Monday, September 22, 2014


Polignano a Mare
Main square old town
Italy is shaped like a high heeled boot and Polignano a Mare is at the top of the heel. It is a quaint town perched on a cliff dotted with sea caves.  A bridge spans a deep ravine that cuts through the city.  A small, pristine beach is at the mouth of the ravine.  It is believed that Polignano a Mare was part of ancient Greece, and the old town indicates Greek influences as well as Spanish and Byzantine.

Polignano's narrow streets
Domenico Modugno
Poignana Mare ravine & beach
With its narrow cobblestone streets, charming old town and sea caves, Polignano a Mare has become a popular tourist destination, and its economy depends heavily on it.  Polignano a Mare also proudly claims Domenico Modugno -- singer-songwriter most famous for "Volare" -- as its native son. 
Santa Croce

Typical ornate interior of Lecce's churches

Our next stop, Lecce, has been called The Florence of the South thanks to an abundance of Baroque palaces and churches. 

Baroque architecture began in the late 16th century and was as far removed from the simple churches we recently saw as possible.  The style is very ornate and theatrical and was meant to signify the triumph and power of the Catholic Church.  Some thought Lecce the most beautiful city in Italy while Marchese Grimaldi said the facade of Santa Croce made him think a lunatic was having a nightmare. Though Lecce was once a very important city in Italy, it doesn't seem possible that they ever had enough people to fill the 40 churches that are often just around the corner from one another.  
Fountain outside Charles V Palace

Duomo, Bishop's Palace & seminary
Bell tower
2nd century amphitheater
Lecce's cathedral was built in the 12th century. Several hundred years later, the Bishop's Palace, a seminary and a tower over 200 feet high were added.  It was in this square that the townspeople would gather during an attack because there was only one narrow entrance, easy to defend.  

In 1901, construction workers discovered a 2nd century amphitheater underneath the main piazza.

Enticed by the pictures, we moved on to a resort in Otranto.  While the grounds and sea were gorgeous, the rooms were the worst we have ever been in.  Small, dark and dingy. Fortunately, we were able to cut our stay from 5 days to 2 and extended our stay in the next town, Castellaneta Marina on the Ionian Sea.  It was like going from hell to heaven.  One of the perks of traveling in the shoulder or off season is that you often receive an upgrade. 
Kalidria pool
Kalidria Hotel and grounds

At Kalidria Thalasso Spa Resort, we were upgraded to a suite with a large living room and balcony. 

This is our last stop in the province of Puglia.  Now we drive across the country -- what would be the arch of the boot -- to the west coast of Italy.  


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Gate to old town Termoli
Tower of original castle
Fishing cabin and nets Termoli
View from our balcony - beach & old town

Termoli Basilica
Termoli is a small city on the Adriatic coast that is known for its old town as well as nice beaches and clear, blue water.  It is a popular summer destination for Italians.  Few outsiders know of Termoli or come here so we were a rarity.  When Ron went for a haircut, they were anxious to know how we got there. 

Our hotel was nestled between the old town and the beach; our balcony overlooked both.  The old town is mostly residential with a very simple but beautiful cathedral in the middle.  Built in the 12 – 13th centuries, it was restored to its original appearance.  A wall surrounds the old town and rising from a corner right next to our hotel is the tower of a castle that was originally part of a wide fortification.
Rainy days in Vieste
Sea caves Vieste on a rare sunny afternoon

Jutting out from the spur of the boot of Italy is the Gargano promontory.  It has about 110 miles of coastline with sandy beaches, limestone cliffs and sea caves. At one time this piece of land was connected to Croatia.  Today much of it is part of a 30,000 acre national park.  We stayed at a beach resort just outside the small city of Vieste. Unfortunately, the rain caught up with us.  We arrived in pouring rain and had several days of it.  This has been an unusually wet summer for much of Europe.

We had three lovely days in the beautiful town of Trani. At one time, Trani was a primary trading point for wine, fruit and grain and its port was the most important one on the Adriatic Sea. 
Trani's Cathedral
Interior of the cathedral: simplicity & double columns 
The old town winds around the large, protected harbor. Countless narrow, cobblestone streets veer away from the water.  Many of the buildings have been restored and the local stone has a pearl-like glitter in the sun - no doubt giving rise to Trani's nickname "Pearl of the Adriatic." 

As was the case in Termoli, the cathedral reflects its original design which is very simple and pristine -- no statues or stations of the cross.  Across from the cathedral is a massive castle built by Frederick II.  The city 
The cathedral is perched between the sea and the port

Local fishermen at the port Trani
reached its peak of wealth and prosperity under his rule in the 13th century.  He was one of the most powerful Roman emperors of the Middle Ages reigning from 1194-1250.  A man of great intelligence, culture and ability, historians consider him the first modern ruler.

Puglia is the name of this province in the southeast section of Italy, and the strip of land that is known as the heel runs between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.  The area has an interesting mix of Greek and Turkish flavors aside from Italian as it was invaded by those countries and more over the ages.   

The interior of Puglia is mostly farmland with endless olive groves that produce 80% of Italy’s olive oil.  80% of Europe’s pasta is produced here.  The towns are quaint with white washed buildings.  The coast line is jagged with powder blue water and sandy beaches.   

Ron beside the entrance to Trani's harbor