The Back Roads of Puglia – Day 3

Cisternino, Ostuni and Gallipoli

We had a wonderful sleep and awoke refreshed. We decided to go later for a leisurely breakfast.

Cisternino Another day. Another white town. This time CISTERNINO and no less stunning. Probably more so. One of the most beautiful villages ” I Borghi piu belli d’Italia ” in Italy again.

A labyrinth of narrow streets beckoning to be discovered. Dead ends a plenty but never frustrating to go down. Pugliese life goes on down these corridors of limestone. Such highly polished stone floors. Look to the sky and see weekly washing hanging and dangling. A mish mash of styles but intriguing to see.

The main square of this walled medieval town has a lovely clock tower. This central piazza is where the town folk meet and in summer its the venue for lots of outdoor events. Cafes are all around. Red and white checked tablecloths, sprawling out onto pavements and picturesque squares. The smells from the butcher and baker were uplifting.

We took a last look at the town and climbed back on board. I had been looking forward to the next destination for weeks. Wine tasting, lunch and pasta and cheese demonstrations.

Cisternino Guiseppe knew the area so well and soon we were heading towards MASSERIA FERRI. Down narrow lanes, almost traffic free. Roads that were edged with mortar-less stone walls. All around gorgeous landscapes unfolded. Rich red fertile soil contrasted against the green shades of the vines and olive trees. In the UK we drive on the left yet along these lanes we often drove on what was left of the road. Dust flying in all directions.

The welcome at the masseria was generous and warm and big hearted. It was a calm bright morning and the sun high in the sky. 34 degrees now and climbing. The pool for the B&B guests looked inviting. The sun was so fierce that it began to burn my neck.

Food again! And wine, this time sparkling. Well we had to wash down the focaccia. The Italian quiche was so good that I confess I had three pieces. I had never had prickly pear before. An unusual taste and colour but very pleasant and very refreshing especially in this heat.

Whilst lunch was being prepared we were shown around the farm. An Italian stallion. Black with coal black eyes. Ears pricked taking in all around. Strutting his stuff as many Italian stallions do. It set the female hearts’ fluttering.  A few photos taken and then as soon as he appeared he went back into his stable. Shy of his audience , unlike most Italian men. Whilst on the subject, what is fashionable about wearing shoes without socks and wearing suits that look as though they have shrunk in the wash? Or am I just a jealous silver traveller fast approaching retirement?

Trulli The refurbished trulli were lovely and all available for rent. This would be a wonderful peaceful vacation. Miles from anywhere. Take a book and opt out of the rat race for a while.

The Mozzarella making demonstration was fascinating, and the pasta making was even better. Hands on too. I was pleased with my attempt to make a couple of orecchiette  even though the ears looked deformed. Dr Spock -like. From a male point of view it was satisfying to see a couple of the girls struggling too.It was great fun, bringing the group closer together amidst laughter.

Lunch was another grand event. Lots of food . Well done Back-Roads , you’ve done it again. Great hosts, great food, great wine, great company. And the meatballs and pasta — heaven! 

Outside the temperature nudged 36C.

Ostuni Our next port of call was OSTUNI. Not a port and not on the coast. But you can see the sea. In fact you can sea two seas. A sea of green olive groves and a sea of blue – the Adriatic. 

La Citta Bianca  “the white city “. Not another one you might ask . Yes but it’s gorgeous. If it was a woman it would be a perfectly tanned Bella-Donna with laughter-crinkled eyes and  a cute button nose.

Built on three hills which gives the city such strategic importance. Pre-Roman in origin it’s had its fair share of sieges and attacks-including the Normans , the Bourbons and right up to 1860 with the unification of Italy by Garibaldi. All this talk of biscuits is making me hungry again.

Ostuni shines like a mirage of white light. Gleaming limestone white-washed houses contrast against the pink-tinged brown of the cathedral. This late Gothic church has three fine rose windows and worth exploring. As is the rest of the town. Best to do it on foot .Take your time and immerse yourself in this medieval walled fortress town . The panoramic views are awesome. It’s a town built on many levels. Constrained by the walls, like the song: “The only way is up”. Ostuni is a mishmash of arches, steps , steep narrow streets and geranium filled balconies.

Enjoy a drink in the social hub of the city – the Piazza della Liberta Awash with bars and restaurants.

Off now to Gallipoli for a three night stay. Situated on the Ionian Coast in Puglia’s Salento region. Albert Hammond sang that “it never rains in southern California “. It rains even less here. Hot and dry, with wonderful breezes from the coast.

Ostuni When I read the itinerary of the trip I was excited to be going to Gallipoli – I had studied World War I in history at school and the town was famous for that disastrous battle. And then I realised it’s not the Gallipoli I knew. That of course was in Turkey. But I needn’t have worried.

Gallipoli means “beautiful city ” and it really is .The old town sits on an island connected to the mainland by a centuries old causeway. A working port rich in fishing history. Picturesque and so busy. Again like Ostuni because of its strategic position it has been under siege many times in its history. And this history is all around etched in the faces of the inhabitants, and on show around every nook and cranny.

The town has a faded charm but this is its plus point. Now a mecca for tourists who arrive in their swarms . The car parks are always full as are the restaurants. Fish is clearly king pin here though you can get meat dishes at some restaurants. Tourism booms throughout the year due to the mild climate although it can be hot and sticky in summer.

It was warm as we arrived in the town. The sunset was spectacular. First impressions were very good. As no cars are allowed at the hotel we left the mini bus and a short walk later we were there.

Hotel Relais Corte Palmeri was stunning. A wonderful historical house dating back to 1700. Situated in the dense maze of alleyways and streets and squares in this fishing town. This was a boutique hotel of great beauty and quirky too. Our room blew me away. Minimalistic , restored wooden floors and a step up to a bathroom with shower. Although slightly limited in space to put our clothes, it’s not every day you can stay in a beautiful historic house right in the middle of a town which over the next couple of days became our friend. Heaven.

Now where can we get a pizza?

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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