A very early start to fit in breakfast before docking at 8. Not too bad a sleep but a bouncy crossing and it seemed that the engines were the other side of our thin walls. It seems both Jason and I fell asleep thinking how we wouldn't know the ship was sinking until the water came into our cabin! We couldn't hear any announcements and we were on the lowest floor tucked away up the back. We survived!
Breakfast was very cheap and cheerful, then we disembarked and Jason had his first taste of the chaos that is driving in Italy! We set off for Polignano a mare, just south on the coast, which turned out to be nothing much. A bit drab and crowded. We headed straight on to Alberobello, in the heart of Trulli country. Trulli are these small round stone houses painted White with a tiled conical roof looking like a pointed hat. Some have the pointed top painted white and some have white runic symbols painted on the roof. The trulli are specific to the puglia region, bit there are no explanations for how or why they were built. Alberobello is a fairly large town which has a large area of only trulli houses. One side of this area is fairly touristy with lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, panorama points (which cost money to see!) and churches. The shop proprietors tend to stand out the front and invite you in loudly an insistently. They get quite disgruntled if you have a look around and then only buy something small! It was hard to keep moving as the girls are like bees to honey with souvenirs! As am I.
Very picturesque little dwellings though. We came back down to the main road late morning and after refuelling with coffee and paninni we explored a little on the other side, which is mostly residential. This side was much nicer and more authentic. Lot of photo opps!
Back in the car we drove to Matera, said to be one of the worlds oldest towns. It's located on the sides and top of a gorge that was pockmarked with naturally occurring grottoes and caves. People began living in these and burrowing out their own caves, and now it is an incredible sight of sand coloured buildings emerging from the rock and thousands of holes/caves in the cliff face. This city has a history of extreme poverty, with the people living in unsanitary caves with no running water and plagued with malaria and other diseases. In the 1950's much of the population was forcibly evacuated into purpose built social housing built on the towns' outskirts. Half of the old town is now being renovated and rebuilt, becoming more of a tourist destination, while the other half remains living quarters racked with poverty. We found it almost eerily quiet and almost otherworldly. Jason was not keen on leaving the car! Close to where we parked we found a little cave dwelling that had been turned into a museum/display of how the cave would have traditionally looked. Fully furnished and complete with model figures of family and animals it was quite interesting. Such stale air though, with the only light and opening at the front. We searched rather unsuccessfully for the tourist information, finding instead an unmanned public WC that had some maps to take. We climbed up to the top of the town via steep and twisting paths with the wind whipping around us. A very exposed site for a town. We found our way to the deserted Piazza Duomo, then got satisfactorily lost coming back to the car. All in all a fascinating place, but a bit odd. It was only when back in the car that I remembered the Italian tradition of a long lunch where everything closes for a few hours in the early afternoon. Hopefully that explained the quietness.
Thanks to Serena we found a campsite south of us on the western coast of puglia, but to get there we had to go through Taranto, a hellishly dismal and industrial place. It was like a residential wasteland that dragged on and on, the rubbish strewn spaces dotted with stray dogs. Jason and I were almost pleased when the suggested campsite turned out not to exist, as it gave us reason to leave the area. Unfortunately it was getting very late though, and towns are few and far between in this area. After some mild confusion between the Italian and Turkish versions of Gallipoli, we decided on Lecce for the night. We ended up in a hotel due to the lateness and lack of campsites. The room is massive, almost an apartment with 2 bedrooms and a kitchenette. There are 4 stars out the front, but I don't it's been assessed for a few years! Dinner was cold cut sandwiches and yoghurt from the supermarket...mmmm!