Living the Dream

Round and round
6th July 2015

We made a surprisingly early start today, well, especially considering the hangovers we both had. By 11am after strong coffee was administered we were ready to leave for our trip out to Locorotondo.

We knew our way there having driven through it yesterday so we didn't need the SatNav. However once we got into the town the softly spoken Irishman inside the box on our dashboard guided us all the way to the historical centre. Although he shouldn't take all the credit as I had been well prepared and had a list of street names witten down for all the various places we potentially wanted to visit during our stay!

We parked at the bottom of Corso XX Septtembre, fed the parking metre and after being hugged by a local rastafarian trying sell me a watch and probably attempt to pick my pockets we walked up the hill towards the centre.

Chiesa dell' Addolorata went almost unnoticed as we rushed by to get into the narrow streets of the old town.

We entered through Porta Napoli between to two imposing gate posts. Then immediately to our right we came across a local tourist infomation office.

I popped in to see if I could pick up a map and to ask someone where was the best location to take "that" photograph of Locorotondo. The friendly and informative member of staff said I should drive towards Martina Franca then look behind me to get that classic hilltop view.

He also pointed out the cylindrical layout of the historical centre which is why its name translates to the "round place". He also highlighted all the "must sees" on a small map.

I'm sure he would have talked all day about his beloved town. Thankfully someone else asked him a question which distracted him long enough for me to make my escape.

Back out on the streets and armed with a little more knowledge Julie and I headed into the alleyways to find the church that had seen dominating the skyline. Of course being right in the thick of it we couldn't see its large dome and tall belltower. Instead all we could see looming large was the clocktower of Palazzo Morelli in front of us.

However after a small shimmy we came to Chiesa Madre San Giorgio tucked into the smallest of spaces as if it was built here first and the town had simply engulfed it.  Whilst it's probably true, this final incarnation wasn't completed until 1825.

We stood in front of the church gazing upwards, its white facade glistenning in the bright midday sun. Standing on the steps we struggled to see the image of St.George slaying the dragon in the tympanum. (I've often wondered why the English chose St.George as their patron saint and not a local hero like us Welsh but I have since learned that St.George was martyred in Palestine and so became the patron saint of the Crusaders and ever since Richard the Lionheart he's remained the number one saint.)

Anyway, as the door to God is always open we stepped inside to have a closer look at his house.

This one was dedicated to the mother of Saint George which seemed a bit odd but it was very pretty inside with large marble arches on either side of the altar and a beautiful painted dome creating the heavens above.

We didn't loiter for too long. I often feel a bit invasive standing there taking photographs especially when there's someone properly in church saying their prayers. So we returned outside and sat on the church steps to soak in all the radiant energy.

Almost all the houses were whitewashed a tradition that harks back to the Middle Ages and the plague when they thought the limewash would keep the illness at bay.

At times the brightness was blinding. The white light was only broken by a splash of colour from a balcony full of flowers or a colourfully painted doorway.

Not only were the houses freshly painted the streets were immaculate, kept clean by a small army of residents busy with their brushes.

Whilst sat there on the steps we browsed TripAdvisor looking for somewhere nearby that everyone recommended for lunch. We had past a few lovely smells along the way. There was an excellent superfast 4G network coverage which impressed us. Back home we're lucky to pick up any signal at all.

Having decided on a restaurant we delved deeper into the whitewashed alleyways in search of another church circled in red pen on our map. Strolling down the narrow passageways was wonderfully atmospheric, made even more special by our seclusion. For most of the time we were on our own.

Clear blue skies, brilliant white walls and vibrant colour in the form of flowers and underwear. It was all very interesting.

Despite having a little map we didn't really know where we were going however I had assumed that if we kept on turning left we'd eventually find Chiesa San Nicola or return full circle the St. George's mother's church. This random theory was proven to be right when we stumbled across the really tiny Church of St. Nicola.

It was sandwiched between two properties and hardly 3 metres wide! We expected it to expand into a larger room on the inside but it didn't, it continued to be the same width the whole way through.

It's matchbox size made it thoroughly delightful and the frescoes on the ceiling were captivating. It wasn't the Sistine Chapel but it had a certain charm about it.

An orchestra of celestial minstrels, each playing a different instrument such as a harp, a cello, a flute sat on clouds floating above scenes from the daily life of 17th century Locorotondo.

The man from the tourist office said that there was one musical instrument that's no longer used these days. One looked as if he was playing a guitar like instrument but was holding the neck in a peculiar position over the left shoulder. The nearest medievel instrument I found of that size and played like that was called a viola de gamba.

 

We left San Nicola's and went in search of lunch. We had read some good reviews about a restaurant we had walked past earlier near Palazzo Morelli. It was called Trattoria al Vecchio Arco.

A door opened out onto Via Antonio Bruno but we didn't think it was the entrance as it had a heavy chainmail curtain draped across it. Judging by the lovely smell wafting out of there it was propbably the kitchen.

The dining area was literally in a small alleyway running along the side of the building. With only three tables they just had enough to seat six people. We were a little hesitant as there was no one else eating but the owner appeared and warmly welcome us to his restarant.

We had read the reviews and knew that there would be no menu only what they had cooked that day and that the service would be friendly if a little quirky.

However nothing would prepare us for the force of nature that was the owner.

He began by taking our drinks order. "two waters con gas" we asked. "Any wine?" he replied.

We said no but he wasn't having any of it. "It's a very nice wine, from here in Locorotondo" he continued.

We said no again but wasn't taking it for an answer.

Just one glass? It would be a pity not to try the famous Locorotondo wine" We had the feeling he wasn't going to leave us alone so we said "Yes, ok".

Next he took the order for the primmi piatti. He gave us two choices, either an aubergine parmigianna or a strascinati pasta. I explained that I was vegetarian and he suggested the I should have the pasta as the abergine dish had some proscuitto running through it. Julie didn't want a starter and he seemed ok about it.

There was only one choice for main course, bombette. He assumed we didn't know what they were and went on to describe the scamorza cheese filled pork rolls.

This he also did using his hands to show us exactly how the cheese was shoved into the recesses with his index finger. It looked more like he was doing some indecent gesture towards us!

As they couldn't accomodate me for the secondi piatti he offered to make me a caprese salad. I tried to say no but I had no choice, so a mozzarella and tomato salad was on its way.

When he left Julie and I just looked at each other in shock over what we had just experienced. Fortunately there was something quite likeable about him despite his hard sell. He was certainly entertaining.

The food arrived and despite saying no Julie was served an aubergine bake. We didn't complain. She found it  really tasty, even if it wouldn't be favourite.

My pasta was interesting, like a larger orechiette made as tradition dictates down here from only durum wheat and water.

It was liberally scattered with grated caccioricotta and topped with a super fresh and delicious tomato sauce. It may have been just a starter but those thick pasta rounds were very filling.

Next came our main courses.

My caprese salad was a little disappointing as the mozarella cheese was the fiori di latte style and not the luxurious di bufala type, which was fine but could have been much better.

Julie really enjoyed her bombette, three rolls of cheese filled meat were eaten between groans of pleasure. They came with two wheels of sausages which she found too strongly flavoured.

The local wine was very good, white, dry and very drinkable. "Cheers me dears" I toasted as I had one sip before returning the glass to Julie. It was a shame that I had to drive home.

Whilst we were tucking into our main course an older English couple arrived. We encouraged them to stay if only to experience the owner's performance but we did warn them they'll eat what they get given!

Then shortly afterwards a young Australian couple arrived and they passed on their endorsement to them.

Before we left he tried his best to force feed us dessert but we held our nerve, although he did squeeze a few more Euros out of us for two black coffees. Our bill eventually came to €52 which was quite an expensive lunch.

As we left he asked us to put in a good review on TripAdvisor. "My wife and my mother-in law are important to me" he said. "It's not so busy here, there are so many places competing"

There was something quite desperate about him which was very sad to see. I promised him a good review.

Before heading straight for the car we walked around a small park with a great view over the valley below.  Whilst we were here Julie phoned home to hear that the grandkids had their school reports today.

Rory was at his usual genius level especially in numeracy on which he was off the scale. Tyler wasn't too far behind in his intelligence but the report focused on his friendliness and how much he is thought of by his classmates and his teachers.

Then firecracker Freya who could be so contrary at home but the teacher thanked her for her company and has said she had been a pleasure to teach!  It made us smile so much.

We returned to the car and left in the direction of Martina Franca but after a short distance we stopped so we could look behind us and finally marvel at Locorotondo's best side, the classic view of the white-washed town up on the hill that I had been searching for. It was a lovely sight. Although we were slightly distracted by a pair of fire engines putting out a fire in an olive grove near by.

We thought about contuing to the baroque old town of Martina Franca but decided to leave that for another time. We'd done enough sightseeing for one day.

Instead we headed back to Alberobello in an almost carbon copy of yesterday. We sat in Bar Tropicana sipping a coca-cola light before popping to Paco Wines for our bottle of pink fizz for this evening.

Today the streets looked more like a Bavarian town draped with the blue and white flags of the Hoffbrahaus Brewery in Munich. Apparently they were preparing for a beer festival on Saturday. We thought it was a bit odd as Italy isn't renowned for brewing nor drinking beer.

Before going home we popped to the SISA supermarket for supplies for our supper. It was so nice having the time to buy our food daily and also know full well that we can cook and eat it al fresco. Tonight was going to be another barbecue.

After a few hours of relaxing outside our little trulli we set alight the charcoal and started to cook. We had bought this enormous steak. I don't know from which animal it came but Fred Flintstone would have approved!

The brontasaurus steak filled Julie's plate leaving no room for anything else. The mound of buttery mashed potatoes had to be served in a seperate bowl. She was in raptures over the flavour of the perfectly cooked slab of meat but the challenge of eating the whole steak proved too much and she could only manage half of it.

All the potato was gone, although I did help her with that.

As for myself, inspired by what Julie had for lunch I made myself a grilled veg & mozarella filled piadina. I expected it to be nothing more than a glorified crispy pancake (which I used to hate as a child) but this was so good. I was groaning and moaning in delight as to how tasty it all was!

With supper finished we washed the dishes. Having a dishwasher at home we don't normally do this after dinner ritual but we have grown to enjoy doing it over the last few days.

We stayed off the Limoncello tonight, not that we chose to abstain from alchohol entirely. Some wine with the meal felt like it was safely within the boundaries of sensible drinking. We were on holiday afterall!

At 10pm we retired inside our trullo where I watched the BBC World News. Greece was dominating the headlines recently on whether it was going to default on their IMF repayment. I then began to watch Inspector Moltanbano on Rai Uno which has become quite popular in the UK but I couldn't stay awake until the end, Julie had gone to sleep at the first mention of Greek Financial Crisis!

Next Day >>>

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