From the airport in Bari, in the heel of the boot of Italy in the region called Puglia, we zoomed in our rented hybrid to Ostuni. We stopped in Polignano a Mare, whose gorgeous cliffs look across the Adriatic at an Albania lost in the curvature of the earth. It is the beginning of our 10 day jaunt through a region inhabited since a time long lost in the mist of epochs, but new to us, and much less visited by tourists, foreign and domestic alike.
Polignano a Mare was an important city in Roman times, remaining in the Eastern Roman Empire – the Byzantine – until circa 1050. Today it’s known for its beautiful cliffs and as the birth place of the famous “Volare” recorded by Domenico Modugno and written by him and Franco Migliacci, but not for its ancient past. The song I heard endlessly as a child was also recorded by Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Dalida, Gipsy Kings, Chico & the Gypsies, Deana Martin and Barry White. Near us a group of teenagers sang it, and did so rather well in the breezy air of the sea.
You walk along the cliffs. On the pleasant Saturday that we happen to be here the crowds fill the bars and line up at the gelato shops. Less famous warblers stroll about hoping for coins, others are set up to draw in customers who might sip an Aperol, an orange flavored alcohol that has flown to popularity over the last decade.
We’d easily and surprisingly so found a place for the car, and even found it when we were ready to leave so we drove to Ostini, having to skip a visit to Monopoli, another coastal village, as we could not find parking after driving around in search of one. We are staying two nights there, a town with narrow streets and alleys along the steep hillsides. We had dinner at a Tavola Calda, literally Hot Table. These eateries feature displayed dishes. Typically you go to the counter to make your choices. This place also had table service and served pizza as well, hot from the oven. We all ordered one though most people could share.
The next day, our first full day of 10 in this region, we set out for Alberobello, famous for its mortar free stone houses with cone shaped stone roofs, a World Heritage site since 1996. It was first occupied early in the sixteenth century so of recent origin by comparison. Count Giangirolamo II (1600–1665) bulit these houses, called Trulli. They did not use mortar to allow easy disassembly in case the Spanish viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples discovered them and then applied the taxes due on dwellings. Near the end of the 18th century Alberobello became a city, no longer controlled by feudal regime. It is the only place on earth whose housing is entirely of the Trulli style.