I was sad to leave Vieste but with towns like Locorotondo and Otranto to explore, that feeling quickly evaporated into wild adventure zeal.
Located in the province of Bari and region of Puglia, Locorotondo is famous for its roundness. The town’s centro historico is built in a circular fashion and there are fascinating little houses or huts called Trulli that inspire curious travelers like us to visit. Incidentally, because we made a few stops along the way (Trani, Polignano a Mare, Bisceglie and Bari), we arrived after dark to Locorotondo. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, because both Trani and Polignano a Mare were interesting towns and deserved more than a couple hours of our time. We breezed into and out of Bisceglie and Bari not staying long enough to get a feel for those places. Bisceglie looked like another gorgeous Adriatic town.
Note to self and others: Spend a night in Polignano a Mare, because this town has something special – a charming je ne sais quoi.
This particular night was one of the many in which we had no sleeping arrangements. Outside of Venice, we had been winging it. That was never a real problem, but can be slightly stress-inducing when arriving late. Locorotondo was shut down and seemingly asleep albeit for a bar/pizza place.
With no English being spoken and my Italian wavering between awkward and awful, I set out to find us a place to sleep while Scott kept watch over the car (we couldn’t find parking). Into the bar I go. The man behind the counter with the kind face would surely help me despite the growing crowd of patrons. When he learned we had a communication situation, he did what any good Italian does, pantomime. He took me outside and explained with his hands and face where we should go for a good night’s rest. Back in the car and down the hill. At the time, I had no idea the establishment we were heading to, Agriturismo Masseria Aprile, had trulli cottages.
Lodging: Agriturismo Masseria Aprile
This was one of the most unique places we’ve ever stayed. I highly recommend it. The proprietors, Anna and Antonio, were in their jammies by the time we found the place which posed some difficulty in the dark. Even with a credit card hiccup they weren’t worried one Italian iota and assured us how the morning solves all problems. Incredibly gracious hosts, they were more interested our comfort. We stayed in a trullo, and it was fabulous.
The Puglia Region of Italy is well known for many things especially the outstanding fresh food and olive oil. One particularly unique and often understated aspect of this region are the trulli (plural of trullo). The original intention for these stone huts with conical roofs was for agricultural purposes – to store dried crops or to keep animals. Sometimes the peasant farmers lived in them. But now they are famous for being uber cool travel accommodations.
The next morning we met Anna and Antonio and their daughter along with some other guests in the kitchen/dining area. We all were offered a hearty breakfast of our choosing – many fresh fruits and of course incredible Italian breads. We had a good laugh trying to explain our journey to them in Italian. Fortunately, their daughter, Stefania, was present, because she speaks impeccable English and helped facilitate a rich and lively dialogue. This place has great energy.
Highlight of Locorotondo:
Where do I start? If I ever return to this region, I want to spend more time in Locorotondo. Happening upon the trulli when we were expecting only to find a place to rest our weary bodies for the night was like stumbling upon a trunk with hidden treasures while digging around in the garden to prepare it for planting. There’s much more to explore and a lot of space to chill here. Olive groves and vineyards, an alluring townscape on the horizon as viewed from the valley, and fresh country air. I whole-heartedly recommend this place and insist you stay at Agriturismo Masseria Aprile. You will not be disappointed or my middle name isn’t Matilda. You got me. My middle name is not Matilda, but rational logic shows no connection between your happiness and my middle name. Just go and have a good time.
We then traveled to the tip of Italy’s heel, Otranto, in the province of Lecce and still part of the Puglia region. It is here where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea. We like to visit towns where seas meet. It makes us feel special like we have a mystic secret capturing converging, cosmic, ocean ions. On the way to Otranto, we passed through Carovigno, S. Vito dei Normanni, Mesagne, San Donici, Lecce and Martano stopping only in Lecce to check out the Baroque architecture. In Lecce, there are about a dozen churches within what seems to be a six block radius including Chiesa de San Giovanni Battista. One of the marvels is the very ornate facade of the Basilica de Santa Croce (no good photos, you can blame the distracted photographer who was busily searching for a bagno). We spent only about three hours in Lecce. If you have 36 hours, here is a NY Times article that may help you decide what to see and how to be.
We arrived in Otranto just in time to catch a rainbow over the Adriatic. That felt like a good omen – we were in the right place at the right time. In the Cathedral of Otranto one can see the bones of the Martyrs of Otranto, who perished in the 15th-century siege at the high altar. It’s quite dramatic, intriguing, and a wee bit gloomy to see all those skulls and bones in the dark and hallowed space. Wouldn’t one have to be somewhat of an egocentric martyr to want his (or her but not likely in this instance) bones on display?
Lodging: Profumo di Mare Hotel
Located at Lungomare Terra D’Otranto, 5, on the main drag with a full-on view of the Adriatic. A small hotel with simple but clean rooms, we were lucky they had space available. We spent the evening at the plaza and had a nightcap on the narrow balcony outside the room – people watching and relaxing after a day of exploration. Scott will tell you greatly enjoyed the tiny cylindrical shower with the clear glass door, resembling the sci-fi movie pods astronauts take a cryogenic sleep in while traveling through deep space, as he sang multiple versions of “Major Tom” to the handheld shower head.
Highlight of Otranto:
I have a good feeling when I reminisce about Otranto. We arrived with no place to stay and hung out in the plaza watching a children’s bike race. Families were gathered around cheering their little ones while enjoying a southern Italian afternoon. One of the cleanest towns we visited, Otranto has a friendly and refreshing atmosphere.
The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo
Onward to our next stop – the Amalfi Coast. Ciao bellas.