Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

28th November – 5th December

A very heavy fog greeted us upon wakening however we decided to still get the bus in. The views to the plains below and Monte Subasio rising steeply above Assisi were whited out. As you would imagine the town is full of churches with the main one being the Basilica di San Francesco. The are two churches in this complex, the lower church, a Romanesque structure which embodies the spirit of the Franciscan life while the brighter upper church is a Gothic wonder, containing an elaborate tableau of frescoes. Every surface of the church was painted, the ceiling in parts a bright blue with gold stars and the remaining surfaces with biblical scenes. A sarcophagus housed his remains in a small chapel. Once again we were fortunate to hear the girls choir singing which resonated throughout the church. We also visited the Basilica di Santa Chiara another Romanesque church which was raised in honour of St Clare, a spiritual contemporary of St Francis and founder of the Sorelle Povere di Santa Chiara (Order of the Poor Ladies) now known as the Poor Clares. She is buried in the church’s crypt. The Byzantine cross that is said to have spoken to St Francis is also housed here. The cobbled streets were a delight to walk through albeit in the fog with a large number of shops selling religious paraphernalia as well as local wines and olive products. We headed home around lunchtime and drove to Montefalco where for €5 per night we have free power and once the fog finally lifted, views over the red leaved vineyards and olive groves.

Just beautiful.

Just beautiful. Basilica de San Francesco

Blue skies greeted us when we woke. The temperature was a balmy -1 although it was lovely and warm inside our electrically heated motorhome. Bliss! We enjoyed the warmth for a few hours after breakfast and then braved the conditions and headed up the hill to this lovely little town. A quick stop at the tourist office and a mad dash around the town walls in what felt like a windchill of -5. We could also see Assisi minus the fog. There is snow on the distant hills and we are well aware that we need to get a move on as we haven’t got any snow chains or winter tyres. As mentioned previously this is a wine growing area so we popped into one of the shops and purchased a bottle of Montefalco Rosso which will be opened this evening sitting in our warm motorhome with expected temperatures outside of -5°.

Home in Montefalco

Home in Montefalco

We were clad in thermals, scarves and gloves on our walk through town on what turned out to be another sunny but cold day. Given that the churches were closed we decided to take a walk to the nearby Carmelite nunnery through fields of olive trees past some really nice properties. We had lovely views across the meadows and the mountains with little hilltop towns dotted along the way. Our return took us on a different route which bought us to the other side of town and home again.

We were sad to leave our little spot in Montefalco, mainly because of the electricity but it was time to move on. We only drove a short distance of 25kms to Spoleto with the first part of our journey down a steep descent to the valley floor, through more of the Umbrian countryside and with a clear view to the surrounding Apennine hills. Once settled, we packed our lunch and walked into Spoleto where the Romans left their mark in the form of grand arches and an amphitheatre. We visited the Roman theatre after weaving our way through the cobbled streets and lanes twinkling with Christmas lights around the doorways of the shops. The medieval Ponte delle Torri, a 10-arch bridge that crosses a steeply wooded gorge unfortunately was closed and has been since the earthquake in Norcia, 40kms away in August. It was to be the beginning of a 6km walk along wooded trails but we still managed a nice small walk around the base of the fortress where we stopped for lunch overlooking the dome of the Duomo Di Spoleto. It was built in the 11th century, using huge blocks of salvaged stones from Roman buildings for its bell tower. The apse was full of mosaic frescoes and the walls adorned with painted frescoes all depicting biblical scenes and a beautiful tiled floor. We continued on through the laneways stopping at another church before heading back for a quiet afternoon.

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We were in two minds as to whether we should visit Norcia and after checking the internet which said it was business as usual, we decided that we would go and maybe have lunch there, giving one of the cafes/restaurants some well needed business. The pictures we had seen online showed the damage the earthquake had caused that hit in August but we were absolutely totally not prepared for the devastation we saw that has struck this town. Where we had planned to park, the area was taken over completely by emergency crews from the army, fire brigade, police and many volunteers. A lot of buildings were just piles of rubble and we saw houses where all that was left was the roof over what was once someone’s home. There were houses that were still standing but so badly damaged are unliveable. One house in particular lost the whole of one wall and we could see the dining room table which was still set for a meal. The town wall was badly damaged and the 800 year old cathedral is non existent. It was gut wrenching to see, we both felt sick and we saw all of this while driving in our motorhome. We passed a temporary army barracks as well as temporary housing for the local townspeople. We didn’t stop except to find a way out. The main road we were going to take was closed due to damage so we drove on a road that we thought would take us around another town, San Pellegrino and back onto the original road but further along. That town was worse hit and almost completely destroyed with only a few houses remaining relatively unscathed and all of the townsfolk have left. We had to change our route again and drive back past Norcia onto Cascia 13kms away where there were more emergency crews and temporary housing but no damage that we could see. We stopped and had lunch before continuing on. Still a bit shell shocked, we drove through the Apennines up to a height of 1000 metres with lovely views down into the valley to the town of Leonessa. We had a walk around the town, it is only very small and a short distance from the ski fields although we didn’t see any snow. We ended up driving a lot further than originally planned when we set out this morning with our good intentions. We didn’t feel that it was right to take any photos however those scenes will stay with us for a long time and our hearts go out to all of the people who have been affected.

Our next destination was L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region. We had a great drive through more hill towns on roads that wound their way through the Apennines, again with views to the snow capped peaks. L’Aquila was devastated by an earthquake in April 2009 with over 300 people loosing their lives. 7 years later the evidence is astounding. The majority of the buildings are covered in scaffolding and still held together with steel bands and windows and door frames are supported by either wood or more steel. We had no idea the city was still under repair with major cracks very obvious on our walk around. The majority of the small streets and lanes that run off of the Piazza Duomo are closed as it isn’t safe to walk amongst the fragile buildings. A couple of the churches that are still open have damage to the ceilings and walls and repair work seems to have not yet started. The main Duomo is a mass of scaffolding with the roof having collapsed and parts of walls missing. Our initial thoughts when we first entered the town was that a lot of development was happening, little did we know it was virtually being rebuilt. We did manage a walk around the fortress walls which had views to the mountains on one side before heading back. We decided not to stay and drove 18kms to a little lake just outside of San Demetrio where we walked around the lake before settling in for the night.

In memory of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake in 2007.

In memory of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake in 2009

Piazza Grande where the spirit of Christmas lives on. Note the cathedral in the background under repair.

Piazza Grande where the spirit of Christmas lives on. Note the cathedral in the background under repair.

9 years on and still so much work to do.

6 years on and still so much work to do.

We have come to Sulmona, nestled in a valley with the Morrone massif in the Apennines as a backdrop. Another picturesque drive although we did go through a small town that had been affected by earthquakes with closed streets and repairs that look to have only recently been started. We again passed several hill towns, all looked inviting but we can’t stop at all of them. We have finally come down in elevation to around 250m although the ski resorts aren’t that far away. Not enough snow for skiing yet from what we could see, but still a beautiful sight. We have another fantastic parking spot, supposedly €5 per night with electricity (the ticket machine is broken!) and views to the mountains in front and on the side of us. Being Sunday, we ended up doing the shopping and the cleaning and will hit the town tomorrow which is up the hill behind us.

We had a lazy start to the morning to allow the fog to lift from the mountains. We got into town around 10 and made our first stop the Cathedral Di San Panfilo which after many additions and renovations is predominantly Romanesque in style and was just beautiful. Behind the main altar and down the stairs was a medieval crypt where a fragment of the heart of Pope Celestine V is kept. We visited many of the churches, none as impressive as the cathedral and made our way to Piazza Girabaldi, the main square where there are the remains of a 13th-century aqueduct which dates back to the time of Sicilian rule in the region in 1256. Along the way we stopped to sample some “confetti”, sugared almonds which are presented to guests at Italian weddings. A walk down to the Porta Napoli which is the most imposing of the town gates was where we turned around and came back to a lovely little pizzeria for lunch. We will be in Sulmona for a few days awaiting the repair of Dave’s glasses, so we will investigate this lovely town more over the coming days.

Confetti!

Confetti!

Roman aqueduct circling the main square

Roman aqueduct circling the main square

6th December – 12th December

We woke to see new snow had dusted the mountain tops and on a clear grey morning we decided we would walk to one of the hill towns nearby called Pacentro. After breakfast we first walked into town to find out when Dave’s glasses would be ready (tomorrow) then continued on one of the paths through the outskirts of town and onto a track into the scrubland and passed olive groves. We had quite a steep climb up to the town which gave us great views back to Sulmona as well as the surrounding mountains. We wandered through the small streets of this nice town for awhile, stopping in one of the squares to have our sandwiches. We took a different route down along the road where we passed two rockfalls that looked like they had occurred awhile ago. The net steel fencing that was erected to stop rockfalls was very badly damaged, in some places it was flattened to the ground. Strangely, the rocks have just been left on the road where they fell and traffic down to one lane in those spots. The walk along the road was a lot longer than we anticipated so the distance covered today ended up being 20kms! All in all it took 4.5 hours so we spent what was left of the day resting.

Pacentro

Pacentro

We had a very quiet day today. We walked into town to pick up Dave’s glasses then onto the Wednesday market in Piazza Girabaldi. Very much the same merchandise as we have found at most markets, clothes, kitchen gadgets, cheeses, meats etc. We bought some spicy olives and our fruit before heading home on another cool day.

It has been nice to stay put for a few days but again it is time to move on. We had glorious sunshine for our long drive. Our road took us through more mountainous areas up to a height of 1300m passed the ski fields where a small amount of snow was visible. Fortunately the roads were clear although there was snow on the roadside, quite thick in places. Had we come through in a few weeks time, we would have been in trouble. We wound our way back down through some lovely villages heading towards the ocean and away from the stunning Apennines. We drove up to the Abbey San Giovanni in Venere just outside of Fossacesia which gave us fantastic views of the calm Adriatic. We had lunch before heading up to the abbey where we walked to a viewpoint that is situated right on the edge of a cliff giving views in both directions along the water. There was a wedding going on in the chapel and while we had a quick peek, we didn’t get to see much of either the building or the service. We then drove down to the beach where we found a great spot to park for the night overlooking the ocean and a couple of oil rigs in the distance. We had a walk along the path in front of the beach for a kilometre or so before spending the rest of the afternoon watching the changes of the ocean.

Abbey of San Giovanni

Abbey of San Giovanni

A beautiful clear calm ocean was the first thing we saw when we opened the blinds today. Partial sunshine accompanied us on our drive along the beaches to our destination of Termoli which is the region’s top beach resort. We parked at the sports ground and made our way into town. One main shopping mall takes you down towards the beach. At the eastern end of the seafront, the old town juts out atop a natural pier, dividing the sandy beach from Termoli’s small harbour. The town’s most famous landmark, Frederick II’s 13th-century Castello Svevo guards entry to the tiny old town, a maze of narrow streets, pastel-coloured houses and souvenir shops. From the castle, you come to Piazza Duomo and Termoli’s majestic 12th-century cathedral built in Puglian-Romanesque architecture with a cream-coloured facade and medieval vaulted ceilings.

You can see why this is such a popular place

You can see why this is such a popular place

We have left the coast temporarily to head to the Parco Nationale del Gargano to do a hike or two. We travelled on the SS16 road which Dave quickly renamed Hooker highway. For about 30 kms of this road there were women strutting their stuff in the pull-in bays just off the road. At first we thought we were mistaken but the further we travelled we realised what they were there for. We have seen this before in Spain but not in the numbers we saw today, bit sad really. We stopped just outside of San Marco in Lamas at the Parco dei dinosauri which as the name suggests is a theme park with about 20 dinosaurs that move and roar as you walk passed them. We didn’t go inside, you could see most of it from the carpark. We took a walk to the Convento Di San Matteo that overlooks the town of San Marco in Lamas. We realised we had come to the wrong place, we had come to the Gargano range and not the park. While we could do a couple of hikes here, the terrain was quite uninspiring and on checking our map, we discovered we are about 30kms from where we wanted to be. Never mind, an afternoon spent in the sunshine was very relaxing and tomorrow we will drive to Foresta Umbra, the Forest of Shadows which is the Gargano’s interior and hopefully the starting point of our hike.

We had a very pleasant drive winding our way up through the national park until we came to The ‘Forest of Shadows’ in Gargano’s interior. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect and upon arrival realised our hike would turn out to be a forest walk. Lunch packed, hiking boots on we started what turned out to be a 10km walk along well signed paths passed a small lake. The forest floor was thickly covered with rusty brown and orangy red leaves with moss covered rocks and ferns poking out through thickets of tall, epic trees with picnic spots bathed in dappled light. It’s the last remnant of Puglia’s ancient forests where Aleppo pines, oaks, yews and beech trees shade the mountainous terrain. More than 65 different types of orchid have been discovered here. The wildlife includes roe deer, wild boar, foxes, badgers and the increasingly rare wild cat however we saw none of them. Oddly enough the only animals we did see were cows roaming the forest area, clanging their way through the scrub with their big bells dangling around their necks. We had our lunch at one of the lookout points where the view was to a gulley below with more forest on the other bank before heading back after a lovely couple of hours in this magical place.

Just beautiful

Just beautiful

We took the long way out of the national park so we could enjoy more of its beauty before getting back to the coast. We drove to Vieste, a beachside resort on Gargano’s easternmost promontory into the Adriatic Sea. It’s the Gargano capital and sits above the area’s best beach with a wide strip of sand and lots of restaurants and bars that now that it’s winter are all closed. We walked a couple of kilometres into town, stopping at the local market for a quick look. The town of Vieste is a maze of steep alleys that are overlooked by the castle which is closed to the public. Our next leg is supposedly one of the best drives in this area, so as the weather is a bit bleak today we decided to stay put although we did drive around the peninsula a bit and found a lovely park right on the beach. The rest of the day was spent keeping warm and watching the ocean.

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13th December – 19th December

We had a very nice drive hugging the rugged coastline for some of the way and then inland through more forest, this time full of pine trees. We didn’t realise just how big the Gargano national park is as we are still in it, although the scenery is quite different. We have come to Manfredonia, another beach town although nowhere near as touristy as Vieste. Originally we came here as a base to head up to Monte Sant’Angelo, one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage sites, however plans change and we have decided against it after seeing the town from where we are parked. After lunch we walked into Manfredonia, 3kms away. The main shopping mall was nicely decorated with Christmas lights and there was a small Christmas market surrounding the old fort, however all was closed for the lunch break. Still, it was nice walking along the beachfront in the sunshine. We are again parked right on the beach with views out to the ocean on one side and a rocky ridge with Monte Sant’Angelo on the other. Life is good!

We are loving the weather as we head further south with mostly sunny days, today being no different. Our destination was Lucera about 65 kms away and once again the “ladies” were on the roadside although these ones were dressed slightly differently to the fully clothed ones the other day. We were very surprised to see them in their intimate apparel, and not much of it either, on a day that was 7° when we passed them. We stopped in Foggia to do the food shopping before continuining on to Lucera. Once parked, we had a walk to the Roman amphitheatre about 1km away and although we couldn’t get through the gate, we weren’t really missing much given their was very little Roman anything! Apparently a lot of the stones from the amphitheatre were used to build the cathedral. We decided at that point that we would leave visiting the town centre until the morning when everything was open.

I spoke to soon about the weather, today was grey and cold however it didn’t stop us walking into town. We were a bit unimpressed initially until we got to the old town centre with mellow sand-coloured brick and stonework, and shops lining wide, shiny stone streets. We visited several of the churches with today being the first time we have seen a Christmas tree in one of them. We walked up to the castle ruins built in 1233 and it was obvious in the footings where the rock work from the amphitheatre was used. All that remains of this large castle is the exterior wall and some of the towers. The view from here was across the plains to the mountains in the distance. Back to Tilly for a cuppa before heading off again, this time to Troia. Only 16kms away, we have read great reviews about the free aire with all services and electricity so we thought we would treat ourselves to a few days R&R. Just imagine our disappointment when we plugged in and nothing happened! We rang the tourist office once it reopened at 3.30 and the young man there eventually got in contact with the caretaker Alfonso who was to come out after work two hours later. We weren’t sure whether he would turn up but just over two hours later he switched on the power much to our delight. We then plugged in everything to recharge and we are now comfortable in our warm motorhome. May stay here until winter is over!

The town of Troia is situated on top of a hill and the views are just beautiful. The aire is right on the edge of the hill and although there are trees around, you still get lovely glimpses. We had a walk into the little town, not much here really although they have decorated the Main Street with Christmas lights, so we may go back in later to see them. The rest of the day was spent relaxing.

Another relaxing day which was the plan with a trip into town after breakfast and a wander around the Saturday markets in the sunshine. Considering how small the town is, the markets were very large selling all of the usual stuff. We had another wander through town and down the hill for a kilometre or so before coming home.

We had a nice drive of around 80kms to the town of Venosa through a mainly agricultural landscape with a lot of wind farms on the nearby peaks. Venosa used to be a thriving Roman colony so our first stop was the archeological park across from where we are parked for the night. It houses a huge Roman bath complex where a mosaic floor is still remarkably intact, a Domus which consists of two residences, an Episcopal residence and two churches, one which was unfinished and was begun in the 11th century using materials from the neighbouring Roman amphitheatre. We walked a kilometre to the 15th-century Aragonese castle which houses the Museo Archeologico with displays of Roman artefacts uncovered at the archeological park as well as a small pre-historic museum which displayed a few human skeletons as well as bones from elephants, rhinos and bison and some hunting tools. It was an interesting few hours and all for €2.50 each, can’t complain about that!

Quite a lot to see in this archeological park

Quite a lot to see in this archeological park

The Roman road

The Roman road

On our drive towards the coast today, we stopped along the way at Castel del Monte which is perched on a hilltop and can be seen from miles away. The castle has eight octagonal towers and no one knows why Frederick II built it as there’s no nearby town or strategic cross-roads. It was not built to defend anything, as it has no moat or drawbridge, no arrow slits and no trapdoors for pouring boiling oil on invaders however it is a beautiful building with windows and doorways framed in corallite stone. We continued on to the town of Trani where we have found a carpark right on the water next to a monastery. It is cool and quite windy so we will hold off visiting the old town until tomorrow. We spent the afternoon reading and watching what we think were a school of tuna jumping out of the water.

My castle and my dog!

My castle and my dog!

20th December – 26th December

After breakfast we walked the 3kms into town along the waters edge on the boardwalk. We walked through a lovely park where the trees were lit with coloured lights and they had Christmas presents and decorations made out of coloured lights hanging from the trees and scattered around the park. We walked along the marina passed what we were told was an Italian film crew who were filming a Spanish movie with Spanish movie stars and we were asked to move along. They had a lot of equipment with massive trucks designed for change/rest rooms for the stars, another that housed the wardrobe/makeup. We continued on to the old town, visiting the cathedral which sits right on the seafront. Completed in the 13th century the interior reflects typical Norman simplicity and is lined by colonnades. The magnificent original bronze doors (now displayed inside) were cast in the 12th-century. Another of Frederick II’s castles was built here in 1233 and is next to the cathedral. A number of the churches were closed for the filmmakers as were two of the former synagogues in the ancient Jewish quarter which were converted to churches in the 14th century. We then just wandered through the maze of streets, stopping to listen to a school choir in one of the churches and heading home before the forecasted thunderstorm strikes.

Trani cathedral

Trani cathedral

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Some octopus for you Señora?

Some octopus for you Señora?

The forecasted thunderstorms didn’t happen and we woke to blue sunny skies. We had a short drive to Molfetta, 20kms away and another fishing town. On the way we stopped for water and we spotted a lot of nests in the trees nearby. We were delighted to see these cheeky green and yellow parrots poking their heads out of their high rise homes. There were more nests on the light poles of the stadium near where we parked to stop for the night. We walked into town along the beachfront again to another cathedral that sits on the seafront. Similar to the cathedral in Trani its interior was simple in its design. The old town here was quite small but the streets were lovely to walk through, as was the marina area. We stopped at a couple of the churches and were again treated to a little show put on by 2-5 year olds dressed up who were led around the church by their teachers singing. They were so cute, a couple were a bit overwhelmed and were crying but the remainder seemed to be enjoying themselves. A young lady sung a beautiful song, at first we thought it was a record until we moved down the front a bit and saw her in the sidelines. She had a really lovely voice. We visited the local fish market before venturing back to our seaside home for the night.

Beautiful waterfront

Beautiful waterfront

So colourful

So colourful

View to the cathedral

View to the cathedral

We were in two minds as to whether to stay in Bari however we needed to go there to have the oil and a new oil filter put in. We spent an hour or so at the mechanic/tyre place and as it was nearly lunch time we had a bite to eat before continuing on to
Polignano a Mare which is known for being built on the edge of a craggy ravine pockmarked with caves. We have another beach carpark just outside of town and had a small walk along the cliffs looking at some of the caves tucked in along the shoreline. We intend on spending tomorrow continuing on foot along the coast. We are not sure how many caves we will see from the land side but it is a beautiful rugged coastline so it will be worth the walk either way.

Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare

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We were fortunate to have a sunny day so after breakfast we donned our hiking boots and started our cave walk. Further along from where we went yesterday are some very deep caves which in part could be seen from the track, one has been turned into a restaurant. We walked through the warren of streets in the old town, visiting one of the churches before continuing on the boardwalk. A lot of money has been and is continuing to be spent along the cliffs with boardwalks and large carparks being constructed. Most of the boardwalk is finished and covers an area of around 2kms which we walked before turning back and going into the shopping precinct. The roads are in the process of being replaced with marble slabs in part of the town and there is a new hotel being constructed where they have kept the facade of an old building. Views from the rear rooms overlook the sea and the rugged coastline. There were Christmas carols being piped through speakers in town which gave it a really nice feeling. We treated ourselves to a gelato before heading home.

We have left the coast again for awhile and drove a short distance to Castellana Grotte purely because the aire is free and has water and dumping facilities and is half way to our next stop, Alberobello. We passed the Saturday market on our way to the aire, so once parked we headed in to town for a look. The market was very large, covering many streets selling the usual market gear and there were loads of people buying their last minute Christmas gifts. The streets here have been really nicely decorated with lots of lights and many of the balconies in the main part of town were decorated with Christmas presents, lights and lots of poinsettias in flower boxes.

25th December

Merry Christmas🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

Tradition rules that we watch Love Actually on Christmas Eve, so we did. We woke at midnight to the sound of fireworks and jumped out of bed. They only went for a few minutes but they were lovely to see. We heard fireworks off and on during the night and because it’s Christmas we had a bit of a lie in. Nothing from Santa when we woke, we have either been a naughty girl and boy (as if) or he didn’t get our change of address notification. We agreed not to buy anything as it would only be more stuff to take home and we are short on suitcase space as it is. After a yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs and speaking to the kids we headed back into town to see if there was anything happening. Apart from people going to church and Italian men meeting in the square, it was quiet. Church bells rang almost hourly during the day, such a European sound, we love it. The remainder of the day was spent doing a few odd jobs and relaxing.

26th December – 31st December

With it being Boxing Day and nothing open, we decided to stay put and for a bit of exercise walk to the next town, Putignano, 6kms away passed many curious circular stone-built houses dotting the countryside, their roofs tapering up to a stubby point. These are Trulli, Puglia’s unique rural architecture and the reason we are heading to Alberobello tomorrow. As you would expect, Putignano was all closed apart from the coffee shops where as always in Italy do a great business no matter what day it is. We walked through to the old town, stopping at a lovely baroque church on the way. We saw a procession of priests walking towards another church, one carrying the incense burner and another carrying a large cross. We followed them to the church and listened to the choir singing for a little while before continuing on. There was a band playing near the square and we watched them before walking through the back streets of this very tidy town.

We saw a lot more of the Trulli houses on our way to Alberobello where some of the complexes had several of them built together. We had a short walk into town where the first area we visited was Rione Aia Piccola. This neighbourhood is much less commercialised, with 400 trulli, many still used as family dwellings. We then headed for the Zona dei Trulli on the western hill of town. This area is a dense mass of 1500 beehive-shaped houses, white-tipped as if dusted by snow. These dry-stone buildings are made from local limestone, none are older than the 14th century and the majority of them are used as shops selling anything Trulli, from miniature Trulli houses to locally produced wines, pasta etc. We climbed up onto the roof of one shop which gave a view across the rooftops, it was quite an amazing sight. We poked our heads into a house which had the front door open. It was being renovated with below floor heating being installed as well as additional rooms out the back. Perfect for hobbitses. We had lunch back at home before driving a further 10kms to Locorotondo which we will visit in the morning.

Trulli houses

Trulli houses

Hobbit heaven

Hobbit heaven

Very strong winds and a big thunderstorm kept us up for awhile during the night as we lay and watched the lightning. After breakfast we walked into the whisper quiet pedestrianised centro storico (old town) of Locorotondo where everything is shimmering white except for the red cyclamens in the window boxes and surrounding doorways. The town is situated on a hilltop on the Murge Plateau and from the public garden, we had panoramic views of the surrounding valley that is dotted with more of the Trulli houses. We walked along streets paved with smooth ivory-coloured stones to the Santa Maria della Graecia, a beautiful baroque church with the sounds of the organ keeping us company. Back home and we continued onto Cisternino, another white town not too dissimilar to Locorotondo both in looks and its position on a hilltop, again with views to the valley below. The rest of the day was spent inside out of the strong winds and dry from the hail which fell intermittently throughout the afternoon.

Leaving Locorotondo

Leaving Locorotondo

Another cold night and we woke to patches of snow on the ground, in the windscreen wiper channel and on the roof, not much fortunately for us as we don’t have snow chains or winter tyres!! We drove to the last white town within the Trulli region, Ostuni. Sounding like a broken record, this two was similar to Locorotondo however the old town here was very small. Gale force winds and more light snow falling had us scurrying inside again after a quick look around at the cathedral and a walk through some of the streets. Ostuni is not far from the coast so we were surprised and delighted to be able to look out of our window at the wild ocean with snow falling. With such a nice view we decided to stay put for the day, it is a bit scary driving when the wind is so strong as well as dangerous with the snow flurries. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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Still quite windy but dry we decided to give Brindisi a miss after reading Lonely Planet and Triposo and head to Lecce. The drive was uneventful, straight up the SS road for 65kms passed hundreds of old olive trees. Every so often, my back plays up and today seemed to be the day. Originally we were going to do the shopping and have a quiet day, but as I couldn’t move around too much, it ended up being a very quiet day. Hopefully after a good night sleep, things will be brighter in the morning.

With my back feeling a little better, we walked into Lecce, what a lovely place. The old town is beautifully baroque with its churches and palaces intricately sculptured from the local soft sandstone. It has over 40 churches and thankfully we didn’t visit all of them, but the ones we did were amazing. The facade of the Basilica di Santa Groce is one of the most unusual with sheep, dodos, cherubs and beasties wriggling their way across the building. The 12th century cathedral is also unusual in that it has two facades, one on the western end and the other, more ornate, facing the Piazza del Duomo, a baroque feast and the city’s focal point and one of the most beautiful Piazza’s we have seen to date with lanes and streets leading from it in all directions. Below the ground level of the piazza is the restored 2nd-century-AD amphitheatre, which was only discovered in 1901 by construction workers. It was excavated in the 1930s to reveal a perfect horseshoe with seating for 15,000. We had a nice lunch in one of the trattorias before wandering around the markets, amazed at the number of stalls selling fireworks for tonight. The tourist office advised that there we no big firework shows scheduled for tonight like at home however locals buy them for their own little parties so it could be a very late night.

The Lecce cathedral

The Lecce cathedral

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