October 30, 2011 Bari and Alberobello

Mary: I have a terrible night’s sleep mostly because Daylight Savings Time is changing back to Standard Time and I am concerned that none of my several timepieces will get it right. So I need to creep around in the middle of the night trying to make sense of the various times I get off my iPad, my watch and my phone. I’m on vacation. Why do I need to obsess over this?

This morning we are off to Alberobello, home of trullis. Trulli are conical shaped dwellings made out of limestone and/or tufa without benefit of any type of mortar. The most popular story for these odd dwellings that popped up during the 18th century is that the land taxes had become so high in Puglia that people would disassemble their homes before the tax collector came. We plan on taking a walk around Alberobello and having some lunch.

This area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site and on a pleasant Sunday afternoon it is filled with tourists. The trulli have been turned in gift shops, restaurants, and guest houses. There are a remarkable number of them. We stroll around and then stop for a salad and a plate of orecchiette which seem to be the regional pasta of Puglia.

Little street lined with trulli

The trulli you see on most of the travel sites. They have Christian symbols on their roofs.

John: After returning from Alberobello, we spend some quiet time in the room, then head out around 3:30 to visit the Cathedral of San Sabino, where yesterday there had been a wedding in progress, so no viewing then.

This is a very large Puglian-Romanesque church, whose present form dates to 1187 (minus one of the bell towers, which collapsed in 1613). In the main part, there are few decorations, just fragments of frescoes that seem to be in multiple layers. The real treasure is to be found below the main body of the church in the “Succorpo”.

Cathedral of San Sabino

We descend to the exhibit just before it is scheduled to close. We thank the caretaker profusely. We encounter one of the best archaeological displays I have ever seen open to the public. There is mosaic flooring from the 11th century (with images of fish and octopi). A few feet below, there are also remains of floors and walls from earlier basilicas on the same site from the 6th and 9th centuries. Further along and even lower down, we come to evidence of Roman times, complete with a piece of a Roman road, the Via Traiana (Trajan’s Way), that split from the Appian Way at Beneventum and headed down the coast.

Mosaic of an octopus from an earlier church

Foundations from the Paleo-Christian church

Some serious funding appears to be going into this excavation, preservation and display (probably not all public funds, we conjecture). It’s in sharp contrast to many of the antiquities we have seen in Italy, such as Pompeii, Ostia and Benevento, which seem to be losing the battle to vandals, climate, pollution, and just the general wear and tear of tourism.

Mary: Tonight is supposed to be our pizza night. I am excited. The pizza from southern Italy reminds me of the fabulous pizza I had as a child growing up on the Jersey shore. But the diet gods will not allow it. Many restaurants are closed on Sunday evening and our choice for pizza is shuttered. The nice lady behind reception suggests we go to Al Pescatore which is nearby. Fish? Yes, that sounds good.

So what follows is a pictorial account of our all-protein way too much fish dinner.

Antipasti - Frutti di mare crudo

Too much raw fish. Too many heads.

Primi - Rigatoni with mussels, squid and shrimp in a light tomato sauce

It doesn’t really matter what we want to order. The menu is really worthless. This is what they are serving and we are eating it. The pasta is a little too al dente and we’ve just eaten the same seafood in the antipasti except now it’s cooked.

My secondo - various fried seafood and fish

I know I shouldn’t have gotten my selection fried but I just wanted something a little more familiar. Little fishes with their heads on is actually not too familiar. I pass some of this stuff off to John.

John's secondo - Grilled shrimp and prawns

The carnage

As I said, way too much fish. There are no vegetables on the menu. I think tomorrow will be an all-vegetable day.

Tomorrow, we leave Bari for Lecce even further south. We have had a wonderful time in Bari and environs and look forward to the next phase of our adventure.

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