Italy - Bari to Lecce to Matera to ???

I am losing track of where i am in this saga. Have i mentioned walking through a hotel lobby into some hand carved cave and stumbling onto a view of the limestone splendor of Matera? I did not?


Not sure what this one is… Ah, more Matera. I kind of feel like this is an echo of the Escher-esque LSD dreams I had at college. Not that I actually used LSD, mind you.

Anyone else think is an odd decor choice for an Italian hotel?

Maybe i am over thinking it. They were unbound, after all.

I may have mentioned the affection i have for places w made dishes. This place is the real deal:
Uacciardidd Butchers Since 1946
+39 0835 385102
https://maps.app.goo.gl/18RedHtu8s6c8UFP9 ?
A butcher shop/deli/made dishes place which is just right for me. I used Google Translate and asked the lady of the house to give me whatever she wanted 2 courses w beer the first day and 3 courses w wine the next time. The dishes were good not great but they tasted like a home made dish not a cafe dish. It was orecchiette and rape, then calamari, then some scallopy potatoes of some sort.

Then i just wandered around the city trying to find each of my favorite views when the light was right and failing abysmally.

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You sure these were not breadsticks?

Yeah, Matera is something else

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I hear you. I know I was overthinking it, but it just piqued my attention.
At first I thought they were inexpensive dowels made of poplar or some other soft wood but when I looked a bit closer, they look like bamboo with the ends filled with some sort of bondo material then painted. They looked kind of decorative, I would not have even thought of the symbolism but I was reading excerpts from a book about the Italian army’s performance in North Africa a couple months ago, then the fasces symbol popped up on a Quora thread last week. It was pointed out that the fasces was used in American symbology prior to WWII and is still on display in the Oval Office, the US Supreme Court and above the door of the House of Representatives, as well as a lot of other places in Washington DC.
I had noticed fasces in DC before but never put two and two together until last week so it was in the back of my mind when I checked in and saw the decorative mantelpiece.
Matera is an amazing place. I just walked around and every day the clouds gave it a different range of colors and shades.

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This is super fantabuloso! Matera…what else can we say…? Your pics are astounding and I don’t mean only of Matera. We actually pulled into that city the day after the capture of Osama was announced, and the joy in people’s faces when they found out we were American was pretty super, probably a fading memory these days. I remember driving into town and there were guys on motos waiting to “escort” you to your sassi hotel; and they would not take tips (after all, they were there for that!) cause we were Americans…boy, do those days seem long ago now.

We fell so in love with Puglia that we made, at last count, 5 trips to the region in the past 20 years or so, including 2 in Basilicata and 1 that included drive up from Lamezia (Calabria) into Basilicata and then the Cilento…

Never mind all that…I am also seeking a place to base for USA winters (not Florida!) Right now I am in Cadiz province, Spain, for the third time and this may be a possibility for me. But Lecce, and other southern Italian regions have ramped up in interest to me as well. Sardinia, too, out of season.
I’ve mentioned here that I hope that this fall will see me flying to Bari and spending some time in Minervino Murge area, then driving to Senise, on and on…ending with train from Bari or Foggia to Senegallia, a most unsung food town among foreigners, I think. So I am super curious about your time in Bari and the photos were a true find for me. Did you spend any time in Cosenza? I am trying to discover more of Basilicata apart from the obvious, Matera and nearby. If anyone has a taste for the unusual, and Matera certainly qualifies, take a peek at Cracco…abandoned now but inspirational. And for food, the town of Bernalda wowed me but I think a favorite restuarant has closed, and I do not speak of the Coppola hotel, where were were not allowed to take even a tiny peek cause the space was “reserved for our guests only, who like their privacy.” Ok…fair enough…wonder how many guests they receive now that whatever celebrity was married there after they first opened…and then holidayed outside Fasano… Anyone been to this Bernalda hotel (director’s ancestral town)?

All this blather is just to say I love your pics and comments…and eagerly await more!!

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Erica, sorry to hijack this thread but I feel a need to comment.

Although the French do not always seem to regard Americans fondly they still, after all these years, remember and are profoundly grateful for our service in WWII. Over the years we’ve vacationed in France late May/early June many times. No matter how small the village parade on D-day was there was always an American float or flag. This past spring we went to Brittany and decided to spend a few days in Normandy and their D-day celebrations (a week long) were epic. You’d think you are on the set of a WWII movie and the only WWII era cars and uniforms were American. . There were convoys of vintage American jeeps, ambulances,etc driving on all the roads around the landing beach villages, and young men and women in American WWII uniforms everywhere we went. Much to our surprise they all seemed to be French. Those few days are now part of our mental vacation highlights reel!!

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Erica, my experience in Southern Italy is very superficial, but I can give you a quick and simple recital of my impressions.
First and foremost, I have felt welcome everywhere I have gone and other than Tropea, Amalfi and Sorrento, the locals actually seemed mildly surprised that I was an American traveling in their town.
Second, to get a feel for the area, I think I would really need to rent a car, or even a scooter. As I rode buses, taxis and trains, I do not know how many times I saw towns and villages that I really wanted to visit and couldn’t. The trains/buses just rolled past.
Third, there seems to be an inverse correlation between how often I have heard of a town and its appeal, excepting Sorrento, which I had heard quite a bit of and still like a great deal. I had heard a lot about Bari, from its seafood to its past ladies. Though Bari was nice and the food was rather good, but it was not in my top 3. Amalfi is the town that our love is damaging severely because everyone knows about it and we all want to go. We tourists (and I hate to be counted as one, but facts are a stubborn thing) tend to love the beautiful nearly to death and Amalfi/Positano are just “over loved”.
And I would still go back but I would not even come close to considering it as my winter home.
Fourth, i really wish i had started my Italian lessons long before i did. And i wish i was comfortable enough in Italian to stumble along in it instead of using Google Translate.

In Bari, Lecce, Taranto, Matera, Cosenza, Tropea, Amalfi and Sorrento the people I talked to were really nice and did not seem to mind that my Italian is a stumbling mess. My least favorite towns were Taranto and Cosenza, not because people were unfriendly but in part because I just traveled in, got lunch, found a hotel/AirBNB, slept and took off the next day. That having been said, those two towns were the only ones where my Spidey Senses were going off and my situational awareness stepped up a bit though that is in part because I walked into some less salubrious areas as exercise. Bari, on the other hand, was an entrepot sort of a city, with shipping, a waterfront and trade, but it did not give me the “watch your wallet” vibe. Bari was pretty cool with interesting old architecture and cafes and the pasta ladies street was nice to see, but I was in and out in 3 days and it might not be on my short list of towns to return to.
Lecce was an eye opening experience for me with the old limestone buildings and the cobbled streets. I am not a Michelin diner, I am more of a “diner” diner and Lecce gave me a couple options for made dishes that I really enjoyed. The people there were really welcoming. And that is where my Italian was at its most basic and they smiled when they were trying to figure out what I was saying. I do not know if it was the churches or the parks I liked best there, but I spent a lot of time just meditating in both. This is a city I could put down roots in.
Matera was just mindblowing. I went to just 4 churches, each was a treasure and 3 were of the subterranean type. The path to cross the river was closed which was a disappointment but I found that the city was confusing enough that my 4 days there were just enough to allow me to navigate off the main roads without using a compass or google maps. I could see myself spending a winter here, easily.
Cosenza did not feel as welcoming when I got there or when I was walking up the pedestrian walking area. My Air BNB there was an odd one which did not help, though the owner was a good sort. The check in process was a bit odd due to the fact that the home was not where it was located on the on line map and I had to meet him in a store a couple kilometers away to get taken to the BNB which was in a transitional are and located behind a stout gated fence.
Tropea is a touristy beach town and I went in the off season. 3/4 of the cafes were closed and I just did not like the town. Loved the cliffs and the hill top church but the rest was meh.
Amalfi is just a beautiful town with a really bad tourist problem. Most of the people I met were super cool, but I do not like to have three tables next to me all with conversations in American english. If it is that packed in March, what is the summer like? I took two buses there and was amazed that only one of the trips involved an accident, luckily a mild one with no one hurt. My apartment was at the top of 171 stairs which gave the apartment a phenomenal view in 3 directions. I would not consider staying there for more than 3 or 4 days and I would not go in high season.
Sorrento is a very cool city, full of tourists in the city center but carrying it off with panache. If my Italian was better I would know the word for that in Italian. Con brio? The pedestrian street has Amsterdam Chips and English All Day Breakfasts and Celtic Bars, but it remains deeply and proudly Italian, which is a very good thing. I really like the little fisherman’s community on the West end of town. I could live here.
So there is my short response. LOL!
I can not use my computer to download photos, but I will use my phone to enter a few.
Tropea.

Lunch at the Madison in Tropea.

View from my apartment in Amalfi.

View of my apt. It is the three window home just to our right of the top lamp on the light post.

You can actually see my apt in this one too, if i sorted these photos right. It is the three small windows above three big windows just to the right and slightly below the four-sided church steeple.

Not sure if the photo is clear enough to see all the mini figures…

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Fabulous photos!! And what a view from that apartment in Amalfi!

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When i arrived my hostess, Roberta, skipped up the stairs like they were nothing. I had to stop halfway up and get my breath.
But just 4 days later i was up and down much more easily. I like those stairs!

20230313_175117

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Wow, I would have spent hours looking out that window… And I too would have paused, probably more than once, going up. I remember visiting Sienna and thinking the residents most be part mountain goat.

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What a fascinating post, and such beautiful photos (sorry for lack of a better adjective!) Really interesting to see these famous places in the off season. The lighting, or maybe just your photographic talent, make these towns look so much better than when they are jammed with tourists–and in March yet, you mentioned! Funny about Tropea, cause for so long I’d seen photos of the cliffs and the turquoise sea. But I never found a compelling draw to actually visit. (For one thing it is really out off the way from a lot of other destinations I might want to visit. But also, as lovely as it must be, like Amalfi, maybe it has almost sold its soul to tourists (like us)! I’ve flown into Lemezia Terme twice but both times, went north…once to Amantea and, I think I mentioned, up that coast to Cilento and then to the Amalfi area. I’ll tell you what is one gorgeous town: Maratea, but again, even in September (and I am a rabid swimmer and had one of the best sea swims of my life off a “tourist” beach near there) what might have been the soul of the actual main town (it’s confusing since Maratea encompasses several different towns, or area, or maybe fracciones…anyway I think you get the idea even if my nomenclature is a bit shaky!) seemed almost hollowed out by tourism. Not english speakers…not at all, but tourists, still, and you could not find much local life although surely I just missed all that as I was there only about 4 days and tourism was very much in swing een in late September when the rains begin to creep in, or so I was told by locals. It’s actually in Basilicata, that tiny stretch of the region with a seacoast. The small hill town of Pisciotta in Campania is quite gorgeous and although it is VERY small, i’d bet that it might be a possibility to spend a few winter months…just a feeling I have, without having done any research and again, I stayed but 2 nights, as I remember. I’d bet the inland Cilento peninsula would be worth a deep research dive, but oddly enough, or maybe not so odd, most of the online sites I found focusing on this area were in German. Now this was about 10 years ago so who knows what the area is like now. I seem to remember, by the way, that the area is noted as one of the areas of the world with the longest longevity (oooh…redundant wording, I think but you understand…worth reading up on this as it is certainly not the only part of Italian where locals tend to follow the “Mediterranean diet.”

Anyway, sorry for my rambling…I still wonder, also, about Sardinia but do also have the fear that its fame for beaches and jet set types might put a damper on things, but then the jet set part is only around Costa Smeralda, as far as I know…

My goodness, here I am rambling, and dreaming, yet again, late at night, my last in my beloved small bit of Andalucia where i’ve already been planning more time late next winter…

Just one more idea…look into the “commune” of Senigallia on the Le Marche coast. There was something special about that small city that draws me back and I’d bet it would be lovely in winter, if not fit for true sun seekers. And there is at least one smaller village very close to there which draws a few discerning expats, although do not ask me what I mean by discerning. I also forget the name of this village but it was so pretty and very close to Senigallia and the sea.

Thanks again for taking the time for your insightful comments, and those gorgeous photos. And as much as I love trains, I do think one needs a car to discover some of these places off the “typical” tourist trail…

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Agree with erica1 that Senigallia is wonderful–with fantastic restaurants, high-end to casual. But I was there “off-season” (early June?) several years ago, with a car so I could hop about for day trips, hiking, etc.

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