Hope and Gratitude 2019 (an excellent itinerary)

Today, in the local Alberobello museum we learned about some priest who, along with other brigands of the region, raped and pillaged his way through the Land of the Trulli. It was a short piece on a long video so I didn’t get the name of this guy but I have since discovered a priest who did a lot for local agriculture called Don Francesco Gigante. There were rumours that he was in league with some right bad types but I think this may have been a bit of fake news, spread because powerful people were not happy with his philanthropy.

I find that happens a lot in our world. Powerful people (made powerful because we all rate money so highly) generally are not happy with anything that might loosen their grip on the throats of the poor. I think that may be what was happening with Francesco. Mind you, the brigands were sometimes people who had avenged some sort of assault of their family.

New farm managers, imported to run confiscated royal or church estates, often raped the labourer’s pretty daughters, threatening the parents with eviction if they complained, so a brother or male cousin would knife the rapist, and then go off to be a brigand.

Seward, D & Mountgarret, S, Old Puglia: A cultural companion, Haus Publishing, 2016

So you really have to ask who were the baddies and who were the goodies?

Anyway, this morning we visited Casa Pezzolli, which now houses a small museum displaying various historical things. The museum is made up of around 15 trulli all patched together. We also visited the Museo Sovrano which is also made up of trulli with the added bonus of having a second storey. It is furnished like an old trullo would have been. It has two impressive kitchens and a small guest room, both in size and for the accommodation of small guests.

Both of these museums have UNESCO World Heritage status.

Apart from the obvious lack of mortar, something else that tends to signify the trullo house is the thickness of the walls. I had Mirinda stretch her arms out to indicate this at the Sovrano museum.

And that’s an internal wall

Interestingly, a bright spark decided that this wide wall idea was brilliant for housing a staircase which is how the first two storey trullo came into being.

We also popped into the basilica of Saints Cosmo and Damian (not a reference to the film Omen, I’m sure). A fine Romanesque cathedral sitting at the end of the main road through the town and giving a focal point for anyone who thinks god is a thing.

The church was built on the site of a much older chapel dedicated to Madonna delle Grazie. The architect, Antonio Curri of Alberobello designed the present building in 1882 and the whole thing was completed by around 1885. The inside is bright, open and airy, unlike most cathedrals and rather pleasant.

The interior is characterised by some interesting paintings which appear to be quite modern. I have been unable to find out who painted them though they have a sort of WWI intensity about them.

There are also a whole load of saints and other Biblical personages dotted around the walls including a Saint Sebastien. (There is also an Adam but without an Eve so I’m ignoring it.)

There are also a couple of funky relics in the church (St Cosmo’s arm and St Damian’s skull) but we missed them. Like I’ve said many, many times, it’s always good to leave something to return for.

Having reaped as much as we could out of the big church, we headed down the high street and, of course, decided to have an ice cream from the world’s cutest ice cream shop. It has been put inside a trullo which seems altogether perfect. The ice cream was pretty bloody perfect as well.

Cute shop but very sullen ice cream seller inside

It was then time to wander the streets of the smaller and more domestic Piccola area of trulli. There are no shops here, just people living in or renting out or taking as a holiday home, trulli accommodation. The streets are narrow and winding, the houses short and strangely other worldy. I think this area is more ‘real’ than the bigger, more tourist-centric Monti section. It is also another UNESCO world Heritage site.

As you walk around the streets you can almost imagine the original population coming out and heading for whatever annoying world was being prepared for them by their overlords. There’s a sleepy beauty almost tinged with an inevitable gloom of real life here. Even so, it’s stunning and photo op, after photo op appear at every turn…complete with hundreds of photographers looking for that perfect snap.

Not for me the artistic…just a holiday snap with Mirinda’s arm

It was all very peaceful wandering around (if you ignore the constant tapping of my stick) and we spent a lovely little while making our way through the various streets of trulli.

Almost everywhere in Alberobello it looks beautiful. Okay, the amazing weather we’ve had this week helps a lot but even so, it’s rare to find so much beauty. For instance, at one point today we stopped for a coffee at a small, nondescript terrace bar overlooking the Monti area and a more amazing view it would be difficult to find.

Eventually we wandered down to the same restaurant we visited yesterday to have a small plate of meat and cheese, beer and wine while the rest of the town wandered in the glare of the late summer brilliance. The waiter, truly a genius of his trade, remembered not only us but also our order.

And it’s not just him that leads me to recommend Largo Trevisani. Everything about the place was lovely and perfect for a lazy lunch, watching the tourists slowly wandering around like doped up cattle, while I was slowly downing a glass (or two) of Peroni.

HAving met the taxi (Vito again) at the fountain, we headed back to our lodgings where, after a long rest and a beer (me) we eventually set off for dinner. We decided to walk. Actually I decided to walk and Mirinda just decided to walk beside me. The restaurant recommended by our host was just over a kilometre away and easily navigated down country lanes which I think see more business from bicycles than cars. And the way was very easy apart from one small thing: the complete absence of light.

The first part was relatively easy. The walls along the route were white, there was a white line on the edge of the very smooth road surface, in fact, the worst thing was the bushes on the side of the road which kept grabbing my stick when I least expected it. In fact, all was well until we took the left hand turn at the cross roads and the dog started.

Mirinda suddenly grabbed my arm and, to be fair, it did sound like a reasonably ferocious dog. Sort of Alsatian level of ferocious rather than a squeaky Emma. And then, as we walked beside a rather bright house with lots of cars parked in it’s garden, a couple more dogs started going off. It was not the nicest of encounters.

Then we turned right and the way suddenly became impenetrable with blackness. Before we’d had some white to light our way but now the path was mostly grass and ground and, therefore, not light at all. I stopped and, using the torch app on my mobile, made Mirinda very grateful for my Samsung phone…the first time that’s ever happened.

Anyway, long walk short, we arrived at the restaurant safely and happy though Mirinda swore that we’d be getting a taxi home.

And what a meal. I thoroughly enjoyed mine (Caprese salad followed by giant prawns then tiramisu, coffee and chilled amaro) but that’s possibly because we avoided ordering the antipasti de casa. Unfortunately not everyone dining with us felt the same.

The restaurant, a highly recommended La Nicchia, is divided into little areas, like trulli, with groups in each. Ours had three tables. On one table there were three men of various ages who had me wondering, most of the night, why on earth they were eating dinner together. The other table had a couple.

The couple ordered a bottle of Peroni and a glass. They shared the bottle of beer. They had some small entree then their pizza arrived. They started eating their pizzas with knife and fork. He managed about three quarters but left the crust. She barely got through half. They stood and left. We think they were not happy. (Though they said good evening to us as they arrived and when they left.)

On the other table, the three men were deep in conversation. One was cutting up food for the youngest (about 40) while the other didn’t really eat more than a few rusks. He also sucked through his teeth a lot and answered his phone a number of times. It was an odd combination of diners. Though they did eat and drank a bottle of red.

The thing that most surprised us was the bowl of melon and carrot that came out to accompany Mirinda’s spaghetti. We’ve never had this before but, according to the waiter, it’s something they do in the south of Italy all the time: When you have spaghetti you take a bit of carrot or a bit of melon as well.

And it wasn’t just us because the Table of the Three Unsuited Men also had it with their pasta, the youngest refusing to give up his carrot when the waiter tried to clear it away.

All in all, it was a lovely meal with lots of hopes and gratitude celebrated (as we do every year) and carbs devoured – it is one of our official carb meals after all.

Seriously brilliant tiramisu

Finally, we took a taxi back to our little trulli in the hills. An excellent H&G Dinner. An excellent recommendation from our host which, when Mirinda said we were going to walk to, he described as an excellent itinerary.

Funnily enough I’m typing this at 11:30pm with the door open and the dogs are still barking. I know my typing can be loud but I don’t think that’s why…perhaps they well remember the night that Mirinda walked by…

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