A touch of Puglia and Basilicata Italy with friends before crossing to Greece.

190809 6 Taranto

Maze of streets in old area of Taranto 

190809 7 Taranto Foreshore

Taranto lies in the Golfo Di Taranto in the region of Puglia Southern Italy.   The old town of Taranto  across the bridge from our marina berth to say the least was Italian Rustic. Many of the buildings were in a state of decay, facades held together by scaffolding - a real renovators haven. That said due to the limited development the old feel of the village area remained and it felt as though a little of history had managed to stand still. 

190809 5 Taranto

The Taranto Yacht Marina itself was relatively tiny with only shower facilities no laundry and definitely a limited number of positions to which we could tie. But the helpful friendly staff waiting to assist with our lines as we arrived, the ability to securely park a hire car and its location made up for any lack of additional services. 

The city we discovered is renown for its shellfish. Fishing boats lined the foreshore of Mare Grande and Mare Piccolo and each morning workers could be seen standing under shade structures cleaning the mussels. There were certainly no complaints from us when we ventured out for dinner and sampled the mussels tossed in a tomato sauce with fresh pasta. 

We had chosen to come to Taranto for its location to the town of Matera, a town that has been on Lee's radar to visit for several years. It also provided a relatively direct drive to rendezvous with Jim and Cathy Blackwell from Texas. Brindisi airport lay just 80km east and had direct flights from Rome. Jim and Cathy arrived on the morning of Saturday 10th August. They have met us in some out of the way airports over the last few years but we all agreed perhaps this was the most random. 

190810 9 Alberobello the Trulli Capital

Trulli Houses with their distinct domes

190810 8 Alberobello the Trulli Capital Our lunch time restaurant

Wanting to make the most of our hire car for the day we drove back via the the town of Alberobello, a Unesco Heritage site and titled the Trulli Capital. As taken from the Unesco web site

190810 7 Alberobello the Trulli Capital Rooftops

"The trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.” 

190810 11Locorotondo heading back to marina gelato stop

On top of the roofs are small symbols of different shapes that acknowledge the builder of the Trulli, a bit like an architects signature. 

The trulli buildings date back to as early as the mid 14th century and are unique to this area of southern Italy. It is said that in the 1500s  the buildings were built to be able to be dismantled so that when an audit was done of a region the ruling family could avoid paying taxes to the king by having the occupying peasants literally dismantle their homes and return them to piles of rocks. In 1797 feudal rule came to an end. With a population at that time of around 3500 people the township was named Alberobello and given the status of a royal town freeing them from the rule of the enterprising lords. 

Though incredibly touristic we did not find ourselves crowded as we wandered the streets of the Trulli houses. We discovered a restaurant tucked in the centre of the houses with views out over the Trulli roofs and welcomed shade for a respite from the heat. 

On our way back to the marina we stopped in the neighbouring town of Locorotondo for a much welcomed coffee and gelato. This town was so sleepy in comparison to Alberobello and provided a relaxing stop. Winding through the back roads to Locorotondo we passed many more Trulli constructions in all states of repair. A very pleasant way to welcome Jim and Cathy to Italy. 

190811 10 Matera town of Basilicata Cave area original settlement area of Matera

Matera - Cave dwellings 

190811 9 Matera town of Basilicata Sassi area

The township of Matera was an hours drive inland from Taranto and was our destination for Sunday 11th August. We had organised a walking tour of this unique city that was perched on the side of a deep ravine and had literally grown up upon itself. Matera is believed to be the third longest inhabited settlement with the first inhabitants taking residence some 7000 years ago in the limestone tuft caves. 

190811 14 Matera town of Basilicata Typical Sassi Home setup

The town is divided into two districts - the upper district and the sassi or cave district. In 1950 the conditions that the residents of the Sassi were living in were brought to the attention of the Italian people through a script written by Carlo Levi. At that time the people of the Sassi were living in squalor with high infant death mortality and an average age of life of around 35 years. Our guides grandmother lived in the Sassi at that time and was one of the 15000 that were forcibly rehoused outside of the Sassi in a new area of Matera. Our guide said that her grandmother although happy to be placed in fine accomodation in comparison to the cave home that she had come from felt that she had lost her community. 

190811 18 Matera town of Basilicata Palombaro Lungo cistern holes in the ceiling from which buckets were lowered for water190811 18 Matera town of Basilicata Palombaro Lungo cistern

Today with tourism Matera is certainly under major restoration and many of the old Cave dwellings are being restored and turned into accomodation. Only a small percentage are privately owned the rest belong to the government and are leased back. 

Perhaps the most impressive engineering achievement that we saw in Matera was the development of the Cisterns that were used to supply water to a population of around 30000 people at one time. 

We took a tour into the Palombaro Lungo Cistern that was dug out in the sixteenth century. It left one in awe at the audacity of the people who designed and those who physically dug out this cavern that is at points more than 15 meters high. As the cistern is dug from limestone it had to be sealed with plaster based on crumbled terracotta. In the ceiling of the cistern the holes through which buckets would be lowered to extract water could clearly be seen. 

Our guide was Italian and spoke no english so we had to rely on our English phamplet for information but in reality we were just happy to take a reprieve  in the coolness inside rather than the heat that was peaking throughout Italy outside. 

190813 6 Setting sun Katherine

Setting sun on anchor Torre De Pizzo 

190813 2 On anchor and lots of boats front and back190814 4 A first flying the Greece Courtesy flag

With the heat and the touring of Puglia and Basilicata done we moved to the familiar anchorage just south of Gallipoli off Torre De Pizzo. Here we sat for two nights enjoying the beautiful waters, the flotilla of boats that came and went each day and on our final night dinner at the restaurant on the beach at Lido Pizzo. Here the attendant could not have been more helpful or keen to ensure we enjoyed all the produce of the local region.

So ended our time in Italy, early on the morning of Wednesday 14th we crossed from Italy to Corfu Greece. Our sailing run began with no wind, built to a little wind than finished with almost too much wind. Perhaps a warning we now realise of things to come. 

Time for another language and another culture. 


(For more photos click here) 

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain