LONG WEEKEND ADVENTURE
I have to admit, the main reason I decided to travel to Puglia (Apulia) is because it is one of the few locations with a direct flight from Genoa. My husband and I also have a strong desire to explore more of Italy, and given that we'll be heading to Sardegna (Sardinia) later this year, Puglia seemed like a convenient region to visit in the meantime. It also happened to be a ponte, or long weekend, in Italy, which begged for a journey to someplace new. Aside from the coincidence of being able to reunite with my cousin from Canada, who was visiting family in Bari at the same time, we didn't have any concrete plans.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
I can't help but look at the photo above and think of Aladdin. The scene where Aladdin looks out from his perch onto the city below: its buildings of stone and its dazzling palace. Yet, he is constricted by his own melancholy, dreaming of a future in which he too can be part of that world. And there I was, standing in the prehistoric cave, looking out onto the limestone dwellings all nestled together on the hill, and marveling at humanity and how far we've come. In fact, the photo is taken not in Puglia, but in a lesser known region of Italy: Basilicata.
As I mentioned, we didn't make any plans. I had heard of Matera (the old capital city of Basilicata) once or twice and, noticing how close it is to where we were staying in Puglia, we decided it was worth the drive. It definitely was: the juxtaposition between the old and the new, the preservation of both the ancient city and the prehistoric caves, the labyrinth of passageways and staircases. It is no wonder that the city has been used as the setting for many biblical period films. Sitting atop an inclined roof without a cloud in sight, we watched the city beneath us and the hillside beyond the river, enjoying warm focaccia (but not the Genovese kind) and a panzerotto.
A wild wonderland
In Puglia, we stayed in one of the many trulli: the old shelters and dwellings, made of limestone with conical roofs, scattered across endless rolling hills. Although Alberobello (the town with a high concentration of trulli) is unique in its own right, the rest of the countryside is truly unbelievable. Driving (or running) along, you notice that the land is relatively flat, and at certain points you can even see all the way out to the sea. Out of the luscious green hills, abundant with wildflowers and olive trees, a trullo will poke up its little head: one over here, one over there, and oh! -- even one all the way down there, almost out of sight. Some of them are restored and manicured while others are worn, crumbling, and tell the tale of a former time. It feels as though you are running through a magical world, turning corners without the faintest clue of what you will happen upon.
The seaside towns are no less beautiful. Watching the waves crash against stone cliffs, you can walk for miles on freshly poured walking and biking paths. The houses are all the perfect shade of creamy white, a contrast to the deep blue sea. Walking through the maze of vicoli, you are welcomed by open doors and windows to observe regular, everyday life. In Bari, a stop by the central seafood market is not complete without watching your step to avoid getting splashed by the fishermen hydrating their mussels, and observing passionate games of cards played by men speaking in the local dialect.
One day, I will write about Genoa and its hidden charm. For today, I want to highlight this curious place that I most recently visited, in the hopes that you may be inspired to go off the beaten path, too.