The very different South. Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia.
It is far away. That's why I never got here before.
So I am fulfilling a dream.
We leave Camigliatello at 1,400m of altitude in the Silano mountains and Hasna's uncle and family on 29th of May after 11 ! days there ... There, where end of May we still wear all the jumpers we have. There, where at night the temps hover just around +5°C.
This is the South: In short, what we find:
Basilicata is beautiful, more like Scotland, nature left to to its own devices (in large parts). Untouched rolling yellow gorse flowered planes, and hills, streams that moulded out big trenches, and mountain and hill top villages waiting to be discovered. Calabria is a rubbish bin and an architectural disaster (in large parts). Well there is a fantastic coastline and high mountains, but stay far from any settlements. Puglia is the most interesting (in large parts), more like the north with an excellency in agricultural produces, olive oils, wines, fruits, and lots of cultural heritage.
Lago di Monte Calugno in Basilicata.
Coming from the South we enter Basilicata via the Pollino mountains, but it is raining cats and dogs. Continue. Evening falls and we camp near an artificial lake. Pasta pomodoro. Olive oil, peperoncinis, garlic, rosemary, tomatoes, salt, pepper. And - grated pecorino pepato, peppered sheep's chees.
David does not like the change after 11 days in Camigliatello and cries all night. Walking around calms him down and he sleeps for a while. So I walk around in the moonshine carrying David.
Aliano, Carlo Levi country.
Basilicata is the country so well described by Carlo Levi (wiki), legendary Italian writer, sent into confino to Aliano during Fascist dictatorship, and I regret not having read properly "Christ stopped at Eboli", when Irene gave me the book some ten years ago. But I remember bits of it, or the beginning.
Matera (wiki) receives a lot of the UNESCO moneys, and hence is in the midst of being turned into a museum/disneyland (far from what reality = extreme poverty then was).
Matera still is all worth coming. You come for the Sassi di Matera, meaning stones of Matera, houses carved out of the rock itself which housed one or more families plus all the livestock they owned. These "caves" were populated for 1000s of years up until the 50s when its still 15.000 inhabitants were forcefully relocated. Such was poverty, a real shame for any government.
The other side of the ravine, a plateau, a parking, a great view, no sunset, cloudy, another great pasta pomodoro.
Next morning is beautiful, but I am tired, David has cried again till 2. He smiles now. This is probably what kids do sometimes.
It is in Matera where we finally move from breast feeding only to adding more nutritious powdered milk. Nursing two hungry boys has become a full-time undertaking at night. They're past 4 month, getting older and stronger so fast.
And - I could not resist but edit the ugly crane away that some brainless child must have planted right on the top next to the cathedral. But does anyone care who receives UNESCO millions.
Troia (wiki) is quiet. Troia is in Puglia. It is all very quiet during lunch time. We need a rest, the boys too, I have a Peroni, another one. Hasna her usual ice cream, another one. I try to intervene.
But even at 4 the cathedral does not open its portals.
Gargano, Padre Pio.
We continue our road to Gargano peninsula (wiki), stopping by at Padre Pio's (wiki) San Giovanni Rotondo (wiki). In the South Padre Pio has been long considered a saint, long before his death in 1968 (100,000 people attended his funeral) and long before his canonisation in 2002. In the South almost every shop, restaurant, town, home has a little to massive Padre Pio statue, poster, picture post card or painting.
But San Giovanni Rotondo is ugly, 60s, 70s, 80s architecture to accommodate the masses of pilgrims, there's no limit to commercialising/pocketing on the back of the holy man. We buy a small statue and leave.
We are tired, we want to get to a coast and a beach. Finally. We want to eat some fresh pasta and fresh fish and drink some local wine in overpriced restaurants.
But first we camp and have pasta pomodoro (3rd in a row). And we have it a 4th time the next evening (and it does after all these years still get better, it's the southern ingredients that are just better/fresher).
And even David has accepted his fate, being back on the road, never cried again on this second section of our Italian journey. It's just us not being used to crying babies.
Trani and Castel del Monte and Bari.
Trani (wiki) has an interesting Norman cathedral right on the water front. I walk up the stairs, to enter, but when I walk out a different door I find I have ended up at ground floor level.
Cannot remember how I did that.
We drive on and spend the night near Castel del Monte cooking pasta pomodoro, but add 1 kilo of cozze (cooked in garlic water) and a half a kilo of gamberoni/scampi. The skin of the scampi we boil then use the fishy water to cook the pasta.
Venturing into new "pasta" territories.
Hyped up Castel del Monte (wiki) is not worth coming, unless you love busloads. It has never served any purpose. Been a ruin, been rebuilt.
Too well rebuilt, too much Disney, too many buses.
Bari (wiki) we enter on Sunday 3rd of June. Sunday is empty and dead in the South. Empty and dead dead. It seems it could be an interesting busy mid sized place.
Trulli, Alberobello ...
Alberobello (wiki) with 400 Trulli (wiki) houses and it seems there is a souvenir shop in each one of them. Well there is lots more of the white stone dwellings with their conical roofs, 1,500 or so but with definitely 400 souvenir shops. It's a world heritage site, but somehow it sucks. We leave for Locorotondo.
Also Trulli, but the following misty morning I find something else. A quiet centro storico shining in soft light. (wiki)
Via Brindisi (wiki), to Lecce (wiki) and Lecce we like, university town in the very South and southern pizza the way it should be. And duomos and cathedrals and basilicas and churches in abundance in their own southern baroque style.
Evening at the coast. Sunset colours, just before it starts raining. We prepare Spaghetti frutti di mare. Cozze, large gamberoni, calamare. All fresh for 6 euro 50. We are talking 2 kilos of cozze, a half a kilo of scampis, 2 calamare. With a bit of spice. How much better can it get? You cannot find that in the restaurants.
we missed out on Taranto.
Next morning it rains heavily and we go round the most southern tip of Puglia. Later we stop in Gallipoli (wiki) for lunch. Soon after more pouring.
When we get to Taranto (wiki) we are tired, the busy traffic jammed town suddenly is full of bright sunshine colours, one old town, another one across the bridge, a big harbour. We want to stop, but somehow we feel too tired to search a secure parking, unpack the boys ...
I feel sorry, Taranto seems good. I like big cities.
After two days on a camping in Lido di Metaponto, this is back in Basilicata, Hasna does the laundry, I have my first swim after 6 weeks in Italy, and we have - 2 more Pasta pomodoro (number 6 and 7 ?, I stopped counting), we arrive back in Camigliatello.
Abdelkadre and Allessandra are too happy to see us back.
And they are too sad when we leave them for good 3 days afterwards on the 11th of June.
Reggio di Calabria/Messina.
Reggio di Calabria (wiki), Messina (wiki), twin cities, both wiped off the earth's surface in a devastating earthquake, 1909. (We do not stop in either for long). But I am reading RJB Bosworth's Mussolini's Italy (NY Times), and - I liked the story of the postman who despite the loss of all his family walked far to telegraph his authorities, submitted the message about the disaster. And all he gets for heroically doing his duty is trouble. But this is Italy before fascism, - which was not much better then fascism, - the world then it seems still had so much to learn.
Calabria in general was not inspiring. We leave mainland Italy on 12th of June for Sicily.
Turn the page. If you are not too bored by now.