As we were driving into Gallipoli again, Mr. H made it clear that he needs to follow a so called tradition by now, where they, Chris became part of this, have to have a dip in the water. They managed to do it although I was happily wearing a jacket, and the water was freezing cold. And to celebrate another Mr. Bean episode, they flashed both construction workers nearby and each other while changing back into their clothes.
After a few days in Otranto and in Salve, Gallipoli seemed like a huge city. The little Gallipoli Island is clearly a tourist spot, but probably the one thing that completely stands out in my memory about the place, is the religious traditions they hold around Easter. We spent Good Friday here and the preparations for it were impressive. As evening approached, we could see Christian brotherhoods rigorously organizing processions inspired by the activities of the Jesuits missionaries, meant to depict the struggle of Jesus Christ against the human sins. It was memorable to stay by the edge of the water, and watch one group after another, each one dressed differently and beating the drums, creating the sound of a giant beating heart.
One incredibly odd tradition during the Holy Week is the hanging of a witch from a rope between buildings. It is extremely eerie to walk around in the evening and catch the sight of one on a side street.
There were no mementos purchased here but we visited one beautiful pharmacy, ‘Provenzano’ built in 1814. A memorable place where they still have a working pharmacy now, with a lot of the old medicine bottles or jugs, beautifully decorated and painted.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at home for once, with lots of goodies bought around everywhere. It is here, where we discovered lupini beans for the first time. We also had a very nice lunch at ‘Il Giardino Segreto‘.
Near Castellana, Bari
We ended the trip with the last two days near Castellana, Bari at the Masseria Serragambetta. This place checks of so many points for the ideal vacation spot. It is family owned and they make you feel like you should come back soon, really really soon. There is a clear feeling that their hospitality is a second nature to them and it is not just a job. They enjoy making you feel like you chose well stopping here. Their produce and food, are locally sourced or made on site as much as possible. The host, Domenico will have you dance one evening and send you off sightseeing the next morning. We had a glorious walk around the Masseria, looking at the various olive, almonds and mandarin trees and we spent our last day, Easter Day at their place. The preparations were fit for a great celebration and the dining room was fully occupied, with tourists and with local people. I lost count of the number of courses but I clearly remember we would take breaks in between them to walk around and try to make more room for the rest of the feast. The Sunday evening we were due to fly to Bucharest and Mr. H and Mrs. G drove us to the airport in Bari, but not without first having Domenico take us to a nearby small town to have a farewell gelato. It was a comical ending to the trip as we were illegally parking, and storming through a busy Easter-Sunday crowd, to get this last taste of gelato.
Other Trip Highlights
Olive Oil Tasting at Terra Nostra
On the way to Galipoli, we had the fortune of a guided tour of the Terra Nostra olive oil factory. We ended there as a result of your regular sequence of events: go have a coffee in a small place, start a random conversation with a stranger, stranger sees we are tourists and one thing leads to another, we are following her car to an olive oil heaven. The Terra Nostra tour guide was so patient to explain every step alongside a delicious tasting of the oils. We, of course, left with a few bottles.
Macelleria Da Antonio
Oh bless the randomness of it all. We were driving towards Bari, our last destination, when Mr. H got all excited that we need to stop the car and take a photo. Mrs. G stopped in front of the Macelleria Da Antonio, a seemingly simple act. This resulted in a tasting in the store of various local cheeses and sausages, meeting the Antonio’s family, including his beautiful wife, a very lovely and friendly daughter and a very popular son freshly riding a wave of popularity post his Big Brother Italy stint, an invitation to lunch to at their home and a visit to their farm to pat their donkeys.
A tourist spot now, for its incredible architecture, Alberobello makes you believe in fairy tales. The architecture of the trulli houses is fully functional and they had very specific design purpose but there is something magical about the look of this small village.
I write all these posts now, months after all the travels and I realize how much wealth they brought to my life. By some standards, I was a late bloomer as a traveler. I left Romania for the first time when I was 20, and that was to move to Canada. So maybe over time my curiosity grew and now when I have the chance to visit a new place I savour it. It helps I have the perfect partner for this, who is just as keen and as happy to discover new places. This trip had everything: excellent guides starting with our beautiful friends Mr. H and Mrs. G, traditions, history, nature, food, colour, and hospitality. At the end of the trip we have gained not only 3-4 kgs each but a sense that we would happily come back to many of the places we have seen, as if a door was open and left like that for us to re-enter.