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Report 104: Navigating with Bob & Ed in Southern Italy--Two Weeks in Sicily and Puglia

By Bob the Navigator from FL, Spring 2000

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Page 5 of 5: Trip Highlights - Finale

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Alberobello and the land of the Trulli

Central Puglia has a congregation of small white-washed villages that are most alluring. We started in Ostuni that morning and made it to Martina Franca by noon. It was Sunday and most of the villagers were out in their go-to-church finery promenading through the local piazzas and stopping to greet their friends. The stunning Baroque buildings along the main streets made it more memorable.

We spent two hours here before heading to Locorotondo, a short drive north. The town takes its name from the layout of its alleyways constructed in circles around the hill on which it is set. It was on this drive through the fertile Valle d' Itria that we first spotted these odd bee-hive shaped houses called Trulli.

Over the next 24 hours we would see literally hundreds of them. These strange ,white, dry-stoned structures have conical roofs covered with grey stone slabs. Each dome corresponds to a room , with a tall chimney at the side of the building. Many of them are still occupied but others have been relegated to storage for farm equipment.

We found ourselves stopping every mile or so for another photo opportunity. They were a captivating sight surrounded by fields of spring flowers. We were " trulli" hooked and our cameras were working overtime.

Alberobello is the capital of " Trulli-land". And yes, the tour busses do find their way here. We found an adequate three star hotel just off the town square in this unique village where most of the houses are variations on the trulli theme. There is a designated tourist area at the edge of town called "zona trulli" with dozens of well maintained structures, many of which house small shops catering to the tourist trade. [The zona trulli demarks an area where the trulli are 'protected', much as designated historic sites in the US.] A bus load of Austrians who were sharing our hotel kept the shops open until well past dark.

Ed and I found the best local trattoria and had a well earned dinner. I think we started with Heineken and antipasto that nite, and finished with a caffe gelato in the in the main piazza with the locals. It was "trulli' enjoyable. Gaeta and Sperlonga It was about a four hour drive in the rain across south-central Italy to our destination on the coast about an hour north of Naples. Gaeta is a sparkling medieval jewel placed high above a large natural harbor that is home to the Italian Coast Guard Academy and part of the US Navy sixth fleet.

We checked in and immediately drove to the highest hill in town adorned by a magnificent pastel Duomo. It was the ideal vantage point for yet another photo op.

We walked up to and through most of the old city that evening, eager to get our daily exercise and trying hard to rationalize another great seafood dinner. It worked.

The next day we drove the coast road up to Sperlonga, another fishing village built on a rocky cliff above a fine harbor and beach. We were amazed at the fine broad sand beaches in this area. We agreed it would be an ideal location for a brief respite at the beginning or end of a southern Italy itinerary. It is only a two hour drive to the Rome airport and is enchanting.

The next day we were on the road by 0700 and took that drive. We were at the airport in plenty of time to have a cappuccino and reflect on our sojourn. It is not an itinerary for every would-be traveler to Italy, but it certainly met and exceeded our expectations.

Copyright 2000-2002 Bob Little Published in TWEnJ April 23, 2000

Bob the Navigator is a retired IBM executive and life-long travel enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in Europe and has planned more than 40 customized itineraries for independent travelers, especially to Italy and the alps.

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