Our ride from the train station at Bari to our campsite only took about 30 mins but I think all three of us would agree that we were a bit on edge. It’s not the sort of place you want to be after dark, we spotted, prostitutes and drug dealers and were very happy to find the camp and the safety of a locked gate and security guard. We quickly got our selves sorted, tents up etc before heading to the bar for a well earned beer and then bed.
In the morning we walked to the supermarket for food, had breakfast, then went into Bari for a little sightseeing. Now I’ve got to be honest Bari was not my most favourite of places although it did have a couple of things worth seeing it never really impressed me. We caught the bus in and quickly went in search of the old town, busy little streets with the houses close together and alleys running between them.
Next it was time to visit the church, very nice but we’d seen bigger and better.
Next up was the castle, now a museum, this was probably the best bit. It’d been well restored and was a beautiful light and airy space, some of which is now a museum for decorative architectural mouldings, some used as space to show art and photography. Parts of the building had been left untouched and showed via excavations and lit walkways how the castle had evolved, very clever. After that we mooched about, ate ice cream, drank beer and had a pretty average lunch, all in all not a bad day but I think we’d been spoilt by places like Rome, hard to beat really !
Next morning we waved goodbye to Thijs, he was going back home in time to start his new job, he’d be leaving from Bari airport. He’d cycle to the airport, put his bike in a clear plastic bag, his panniers into a duffel and fly, on landing he’d take out his bike, load his panniers and cycle 60km home, what a guy !
We waited until he’d left before eating a light breakfast and setting off in the direction of Alberobello, this would be our camp spot for our first night on the east coast. On our way to Alberobello we came across signs to Grotte di Castellana, how could we possibly cycle so close and not go take a look. We paid for a guide and 3km tour, it took a fair while and was quite slippery in cycle shoes but it was brilliant. Unfortunately your only allowed to take photos in the main cavern at the beginning of the tour, after that they won’t allow you to take photos !! This sort of thing always annoys me, it’s not as if I’m going to buy more or less postcards if I take my own photos, and if their that worried just charge me !! It was still a great visit and we’d recommend it if your in the area.
After that it was a short ride through rolling countryside to our campsite just outside of Alberobello. Not a bad campsite although we weren’t allowed to set up our tents immediately as it was within the four hour afternoon quiet time. Strange that other tents were being erected then, they did however allow us to use the changing rooms and showers at the pool so we could get our clothes into the laundry and dried before morning.
We cycled into Alberobello in the morning and found the central piazza by the church, locked our bikes and spent the next two hours taking photos of this wonderful little town. It’s full of these quaint little round cottages with pointed roofs shaped like witches hats, there called Trulli, and everything is painted white. In truth it’s a photographer or artists paradise, everywhere you turn is a fabulous scene just waiting to be captured on film or canvas.
After a good look round it was time to sit down with a cold drink before heading on to our next stop at Ostuni, referred to as “The White City”, it wasn’t far and was through more beautiful rolling scenery. On arriving at Ostuni we headed straight for the old town, parked our bikes and then took our lunch in the shade on the church steps. Watching the world go by in places like this is one of the best bits, just taking time out to slow down and think for a bit. By the time we’d finished lunch we’d arrived at a plan and very soon we were heading up the steep hill and taking photos of the view towards the coast. We wandered back down, taking the side streets and alleys, purposely trying to get lost and avoid the crowds. We popped out lower down the hill and further towards the sea, looking back towards the town you can see why they call it the White City !!
More mooching finally took us back to our bikes, now it was time to head back to the coast and our campsite at Specchiola. We had a little trouble finding our way out of Ostuni but finally we were on our way to the coast, our route now was definitely downhill 😉
On reaching the coast it was now time to find a campsite, Specchiola wasn’t our first choice but it was where we ended up. The first place we stopped at just didn’t have a great vibe, it was a bit austere and unfriendly so we just carried on to the next place. Camp number two was very expensive, it seems there’s no allowance for just two tiny tents so we get charged the same rate as an RV. Needless to say we gave this the big elbow and were quickly on our way to camp number three, at least the roads were flat now and with glimpses of the sea it made us both happy.
Camp number three was at Specchiola, at first we just assumed it would be very expensive, it had all the facilities and its own beach !! But no, they did only charge for two small tents and although by no means was it the cheapest camp in Italy it certainly wasn’t the most expensive either. We quickly made ourselves at home before taking a walk along the seafront and stopping for a cold beer, we ate out later, pizza again, but they were good !
Morning saw us heading towards Brindisi, we’d eventually catch our flight home from here but for now we just needed to navigate our way through. We’d pretty much succeeded on getting through Brindisi so we stopped for coffee and pastries, the sun was up and it was warm, the sea was sparking and yet again we we felt lucky to be able to do this 😉
Finally breaking free of Brindisi and getting back onto the coast road we started looking for available campsites, we had several listed but couldn’t find them. We ended up in a place called San Cataldo, our last chance to find a listed campsite but no joy here either. We were now only 14km from San Foca and my dad, we could get a B&B or continue on. We continued on, we cycled about 120km that day and finally rang my dad from just opposite a Norman tower on the seafront. To say he was surprised was an understatement, he wasn’t expecting us until the following day, we tried to explain why we were early but he was so busy being overjoyed I don’t think he heard. Within minutes he was cycling towards us on an old shopping bike, rusty chain, wobbly wheels and the biggest, widest grin I’ve ever seen. Hugs all round, double for Naomi as this was the first time he’d met her, he felt he knew her already as he’s read all my blogs and seen all the photos. We followed him back to his apartment and introduced Naomi to Ivana, I’ve met her before and my dads girlfriend wasted no time in making us both feel at home. On the table was this…
I don’t read Italian but I think I get the idea, my dad is proud and happy to have us cycle over a 1000 miles to come see him, who wouldn’t be pleased at that ?
We checked into a local B&B he’d organised and for the next ten days we were wined, dined and treated like royalty. We were taken to San Cataldo to spend time at a very nice beach, Lecce to immerse ourselves in its culture, history, baroque architecture, oh and to eat some fabulous food.
Otranto was another trip out to a lovely little town with fabulous side streets, harbour, churches and yet again more amazing food.
And when we weren’t eating out Paolo was creating masterpieces of his own in the kitchen, seriously good food! In the evenings we’d all take a walk through San Foca and usually ended up at a bar, the owner Gino was a great guy and not only made the best coffee but also made some great ice cream. We tried to pay our way on several occasions and finally managed to pay for a couple of dinners and some coffees, bless them both but we weren’t there to take their money.
Paolo, my dad even paid half the B&B and the full cost of sending our bikes home by TNT, it cheaper than us going back to Brindisi for two nights and packing them up at a hotel, then paying for an airport transfer !!
After a lovely week by the sea the morning arrived and Paolo and Ivana drove us to the airport, we arrived, parked the car and went in for coffee and pastries. There’s always an awkward moment when you have to go through the security and finally say goodbye, bless Paolo he was overcome with emotion and I’ll swear there was a tear running down his cheek. We waved our goodbyes until the last possible moment then we were on our own again.
Our flight home was via Zurich, and we spent nearly five hours in the airport talking about our trip through France and Italy, some great memories, our thanks go to Thijs for joining us through France and Italy and bringing a GPS system that provided some great cycling roads, to Paolo and Ivana for taking care of us in San Foca and not seeming to mind us showing up a day early and ruining their plans and to our family and friends for reading the blogs and taking an interest in the photos, bless you all 😉
Take care all and get ready for the South East Asia blogs !!