saw huge fields of freshly planted fennel, beans and asparagus!

It was another perfect day in Calabria to be at a beach that is kilometres long and you are the only ones on it. Luigi has built a sun shelter so even without the umbrella there is shade.

On the way back I stopped off to get gas and 2 cold beers to go! Spent time by the pool – again by ourselves, although there are many other people staying here. Dinner here again.

Friday September 30

Breakfast (including omelette) and chats with Maggs. Off to the beach until 3pm and then pool time.

For supper tonight we walked 10 minutes into town to pick up pizza at TONY PIZZA. Have done this 3 previous years. They have all kinds of pizza so we usually pick up about 6 slices with different toppings.

Got an email from Elvira (B&B Antica Aia) informing me that friends of ours had shown up. A year ago we met a British couple, Bob and Angie Fothergill at La Tonnara hotel in Amantea, Calabria. We kept in touch by email and this year we both arrived in Italy on the same day. They in Calabria, us in Puglia. We had spoken very highly of Puglia so they had decided to spend the second part of their holiday there. We found out later that they loved Antica Aia so much, that they spent the entire time there!

Saturday October 1

After breakfast we went out and bought groceries since the next two days we will not get fed and we will be about 10 km in the mountains. Luigi put all of our food in a large fridge. For our last night we were able to change and get our favourite room once again.

Afternoon ….. where else …. By ourselves on the beach. Dinner at the agriturismo. This evening I asked Luigi why each morning when we got our dinner bill there was something called “offerte” and it was a MINUS 5 euros! He explained that he had been giving us water and wine for free! I had given him a small gift when we arrived, but this was totally unexpected. Nice friend!!

Sunday October 2

After breakfast we took photos of Luigi, his mom and Maggs. We gave Maggs our beach umbrella.

Our next place was only about 20 km away. To our surprise we found that many grocery stores along the highway were open on Sunday. Remember this for the future!

We were welcomed as “famiglia” by Donato and Maria at AGRITURISMO SANTACINNARA. This is our third year and as with many of the other places we were able to get, ELENA, our favorite apartment. There are two bedrooms on two floors, a dining room, a kitchen and a bathroom, with a nice area outside our door.

The kitchen is the most complete that we have seen. We also have a full size fridge which contained a bottle of water, a bottle of wine and later Donato brought us a plate of cheeses, meat and two containers of olives.

Spent some time by the pool, which they had kept open just for us this year when they knew we were coming.

During supper time we had a chicken come to our door as well as many kittens. This is a working animal and olive farm and everything is biological.

As we had done at Tenuta Donna Giulia, we got to make our own dinner and not have to go out.

Monday October 3

We had our “Canadian breakfast” with cereal, fruit, mile and REAL coffee! While having coffee Donato brought us two torts which we found out later were made from sour cherries. Very nice.

Went for a walk around the farm but the humidity level was high, so we cut it short and headed for the pool.

During the day we saw rooster and chickens roaming around. Late in the afternoon, two donkeys and a pony went walking by our door. Donato fed them, so that we and one other guest could take photos.

While we were presenting Maria and Donato with a gift calendar (including many photos from their place last year) one of the two donkeys came up to Carol (looking for food?) We had a long chat with Maria. We discovered that for 25 years she had been a school secretary. Later we met Fabrizio, one of their sons, who spoke English. His brother Francesco is working in London and knows our friend Mariarita from Catanzaro Marina.

Supper by ourselves and a few phone calls to Canada.

Tuesday October 4.

After breakfast we took photos, of course! We bought a number of small jars of marmalade and honey made on the farm. They use very little sugar and you can taste the fruit. Donato gave us 3 bars of their special soap.

Another very short drive of about 20 km to Catanzaro Marina to visit our friend Tommaso and his sister Mariarita. We have been stopping here for the last 3 or 4 years to visit Tommaso and give him a Canadian gift. Tomasso has the same surname and found me on the internet about 7 years ago. We are not related. He speaks no English.

I mentioned that we could not stay long because 1) we always get lost getting out of Catanzaro and 2) I was hoping to visit my cousin in Tiriolo. Well Tommaso INSISTED and I do stress the word, that he would lead us there. 45 minutes later and driving up on the switch back road we were in the town of Tiriolo. He left us there and we continued where I knew my cousin lived about 4 km outside of town. My cousin and I were born in the same two room stone house. I left for Canada when I was 6 years old. When I last saw cousin Antonio 20 years ago, he was a very active individual and winning running races across Italy. Years ago, he got some kind of cancer and now, I hardly recognized him. He did know who I was and I think he was moved to tears that I had made the effort to visit him.

Drove a further 40 km to Lamezia Terme and MASSERIA I RISI. It is about 8 minutes from the airport and we stayed here about 3 years ago. Unfortunately their pool was closed down. This is also a working farm with pigs, horses, cows, fish, ducks, peacocks and a couple of olive trees that are thousands of years old.

We were not able to get the apartment that we had a few years ago so had to settle for another room which turned out to be the smallest room on our trip. We had dinner in their restaurant.

Wednesday October 5

Breakfast was very basic and by 9:45 we were off for the short drive to the airport.

Once again, or should I say always, had trouble when I returned the car (Hertz this time)Although I had paid for everything BEFORE we left Canada they had added 240 Euros. After arguing, they reduced it to 111E! I will be taking this up with our travel agent who booked it.

We left at 12:25 for the 70 minute flight to Rome. At the airport I misread a departure gate and we walked ½ hour in the wrong direction. Then we discovered that even the gate number printed on our ticket had changed!! We made it to our flight just in time!

The day time flight home was as usual fairly pleasant. Arrived in Toronto to a mild evening and spent the night at a hotel.

Final Note:

What a huge change from just a few years ago, when I would take a short wave radio with me to try to get ANY English News.

For many years now, I have been taking a small notebook, tablet or cellphone with me. Each of the places that we stay at have very good wifi connections. We listen to radio stations, watch tv from home, and make free phone calls and when our GPS does not work revert to an app. Below are some of the APPS that we use on our Android phone and tablet:

TuneIn Radio thousands of radio stations from around the world

Google Hangouts for free phone calls to any phone in Canada or USA

Duolingo, iTranslate, Italian Pro, Italian verbs Lite (most require NO wifi connection)

Ulmon City Maps (download regions) Calabria Map Off Line(inicall), Map of Italy(Mapedy) Apulia Map offline (inicall) - Download and use offline

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