We’re in the habit of taking a short break somewhere around the Mediterranean in the Spring or Autumn to escape the colder weather back home and at the same time to enjoy a little more of other countries’ cultures, cuisines and histories. This year we jetted off to Puglia and Basilicata down the bottom end of Italy where we enjoyed a week of sunshine, no rain, and 20 degree plus daytime temperatures.
The Trulli and Sassi of the title are traditional dwellings which bookended our holiday.
Trulli are white-washed circular dwellings in the Valle d’Itria and especially in the town of Alberobello. They are Disneyesque and it’s easy to imagine them being occupied by armies of pointy hatted gnomes. But no. Nowadays they are much more modern and commercial and in addition to Trulli houses you get Trulli shops, hotels and restaurants.
Sassi are cave dwellings in Matera. They speak of a poverty of a time not so long ago. In the 1950s the government declared them Italy’s ‘shame’ and forced the repatriation of their inhabitants. We do things better now of course and subsequently many Sassi have been renovated and are once more houses. Others have become shops, bars and posh hotels.
Both the Trulli and Sassi now have Unesco world heritage status.
In between we enjoyed an intensive lesson in the history of the region as evidenced by its churches and other buildings. It was hard work because it’s one of those parts of the world that’s experienced the influence of multiple cultures at different times as it’s been alternately invaded and liberated. It’s seen the Turks, the Greeks, the Saracens, the Normans, the Swabians, the Napleonic French and the Spanish stamp their imprints alongside those of other Italian regions, states and cities. That’s meant that everywere there’s a story as each occupier has laid down another layer of history.
Along the way we enjoyed good hotels with the Orient in Bari, a building which reflects the period of French rule under Napoleon’s brother-in-law, and the Risorgimento in Lecce outstanding. And of course there was fine food with especially honourable mentions being due for the Copolla Rossa in Manfredonia, el Puerto in Trani, la Torre di Merlino in Lecce and Gli Ulivi in Alberobelo.
Talking about food I remember Michael Palin saying that all countries and regions have some food which outsiders can’t see the point of eating. In Puglia it’s bean paste. It’s a sort of dirty pale green and pretty tasteless. It typically gets served up as an anti pasti. I reckon it’s some sort of all purpose paste and is a handy addition to the tiler’s stock in trade as a grout or adhesive.
There’s a set of about 40 photos at https://flic.kr/s/aHskxRBfPh