Summer has arrived – went to the beach town of Savelletri – another must on the visitor list. Brilliant weather, picture postcard views, great food, (the fish was excellent and the tiramisu was just the best), and the house pink wine was quite acceptable.
Gino and Luisa came round to start the pizza process by having a big fire in the forno – this cleans out all the winter “muck”.
The weather is clear and sunny so off to Torre Guaceto beach to work on the tans this arvo. Gino and Lisa are coming at 4.00 so watch out for the photos.
Saturday – Adrienne’s cousin Pauline arrived from NZ after a very long trip, so we went sightseeing – after pizza and prosecco in Ostuni piazza of course.
Sunday – the community bike ride for Santa Rita – a brilliant day – we joined about 120 folks from San Vito and rode about 8 kms to a big Masseria.
In case there were any problems we had the local ambulance bringing up the rear!
We arrived at the Masseria and joined in the mass – with a difference – we were on hay bales with all the animals gathered about. The priest even welcomed the visitors from Australia, so honoured guests.
And you know you are in Italy when one of the kids was playing up during mass, Gino’s wife, Luisa, gave him a slap, squeezed his check, and then a good dressing down – the kid’s father came over and joined in – on Luisa’s side!!
After mass came the morning tea Italian style – a complete scrum, (Italians don’t do queues), but wow – bruschetta, fabulous fresh cheeses and salamis from the Masseria, local wine, (of course), it could not have been better – a very special day.
But some very sore bums the next day – you may not forget how to ride a bike, but after 40 years the bum does!!
Yesterday we went to Lecce – “The Bologna of the south” – very impressive baroque city – all visitors will get a trip here.
But to the most important activity for the week – more shoes – we made the daily sales budget for the the Geox shoe store in Mesagne this morning – 3 pairs in one sale.
And even I joined in
We are about to have Adrienne’s language school classmates over for dinner, and then on Friday Gino and Luisa are coming to make pizzas in the forno. Adrienne is going to make a pavlova – will blow them away – photos in the next edition.
Thursday night and we have just been next door to the Masseria, (big farm house), to buy freshly killed beef and eggs. Typically Italian – rough on the outside, very clean and hygienic inside, but we met the donkeys – they are not cold cuts in Cisternino after all.
We got a lot of eggs, meat, sausages and mince for Euro 18. We are having Adrienne’s language school classmates over next week for a BBQ so all good on the supply side. We had looked a little sideways at one of the crops next door and yes, it is cannabis – medicinal, but behind a high wire fence 🙂
Adrienne has been doing 4 hours in Ostuni each day, (I go to the pool in Brindisi and hang out with the aqua-aerobics ladies …), but her Italian is getting better. Mine is still 8 words and lots of smiling. I got a haircut yesterday – maybe I wouldn’t now look like Kojak if I knew some more !! Adrienne had offered to write me a note, but I declined on the basis of maintaining some dignity – pity, I might have more hair now if I accepted.
We see this every day – if there is only one space but two cars – no problem – we will just angle park in the space. And the fact that they are in someone’s doorway which is no parking just doesn’t matter.
On Monday evening we went to the local church with our landlords for a mass to celebrate the life of Santa Rita de Cascia, (local A lister). People came up to us because we were new, and we even got introduced to the priest, (who was somewhat put out that we are not Catholic), and a tour of the church, but it was really nice to be included in the community.
We are doing the Santa Rita family bike ride, (including mass and blessing), on Sunday morning, so will get a picture of Adrienne on a bike – could be funny. Adrienne’s cousin, Pauline, arrives on Saturday for a visit and will join us.
The weather is improving so next week we’ll go exploring further away – may even have a night away and go down to Lecce and beyond to the very bottom of the boot.
Adrienne and I went for a hike in Torre Guaceto reserve this afternoon and the local news headline reads “sixty year old tourist creates new standing high jump record” – yes, Adrienne managed to stand on a snake!! (Twice, got it again on the way down).
This was after I had assured her about 30 minutes earlier that there were no snakes in Italy, because she thought she’d seen one, (I got that wrong), and then reassured her after the event that it was not poisonous, (I got that wrong). We now know there are four and they are all poisonous – Adrienne is now on her second wine, and I’m yet to pour one for me!
The photos are of the reserve and Medieval watch tower.
Another Friday night has arrived, and we have had a relatively quiet week. The Lavatrice is the washing machine and it has got Adrienne’s measure – despite all her efforts only I can get it to finish the endless cycle and open it ….
In the first instance we have had about 4 days of afternoon thunderstorms. The photo is on our way to Mesagne, (home of Auchan supermarket) – 5 minutes after this we were parked under a bridge escaping a torrent of rain and hail.
On Wednesday we went to Alberobello, the trulli capital of the world. All visitors will be taken here – it is quite special despite all the tourists, (which we were of course more!!)
The Italian drivers have become a source of both amusement and abject fear so I will attempt to sum up the Italian road code
Rule 1 – drive as fast as you can, no matter the conditions, yesterday I was in a 50 kph zone, (doing 80 kph to keep up with traffic) – the BMW must have been doing 150 kph when he passed the whole line of cars on our side into the oncoming traffic who veered off to avoid a head on smash!
Rule 2 – Never give way even when you should – roundabouts are tests of manliness, not manners! As for pulling out of side streets – fortune favours the brave. If there is a gap of more than a car length to the car in front, it is not a safety thing, it’s an opportunity for those to whom “give way” is an affront to freedom of choice, to dive right in.
Rule 3 – park wherever you like, how ever you like, (my favourite is to angle park when it is a parallel zone, on the wrong side of a narrow street, across the footpath with your rear all but stopping anything bigger than a Fiat Punto from getting through). This is common!! We have worked out that in small towns you do not park, you just stop when you see Gino or Luisa and have a chat, duck into a shop, or just because I can!
Rule 4 – to appear to be important you must be talking on your mobile while driving. As Italian use their hands a lot, this means both hands are often waving about, one usually with a ciggy in it. Of course you cannot indicate when you are this busy.
I think the fact that we have French number plates has also lead to a bit of slack from the natives when my knees turn to jelly and I just stop out of shear fear until they sort themselves out …
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Adrienne for her understanding of the driving and undoubtedly saving us from at least two serious prangs when I just did not have enough eyes to see all the goings on around me.
Today the weather has returned to beautiful, sunny, high 20’s, so we went to Polignano a Mare, about 60 km up the coast. I will attach some photos, but this is another “must see” for visitors.
Lots of lovely little alleyways, restaurants and bars, not too touristy, but the town council has it all spike and span
Our landlord, Gino, has fears for our spending. When he saw our first week’s collection of bottles he suggested we might like cask wine 🙂 He even suggested we visit his local enoteca to fill up from the tap …. 5 euros for 5 litres …. perhaps not.
Went to the swimming pool in Brindisi this morning. The lady on the front desk has as much English as I have Italian, so I do not know if I have asked her to marry me, or she has a cousin in the Mafia!! Anyway my charades has improved and I got in. All very clean and nice, but all instructions in Italian – I noted the one lane with the Italian equivalent of “free lane”, (I know this now), and incorrectly ignored the advice and leapt into the lane reserved for the swim school – I now know the Italian for “f%^king tourist” … but “Donatella” on the front desk and I are BFF’s, so non problemo.
Weather is looking great for the weekend, so a day at the beach tomorrow.
Ciao for now, Adrienne will do shoes and olive trees tomorrow
Another day – had a guided tour of San Vito this morning with the Gino who owns the house. It’s all like “Alice through the looking glass” – at times all you see are shuttered doors and the town looks deserted, but when you get behind the doors – wow – we have found fab places for dairy, fish, veges, meat and bread. We were introduced to the owners and assured of the best produce by all – the Italians all have time to meet, greet and be friendly
We went to Fasano this afternoon, (recommended Baroque town), and left – we were the only people in town other than some equally lost looking Dutch tourists!! Italy closes from 1 pm to 5 pm.
So went to the nearby beach of Savelletri, (see above photos), any guests will be taken here – really nice, heaps of classy looking seafood restaurants and bars, all with seaviews.
Just got home and the load of washing has been set free after 2 days of captivity 🙂
The photo below is for Keira – Adrienne thinks her new red shoes are FMF’s, but if you come to Italy, you will need to travel very light to have space for shoes on the way home
We are up early tomorrow to go to the weekly Ostuni produce markets – could be exciting – will let you know
April 18th – Sydney airport – and after 9 months of planning our adventure begins. It’s taken two weeks to sort out how to blog, so a quick catch up
The flights up to Doha and on to Nice on Qatar Air were comfortable and problem free. We would add Qatar Air to Qantas, Singapore and Emirates as having acceptable economy class.
We have leased a car from Peugeot, (why we went to Nice), as the cheapest long term option, and have a very nice 308 GT hatchback – very “boyracer”.
The Italian drivers all seem a little crazy and see no reason why they should slow down in heavy traffic, give way even when they should, use their indicators, (where they are going is nobody else’s business!!), park wherever they want, (angle parking on narrow streets is common), but no one seems fazed – you just manoeuvre around them.
After a night in Nice we drove over to Tuscany and had a week in a farmhouse near San Donato in Collina, just outside of Florence. Adrienne managed to find a large outlet shopping village before we even checked in – this set the tone!! She is now applying for asylum in Italy on the basis that she cannot get good shoes or decent cheese in Sydney …
Anyway did all the tourist things, went to lots of Tuscan hill towns – Siena, (love this place, Adrienne tried to fix the Italian economy in one afternoon, by way of three pairs of shoes, but did serious damage to the Australian balance of payments), Cortona, (of Under the Tuscan Sun fame), Montepulciano, (lovely town, did some wine tasting in a building that had been in the same family for 41 generations and used as a winery for over 500 years – we have a couple of bottles the Hughes and Campbells will enjoy when you get here), Arezzo, (OK place, but Adrienne got the guilts about her shoes and gave an African refugee 5 euros – he’s trying to get us to adopt him now), and a few others, but there are only so many before “enough”.
Went to Florence on the train. Loved it the first time we went in 2003, but now it’s overrun with tourists. The “highlight” was a chinese lady trying to take a selfie in front of a speeding ambulance – it had to break to avoid hitting her – mind numbing ….
Went to Bologna, old town was pumping but by council decree no building could turn the air con on until May 1 – it was about 28C – not a good nights sleep, but excellent food
Then on to Puglia via San Marino, (micro state in the mountains – spectacular views). Got here, (San Vito dei Normanni), last Saturday and have been getting to know the area. We are in a house in the country and every night at about 4am we are reminded of that when the donkey next door gets rooted by the shepherd, (well that’s what it sounds like!!)
We are getting into a slow rhythm – each day we seem to have a problem to overcome and each day we mange to get it sorted by “wine o’clock”. The internet was a bit more problematic, (we were promised Monday but Wednesday afternoon “it is good, no?”), but we have found good supermarkets, nice beaches, sorted Adrienne’s language school, and if we can get the washing machine to work, (currently dead with a load of our washing trapped inside), all will be good.
As for the important matter of wine we have decided after some trials, (and failures), that euro 1.79 wine is not good – we have set a base of euro 2.49, and found some that are ok!!
Adrienne is doing the cucina povera thing – do we look thinner yet? The supermarkets have really good produce and selection, and it’s all so cheap – tonight we had a free range chicken – euro 2.20