Saturday, April 28, 2007


This morning was a good slow morning started off with old friend, bacon. You see I had given up on it because I heard somewhere that you couldn't get it Italy. All they have here is pancetta and that just doesn't cook up crispy like bacon.
This all changed when Natalie and I visited "Il Salu...mino" together during her visit. She asked me if they had bacon and before I could answer Mino heard "bacon" and said "Si, Si". I was amazed. Here I was going what I heard through the grapevine and it was so wrong. Mino said that Levoni makes bacon and they are very proud of the "original style" in which they still make it. I had no clue how bacon is made so I thought the only real test is to try it. His first slice was ridiculously thick and the second too thin but now he cuts it just right every time. And yes it tastes so frickin good. I would say it's perfect but I haven't had it in so long that I may be biased right now. I'll grade it against mom's the next time I'm in town for some BLTs. MMMmmm BLTs...
Some of my fondest memories of bacon takes me back to the good old days of working at Hardees for the morning shift. I would cook up 120 strips of bacon before the place even opened. I could snatch up a piece hot off the grill when it's just turning crispy but not quite there. MMmmm. I hope this is just a passing greasy kick that I'm on. I think not too long ago I was talking about all the good healthy food I'm eating now. Bacon doesn't fit into that category.

Monday, April 23, 2007

One night in Roma

This picture of Natalie at the Trevi Fountain fits right in with the news from the weekend. It seems a woman from Milan about 40 years old got naked and went for a swim in the Trevi Fountain at around 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday. Now, we didn’t have nearly that much fun at the Trevi Fountain. At this point I was telling Natalie to “look healthy” for the picture. She was feeling sick, our hotel was a dump, and Rome was just too chaotic after being in Venice. We decided to only spend one night in Rome and just see the main sights and the Vatican Museums then head back to nice and comfortable Brindisi.
Going back on Friday was not as easy as it should have been. There was a train strike that day. I was wondering when I would finally get caught off guard or at the mercy of the numerous strikes in Italy. There was a huge line at the Trenitalia counter so I talked to a travel agent. She very happily said there were no trains to Brindisi today and we would have to come back tomorrow. I resigned that she was right but Natalie could see an air of ignorance in the travel agent so we went to the Trenitalia line. The line moved quickly as they told people left and right that they were screwed. When we got up to the counter I asked the guy what was the best train to get to Brindisi after the strike was over. He said there was a Eurostar at 15:30 today. I did a double take because the strike goes until 17:00. How can this be? He just said that train wasn’t affected by the strike so we bought 2 tickets and went about doing a little more exploring before the afternoon train left.
It was then that I realized how many times Natalie was right during this trip. She was right about a lot of things. Maybe it wasn’t that she was right so much but she has a better B__S___ radar, I’ll call it. She could tell the travel agent didn’t really know what she was talking about and there were several times where she could tell I was full of BS. It just reminds how much I go along with the flow if I don’t have someone else there to question things and change my course once in a while. I think that’s why it was so good that she came over and mixed things up for me.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Well I wrote up a big thing about our trip to Venice but it was so long I thought I’d just do something short and sweet.
The train ride from Brindisi to Venice is hellish! The last two hours of that 12-hour trip seemed to go on forever. I recommend the hotel we had in Venice (Palazzo della Scala or something like that). The guy at the front desk was friendly, the breakfast was great, and the location perfect. The energy drained by the train returned after we dropped off our backpacks at that hotel. We had a great day of walking when we first arrived. Hitting all the outdoor attractions as the weather was perfect, only going inside San Marco. Then the second day was spent mainly doing boat trips. Murano and Burano by vaporetto and then the classic gondola ride. I was a little nervous getting photographed by everyone while we were in the gondola. I could never make it as someone famous. Not much to say except we had a great time except that Natalie was starting to feel a little sick. It may have been a combination of the train ride and boats but she got through while were in Venice but Rome would be another story. More on that next week. Most of my photos now seem pretty generic for Venice. Maybe I'll post more another time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Day 2 Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca

The second day of exploring took us to an area I know well but with her I was pushed to see more. We started out in Otranto, which is a perfect little seaside town. It always gets high ratings for it’s beaches, hospitality, and etc. To me the road from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca is the really cool thing. It snakes along the coast and in some places its hundreds of feet above the sea and at regular intervals there are crumbling old watchtowers. With her I stopped a little more often than usual, which made the trip different and interesting. We were on vacation with no set schedule or rush. I love traveling like that. So we sat down and spent some time with a pair of incredibly cute dogs outside the church by the thermal baths at Santa Cesarea. You don’t know how bad I wanted to take the little black dog home.
The best stop by far is “the bridge”. In the picture you see the stairs we took all the way down to the little beach. But you don’t see the long and winding trail we took up the ravine until we were above everything. I’ve never been up there and I had no idea that you could even get up there until we did it. I would have never kept going if she wasn’t with me saying, “Let’s at least go around the next corner.” From our height the bridge looks small. They say that people dive off that bridge all the time in the summer. I’ve done some high jumps but I don’t think I’m ready for that one.
Several times when we stopped there were people cutting open sea urchins and eating them in outdoor cafes or temporary restaurants. So I had to get at least one photo of someone at work. The one in the photo may have been just a family lunch for all I know but I think it was a restaurant. We also saw several people out snorkeling for the urchins and spear fishing. This unfortunately gave her the idea that snorkeling would be something fun to do in April. The logistics of trying to do this was impossible because the next day was Easter and then the Monday after Easter so ALL stores were closed (after that we were heading out of town). Also we had the problem that I’ve become “thin skinned” from living where it doesn’t snow, as opposed to her thicker Michigan winterized skin. Sure a little cold water wouldn’t hurt her but I was sure it would kill me. Maybe I’ve been listening to the Italians too much. She did finally give up on the snorkeling idea.
When we finally arrived at the Monastery at Santa Maria di Leuca I noticed a few things had changed. The piazza in front of the Monastery is bigger now with a new fountain. Also the lighthouse had a new fence around it with a gate (and no signs saying “Zona Militare”). The Italia tourism website says you can climb the stairs in the lighthouse for an incredible view and I think that is the plan, just not yet, but it may be soon! It appeared to me they have made a new front to the lighthouse that would include a ticket office. I definitely want to get up there when it’s open. From there we took the straight inland road back to Brindisi.

Artistic photo by your truly.

That black dog was just so nice. I still can't believe I didn't bring him home. If I had a place in the country!

Serious sea urchin eating going on!

The best for last. You see the stairs down to the tiny beach. We had to go back the way we came all the way down there!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day 1 Matera

Let's get started with more detailed trip descriptions...
I think I’ll just try to go with the most important stories. The first full day we went out to Matera (a UNESCO world heritage site). The town is looking nicer and more tourists are coming. The only thing holding it back is that there’s no good way to get there. Not a problem for us as it’s only about 1 and 30 minutes from my house. Before I go any further, I should mention that I’ll be using her photos most of the time. She borrowed a digital camera from a coworker that is much better than mine. It has a better zoom but more importantly “more glass”. You can have all the megapixels in the world but if you don’t have a decent size lens then the light can’t get in. Her camera could get good photos in the caves and churches.
We set out with the goal to hike all the way to the bottom of the gorge (the rain made the stream at the bottom a little too much to cross). I’ve been saying I was going to do this for a long time and she’s just the type of person that would go along with this idea. Our first problem was eating a few panini before starting down with curious cows all around. I’ve seen goats grazing in this area (the trails are goat paths) but never cows. They all had those big bells around their necks, which were making quite a racket. We felt like we were in the Alps and not southern Italy. I’ll put on the picture of the one cow that seemed to be curious as to what we were eating.
The trailhead for us was where they crucified Jesus Christ. I kid you not; well it was only in the movie of “The Passion of Christ”. From there we hit the trail but going down was rough because we couldn’t find “The” trail. I think she thought I was crazy until we stumbled on to it near the bottom. We used “The” trail to get up and naturally we found it much easier going. I thought there were many trails but really there is only one that goes up to the top. Next time I’ll take it down so I can spend more time going along the creek at the bottom instead of hitting dead ends. After this we jumped in the car and went over to the town side of the gorge.

From Matera we went on to a little town of Miglionico. I thought about not even mentioning it in my blog because it’s nice little town that I don’t want you to find! But I figure I don’t have that many readers so it’s probably safe to talk about. Basilicata is the poorest region of Italy but this little hilltop town was very clean and nice. It has a nice view of a lake and valley below and there’s a great castle (that was closed!). We met a really nice little old lady who has a lot of family that have moved to the Boston area. She was on her way to church and insisted we follow her. I could tell she enjoyed all the questions this was going to bring from her friends. It was a very sleepy quiet town that just seems so far away from everything. You could tell it's probably too quiet for the kids as there wasn't many young people around. This is a common problem in this area. I would like to go back and check out the lake and hopefully the castle if it's open.
We could have hung around longer but we had to get back to Brindisi because the best band in Brindisi, Mama Roots, was playing that night. We had to eat and get ready! This plan fizzled as we were tired from the long day so we didn’t stay long and…Oh yeah, I spilled beer on her pants (this will be common thread, as you’ll see), which didn’t help.
Next time Otranto and the road to end of the heel…
Inside one of the cave churches

Classic view of Matera from the opposing side of the gorge.

Our goal is close. Normally this is a babbling creek.

View of the lake from Miglionico. I've never seen Basilicata so green.

The castle of Miglionico. Not bad for such a small town.

Monday, April 16, 2007

First Visitor of 2007!

So I’ve been off running around for over a week. Now I have too much to write about and a ton of photos! I can’t decide if I should put up the good postcard type photos or post the ones that help tell the story of what we did. I guess I’ll start with a very quick summary so you know what to look forward too.

Thursday- arrival, a tour of few churches in Brindisi, dinner at La Sciabica.
Friday- Matera and Miglionico, hike to the bottom of the gorge of Matera
Saturday- Otranto and the road to Santa Maria di Leuca
Sunday- Easter Lunch with Puglia Uncovered crowd and a breeze past Ostuni
Monday- Lecce and Ugo’s house, then the beach
Tuesday, Wednesday – Venice
Thursday, Friday – Rome
Saturday- Egnazia, Alberobello, and Valle d’Itria
Sunday- Relaxing!!!

I have to say it was very nice having her here. Every day there was at least some part of the day where we did something new to me. I’ll explain better in the day-to-day stuff but I've been almost everywhere around here so it's nice to see I can still find new and interesting things close to home. I think she will agree that Friday and Saturday we had a great time exploring around Puglia (and a little into Basilicata). I have to thank her for bringing back Spring. The weather was amazingly nice every day. It seems all the rain we have had was so that the countryside would be green and covered in wildflowers. I don’t think the photos capture how nice it was but I'll let you see as we go. There was one picture we never managed to find. We never did find the field of red poppies that I was sure we would come across. There were some, but never a solid field of red. You can't have everything!
The photo is of the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) and no it's not a postcard!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Be Back Soon...

Don't worry I'll be back blogging before you know it. In the meantime I'll post a photo to show at least one of the places I've been in the last week. My guest is taking up (DEMANDING!)all of my time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's on the agenda?

Sunday I had lunch with a fellow bloggers and Expats who live up in Umbria. Very interesting to speak English and talk to someone “like me”. I’ll be interested to see their report on Puglia in general. I have to apologize to them because I didn’t warn them about how the Pugliese give directions. In my defense I assumed that all of Italy gets by with really bad directions. That’s one of the reasons why people drive the way they do. Someone gave them really bad directions.

Tomorrow is my first trip to a dentist in Italy. Usually I wait until I’m back in the States but around Christmas I found that there is an English dentist that practices in Martina Franca. I’m going to give him a try. He’s probably very good at removing coffee stains from teeth if he works here in Italy. I hate going to the dentist but my company also doubled the cost of health insurance so I feel I need to get my money’s worth. How ironic that by them trying to save money and screw me, now leads me to the dentist to screw them. Did I mention that they failed to ask if I wanted a new program and no choice given? Also from what I’ve read I see absolutely nothing better about this plan.

I’ve been cleaning the apartment this week so that can only mean one thing. I have someone coming for a visit. She’ll be here Thursday and I haven’t seen her in years so this is a little nerve racking (ok, more than a little). I’m always worried that people coming to visit me will not have a good time and this is no exception. I’m not sure that she’ll want to be in the blog so I won’t mention her by name but I’ll ask her to make a guest blog before she goes. Unless she doesn’t have a good time in which case…