Night location: Polignano a Mare, Italy
A few months ago we were notified that our flight to Istanbul that was originally scheduled for today was going to be pushed back until tomorrow. We were disappointed as it meant one less day in Turkey and that we would miss catching up with Tennille and Robby, however we now had a bonus day to spend in Italy so we chose to stay in the famed seaside town of Polignano a Mare. What a great decision!
To leave Matera, our car was unexpectedly driven from the parking garage to the very front of our hotel in the Sassi. This meant that we now had to navigate our way out of the old town avoiding pedestrians, trucks that were being unloaded, cyclists and all manner of other hazards. Both Carlo and David were up to the challenge however and we made it out of the town relatively easily. We then drove back towards the Adriatic coast in the east and Apple maps only sent us down a path for tractors once, so that was a bonus.
Our first destination after checking in early to our hotel was the spectacular Lama Monachile, a narrow strip of rocky beach that is wedged between soaring cliffs and the ring of buildings that circumnavigate the old town district. The ancient ravine can be viewed from a tall bridge which was built to replace the ancient Roman one that can still be seen behind it. We swam in the crystal clear warm water and lounged in the sun until our hearts were content.
From here we walked through the picturesque old town alleyways, many of which led to balconies that overlooked the emerald and sapphire coastline. We enjoyed a simple but delicious lunch in the main square before being picked up from our hotel and transferred to the sleepy fishing port of San Vito. This bay is overlooked by the impressive abbey that was founded in the 10th century by Benedictine monks. We journeyed up the coast and went in and out of the numerous sea caves.
The absolute highlight of the trip was a stop outside the fancy pants cave restaurant that is frequented by the very rich and famous. Attached to an exclusive hotel, diners eat while enjoying the experience of being in a grotte just above the sea. Our boat pulled in to what we now suspect was a restricted area, and we swam a loop of the cave which was truly phenomenal. David was grateful for his pink pool noodle that kept him afloat while Amber marvelled at the spectacular bright aqua water and dove deep without coming close to the bottom.
To conclude our perfect Italian day we enjoyed the best meal of the trip so far in a restaurant just inside the old city gates. The Puglian region has been so different to any other part of Italy that we have visited, and even within this area the towns and landscapes have been incredibly diverse. It seems as though our love affair with Italy has only continued to grow with this holiday.