Amazing Sassi(Matera) and a surprise pilgrimige to San Giovanni Rotondo

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April 20th 2013
Published: April 21st 2013
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Todays gelato flavours - GMB -Kinder Pingui(chocolate based) GLB - Scottobosco (Fruit of the Forest)

Ah,the pleasure of a refreshing shower in a large shower cubicle with a shower head with lots of pressure and constant hot water and the shower spray covering your whole body,heaven!Sorry if this sounds a bit over the top but this was truly a delight to have after battling with the 1m x 1m shower cubicles with dodgy water supply and shower heads falling off the wall etc etc etc.

B&B Nacore is such great value at €27.50 for the night including breakfast that we want to tell the world about it.Walter really should be charging more!

He was there to serve us a great breakfast with all that we wanted including toast,which we hadn't had for a while as it is not something Italians usually have.We chatted about the B&B and found out that the building was 30 years old and had been the family home.He had developed the B&B with 5 rooms a couple of years ago and had made a fabulous job of it with smart furnishings in a very relaxing setting and location in the countryside.

We haven't taken any photos unfortunately(amid being so impressed with the place we forgot!)but you can refer to the website at B&B to see all about it.We had the Black and White room.

Enough of the promotion of the wonderful B&B now it was time to move on again as we make our way north towards Tuscany for a slightly longer stay of 3 nights from Tuesday.So still 3 one nighters to get there.

Before we left Massafra we found a self help car wash and thought it was time to get the dust and dirt off Cindy.€2 later she emerged looking spick and span.

The SS7 runs for hundreds of kilometres from Rome and is of course The Apian Way the old military road laid down by the Romans in 312BC all the way down to Brindisi.We had walked a short piece of it in Rome when we went to one of the catacombs.It really is a bit like Route 66 in the USA with history all the way except the Appian Way has seen a lot more history!

Lined with low block walls on both sides the part that runs up to Matera from Massafra has long straight stretches indicating that the road still follows the path the Romans laid down.

The countryside was fertile with a lot of wheat that is used in making pasta being grown and with little traffic on the road it was a pleasant hours drive up to Matera.We parked the car at the first car park we found as we thought trying to get closed to the attraction we w ere going to knowing that it forms part of the old town and therefore would have narrow streets, probably wasn't a good idea.The area was a car park for the local vege market which are always good places to see what the locals are eating and the video camera on display bought an eager local vendor to display his strawberries in punnets for the camera.

With good directional signs we headed off to see where people lived in caves for over 9000 years in what is believed to be one of the first human settlements in Italy.

The area is part of the old town and is a photographic gem where as you round every corner of the streets and alleyways there is another angle to photograph the scene ahead or around you.

A local tour guide tried to sell us a guided tour at €15 each but we decided to do a tour for ourselves.

The area was cleared of inhabitants in the 1950's by the government as the people were suffering from conditions such as malaria and it was considered that this wasn't a good look for the country.

In more recent years after the area was declared a UNESCO world heritage site a large amount of money was poured in to upgrade the site and people and their businesses moved back in although their living conditions had changed dramatically.

Still you get a feel of how it must have been to live in a cave by viewing an example of one that is set up the way it looked just before the owners were moved out.Although it was quite warm outside today the inside of the 3 room cave was cooler.There was a photo on display of snow covering the area a few years ago and we imagined that it would have been a lot colder inside the cave at that time.

We also went inside the Church in the Rock which was part of the religious group that had lived in the area all those years.There was not a lot to see other than wall paintings from various periods of time dating back to 1200AD.

We spent a couple of hours walking the area and taking in the history before we thought we had better get back to the car for some lunch and get on our way as we had another 150km to our overnight accommodation.

One of the rules we should always adhere to when we are in a place we are not familiar with and haven't taken note of landmarks as we get to an attraction and that is to return by the route we found the attraction from.

We disobeyed that rule and got lost!Gretchen,who would admit that she is not that good at identifying where she is in a city at times,came to the rescue and got us back on track with her navigating and we w ere glad to be back at the car where we could take on some water and food to boost the sugar levels again.

The drive after lunch took us through more farmland towards the coast at Bari.Along the way we came across the first road accident we have seen in nearly 3000km travelled.Our way was barred by a man waving a red lollipop stick and we diverted down a farm type road taking a big circle around what looked like a fairly minor clash between two cars.

The coast at this point is fairly well populated and the SS16 chooses to go through the centre of the towns in its way which made for some slow travel extending the day longer than we had anticipated.

At one point in a narrow street in the centre of a town a policeman hopped out of the car he was a passenger in to direct a motorist to pull over for some reason.In doing so the police car blocked our progress causing cars behind us to toot although we could go nowhere.Gretchen made a gesture at the policeman driving the police car that she couldn't get past him and he edged out of the way just far enough.However what came next gave us both the feeling we were just about to have a brush with the local police as the policeman gave Gretchen the most serious stare you could imagine as he got out of the car to go over to his partner talking to the driver they had pulled over.He didn't indicate to stop us and we w ere out of there as quick as possible,not that we had done anything wrong.

To get to our destination on the Promontorio del Gargano we drove a road that took us past what appeared to be a salt making works with drying ponds on our left and market gardens growing principally onions on our right in a narrow strip of fertile land down to the seaside.Towards of this strip of land were a large number of unoccupied holiday parks adding to the many we have seen over the past few days as we have driven this coastline.There seems to be a huge investment in land and buildings that open only for 3 or 4 months of the summer.

We then headed up the mountain range taking in several hairpin bends to reach San Giovanni Rotondo and our B&B for the night.

Here we got another one of those surprises that have popped up when we have arrived in towns that we really had no idea about but had chosen them as they had cheap accommodation and were a reasonable distance from our last nights stay.

The owner of the B&B didn't actually live at the B&B and after a phone call he arrived together with a list of instructions on how to get into the B&B using the mass of keys he gave us,front gate key,front door to the building,B&B floor key,our door key and a parking area key !We just about needed another bag to carry the keys in!

He spoke quite good English an enquired if we were pilgrims.Did we look like pilgrims?We don't think so.And he seemed a bit confused as to what we were in SGR if we weren't pilgrims.We didn't try and explain what the BBA V2 was up to.

He explained about Padre Pio who became a saint after he died in 1968.He was given sainthood after all his good work to raise money for a hospital in the area to relieve suffering.He also had powers to read souls and although the Vatican was initially not that interested in recognising his life and work they eventually did.

In the town there are photos and pictures on building almost everywhere you go and many businesses including hotels and restaurants have his name somewhere in the name of their business.Seems like the town was making the most of people coming from afar as pilgrims of Saint Pio.

We took a walk out in the town and joined the throngs in the pedestrian mall who just seemed to be walking up and down in groups.We tried to work out if something was about to or had happened to bring the crowds out but couldn't figure anything out other tan it was a pleasant evening and perhaps this was just what the locals did on a Saturday evening before dinner.

We then walked to the other end of town about 1km away to take in the church dedicated to Saint Pio and a huge hospital that has been built over the years from monies raised in the memory of Saint Pio.

Over pizza and potato salad we recapped the day which saw us delve back into history over 9000 years,drive more of the Appian Way,have a close call with'the look'from a policeman and discover a saint we had never heard of in a small city 500 metres above sea level on a promentary of Italy that juts out into the Adriatic.One can never say that the BBA V2 doesn't have something new happening every day.


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