October 31, 2011 Ostuni and Lecce

We’ve had a really nice time in Bari but now we move on. On our way to our next stop in Lecce, quite far down the Italian “heel”, we stop at Ostuni. Ostuni is known as the white city because many of the buildings are white. We park the car and take the trek up to the old city. Old cities seem to be pretty difficult to get to. I guess that’s the point. If they are on a hilltop or surrounded by water, they are much more defensible.

Almost to the top, we stop in at the Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Assumption. Built in the latter half of the 15th century, it has been renovated a lot due to earthquakes. There’s not a lot of charm left to someone who is looking for early roots. The rose window is its most striking attribute.

Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Assumption in Ostuni, exterior

Next on the agenda, lunch. We amble through the narrow streets and come upon a likely candidate, Sapere e Sapori. We are seated at an upstairs table and do our best to order everything local. I am also trying to eat only vegetables today having been protein-ed out last night at the fish extravaganza. We order a platter of vegetables, some fried zucchini, a tomato bruschetta and weird cold soup called acqa frisa. It is basically a bowlful of water in which are floating tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers. There’s also olive oil in it. You are supposed to take the stale bread they give you and let it float around getting soft. Except for the olive oil, this is the ultimate diet lunch.

Acqa frisa

We are also served some of the best taralli we’ve had all trip. They are circular crispy, shortbready, snacks. These are flavored with rosemary. Clark and Lewis are quite taken with them.

Clark samples the taralli

Leaving Ostuni, we travel through countryside covered with olive trees. The trunks on these trees are immense and contorted. John has read that some of the trees in Puglia are over 1000 years old.

Really old olive trees

We enter Lecce and then, of course, the fun begins. John puts on his Italian driver’s cap and zig zags through traffic. Our GPS, Jack, keeps trying to send us down streets blocked by bollards or in pedestrian zones. Our hotel, the Risorgimento Resort, seems unreachable. As an aside, I think when I booked this, the word resort conjured up visions of sitting on lounges near the sea. Instead we are in the middle of a small city. Anyway after making the circuit of downtown several times and driving in what surely must be a pedestrian zone, John looks out his side window, and the hotel appears. We leave the car in the middle of the street and ask someone in the hotel to come get it. Whew!

Our room is ultra modern. It also has a private terrace which might be of some use if it were a little warmer and the sun didn’t go down at 4:30 PM since Europe is now on Standard Time.

Ultra modern room

After we get our unpacking done and I have a little lie-down, we go down to the bar. Once again it seems we are almost the only people here. The front desk calls the barman to come and wait on us. We get a couple glasses of wine and some snacks.

John at the Risorgimento Resort bar

We have dinner at the bistro at the hotel. I won’t bother with pictures of my dinner which is a salad and a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce. John is much more adventurous having a starter of chicory greens and fava bean puree.

Chicory greens and fava bean puree with toast points

John’s main course is octopus in tomato sauce.

Octopus in tomato sauce with toast points

By the time the elaborate dinner service dance is over, we are exhausted. Tomorrow we will travel to land’s end, the very bottom of the heel of Italy.

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