Week 8 – Long weekend in Crete

  • We have just had 5 days in Crete – loved it and we are already planning at least a month in Greece on our next “gap year”.
  • We stayed in Chania, in a very nice apartment overlooking the harbour and beach front.
View of Chania beach from our balcony
  • Chania “old town” is tourist shopping Mecca – lots of local crafts, jewellery, leather goods etc – Adrienne will do a post dedicated to all things to buy, eat and wear in Crete.
  • The whole island is “Bali-on-steroids” in terms of being set up for tourists, so it was all very easy – even the locals all speak English, and unlike Italy there was some semblance of road rules, so great to be able to drive without fearing for your life and take your eyes off the traffic for a few seconds!!
The old town – not a bad way to shop

Every direction is a photo opportunity

  • But all good things must come to end – we headed for the beach ….
  • Chania Beach
Elafonissi Beach
Don’t bother bringing your surfboard to Elafonissi
Georgioupolis Beach
  • But it wasn’t all sunbathing, swimming and drinking beer – we did get amongst the history –
Aptera near Chania – relatively recent – only early Roman – a mere 2000 years ago
Knossos near Heraklion – huge palace built by the Minoans – 6000 years ago!!
  • And the countryside was awesome – high mountains, (snow in the winter), and rugged gorges
Topolia Gorge – note the small handmade tunnel – that’s the road – single lane and don’t look down, (no barriers!!).
And for those wanting a beach wedding, we have the chapel for you
  • And then we had to eat … fantastic seafood and fresh produce, (red wine not as good as Italy but we managed – Adrienne found some okay Rose).
    It’s actually open air – the roof fell in years ago
So there’s a tree in the restaurant – walk around it
Adrienne organising the waiter in Topolia Gorge – it was a very hot day
Snack at the beach – local beer and wine of course
Restaurants line the waterfront in Chania
  • So we walked and walked and walked – shopped, swam, ate and did some sights – had a great time and we will be back!!



Week 7 – Matera and more

  • No visitors this week so some beach days and then a road trip to Matera on Wednesday and Thursday. This is a highlight so far. The town has been inhabited for over 1000 years and is famous for the area know as the Sassi. This is an area of cave houses, cave hotels and even a cave church that was inhabited until the 1950’s by the very poor – it was said to be the poorest, most wretched place in Italy, and had an infant mortality rate of over 44%.
  • It was depopulated in the 1950’s and all but abandoned until the 1980’s when the city fathers recognised the historical significance and started to do something with the area. They have been so successful that in 2019 the Sassi is the European Cultural Capital, is now pulling some serious tourist traffic, but, (as yet), without selling it’s soul like Venice and Florence.
  • Every step is either up or down on rough cobblestones, so on a warm 30oC plus day it was draining but incredibly interesting and beautiful.
Matera from the piazza
The church is inside the rocks and has 11th century Byzantine frescoes on the walls
Our hotel room – the rock over the bath is dated 1830
Our “cave” hotel
The “Thermae” pool beneath the hotel is 29oC all year round
The Sassi from the belvedere mid afternoon
And then at night
The locals at the table next to us had “Bruce” the dog. When we explained that we had “Luigi” the cat at home in Australia it was hilarious
A typical cave house up until the 1950’s – note the donkey, (Il asino), and there would have been sheep and pigs as well – all in the same room as the peasants with their average 7 kids!!
It all clings to some step gorges
  • Last night we had a real thunderstorm right over us. We lost the power but today is now bright sunshine again. I went for a swim in Brindisi this morning and the storm had knocked out the traffic lights at a busy intersection – what a circus – the traffic in the intersection was a total free-for-all. I moved about 50cms at a time – it was just frightening – the Italians have no concept of queuing or road rules.
  • Adrienne spent the morning making apricot jam – the tree next to the veranda is full of ripe fruit and we need to get in before the landlord’s mother-in-law harvests the lot. She is over 90 but is in constant motion – he says just looking at her makes him tired.
  • We are having visitors tonight for dinner. I was sent to the Pescheria, (fish shop), in San Vito dei Normanni to get 4 whole fish, but they had to be of a certain size and then gutted. We have been there before so we know the owner does not speak any english, therefore I was sent with a note, (I resisted allowing Adrienne to pin it to my shirt …), but charades of “daytime-hasbeen-TV” standard ensued until I emerged with 4 fish that actually got the nod of approval from Adrienne.
  • Next week we are going to Crete for 5 days, so for the next few days we’ll work on our tans and fitness for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.



Week 6 – Visitors and more sightseeing

  • A full on week of sightseeing with the Campbells and Hughes. Weather was great and a big effort on our part to lift the Italian economy.
Bruce and Grant in Savelletri
Front gate of Masseria Brancanti
  • The visitors headed for the Amalfi coast and we had a few days of domestic chores and lying on the beach.
Santa Sabina beach about 10 minutes away
  • On Sunday we drove up to Bari – it’s the biggest city in Puglia – we did not know what to expect but were very pleasantly surprised by the Centro Storico  dominated by a 10th century Norman castle and a number of serious cathedrals and churches. We could not do them all so will be going back when we get more visitors in July.
Bari Castle – it only has 3 corner towers – the other one housed the gunpowder and blew up

What a way to go!

  • We were at Polignano a mare today and came across a funeral – the local brass band was playing with great gusto.
Maybe he was the lead trombonist
  • But the ladies managed to find shops to buy sandles, a plate, jewellery, a dress, shoes, a belt, sunhats and toy cars – we are now having drinks on the veranda  – shagged out after a long shop
  • Evening from the veranda

Week 5 – Pizzas Luisa style and Carovigno

  • We finished our four weeks in San Vito dei Normanni in authentic style. Gino and Luisa fired up the forno and we had pizza, focaccia, and bread that could not have been fresher or better.


Still hot – straight from the forno
Luisa doing her best work
  •  We loved the house at San Vito but on Saturday we moved about 10 kms over to the big house just outside of Carovigno. Pauline got straight into the swing of things ….

    Yes, that is the sea you can see through the trees from our patio
  • This is the view from the roof terrace over to Ostuni
    One of the many white hill towns in Puglia

    Reverse direction from Ostuni with Gabrielle from the language school


  • Tuesday we went to Masseria Brancanti – the farm has been in the family for 200 years, but the oldest tree is carbon dated to 1000 BC – pre-Roman!! The farm is organic and most of the trees date to the roman times. We bought olive oil – we now know what to look for and how to taste.

    3000 years old and still producing!!


All olive trees over 500 years old are micro chipped and cannot be felled without a very good reason. You can see the tag at the bottom left.
This is the cave where the olives were pressed for oil – 20 C all year round – perfetto. In continuous operation from the Greeks until about 50 years ago – the roman oil tank is the hole on the right
Lunch in the piazza at Polignano – the white marble pavers are incredible heat reflectors – we were under the umbrellas on the left drinking peroni and prosecco – mad dogs and englishmen …
And if you want to know what makes Polignano a must see !!
Can you spot Adrienne ??
  • We said goodbye to Pauline, (our first house guest), on Wednesday and spent yesterday on the beach. Torre Guaceto is our local and is a really nice beach – clean and quiet.


Torre Guaceto Beach
  • Today is hot and sunny, so with the Campbells and Hughes due here on Sunday we are having a rest day. My weekly dose of WTF came at the supermarket this afternoon – an old nonna walked in with an open bag of something being held together by a clothes peg. She then proceeded to berate the poor bloke on the checkout, handed him the bag, strode into the supermarket, collected the desired replacement, (that looked substantially bigger than the offending bag), and walked out with the new bag while giving him another gob-full. The other customers all just stood there laughing while he tried valiantly, (but in vain), to maintain some semblance of dignity, but was not about to risk life and limb by trying to stop her.