The ferry that takes us from Dubrovnik to Bari has not aged gracefully. The seats in the sitting deck have dust from at least 30 years and rests of skin and sweet from like a million passengers and the general decor does not seem to have had any updates in the past 30+ years, but nevertheless it takes us and Polaris across the Adriatic safely through the night. Arriving in Bari, feels like entering in the eternal Italian stereotype. As we disembark on board of Polaris, we try to overcome the lack of informative boards with thoroughly looking in all directions, looking for a sign on where to go, but all we find is a harbour operator with an orange vest frantically blowing a whistle and furiously moving his arms in all possible directions. Colourful if not helpful. Despite the fact that we are the only boat that has arrived, that it was really not very crowded and that we come from another EU country, the customs procedures last almost 2 hours. We keep on discussing about the Italian stereotype while we drive across pothole rich streets to our place for the night.
As we park and start to walk along the promenade we start to feel more contempt. The sea has a pretty shade of blue and the little fishing harbour is kind and picturesque.
We arrive in the modern part of the city, which is pleasant, but I do not find anything particularly special or distinctive about it.
The nice surprise comes when we enter the old part of town. It is a little trip to a world where the time sort of stopped 40 or 50 years ago. In the little squares the mammas sit outside and roll their pasta by hand, while the children play ball or play catch and some adults just sit al fresco while having a casual chat.
The narrow lanes are full of little shops selling anything from wicker baskets, to fruits and vegetables or beach toys, like they used to be in Spain when I was a child.
And then there’s the food. We have an amazing dinner at the little Osteria Plagionico Vino e Cucina, where I eat the best seafood pasta I’ve probably had so far.
Our next stop is Alberobello, a little town in the Valley d´Itria, famous for the trulli houses, which are round houses, with conical roofs built of flat stones. If we were in Norway, I would say this is where the trolls live, but there are no trolls down here, actually they are the homes or normal people.
Another town in the area is Locorotondo, which is a labyrinth of white houses and narrow lanes on top of a hill. It inevitably reminds of some towns in the South of Spain.
Our next stop is Cisternino, which was recommended by our friend Floriana, not only because it´s also a very picturesque white stony town, but also because the food is quite delicious. Meat in general rules the place, but the speciality is bombette, thin slices of meat rolled around some cheese, vegetables, mushrooms or whatever the chef´s imagination throws at you, and then roasted. We also eat some pickled aubergines, which are delicious.
Lecce is a town of surprising and superlative baroque. Some of its facades are so rich that one can get lost for hours trying to explore its twists and turns and mythical creatures. To be extra complete, the town is also equipped with some discrete Roman ruins.
The central piece of the town seems to be however the Piazza del Duomo, with a 12th Century cathedral and a collection of buildings that are covered in the soft honey colour that can only be painted by time.
But far from being a museum, the town is lively and it has a good collection of bars, cafes, restaurants and little shops that are the custodians of its heartbeat.
For me Gallipoli is a synonym of life by the sea. Just outside of the walls of the old town, the fishermen mend the fishing nets, before going back to the sea, and in the shady alleys of the town, groups of men, are sitting preparing bait. Along the sea front a generous amount of little churches stand staring at the sea, to protect their faithful fishermen.
It´s no surprise that the culinary scene is quite exciting and that there’s a good handful of restaurants that prepare all sorts of wonderful dishes that have seafood as the main character. Some of them have tables on the seafront and it´s a pleasure to have a sip and a bite while contemplating the deep blue sea. It´s Christian´s birthday during our time in Gallipoli, so we go to celebrate by having some aperitivo by the sea and then a delicious dinner at restaurant Matre.
For the rest the town is a pleasant collection of white and pastel coloured houses, gifted with a slow way of living and a quiet pace of time.