Thursday 22 July 2004

A weekend in Italy

[Photo]In need of a holiday, Chizuko and I headed off to the South of Italy recently for the weekend. After flying into Brindisi at night, we hired a car and drove to our hotel in Selva di Fasano, a small town in the middle of a forest between Brindisi and Bari. Chizuko accuses me of driving fast, but beleive me, her definition of fast and the Italian definition of fast are two completely different things and I felt like I was holding traffic up on the motorway at times. The car was a fairly new Citroen with about 8000km on the clock, and like most rentals, flashing "-2700km" until the next service. The towtruck driver later told us that Citreons were number one for business as he took us back to the airport on Saturday afternoon to pick up a more reliable Ford Fiesta.

As well as jumping from rental car to rental car, we did get some sightseeing and lying on the beach in. On Saturday morning we'd driven to Alberobello and Ostuni, both of which were supposed to have plenty to see, but having left the guide book at home, we'd managed to miss it all. In Ostuni we spotted a market, and it was after walking around that that we came back to find the car wouldn't start. We never saw anything that made us uncomfortable, I think the seedier side of Southern Italy is concentrated in the downtown areas of Bari and Brindisi, but the first thing that popped into my head was that the car had been sabotaged and someone was about to come up to us offering to "help". After 20 or so attempts at starting the car, 3 of which it coughed into action only to die again 3 seconds later, I phoned the rental car company. By this time it was obvious that it wasn't sabotage, so we unlocked the doors and got out to wait in the cafe at the side of the road.

After changing cars, we headed for the seaside, where we had lunch and found a spot on the beach. After a few hours in the sun and a dip in the Adriatic, we headed back to the hotel and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. After accepting the waiter's suggestion of the house antipasti for starters, we ordered pasta and pizza on top of it. When a whole table of starters arrived, enough to feed a family of six, we cancelled the mains and just ate the antipasti.

On Sunday, we went to see some cave's I'd seen on the map. I remembered from the guidebook seeing an interesting looking town where a lot of the houses were built in either natural or artificial caves, it turns out I was thinking of Matera, a bit further away in Basilicata. These caves seemed to be fairly ordinary limestone caves, so since we'd only recently visited the Akiyoshido caves in Japan we decided to give them a miss. We then drove towards Lecce, again going via Alberobello and Ostuni. This time I spotted a sign as we came out of Alberobello pointing to the "Trulli zone". See the photos for an explanation of what a Trulli is. By the time we arrived in Lecce, we were famished so stopped in the first restaurant we saw rather than traipsing around town looking for the perfect pasta (sorry Chiko). While we were in the restaurant, the sky changed from bright blue to dark black, so we changed our plans for the afternoon from going to the beach to driving around the heel of Italy. There was some fantastic coastline, but in hindsight, it was a bit much driving, making me exhausted by the end of it, and leaving Chizuko uncomfortable from so much time sitting (though we did stop frequently for photos and a stretch). By the time we'd finished that, it was time to find some early dinner and head back to the airport. Unfortunately the early dinner proved elusive as McDonalds wasn't exactly what we had in mind, so we ended up eating instant noodles and sandwiches on the plane.

More photos and Chizuko's side of the story here.

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