Quite often our holidays are delightful excursions that go from just beautiful to incredibly stunning. Sometimes they embrace the other end of the scale generally from bad to worse. However, today went from truly ugly to truly beautiful.
To start the day, following breakfast at the Soulless Hotel, we took a short stroll along the road that runs parallel to the central station then across the graffiti bridge.
To say that Mirinda was singularly unimpressed with the newer part of Bari would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. Added to the sheer ugliness, her mood had yet to ‘turn the corner’ into holiday mode. This is the point at which she drops the gloom that has attached and grown on her from work and, like a butterfly emerging from a particularly unpleasant cocoon, she becomes the woman I married.
So things were not improving as we headed in the general direction of what was supposed to be the more attractive ‘old town.’
A line of trees seemed to hold promise but it merely masked the endless sad rows of buildings that stretched into the distance ahead of us. Our bus wasn’t due to leave until 1pm so a bit of a walk was supposed to be a good thing.
It wasn’t, really. While holidays should be like stepping out of your normal life, this was like stepping into oncoming traffic.
We stopped for a not very nice coffee (unusual in Italy and diametrically opposed to the ones John and I had in Naples earlier this year) before heading back to the hotel to wait with our bags in the far more attractive lobby.
There was one adventure worth worrying about. I had to work out the bus to Alberobello. The Internet was not exactly helpful. I asked the guy at the hotel desk.
He, very helpfully printed off a timetable, told me where the bus stop was (very close) and where to buy the tickets (as close but in the opposite direction).
You can’t buy your ticket on the bus because you have to go to an ATS to buy it. The ATS is a small shop front with ticket windows where you ask for your ticket (or intricate details of how to get to outer Mongolia by rickshaw) and hand over your money.
It was all very simple but I hadn’t been able to find it out anywhere. Local knowledge is a good thing.
As we waited at what we thought was the bus stop, the bus pulled in about 20 yards away. Mirinda noticed the destination so we manhandled and womanhandled our bags and asked the driver if he was our bus. He was. I hefted the bags into the storage compartment and we took seats near the back of the bus.
By the time the bus started up and we moved about three feet, it was packed with plenty of people standing. Mirinda’s mood had not improved given we didn’t manage to travel very far or fast at any given time. The bus is scheduled to take 65 minutes but 40 of those were spent trying to get out of the sprawl of roadworks that is Bari.
I tried to keep Mirinda distracted with prattle until, eventually and obviously bored, she went to sleep. She woke up just before we reached our destination and had finally turned the corner, as if her mood had been lifted as we drifted away from the mass ghastliness of Bari. (I should add that we only saw possibly the worst bits of Bari so my opinion may change at the end of the week when we return.)
Our host met us at the bus stop and we all set off for a brief tour of the town before a less than brief stop at the super market to buy some milk (and cheese and salami and beer and nuts and…) before arriving at the truly gorgeous Trulli Colarossa.
A trulli is a home built without cement or any other type of glue, just with local stones. Very much like the French borie villages though prettier. According to our host, the locals were forced to build them when the conquering Spanish 500 years ago forbade them from building anything more substantial. This was so the Spanish wouldn’t get taxed too much for having too many buildings. Sounds like hedge fund managers avoiding tax by putting their assets out of sight on a desert island.
What the Spanish accidentally managed to do was to create an amazing bit of building excellence which has since become unique. So much so that parts of the town are on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. But, obviously, more of that later. (Also the origins could be a lot different.)
Mirinda fell in love with our little trulli ‘house’ for the next few days, so much so that following cheese and salami she fell onto the bed, pretending to read and promptly fell fast asleep.
We then awoke in order to get into Vito’s taxi so he could take us to possibly the most incredible culinary experience of our lives.
Our host had recommended a place that he said was his favourite restaurant in Alberobello. Vito agreed saying whenever he and his wife ate out they would go to there. Both our host and Vito raved about the antipasti de casa.
Gli Ulivi is a fascinating place. At street level it appears to be a normal house with fine green flecks of light on the path. To the right is the front door complete with child’s bike, which enticed Mirinda towards until an elderly chap in a flouro jacket who was watching the parked cars in the street, frantically waved her away; to the left is a green fairy light lit staircase going down. And so we descended. At the bottom is the restaurant in an extension that would seat many, many diners. And that’s without the outside terrace area.
We took our seats and duly ordered the antipasti de casa and pizza to follow (oh, what fools we were, what simple fools!) And the dishes started to come out. They kept coming out and coming out. Even when the table was full it wasn’t enough as more little bowls of food appeared. We were being engulfed by the food that we were supposed to engulf.
We tried most of the little bowls and most of the ones we tried were, in fact, delicious but the quantity was just too great. It would have fed a small village in the Fens for a week. I should add that there was one thing I didn’t like. I have no idea what it was but it was not very nice. And also Mirinda did not like the whole deep fried fish.
When we finished as much as possible, we’d increased in size tenfold and we needed wider chairs. Then, just when we thought it was over, a pair of gigantic pizzas arrived. Most of them went in boxes to come home with us.
The meal was delicious though ridiculously huge. When we told Vito (on the way home) he agreed. I wanted to ask him, in a very loud voice, why he hadn’t warned us. I can only assume it’s a sort of local joke to play on gullible tourists.
I’m fairly certain I won’t be eating anything for the next three weeks.