|Rooftop view from Alberobello UESCO site|
Our plan was to stay around Taranto and head toward Lecce one day and the Gargano area the next after checking out the area around Taranto. Well, we got Taranto and the Trulli country "done" and the Gargano area started. Here's our story:
The Hotel and Trulli Country
Masseria Chiancone Torricella is the albergo we used. It's a 4 Star hotel fairly isolated in the country and is fairly new. We loved it as it gave us the quietest two nights sleep we've had in about 4 years! The place probably makes most of its money from wedding receptions as the patios and group areas are huge.
|The rooms were located in a long modern annex on spacious grounds|
|A trullo we might be able to afford--Maybe|
|UESCO site at Alberobello|
Our hotel was located just at the "outskirts" of the town of Martina Franca. We were very pleasantly impressed with this town. The architecture was interesting and the historic center well kept and active. Yet another splendid basilica with full baroque style. Lovely local limestone on the exterior and incredible columns and works inside of marble.
|Interior of the Basilica di San Martino|
Interesting architecture in Martina Franca--Basilica is in the backgroundTaranto
Taranto is a city of around 250,000 people. Hence, as a large city, it is busy and seldom cute (being polite). We had a stressful few hours there and in the outskirts. The commercial port is home to fishing vessels and, apparently, the Italian navy. We don't recommend Taranto to anyone for any reason unless you have business there at an oil refinery--although these are at the entrance to the city, you can't really see them from the harbor below. In fairness, we missed the main part of the restored centro.
|The Taranto Harbor is at least photogenic|
We left the hotel headed for Gargano and the village of San Giovanni Rotondo. Using mostly secondary roads and trying to follow the signage sometimes is a challenge in Italy. Doug goofed and turned right instead of left at one point and we ended up at the port of the City of Trani. What an amazingly fortunate mistake! This is a lovely little city with a vibrant historic district lining the port. Obvious from the photo, it's a recreational port for some verrry nice yachts. When we return to northern Puglia, we will think of a day or two lingering in the historic area and port. Impressive.
|Beautiful harbor at Trani|
The Parco Nationale di Gargono makes up a peninsula sometimes referred to as the spur of the Italian boot. It contains the only remnants of virgin forest in Italy, hence our interest. It also has some lovely shorelines and beaches. BUT, we never got into the forests or shorelines given time constraints. Prossima volta.
Instead, we went to the town of San Giovanni Rotondo where our two neighbors recommended we see all there is related to their patron saint -- San Giussepe--aka Padre Pio.
It is an attractive town and is obviously doing well with tourism revenue from people coming to see Padre (Papa) Pio stuff. There were at least 3000 people moving about the area when we arrived. Not being catholics, we have no idea what drives people to make such a deal of these things. The priest only died in the 1960's, so is not an ancient person at all. There is a modern hospital in his name that has good credits and they built a modern new cathedral seen below.
We stopped for lunch in a very busy restaurant. Busy because of the many busloads of people making the pilgramage, then eating. Doug may have experienced a little miracle there; he ordered a veal steak, expecting a thin, overcooked piece of meat. Instead he got a full-sized T-bone steak that had a little pink to it and tasted great. Thanks go to Padre Pio for a fine lunch.
Photos are looking south from San Giovanni R looking at farmland and the sea. Next photo looks up at the town, then the new modern church facility:
|The Padre Pio church site|
We travelled 1020km/637 miles on this trip. All was very rewarding scenery to drive through. Doug was impressed with the superb highways in Basilicata and Puglia compared to the roads we have around here. Even the brand new pieces of the A3 autostrade will knock your teeth lose in places here! The roads in eastern Basilicata and Puglia were 2-4 lanes and almost empty everywhere.
All of the towns and rural areas we travelled were kept litter-free compared to Calabria. We guess there is more money in Puglia than Calabria because there are more people. It is noticeable.
Gotta mention the fantastic scenery of the Appenine mountains going and coming. The mountain spine thru southern Italy is just great. Many hectares of forest, scattered towns, and in the valleys many hectares of wheat fields, olive orchards, etc. The country north of Bari is flat and old tidal marshes that have been drained for agriculture. Quite different, but still easy on the eye.
Although we did not stop, the city of Potenza, capital of the Basilicata Region, is incredibly handsome as seen from the highway. Certainly worthy of a day and night sometime in the future.
The drive from San Giovanni R. (including a detour near Lagonegro) only took 5 hours. On that detour, about 5 large trucks and 15 cars got backed-up behind mom and pop local going home from the garden in their 3-wheel Ape. Those poor folks have lost their tranquil towns whilst the highway bridges are completed on the A3. In comparison, that 5 hours would get you about halfway across the state of Oregon, so not a bad drive at all. We ended with pretty lightning and a little squall coming in from the west over Praia a Mare. Always good to get home!!