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Published: June 25th 2022
Continuing our trip, we arrived in Puglia for four nights in Ostuni, a pretty town of white washed buildings. The old town is a maze of little alleyways, cobblestone streets, stairs and arches. It's surrounded by the olive groves of the Valle d'Itria and not far from the Adriatic Sea and this was our base for exploring the other villages in the area.
I didn't really like Ostuni and wished we had stayed somewhere else but that was mostly because I didn't like where we stayed. So keeping it real, which I don't usually do here, this is why I didn't like it - My husband likes to be in the middle of things but also have parking, he found a budget option with street parking which was really old with steps running from the ground floor to the second floor where the bedroom was. I got a bit nervous when the host laughingly told us that Italians don't like staying here because there is a funeral parlor opposite the house. There weren't that many steps but they were really high and the doors were really low, so even though I'm not tall, I went around stooped over
so as not to hit my head on the door and not to fall down the stairs.
In the middle of the first night, I got spooked out - because of the light from the funeral parlor and the curtained stairway leading up to a storeroom (or something!) - and when leaving the bathroom in a hurry fell down the two steps and went crashing into the corner of a heavy wooden chest. I limped back to my terribly uncomfortable, lumpy bed, quite bruised but still alive. I was determined to find us something else in the morning. Looking on the bright side - at least there was no need to call the funeral parlor - although we were brilliantly situated if the need arose. Then something funny happened, the next day although I was bruised all down my side and limping a bit, the sun came out for about five minutes and we sat in one of the courtyards, eating our breakfast of salami and cheese toast with olives and it didn't seem so bad after all, so we stayed.
We spent the four days driving around the Val d'Itria, visiting other white-washed
villages, each one prettier than the last. We don't like to cram too much into one day, so we didn't visit more than two a day, we also like to leave time for the place we are staying. There are so many of them, it's difficult to choose, I guess we picked the more popular ones, but because it was the end of the season, there weren't too many people.
We stopped at Martina Franca on the way to Ostuni. It's perched on a hill, overlooking olive groves and trulli houses. We started off in the weekly market which like the other markets we saw in Puglia, sold mostly fruit and vegetables and clothes and shoes from China. We like to try different foods and snacks in markets but for some reason they didn't have any. Maybe it's because of Covid or some sort of law to protect the nearby cafes. It was the same at the market in Ostuni.
We entered the beautiful historic center from an old city gate into a maze of little streets, big and small piazzas, and a very ornate church. It has some very grand Baroque architecture and
streets of white washed houses with pretty balconies and doors. The historic center is definitely worth a few hours or you can stay there and use it as your base for visiting the villages of the Valle d'Itria.
By the time we got to the historic center in the early afternoon it was pretty much deserted. As we turned a corner we could see an elderly woman waving enthusiastically and on coming closer, she greeted us with a big smile and ushered us into her little one room house. First she wanted to show me their old bike and then after a look round their bedroom/kitchen took me upstairs to her son's apartment which was locked. He was either not at home or he wisely didn't answer. All this with a running commentary of which I could only guess the meaning. While there I got a covid red alert to my phone. The only time I've had one. They weren't wearing masks but I was. Anyway, I didn't catch anything and it was nice to meet them and see their house.
One afternoon we visited Cisternino, famous for its meat and its barbecuing butchers.
It's very popular with Italians. Our landlord in Ostuni told us with genuine excitement that we must visit to eat meat there. On the main square there are many restaurants where you pick out your meat and they barbeque it for you and bring it to you outside. You can also sample the local speciality of bombette -- little meat parcels, filled with ham and cheese. And accompany it with a jug of the local wine.
But we didn't eat any of that. We arrived at 2 in the afternoon when restaurants are usually closing and we were really hungry so we went to the first restaurant we saw after parking the car. Just around the corner was the main square with all the meat restaurants but we didn't know that having never been there before. What is true is that my husband loves meat and I don't so he was a bit suspicious of how it came to be, that in the town famous for its meat, we didn't eat any. We ate seafood. Another very pretty town, worth a stroll around the old streets and I can recommend the gelato on the main square.
The Val d'Itria is famous for its olive trees and for its round trulli houses, made with whitewashed stone and with distinctive conical roofs. Tourist favorite, Alberobello, has about 1,500 of them. We hate big crowds in small places and Alberobello can get very crowded. But anyway I still think it's worth stopping to have a wander around the trulli houses for an hour or two. You can stay there too. Half of the town is residential and half is for tourists and there are lots of Airbnbs.
We spent 24 days in Italy and we didn't have many days of full sunshine. One of our sunny days was spent in Monopoli on the coast, with its white buildings and green shutters. And it's true, things do look better in the sunshine. The historic town has a photogenic harbor with brightly colored fishing boats atop very blue water. The whole coast has nice beaches.
My favorite village and the place I would like to stay if I come back again is Locorotondo. This for me was the prettiest village amongst all the lovely villages in the Val d'Itria. It's built in a
circle and that is where the name Locorotondo comes from - it means round place. It sits on a hill, overlooking vineyards and with a view of the Adriatic Sea. I had really good gelato in Locorotondo and two mini pastries filled with chocolate and almond paste.
We loved the sweets and cakes in the south of Italy. Cakes are filled with almond paste, chocolate, egg custard, vanilla, pistacchio, lemon cream. Sometimes they slip a sour cherry into the almond paste too. I sadly didn't eat dessert because I was always too full up with pasta and wine.
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