Friday, March 20, 2015

Puglia- part 2.5 (virtual)

Hello fellow couch travellers!

Having had the most amazing night's sleep ever slept in a camper, we're up early in the morning to head towards the seaside. Nina's convinced you can only say seaside, and not sea. Sea is not a word.

First up we're heading to Polignano sul Mare, where we have been promised a picturesque white town on the cliffs. The weather is shining and blue, and as drive we spot patches of purple anemone flowers beneath massive olive trees. It seems spring has found us! Happy days!

We easily find a parking spot, grab a pastry and coffee for 'second breakfast', which is most definitely my favourite meal of the day. There are slight differences between pastries here and in Florence, but both places are fond of pastries filled with baked custard, fruit, almonds and a dusting of sugar. Remember: virtual pastries are calorie free.

Its not hard to find the harbour, as the whole city seems to tilt and lean towards it, and our breathe is taken by the view of the beach, which looks like a bite taken from a pastry, with the sugar dusted town standing guard. Heres what I mean:

Of course, when we visit the sea (seaside) is placid and calm. Why not? I think, and strip down to a swimming costume to jump in. A man walking his dog nearby is hurrying towards us though, so I wait, thinking he's going to tell me about a treacherous rip or the towns famous sharks. He is red and panting when he reaches us, eager to convey his urgent message: 'you can't swim! You shouldn't swim! Its winter!' 

Yes, there is a strict code on when it is acceptable to go in the water, even if the air and sea temperatures are pushing 30°C, Italians will not swim, they would rather swelter in fur coats until easter, when it is socially acceptable to take them off. 

I can feel hundreds of condemning eyes from the windows of the surrounding town, all murmuring disapproval, but the swim is refreshing, and the sun on the pebbled beach is beautiful. If you close your eyes you can hear the waves gently rushing over the stones. 

The beach is dotted with man made caves, and Beppe thrills Nina with pirate stories as they check them out, hunting for treasure. 

Next stop is Monopoli, which attracts us by name, and proves to be another gorgeous white clip top town, formerly a fortress, a fishing village, and now a haven for tourists in summer.
photo: wikipedia

These towns are incredible, and look just like a film set right now, without the crowds and their plastic summer accruement. 

We feel so conspicuously foreign, even as two thirds of us is Italian, and the locals follow us with their eyes, obviously remarking on us as the first of the seasons tourists. 

By a virtual travelling miracle, the caravan park managers have a child Nina's age and offer to babysit her for the evening, so we get into our spankiest camping clothes and head out for a romantic meal in nothing other than a pirate's cave. 

The Grotta Palazzese is one of the most spectacular restaurant locations in the world, and by another virtual travelling miracle, they're open for us, even though their season usually starts in May. Lucky!
Now its easy in our modern world to think of pirates as of the Caribbean variety, but this area of Italy was subject to plentiful invading armies and pirates, who pillaged boats up and down the Adriatic. 

Now this beautifully lit grotto is an amazing backdrop for a lovely seafood meal. I was going to splice in a fantastic seafood story here, but honestly, the best seafood on this trip has been the mussels and clams that Beppe cooked in our very own camper. Still, for views, this place has the camper beat. Also rather pricey, going by the trip advisor reviews. But then again, that's the magic of virtual travelling. It's free!  

Join me next time as we head to the very bottom of the heel, deep south Puglia.

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