Friday, 24 June 2011

A day of exteremes - one trulli awful visit and one excellent

I had seen that rather smaltzty Italian Francesco something-or-other doing those programmes about Italy on the BBC a couple of years back ("Oh! papa. Il caffe is pronto.") One of the programmes took a look at some curious conically-roofed buildings called trulli in the south of Italy. The buildings looked rather fascinating so I decided to take a detour to Aberbello - where they are most prevalent - to have a look myself. Accordingly, I turned up in this town early one sunny morning.

The village had a clothes market on the go which gave it a certain authenticity - but as for the rest - forget it! It was one souvenir-selling trulli after another. Truly (ouch!) awful. I fancy the village might be worth a visit in early spring before the souvenir shops open up, but I was sorry I wasted my time coming.

I rode on to the next town on my itinerary - Taranto. This very old town lies in the 'arch' of the foot of Italy by (I think) the Ionian Sea. I visited the (not very large) remains of a Greek temple and then went for a walk around the old town.Whew - this was some experience. All the old stories about Italian poverty came to life here. The streets were narrow, the buildings were decrepit and discoloured; people here were really hard up. Nonetheless, there was a real buzz in the neighbourhood with people talking and calling out to each other on the street. Because of the narrowness of the thorughfares, the scooter was king here. At one point I had to dodge to the side of the street as two Carabieri on powerful motorbikes came flying through with blue lights blazing.

I had my picnic on a bench by the town's castle overlooking the gorgeous blue sea. Whilst eating, I was happily engaged watching a video-shoot being taken of a newly married couple in their wedding clobber. Very romantic. After lunch, I meandered into the castle but was immediately accosted by the three people on reception. Apparently, although entry to the castle was gratis, one had to be accompanied by a guide. When they found out I was English, they found me a guide all to myself and so I had an individual tour of the castle  for about half an hour in the company of an engaging navy officer in a very smart white unniform. Taranto has been occupied by just about every Mediterranean civilisation and there was physical evidence of this in the castle. Fascinating stuff.


  1. Yes, I remember the programme, and what a disappointment to find it so touristy now. We found the guided tour thing very popular in Germany last summer - typically in a bilingual format, in which we often felt something to be lost in the translation.

  2. I guess the thing to do is to travel when the souvenir shops can't be bothered to open - off-season, I mean, not during the nighttime!