Puglia region and the love for the South

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life”. As you hear these words of Federico Fellini in your mind your feet are carrying you on cobblestone streets and you enter this labyrinth of creamy houses, flowers, stairs…clothes and bed sheets hang from windows or in front of the doors right there on the street…it smells like freshly baked bread from that focaccia in that small shop on a street corner…voices accompanied by hand gestures cut the air around in the port area and the fish smell doesn’t bother you at all…pointy rooftops of trulli houses surround you…a well-practiced movement of hands piles up those Italian pastas you just heard about… orecchiette…someone is talking to you in Italian comfy and relaxed like you naturally understand every word and the thought of sharing a coffee on top of the streets of Matera with that nice old lady that would tell you the most amazing stories makes you feel sad you have not learned Italian yet…

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Where are you might you ask? Well, you are just cruising around Puglia region in South Italy. The Adriatic Sea is right there in front of your eyes and the heel of Italy’s “boot” will unveil in front of you small cities filed with stories, history and the Italian passion of life. Oh yes…of course…and loads of focaccia and seafood to shift your appetite and make you crave for something so simple as bread and tomatoes.

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Intrigued? Take a sip of espresso, heat that oven and throw in a pizza and while is baking read away…

Bari

Bari is an amalgamation of modern and old greeting you with streets for shopping and relaxing while tasting cakes and coffees or just wandering around for window shopping while in the same time teasing you to wander the old city with small streets, churches in unexpected corners, twists and turns, old city walls and small restaurants catching your eye with those traditional Italian plates the most famous of which are Patate, riso e cozze (potatoes with rice and mussels) and all sorts of orecchiette.

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The port area in the morning light with the calm Adriatic Sea, the fish all laid down on tables and those mid-age Italian men having their coffee, drinks and playing games or just gossiping with lots of hand gestures it’s a must.

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And if you are really lucky you can also see in the morning old Italian ladies preparing the homemade orecchiette and knowing this lovely Southern people one might actually invite you in to take a sit and learn some of Italy’s traditions.

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Matera

Matera is home of the Sassi a charming historical centre dating back over 7000 years with dwellings carved in stone, cobblestone streets inviting you to get lost and sometimes running on top of other houses just to make the wandering even more spectacular, churches, archways, stairs running up and down, terraces and corners to stop for incredible views.

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Once you exit the Sassi a new city lies ahead with souvenir shops, small terraces where Italian ladies enjoy a quick espresso perfectly going with a smoke and some gossip, focaccia from the street shop eaten with your hands with a better taste than anything else, a guy signing his guitar to make some extra money or who knows maybe to get noticed…Matera is, no wonder, a favourite spot for filmmakers and soon to be European Capital of Culture.

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Alberobello

Beautiful Tree” (if you guys want to translate it) is a small town with just about 11,000 inhabitants famous for its trulli. What’s a trullo? Well it’s a small house with a conical roof made out of stones piled up one on top of the other. The origins of the design seem to be linked with the high taxation on property people of Puglia used to pay and this dry wall constructions where created to allow dismantling when the inspectors were in the area. Some of these elf size houses have particular symbols painted on the cones including a series of Christian symbols.

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And if you get in the area of Trullo Sovrano there’s this cool trullo house home of a shop of Italian food products where this nice gentleman will tell you a few words about the trullo home and its rooms and invite you to taste all types of Italian liquors you are in the mood to try on…we promise the taste is so precious that you will be tempted to ditch the clothes you carried in your backpack and fill it up with liquor bottles, packs of orecchiette and biscuits.

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Locorotondo

The “Round Place” has a circular historic centre.  The village is considered amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Italy with a labyrinth of white alleys, white houses with the most beautifully decorated numbers graciously showing details of the street where the house is located.

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No cone roof tops in the historic centre (you can gaze at them from the viewing point looking towards Locorotondo countryside) but you will find here the special pitched roofs called “cummerse”. And if this doesn’t convince you know also that Locorotondo produces some good white wines still or sparkling.

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Martina Franca and Trani

Martina Franca has a historic centre surrounded by stone walls with remainders of Baroque and Rococo styles to be fund in the gates, the piazzas and the churches. The streets are small and picturesque and the place is also renowned for white wine.

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For a different view of Puglia you can try Trani a fishing port, historic buildings and boats in the harbour playing around with the sunset light to give you enough time and space to breathe and dream.

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You can reach Puglia region by plane to Bari and from Bari you can easily take a train (under 2 hours) for all the above destinations.

For more pictures from Puglia check out our Facebook page here.

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Tips&Tricks volcano trekking Bali

Trekking in Bali is a must try experience.  Below are some tips from our own experience trekking Mount Batur.  Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below :p:

  •  wear appropriate shoes; the last part of the trek (towards the top of the volcano) has a path made only from volcanic sand so you need good shoes (Gabi trekked up to the top in New Balance while I had some slippery Tommy Hilfiger shoes so not good for trekking);
  • have a cap or something to cover your head and a long sleeved blouse; the wind is blowing stronger on the mountain and the morning is pretty cold taking into account also the fact that the trek will make you sweat;
  • the trek has medium difficulty if you have experience with trekking mountains; for the first timers (like I was) it’s pretty much difficult;
  • trekking sticks are not that useful since the path is sandy and with volcanic stones and it’s hard to find a place for support;
  • pay attention to the stealing monkeys;
  • on top of the mountain eggs boiled in the volcano and friend banana sandwiches are served included in the price of the trek; you can also get hot tea or coffee for small price;
  • you can spend time inside the refugee of the guides if it’s too cold outside and you want to take a rest;
  • buy trekking tours (as other tours around Bali) from the agencies in the city; in Ubud we found the trekking tour for 25 USD per person while or travel agency was selling the same trek for 87 USD and our guide for 65 USD.

On top of the world – volcano trekking – Bali, Indonesia

It was a night like all other nights except that this one was special.  We woke up at 1:30 in the night to get ready for a volcano trekking on Mount Batur.  Our driver was a small guy riding a car that look somehow like an old jeep.  As small as he was he was driving fast as the wind on the roads of Ubud.  I remember I was feeling lucky is night, there is no one on the streets and the trees are standing still.
One hour drive got us to a local farm for Luwak Coffee were we served breakfast.  Walked on a small path to an open air room with not more than 3 tables and some chairs around them.  We were the first to arrive and we devoured the served coffee and banana pancakes.  As the cold was setting in we decided to join the ladies in the outside kitchen cooking for the other people that were expected to arrive.  Slowly more tourists were starting to arrive.
 
Around 3:30 in the morning everybody was packed in cars and on the road to the volcano.  We met with the guides that accompanied us up the mountain.  The trek was well organized with a guide for every 3 -4 people.  We were all provided with lanterns and started walking on a wide path with black volcanic sand.  Slowly the path got narrower and tilted so that everybody was walking in a row and we had to pay attention all the time not to slip.  Light was coming from so many lanterns that at some point I had to close mine just to keep my head from spinning.
After 1 hour and a half of walking on the titled path I was getting worried about the walk and more and more tired.  At first it was cold outside and then it started to get warmer and warmer as we were walking more and more up on the volcano.  With the help of the guide we reached almost the top of the volcano at the guides’ refugee where everybody stopped for sunrise.  Gabi (the courageous part of Areyouhappy :p) and some other tourists together with part of the guides took the higher path made only of volcanic sand to the top of the volcano.
Since it was my first time trekking I was too tired to walk the last part of the trek I decided to wait for the other climbers to come back at the guides refugee place on top of the mountain where everybody stops to watch the sunrise.  It was windy and cold outside and these guys were nice to invite me to stay inside with them until the sun will rise and my friends will be back.
 
I could hear outside the rumour of some tourists waiting for their friends and the wind blowing.  Inside the fire was burning, hot tea and coffee was served together with banana sandwiches (nothing more than warm bread and warm banana served all together).  I spent maybe 1 hour or more with six local guides and a mid-age Danish lady in the same big room, with a stone bed, a table and chairs around it, and a simple cooking area.
Most of the guides knew some basic conversational English and I knew only a few words in  Bahasa Indonesia.  We didn’t know each other’s names but that didn’t matter.  They told me stories about normal life in Indonesia and shared with me their fried banana sandwiches.  At times they were talking amongst themselves in their language in such a peaceful voice that I had the feeling I can perfectly understand them and feel their worries and concerns for everyday life.
At 6:15 Gabi called me from the top of the volcano.  She was waiving to me and I could barely see her.  She had the voice of a happy person, a voice that reminded me why we travel and why we are so lucky to be able to do it as often as we do it.
While the sun was getting ready to show its face one of the guides was slowly singing “Everybody loves somebody”.  Our guide was laying outside on the stone bench sleeping and I was warming up in the shades of the sun going more up and up on the sky while gazing to the lake that was starting to take a shape at the bottom of the mountain.  It was one of the best sunsrises I’ve seen in my life.
When the sun went up we were shown the crater of the volcano and places in the mountain where hot air is coming out just like in a sauna.  We started the descent at 7 and we reached the bottom of the mountain and the cars to take us back to our hotel around 8.  The descent was on the same path and seemed to me easier than the walk in the night because this time I was starting to get used with the path and the dark was gone.
Our guide on the mountain was Senegal – a nickname that he got for having a well-built body and some tattoos.  He is the one we have to thank for bringing us safe and sound at the bottom of the mountain the next morning.  He learned English with the tourists because school is expensive and his parents did not afford to send him to school (like it happens with so many in Indonesia).  He made amazing hot banana sandwiches.  He smoked but said that’s not damaging his health because he is constantly trekking the mountain.  He was not that tall but all the guides called him hot because he was strong for an Indonesian man.  He walked up the mountain every night with tourists to earn enough money to survive.  Like him, so many others are mountain guides in Indoneisa to make a living. 
 
Click here for some Tips&Tricks for making your trekking experience better.
You cand find more pictures from Bali here: Bali Pictures.