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PUGLIA (Often called "Apuglia," its Latin name)
We consider this region well worth the visit. The Sassi and the Trulli, alone, make it worth the cost and the travel to get there. Except for the clear water of the seas and its lovely harbors, the scenery is much less picturesque than most of the rest of Italy in that the terrain is flat. Mostly all we saw outside the inhabited areas were olive trees--we were told there are around sixty million of them! Besides the Trulli and Sassi we were pleased that we found the region, so far, relatively untouched by the tourist trade. Moreover, the 18 others on this tour were delightful traveling companions, and we look forward to visiting with them, again. Also, Unitours did its usual great job of arranging everything; and our guide, Gaetano, was the best ever.
The Sassi of Matera (Actually in the adjacent Basilicata Region)
We're still trying to get head around some of the things that our local tour guide told us about life in the Sassi (stone caves) in Matera, Province of Basilicata: Those caves were inhabited for thousands of years and were " Jerusalem " in the movie, "Passion of the Christ," as well as the location for other films depicting ancient times. It is now a World Heritage Site, although some people have moved in, built roads, and installed all the comforts of home in spite of prohibitions by the World Heritage organization. The last inhabitants before the newcomers' arrival were evicted by the government in 1968 because of concerns about disease spreading to Matera, the town above the Sassi. Inhabitants lived to about 40 years or age. They had no electricity and no water except for the rare occasion in which it rained. They did not bathe unless they happened to visit a river. They worked their fields by day, and at night couples and their 13 or so children bunked down in the caves with their animals--chickens, pigs, donkeys, etc.; the manure from the animals provided the only warmth. The 20,000 or so inhabitants of the Sassi lived communally: they needed permission from their leaders to move beyond the Sassi area; they had no doorways, residents of other caves visited at will; when the government forcibly moved them into apartments the new residents removed all the doors. They were so wild looking, Matera residents called them << Gli Apaci.>>, since to them they seemed as wild-looking as they imagined the wild Indians of the American west.
The Trulli of Alberobello
According to our tour guide these unique houses were built without mortar---the stones support the ones above. At street-level the lower part of the homes appear to be stucco, but are merely stones that have been whitewashed. When the Spanish tax assessor came in the 15th century, the top stone of the houses were removed, and the houses fell down--no house, no tax. The mayor's explanation for the rubble was always that the homes were still under construction. As soon as the assessor would return to Spain, the stones would be quickly replaced, and the houses stood, again.
Great views of the sea and a wonderful restaurant where we enjoyed a cooking demo.
The first seven photos were taken at an agriturismo en route to Altamura, where we ate more for lunch than we would eat at home in a week! The rest are from the town of Altamura.
This city was a hub of activity during the crusades for deployments to Jerusalem.
We were told that this winery is ranked 20th of all the wineries of Italy. We bought a delicious Spumanti like those pictured, as well as a fabulous red wine that cost us $10. It's sold for $20 in the states, but only exported to the New York/New Jersey area.
Had lunch overlooking this picturesque harbor.
Otranto and Gallipoli
Otranto (pronounced "OHtranto") is on the Adriatic, and Gallipoli is on the Ionian Sea. Otranto is the easternmost point of Italy. Many Italians visit at Easter sunrise and on New Years Eve, when the new year arrives 40 minutes earlier than than in Rome.
Castel Del Monte
Interesting structure in many ways. For one, it was never intended for defense. Apparently just an emperor's plaything in the middle of, well not much.
This is the capital and largest city of the Puglia province. The first photos are of the Medieval part of the city. Until around 2008 it was too dangerous for non-residents to enter. Then the police cleared out all the bad guys.
Polignano a Mare
This fabulous medieval town on the Adriatic was selected for our tour group's farewell dinner.