This trip to Puglia was months in the planning. Planning is the single most important aspect of a successful trip. I know all about where I am going and have selected what I want to see, and why, in advance. That makes it easier for me to focus on where I am and what is around me when I am there; I am not constantly checking my apps or books for ratings on sites to see or places to eat. It does not mean I am not flexible and open to change – I just schedule time for that, too!
On this trip, a driving trip with our friends Jon and Galina from San Juan, we covered a lot of ground. We wanted to see just about everything we could. In retrospect, we accomplished that, but we did not have enough time in some of the places. We never had too much in any of them! We could have made this trip twice as long.
We made some memories for sure! Driving in the crowds in Trani; the huge pothole on our way to Castel del Monte that left us with an audio souvenir; a radiant Sunday morning in Galipoli, and meals I hope will make you salivate as you read! It was the best kind of trip; the kind where you plot about going back even before you’ve finished!
When people asked me about what this trip was like, my most common response was that in Puglia I found the Italy I had first seen in 1974, when I arrived for my semester abroad in Rome. That was an Italy of Italians, of learning to speak Italian, of Italian food and craftsmanship. It was the real thing. Puglia is also still authentic. I encountered people who spoke English, but just enough to get by with the small numbers of tourists, and I found plenty of people willing to allow me to muddle through my rusty Italian (despite all my practice before the trip). We ate food that was natural and delicious, much of it home-made right in the places we stayed. We were often the novelty – the only tourists some people would meet their entire week.
The comparison to 45 years ago doesn’t hold water all the time. Puglia has progressed a great deal in those years, but perhaps it has had the benefit of watching how crowds of tourists have ruined the cities of Rome and Florence and Venice, and has decided to focus on a different type of experience for visitors here. They took the lessons of those favored destinations and skipped the learning curve, jumping straight over all the mistakes straight to the future. In Puglia, we found first class accommodations, first class wine, first class food, even first class museums, but none of the crowds. We did see tour buses – mostly with Asians who, as you know, the way their tours travel, they can cover the entire country of Italy in two days. The Germans and the British come on holiday in May, June and September – focusing on the beautiful beaches. Italians flock here in July and August – also focusing on the beaches. And really, if you made a bucket list for Puglia, for the most part it would be whole cities (tiny ones) on your list, because it isn’t that there is a thing to see, like a church or an excavation, but the place itself is a place to be.
I hope I can convey this “being” experience as I relate our adventures. I’d love for you to feel as I did. I’d love for your imagination to take flight, as mine often does anyway. I want you to feel like, though you’ve been there with me, you’d love to experience it for yourself.
For the sake of clearer organization and ease of finding out about specific places, I will list here the places we went, with links directly to the pages of the blog that cover them. Naturally, if you like to follow chronologically, at the end of each section is a link to the next one.