Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Italian adventures continue.

With the intention of taking a short road trip to some villages up north, my new friend and host from a few days before met me at the train station as I arrived back in Brindisi. Even though two nights in Lecce had left me with an amazing experience I had also picked up some kind of illness, and I couldn’t make our trip. Being the saint that she is, she took me to her home to feed me soup and tea while letting me rest all day to recuperate. Feeling better in the evening, and a bit stir crazy, we decided to venture out in the night for dinner at her favorite Pizzaria and wandered the streets a bit more afterwards. We spent the evening learning more about each other and laughing together about my travel adventures, both successful and not, from the past couple days. In the morning I was off to the small city of Fasano, just a short train ride north of Brindisi. 

My new host was waiting kindly to pick me up from the train station and we went back to his home where I settled in comfortably. His English is intermediate at best, but he wants so badly to learn more, and has high hopes for what he will learn in our short time together.  In the mean time our ability to communicate is quite a production. He takes his time to formulate the sentences, desiring so much to get it right the first time and begging me to correct every word so he learns the pronunciations and tenses properly. I speak to him slowly, sounding to myself as if English is in fact my second language, and pause at every transition to make sure he is still following. I often make the mistake of picking words he doesn’t know and then transform into a human thesaurus, quickly rattling off any word that could help him understand my thoughts. We usually have to reference good ol’ Google translate to finally understand one another, and other times we just sit in silence because he is too exhausted to try to communicate in English anymore. We have also discovered that after sharing a bottle of wine his English is “perfecto.”

Fasano is a small town, with really no sights to be seen, but it is centrally located between several main attractions in the south of Italy. My host’s work schedule allowed for him to kindly drive us to Alberobello for the afternoon. On the way there he hesitated before picking the route and asked me, “For which kind of road do you want to take? Panoramic or speedy?” Not entirely sure what he meant by a panoramic road, but intrigued by the idea of a good view, I asked for the panoramic route. We began to climb the hillside, zigzagging so dramatically it reminded me of Lombard Street in San Francisco, but much longer and straight up hill. We reached the top and he pulled over so we could admire the view. From there we could see all of Fasano and the surrounding areas, stretching all the way to the coast. Looking straight down there was a Zoo Safari attraction below the hillside and we could see the giraffes roaming around under the trees. 

Continuing on down the road we quickly arrived in Alberobello. The city is full of both modern buildings and the historical villas that were once where all the people in the city lived, but are now mostly just a tourist attraction and some are rented out to English tourists on holiday. The historical structures are gorgeous, the rooftops made of naturally flat stones stacked on top of each other to create the pointed dome that keeps the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Some of the villas have symbols painted on their rooftops with white paint. When I asked my new friend what it meant, all he could explain to me was that each one was different but that they were all some form of protection. We walked through the streets taking pictures of the buildings, churches, and beautiful view before returning back to his home again.

The following day I was on my own again, off to explore Monopoli and Polignano di Mare for the day. Both just a very short train ride away, I started my day in the ancient Monopoli, wandering aimlessly once again to see the Castle and large Cathedral. Monopoli is also on the coast, and provides another picture perfect sea side view which I enjoyed for a bit before continuing north on the train again. 

Polignano being such a small station, there were no visible signs from the train telling me that it was truly the Polignano stop, but I ventured off the train anyways hoping it was right, knowing that the next train wouldn’t be for several hours if I had guessed incorrectly. Relieved as I walked up from the underground tunnel to read the giant sign welcoming me to my destination, I headed towards what I assumed was the direction of all the attractions. 

When arriving in the city centre I quickly decided that I was a bit burnt out on old buildings for the day, and that instead I would have a long relaxing meal in the centre, perfect for people watching and wine tasting. While doing this I had a chance to chat with an English couple on holiday, telling me all about their trips to Italy, and sharing stories about the best places to visit. The owner took a liking to me as I sat in his restaurant and watched the people, enjoying my meal and engaging in conversation with him while he catered to every occupied table. When I was nearly finished he brought me some limoncello, the traditional liquor of Italy, which he had made himself. He was elated about how much I enjoyed his creation, so I left with a new friend after promising him over and over that I would tell all my friends about his restaurant and “like” him on facebook. This was followed up with a stroll down to the small shore under the bridge that offered a beautiful spot for swimming under the cliff sides of the historic district. It was late afternoon at this point, the sun was hidden behind clouds and the cliffs shaded the water but it was still warm as ever and perfectly relaxing. After enjoying an evening at the shore, I had to pull myself away from the view and the water to head south for a final night in Fasano. 

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