September 30, 2023 Catania IT

Today we used the morning to shift about 120 kilometers to Catania. Catania is the 2nd largest city in Sicily, but is the economic hub of the island. It was founded by the Greeks around the 8th century BC, but like much of Sicily it has had many rulers. We are going to be using it for a base for the next few days while we visit the surrounding region.

The main square of the city with the Cathedral in the background, and the black elephant fountain column in the center of the square.

It is famous for a fountain with a black elephant on it. The Black Elephant was carved in Roman times from a single block of lava from Mt. Etna. It has been placed in its current location in the mid 1700’s as part of a fountain in front of the cathedral. Having an elephant as a prominent landmark already stood Catania in Tons good graces.

The main street leading towards the square. It was very busy on a Saturday afternoon.

Catania has a reputation of being a little rough around the edges and some of reading on the internet talked about buildings being covered with graffiti and the streets being dirty. So we were surprised that in the areas we walked around and we saw from the bus ride there was very little graffiti and the streets were fairly clean.

Some of the worst graffiti we saw downtown, and this is not bad at all. Some places would call this street art.

Our first impression was of a prosperous and vigorous city with a real positive vibe. We enjoyed walking around and looking at the crowds out seeing the sites on a Saturday. The people were mostly Italian, with a healthy mix of foreign tourists mixed in.

The crowds were not overwhelming but the area was busy.

We messed up a little by having a late light lunch before we left François, so we were not hungry when we arrived downtown. By the time we were hungry lunch was over and most of the restaurants were closing down. The restaurants generally close from about 3pm to 7 pm, there were a few places still open but none of them appealed to us.

A nice street of restaurants that were closing down when we arrived looking for some food.

Since we couldn’t eat, we decided to go look at an area that is devoted mostly to religious institutions and is considered to be one of the most beautiful streets in Catania. Via Crociferi includes the second largest monastery in Europe, and several churches. It was pretty quiet compared to the area around the cathedral. But the buildings were beautiful, and we enjoyed the walk. Someone has done a good job of putting explanations about the buildings in both Italian and English so we took our time reading the histories of the various buildings as we strolled along.

One end of Via Crociferi, near the monastery.

At this point we decided to head back to the campground. It was around 4:30 when I told google maps to get us back home. We walked to the bus stop guided by maps, and there were a group of Italians waiting there. There was a sign that told you when your bus was going to arrive. One of the options google gave us was due to arrive in 17 minutes. It counted down to 7 minutes and then the time to arrival went blank. After a while we noticed a bunch of googling going on among the Italians and after some discussion among themselves the crowd at the bus stop began to disperse. We were kind of confused. Finally, a gentleman from the crowd came over and spoke a burst of Italian into his phone and held it out to me. In English it said that this bus stop was not served after 5pm and we need to move to another bus stop on a different road. He asked where we going and when I told him he said that was the same bus he was taking. He then proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes with us walking to the next bus stop, getting on one bus, and then transferring to our final bus. The whole time he was going out of his way to help us he was apologizing because he an Italian in Italy could not speak English. I told him that since this was Italy, it was our fault for not speaking Italian, but he waived his hand dismissively at this thought.

A nice view towards the waterfront in Catania.

Once again Italian busses confounded us with there mysterious schedules, but also, once again Italians came to the rescue to make sure we were not left in a lurch. This willingness to help strangers is one of the things that has really struck both Ton and me about traveling in Italy, it is really special.

When we walked by later in the day trying to find our bus stop the wedding party was out in front.

Catania is a beautiful city with a very lively center that we both enjoyed a great deal. Our only regret is we mis-timed our meals so we did not experience the local food. But, we have many days to make up for that mistake.

September 29, 2023 Torerotta IT

Today we finished our drive to Sicily. We decided to get an early start on the drive as we had 300 kilometers to cover today. The drive south was very easy and we made good time. We arrived at the ferry terminal about 12:30. As we were entering the ferry terminal I saw a sign that said ferries to Messina and pulled in there. I was immediately directed to a spot in a staging area, and told by the guy to go in and buy my ticket in the office. Things were going exceptionally efficiently, so I was nervous.

François is the very first RV near the front.

We were loaded and underway about 30 minutes after we arrived so again things were going great. We had taken the ferry the other way from downtown Messina in 2019 and I remember the trip was very quick, maybe 20 minutes. Right after we were underway I noticed we were not going directly across but heading south. It turns out we had boarded a ferry that went to a secondary terminal south of downtown Messina. Instead of taking 20 minutes it took 45 minutes. But, it was a nice day for a boat ride and when we arrived we were on the freeway within 1km without dealing with the traffic in the center of Messina.

Pulling into port after our slightly longer ferry ride to south of Messina.

We had booked ourselves into an agritourismo near Messina which was highly rated on park4night our go to app for finding places to stay. I had been corresponding with the owner since yesterday. In Europe I only use GPS coordinates to route ourselves. Addresses are frequently not in Greta Garmin’s data base, so the best thing is to use GPS coordinates, but they have to be manually entered in Greta. We were going along happily when we came to a toll booth. I saw a sign for credit cards and pulled into that one. The machine asked for a ticket (it actually asked for a biglietto) which we didn’t have, so I stuck a credit card in, and the gate went up. But we had unknowingly picked the toll booth for the exit ramp, so we were into a small town before we knew it. The next 2.5 km’s included a lot of narrow road driving that frequently had Ton wincing as we just cleared vehicles with 5 or 6 inches to spare. We finally got back on the freeway, and were driving merrily along when I happened to notice that the purple line that marked our route was heading out to sea. I pulled into a gas station and while we were filling up I checked the GPS coordinates I had put in and one of the digits was wrong so Greta was directing us to a point about 4 or 5 miles into the Mediterranean. I usually double check my entries but must have forgot to last night as one misplaced number can have you trying to navigate in the sea. I corrected the error and we ended back in the same little town we had squeezed thru before, but this time it was our destination.

Ton loves tomatoes and after we checked in they told us to pick all we wanted. We now have a lot of tomatoes in François.

Agritourismos in Italy are farms that allow people to camp or stay on site. They range from very posh to pretty rustic. This one is pretty urban and high tech, but we are parked in a field of tomatoes and mango trees and we were told to help ourselves. We also have the place to ourselves with a nice private bathroom. Right after we arrived Ton was out picking tomatoes with abandon, and I found three mangos. We had both for dinner and they are good.

September 28, 2023 Salicetti IT

We have left Puglia and are now heading to Sicily. The drive from Gallipoli to Messina was a bit much for one day so I picked a point about half way which is Salicetti. We are in a beach front campground filled almost exclusively with German snow birds. The drive was easy, mostly on freeways. We made good time and thought we would get in and set up early, but we were stymied by the Italian siesta. We arrived at 2:30 and the gate to the campground was closed with a sign saying they would open at 4pm. So we pulled to the side and settled in for our own siesta. One advantage of having your house with you is you can relax while you are waiting for something to open up.

Throughout Puglia we have kept coming across these dolls of stout women, this one is an exception because it includes a man.

Ton has been intrigued with porcelain dolls of women dressed in traditional clothes, but the catch is they are all stout. We discovered the are called La Massaia del Salento, but all of the explanations we have discovered on the internet are in Italian, so we are not quite sure what the meaning of the dolls is.

Some more examples of La Massaia del Salento.

We are going to continue to try to discover the story, but for now they are still a cute mystery to us.

One last batch of La Massaia del Salento.

Today was a pretty quiet day, but yesterday we were treated to a nice sunset, today the sun set on the other side of the peninsula from our beach, but instead we were treated to a nice moon rise.

The moon rising over the ocean at our campground tonight. We were going to go to the beach to get a prettier picture, but the mosquitos drove us back to François.

September 27, 2023 Gallipoli IT

Today we caused a bit of an international uproar in the town of Gallipoli. Gallipoli is an old city that was originally built on an island just off the mainland. Today it is connected to the modern part of the city that grew up in the 20th century on the mainland by a causeway, but the old city has maintained its old feeling and is a charming place.

The causeway on the left connects the old fortified city with the modern city that grew up in the 20th century.

We decided to time our visit for lunch as Ton had read about a seafood soup that was supposed to be delicious. There was a place that served it near the fish market so that was our first stop of the day.

The menu for the restaurant today.

The restaurant we chose did not have a menu instead there was a table in the center where you went and selected from what was fresh caught that day. It had a large selection of fish that you could pick from. We told the guy fish soup and he took my name and told us to find a table. It was an interesting way to do things. We sat down and a couple of white wines showed up which were part of the meal, and then a few minutes later the fish soup showed up.

Our fish soup for two. A whole fish, 4 or 5 nice prawns, 4 or 5 small octopus, and some of the local mussels.

We were duly impressed with the meal presented and it more than met our expectations for freshness and size. It showed up with a large spoon for ladling out the fish that you can see at the top of todays blog, but when we opened up our silverware packs there were no individual spoons. So we flagged down a waiter and asked for a spoon he said Si, and set off to the kitchen. Meanwhile I had tasted the broth and thought it could use some seasoning, so when a different waiter came by I asked for a lemon. He said Lemon? , and just to make sure he understood I pointed to a big basket of lemons by the fish display. This set off a loud and indignant burst of Italian directed at me, the only thing I could understand was the occasional Lemon said with disgust, he did not appreciate my attempt to alter the taste of their soup base. All of the tables around us were kind of taken aback by his reaction, (particularly because squeezing lemons on fish is very common throughout the mediterranean.) but I found it amusing and Ton was too busy tucking into her soup to be bothered. Seeing our reaction everyone else started smiling too. He finally left and we did not get our lemons. He then returned and told us we had our spoon pointing at the big serving spoon in the middle of the fish. I was not sure if this was revenge for asking for lemon or some other problem. At this point we decided to just go with the flow so Ton used the giant spoon for tasting the broth and I dipped the bread that came in the soup to get my broth, which might have been the point he did not bother to explain. Anyway we made a dining faux pas which caused a bit of an international incident, but it was actually funny as his reaction was almost out of a movie and certainly a bit dramatic. I was also thinking about asking for some Tabasco, but I suspect he would have had a stroke. So Ton took one of the red peppers from the plant which was the center piece on our table and secretly added it to the soup.

While the fish soup was a little bland for my taste, the ingredients were fresh and we did enjoy it as you can see from the picture. You can see the little pepper plant that Ton used to add some spice to the soup.

We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying a stroll around the island. It is surrounded by a sea wall on sides so we walked along the wall to get our bearings.

The sea wall facing the gulf of Taranto. The beach was still pretty busy as the temperatures were in the low 80’s.

Then we dived into the center to walk down the street with all of the shops. The nice thing is except for the street that runs next to the seawall there is no car traffic on the rest of the island, except for one miniature garbage truck that was making the rounds of the streets collecting the locals garbage bags.

The main street thru the center of Gallipoli.

This region was also famous for underground Olive Oil presses. As we were walking down the street in town we saw a sign for one and took a look. About 2o feet below street level there was a large mill for pressing the olives. The cave included a mill, a stable for a horse or donkey to pull the mill, storage for olives, and a fresh water source. It was kind of interesting to see, though none of the ones on the island are still being used.

The olive oil cave under the streets of Gallipoli.

We headed back to the campground, and noticed there was a large grocery store only a couple of hundred of meters away. We have been looking for two things for the last week, windshield washer fluid, and paper cone filters for our pour over coffee. The paper cone filter situation was getting critical as we were down to our last three, and we have been looking since we arrived in Italy. The Italians consume coffee very differently than we do and we were beginning to wonder if the paper filters were not for sale here. Ton began walking around the grocery looking for alternative devices we could use but we did not come up with anything. I did find what appeared to be washer fluid, and went to confirm it with an employee by doing a pantomime of windshield wipers moving back of forth and making spraying sounds, he looked at me flapping my arms and making spraying sounds with amusement and said in excellent English, yes the water to clean the window of the car. We noticed an appliance store next to the grocery and went in there, and found paper filters next to a new Mr. Coffee machine on sale. They are not quite perfect and were a bit expensive, but they will work and our coffee crisis is over.

Our dual quests for coffee filters and windshield wiper fluid completed we were rewarded with a wonderful sunset on our walk back to the campground.

September 26, 2023 Otranto IT

We have been using the Road Trips Italy book published by DK books to help guide us. It has been in François since our first visit to Italy. It had a small mention of the city of Otranto as one of its stops, and since we were only about 40 kilometers from Otranto we decided to head there before moving on to our planned stop for the day in Gallipoli.

Looking back at the old city walls from the pleasure boat marina.

From the description we did not expect much of Otranto, maybe a small fishing village with a cute waterfront. So we were pleasantly surprised with what we actually found there. It turns out Otranto has a very nice old town dominated by a castle built when it was part of Aragon in Spain. The fort is very impressive and well preserved. We did not tour the interior because we have turned into castle snobs and will not pay an entrance fee for just any castle. But we did enjoy walking along the walls.

One of the entrances to the castle with a modern stair case.

The old town had lots of shops and restaurants and was fairly bustling with a mixture of tourists, but here it was mostly foreign tourists, not Italian. We were hustling thru town because when we arrived I did not expect the town to be this interesting and I had only put 2 hours on the meter in the parking lot. Also, we were on the edge of a thunderstorm and it was raining a bit.

Looking down on the town from the castle walls.

About 20 minutes into exploring Otranto I told Ton that I was enjoying myself more here than I did in Lecce. She agreed, Lecce is a far more important city both in the past and today, but it did not connect with us the way the little backwater town of Otranto did.

One of the streets in the old town. We really enjoyed wandering around in Otranto.

Our two hours were nearly up so we had to hustle back to François. We stopped at one more interesting art piece near the port. It is a monument to displaced persons commissioned by the town in the early 2000’s. In the 1980’s an Albanian naval patrol boat with about 100 people on board was trying to defect to Italy. Before it could safely reach Italy it was sunk, and over 80 people died. The boat was salvaged and brought to Otranto where the town commissioned a Greek artist to make it into a monument to refugees. It is a very interesting work that we both enjoyed.

The salvaged hull of an Albania patrol boat sunk while trying to defect to Italy during the communist era. The glass represents the sea. It is a memorial to refugees, and seems appropriate given the current times.

We were pleasantly surprised that our 60 kilometer drive to Gallipoli was almost entirely on freeways. We arrived at the Agritourismo which is a campground on a farm earlier than planned, but almost immediately decided to stay 2 days instead of the one planned because we liked the vibe of the place.

The front of the agritourismo is a cactus garden which Ton loves.

We were planning to go into town today, but there was a big thunderstorm brewing off in the distance so we decided to wait until tomorrow. Of course the storm blew out to sea without touching us or the town. But we did get a nice sunset from the campground to reward us for our caution.

Sunset from the campground.

September 25, Torre dell’Orso IT

Even though we have been following the coast of the Adriatic we had not been down to the ocean so we decided to fix that today. Our campground is about 2 km from the beach and Luigi will shuttle you down there, so we planned to go down there after siesta today.

The coast at Torre dell’Orro

But the morning priorities were saying goodbye to all of our new friends at the campground from both Italy and Switzerland. No one was in a big hurry to leave and so everyone kept finding excuses to strike up one more conversation. Finally about 11 am the last person rolled out and Ton and I had the campground to ourself with Luigi. As I am writing this no one else has checked in, so we have the place to ourself.

This sign says that this is a mandatory kiss point. Ton reluctantly obliged me.

The other priority was getting laundry done. We knocked it out quickly as we had all of the facilities to ourself and it was perfect clothes drying weather with a strong sun and a brisk wind.

The beaches here are often private. You were supposed to pay an entry fee to use this portion of the beach, but this offended our Oregon sensibilities where all beaches are public property, so we just walked on in.

We headed down to the town about 4 pm and the tourist season is definitely over here. Most of the beach resorts and all of the other campgrounds had closed up for the season. There were a few people around and the beaches had a light crowd so it wasn’t desolate, but it was very quiet.

There were a few people on the beaches, but the town was extremely quiet.

One of the things we have adjusted to over the years is how on and then off tourism is in Europe. The places are mobbed for the summer, then almost no one comes during the fall and winter. As a result when traveling in the shoulder season we have to pay particular to whether the campground we are planning to use is open year round as most are not. By November only around 25% of the campgrounds are still open even in places with warm weather.

The two sisters rocks. It is much more beautiful in Italian.

The beach is famous for the Two Sisters Rocks or Le Due Sorell in Italian. It is a rock formation with two nearly identical rocks with a sheer narrow channel between them. The ancient story was that two sisters climbed on top of the rock, and one of them dived in, but was immediately in trouble because of the rough seas. She cried out for help and her sister dived in to help her but they both drowned. The gods were moved by the story so they cut the rock in half to honor the two sisters.

Another view of the two sisters.

After a quick turn thru town we headed back to the quiet campground hoping that someone else had showed up, but unfortunately we are the only guests. So it should be a quiet night for sleeping.

Tons wonderful pasta, with the Primitivo wine which was included as part of the price for the first campground.

September 24, 2023 Lecce IT

Lecce is another 2000 year old city with a history going back to the Trojan war. Today it is the second largest city in the area and a major tourist attraction. After our late night we were a little slow getting going. But finally we packed up and headed in late morning.

One of the major attractions in Lecce is the Church of Santa Croce.

We found a place to park François and walked to the Duomo which was initially built in the 1150’s and rebuilt in the 1600’s. It was a nice building, and like a lot of the buildings it had a very Rococo facade. Rococo is a style that was popular in the late Renaissance characterized by very intricate and elaborate forms. Lecce is famous for its Rococo buildings.

A smaller Rococo church in Lecce.

I am not a big fan of Rococo as it seems a little busy to me. But the skill of the artists and tradesmen responsible for the construction is very impressive.

The detail and the intricacies of the stone carving is really impressive.

Lecce was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, and while there are not a lot of Roman ruins on display there is a very impressive amphitheater below ground level today. It was built in the 2nd century and could seat 25,000 people. It was covered by newer buildings over time which is why it appears to be below ground level now. A large section has been uncovered right in the heart of the city, and a smaller section is visible a hundred yards or so away to give a sense of the size of the original building. It is still used occasionally for special events and religious services.

Part of the 2nd century BC Roman amphitheater in the center of Lecce.

Having spent a couple of hours walking around Lecce we decided to have a coffee and settled on a cafe on the edge of the tourist zone. As we have traveled around Europe we have noticed a fascination with the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Every where we go there seems to be pictures of her in the more artistic districts of cities. We picked this cafe because it had a picture of her, the coffee was good as was the people watching.

Frida Kahlo seems to have a fascination over here that we do not have in the US.

After our coffee we decided to head back to the campground before the crowds got too big. We headed back to the train station parking lot where we had parked François and paid the €3 to bail him out.

These matching balconies were on an old home on a back ally on the walk back to the train station.

Ton’s second favorite thing is to go to grocery stores. As we were driving back we passed one and stopped. Ton was in heaven looking at all of the different fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and cuts of meat. She loves Italy because they have an incredible variety of fresh pasta on sale. We had spent about 40 minutes just poking around when a security guard came by and pantomimed that the store was closing. At this point we were only about 1/2 way thru, so Ton has something else to look forward to.

These are a type of cucumber that Ton has recently discovered. She loves them and they are widely available here.

We headed back to the campground to relax and prepare for another one of Luigi’s family meals.

In Europe you often see locks attached to bridges. Lecce doesn’t have a river, so no bridge, so the local lovers have improvised this place by the Roman amphitheater to express their eternal love.

September 23, 2023 Torre dell’Orso IT

I try to post every day but sometimes life gets in the way. It unexpectedly did yesterday. Yesterday we needed to get some shopping in and shift south about 150 kilometers to Lecce. We were up early and got on the road with a plan to stop at a grocery when we saw one. Well about 40 kilometers from Lecce on the freeway we still hadn’t seen a grocery so we stopped and asked Greta for her advice. She said there was a Lidl 6 km’s away as the crow flies so we told her to take us there. 15 km’s of driving later we arrived at a very busy Lidl. Shopping done we continued south.

I had picked out a campsite that was very well reviewed on Park4night our favorite camping app. We arrived about 1 pm and the owner Luigi guided us into our spot. He then gave us a tour of the place in Italian which we understood a bit of, and ended at the bar where he gave us a taste of his homemade wine. While we were tasting our wine a Bulgarian couple came by and gave Luigi a hug and kisses as they were departing, we thought that was interesting, but later we would understand why. While we were sitting and trying the wine he pantomimed if we had had lunch yet. When we said no, he insisted we join him for lunch because we were family. What a welcome!

Our welcome lunch at the campground.

Throughout lunch Luigi continued to converse with us in Italian and occasionally German, while Ton and I tried to latch onto words we knew to follow what was going on. At the end of lunch Luigi told us he was going to have a family dinner and we should plan on attending, but we weren’t sure we understood correctly as it seemed too good to be true. He then also announced it was time for a nap and headed into his house.

We spent the afternoon relaxing, and during one of my walkabouts I struck up a conversation with our Swiss neighbors and they confirmed Luigi was hosting dinner around 8pm. Then about 7 pm the Swiss came by and announced dinner was ready, but Luigi says to bring your own plates, silverware, and glasses because he is not running a restaurant.

The starter course for dinner.

We were joined at dinner by the Swiss couple, a French couple, and an Italian couple plus Luigi and a friend. Only the Swiss could speak more than one language so they ended up being the translators for what was a wonderful multi-lingual dinner of mussels and grilled fish with lots of wine.

Conversing in four languages.

Just as we thought the evening was breaking up, Luigi brought out his guitar and we spent another hour listening to him play and trying to sing along. Luigi is a very good guitar player. Ton and I bailed out when two other Italian couples turned up from town and it looked like a lot more wine was going to be consumed. We need to be fit enough to go into Lecce tomorrow.


I think of Puglia as the heel of the boot of Italy, but it extends much further north than the heel. It is the southern most part of Italy on the Adriatic Sea and has a couple of hundred miles of coast line. It has some really beautiful cities that are attracting a lot of attention from tourists. Puglia continues to reinforce my slight preference for southern Italy over northern Italy. The people are fantastic and the food is incredible, who can ask for anything more.

September 22, 2023 Alberobello IT

Today we shifted about 60 kilometers to a city in the mountains called Alberobello. It is famous for a style of home called Trulli. It is very much on the tourist list. We were a little apprehensive because some of the blogs Ton uses to prepare for visits warned that this was one of the densest places for tourists in Italy, rivaling Rome for crowds.

We got a preview of the Trulli architecture on the drive over from the coast on a narrow mountain road.

The Trulli homes got their start in the 16th century because the Duke who ran the area wanted to avoid taxes so he decreed that the homes of peasants be built of stone without mortar so that when the Kings tax assessor came around the buildings could be taken apart, reducing his taxes. This went on for a couple of hundred years until the peasants finally appealed to the church to end the practice. This method of construction was also used for storage buildings and field shelters.

The symbols on these homes are “magic symbols” meant to ward off demons or bring good luck to the inhabitants.

The biggest collection of these homes are in Alberobello, and since it had a nice Sosta (Italian Aire) right in the middle of town we headed there for the day. I had a feeling that getting into the Sosta might be a little tricky, and since we have not had a simple day on this trip, I figured that we were in for a little adventure. The drive up the mountain was on narrow and rough roads, but we really had no issues. When we got to Alberobello Greta the Garmin routed us right thru the city center. It was tight but again we didn’t run into any trouble, until I came to a Y in the road and had to make a quick decision whether to take the left Y or the right Y. I picked the right one and I was wrong. Greta reprogrammed us and told us basically to go around the block. When we were only a couple of hundred yards from the Sosta we ran into a bridge marked 3 meters. I stopped up short and took a look at it, François is 2.9 meters tall. I had Ton get out and take a look and she wasn’t sure, so she had me get out and take a look. Fortunately the road was not very busy, and the people who came along seemed to understand our predicament and maneuvered around us without any comment. We finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk, and I backed into a road behind us while Ton held up traffic like a good Italian wife, we then found another way into the Sosta.

The bridge that stymied our progress. We were able to turn around by backing into a road by the stairs. Looking at the center it looks like it has been hit more than a few times.

After our minor adventure, we settled into the Sosta and had a quick lunch. It was then time to brave the crowds in town to take in the Trulli homes. There are two major clusters of the homes on adjacent hills. One is the main tourist attraction and has over 4o0 of the buildings. Many of them have now been converted into tourist shops and restaurants.

A Trulli converted into an Air BnB.

We were pleasantly surprised that the crowds were manageable. Ton really enjoyed herself taking photos and a lot of the Trulli are really nicely decorated on the outside.

While it was busy, the crowds were not overwhelming.

We strolled up the hill to a church that was built in the Trulli style. It was interesting though once inside it felt like any other church.

The Trulli style church.

The other cluster of Trulli buildings is on a hill adjacent to the main group. It has about 200 structures, the difference is that these Trulli cannot be converted to commercial uses but must be maintained as homes. While they are “homes”, it looks like the majority are being used as vacation rentals.

A Trulli still being used as a residence.

It was much quieter on this side of town and we enjoyed walking among the buildings. They really are interesting to look at and quite unlike anything we have seen anywhere else.

That’s Amore.

Our final stop of the day was the conventional cathedral in the new part of town. It is a small but nice cathedral. Ton really admired the modern version of the stations of the cross which reminded her of religious art we had seen in a church in Romania. We also enjoyed it because it had good air conditioning and it was about 90 degrees outside. We lingered inside for awhile admiring the art and enjoying the AC before deciding to head back to François to honor the Italian siesta.

We think this is the Trulli called the Siamese twin. It is two buildings that are mirror images of each other with a common wall.

After a nice siesta we headed back into town to take a look at the Trulli at night. When we were at the cathedral we noticed they were setting up decorations for a festival. When we went by some of the decorations were lit up.

The Cathedral lit up for an upcoming festival.

It had cooled off substantially and the crowds were thinned out, because all of the bus tours had cleared off. We found a new road of Trulli to explore and Ton again enjoyed taking lots of pictures.

This restaurant was really well decorated, but surprisingly almost completely empty despite the Michelin rating from 2018.

We spent a couple of hours again looking around and in addition to taking in the interesting architecture, we enjoyed watching the people. It was a nice evening stroll.

This shop was really well decorated and Ton liked the cactus above the door. She is a cactus person.

So far the two towns we have visited in Puglia have not disappointed, in fact they have outperformed our expectations. We are looking forward to seeing the rest of the region and finding some Primitivo wine to try.

September 21, 2023 Ostuni IT

Nine days into the trip we had our first day as tourists. Ostuni is a beautiful hilltop town about 8km’s from our campground. The campground we are staying in is across the street from the bus stop to town and the cost is €1 and it only takes 15 minutes so we joined about 5 other couples from the campground on the 10 am bus. Unfortunately our ride back to the campground was not as smooth.

Our first stop for the day was the central square with the required statue of a Pope or Bishop in the middle of it. The square was pretty and surprisingly bustling for late September.

It was a short walk to the main square for the town. The square was as typical full of restaurants serving meals, coffees and various alcoholic drinks. It was going to be a warm day so they were already doing a booming business. The town was surprisingly busy already with a mixture of Italian, and foreign tourists. At the beginning of the day the tourists were mostly Italian, by the middle of the day they were mostly American, and by the end of the day they were mostly Italian again, as the Americans we presumed had returned to their ships.

The early mostly Italian crowd in the main square.

Ostuni is a typical hilltop walled town built far enough from the sea to be able to see the pirates and barbarians coming, but close enough to benefit from access to the sea. It is well preserved, and they have painted most of the town white which really adds to the beauty. We took a stroll thru a bunch of the back alleys scouting a restaurant for lunch and taking in the views. It is a very photogenic town and Ton was very happy, stopping every minute or two for a picture.

A beautiful apartment with a great view.

We spent about an hour and a half walking up and down staircases/roads, and Ostuni was a great town to get us back into enjoying being tourists. It was big enough to have a lot to see, but you could walk thru it in a couple of hours. We really enjoyed ourselves.

One of the many “roads” in Ostuni that consisted of stairs. The layout was very pedestrian friendly.

About noon we were looking for a beverage break and a snack as it was still too early for an Italian lunch. We found a little cafe that had been in business since 1950, and settled in for a couple of waters and a small local cake called Pasticcotti. We bought one as an experiment and as soon as we bit into it we wished we had bought more. It was like a really nice donut with a wonderful creme interior.

Our Pasticcoti traditional. The traditional one is creme, but you can also get it with chocolate, or cherry creme inside. We highly recommend it if you are in town.

After our little snack we walked around the walls of the town. The views to sea were obscured by a smog of some sort, probably wild fire smoke as they have been having a lot of large fires in Greece and the Balkans.

More street scenes from Ostuni.

By now the restaurants were starting to open for lunch and we decided to get a big lunch as we had not really been out since we arrived. Our first restaurant had a Michelin sign on the front of it and they turned us away as we do not look like we belong in a Michelin restaurant (actually they were fully booked.) Just down the street we had passed a pizza place that looked interesting. The restaurant occupied a little square on one of the walking roads, and took over all of the buildings on the square. Some were for dining, some were for food preparation and some were storage. It was a bustling place. We got a table outside of the building with the pizza oven. I ordered a pizza, and Ton ordered a pasta dish called Drunken Fettuccine. They were both delicious and immense. Adapting to Italian ways we lingered over our meal for a couple of hours and even managed to share a Tiramisu at the end. Given the quality and size of the portions it was a good value even with the “cover charge” factored in. This is a charge that nice restaurants add for the privilege of sitting at the table. I will have to remember to ask next time we eat whether there is a cover involved.

Our moderately priced lunch for the day. We splurged a bit.

We decided to head back to the campground and there was supposed to be a bus at 2:55 back to Villanova. At about 3 pm a bus with Villanova on the marquee on the front of the bus pulled up, so we jumped on. The bus was full and we were in the back row with two young Italian women. The bus headed down the hill in the right direction and turned in to the train station, but we had stopped at the train station coming in so I was not worried. Most of the passengers got off except for Ton, myself and the two young Italians next to us, but instead of turning left to go the 3 km’s to Villanova it turned right and heading back into Ostuni. About 20 minutes later we were back at the stop we had gotten on at in Ostuni, and everyone got off. I looked at one of the young Italians and asked aren’t we supposed to go to Villanova and she said yes, so we followed her to the front of the bus where she and the bus driver got into a vigorous discussion about why the bus that said Villanova did not go to Villanova, but in the end we all lost and had to get off the bus. She then confirmed that the next bus wasn’t until 6:20. She said that they were going to try to call her boyfriend but he didn’t get off work for a while, though she offered us a ride if we wanted to wait.

Ostuni is a beautiful town, we just wish the bus system was a little less opaque.

We decided we would get a taxi back to the campground, we weren’t happy about it, but we didn’t want to wait two and half hours for the next bus. So our next chore was to find a taxi. I assumed there would be a taxi stand somewhere nearby. I was wrong. We saw a tour guide waiting at one of the tour buses so I asked her where we could get a taxi, she said it it difficult, but she would call one of the taxis and see if they were available. She then spent the next 20 minutes calling various taxis without success until she found one that could pick us up at 5:30 and take us to the campground for €30. We thanked her for her effort, but passed on the taxi due to the cost. After spending 20 minutes trying to find us a taxi she then apologized because the one she found us cost too much. She said she would give us a ride, but she had to give a tour soon.

By now it was about 4:30 so we went to a local cafe next to the bus station and ordered a beer and a water and sat down to wait for our 6:20 bus.

It was almost like this guy didn’t want us to leave Ostuni.

It turned out to be very interesting to watch the interactions of the cafe for the next two hours. There were three generations of family involved in running the cafe including a grandfather whose job was to sit at one of the tables and provide calm when conflict came up, as well as just seeming to enjoy talking to the customers. His son ran the bar and was busy most of the time behind the bar. The bar tenders son seemed to be the black sheep who tended to get too aggressive in deciding who can move chairs from one table to another to accommodate customers, with the grandfather having to mediate his bad decisions. It would have been more fun to watch if we were there voluntarily!

Another street scene from Ostuni.

Finally about 6:15 we crossed the street to the bus stop, to catch our 6:20 bus. We had to get this one right as it was the last scheduled bus for the day. We met another couple from the campground so that was a good start as we now had numbers on our side. A couple of busses came and went with us now running to every bus that showed up to ask if they were the bus to Villanova, none of them were. At about 6:40 we were all getting nervous. At this point another young Italian women showed up who was going to the train station. We asked her about Villanova, she looked at the schedule and said not to worry, because Italians have a weird way of scheduling busses, and even though it said 6:20 on the schedule, that didn’t mean it would arrive at 6:20, but within 20 to 30 minutes of 6:20! There really is a method, but her English wasn’t quite up to making us understand. Finally a bus showed up, the Italian women went on to the bus for us to confirm it was our bus, and it was! So we arrived back about 5 hours later than we planned.

We would have been home a lot earlier if we had a functioning bike.

The one positive out of this, was every Italian we met today during our bus adventure absolutely went out of their way to help us with our dilemma. The two young ladies who confirmed we were on the right bus even though it didn’t go to our stop to start with, the women who spent 20 minutes trying to find us a taxi, and the young lady who tried to explain the mysteries of Italian bus schedules to us were all patient and cheerful in providing us help. Even the grandfather at the cafe kept looking over and giving us encouraging and wise smiles even though he didn’t know why were waiting. So while the experience of getting us home was frustrating, the Italians we dealt with during the adventure almost made it worthwhile!

September 20, 2023 Villanova IT

Our ferry loading experiences in Greece have always been interesting, and today was another example of that, as I was almost arrested for human trafficking. When I left you yesterday we had just returned to François after having our last Greek dinner and were waiting for the ferry to arrive.

We had struck up a conversation with our British neighbors, and the wives decided they would go thru the pedestrian entrance together and I would follow the neighbor thru the security check to get into the port. They were adamant that the vehicles could only have the driver in them. So our plan was to drive thru security and then go find the wives on the inside of the port. So about 1030 Ton and our neighbor headed into the terminal, and we took the motorhomes over to the security gate for the port.

The checks were the normal passport, ticket, and random opening of doors by the Greek Coastguard, and police. Initially my inspector asked for my passport but did not look at it, did a cursory shine of the back of François and walked away. In front my British partner was opening the door to his storage for the inspector. I think because we were waiting the inspector came back to me and asked me to do the same.

I got out of François to open the storage hatch for the inspector, when I got to the back I noticed that the bike rack was down, but I didn’t think anything of it, thinking it might have slipped down. I then opened the hatch and there was a person in there! He was a young guy of about 20 curled up on top of our electrical cords and chairs. The inspector yelled for help and in a few seconds there were five police and coastguardsmen at the back of François. They left the guy in there for a few minutes while they had a rather calm discussion in Greek about the situation. They also questioned me about what I knew about him. I was stunned. I told them we had been with the RV all day except about 40 minutes when we went to dinner, and when we left it was locked. But he must have accessed it while we were gone.

At that point I made the connection to the bike rack being down, it was quite hot, so we decided to leave the roof vents open on François so it wouldn’t heat up too much when we went to dinner. I explained that to the police, and that he must have used the bike rack to climb up on François and enter thru the air vent on the roof. He was skinny enough to do it. The storage where he was hiding can also be accessed from inside the RV by lifting the bed, so once he was inside he climbed down in there and lay quietly while we were waiting to board the ferry.

The vent he entered thru.

After some more discussion in Greek, they told the guy to get out of François, and he headed off around a corner unescorted. They had some more discussion in Greek, and now gave François a very thorough inspection. When they didn’t find anything else, they gave me a good natured warning about security saying that they could make me stay and appear in court to confirm that I did not know the person they found in the vehicle but they were not going to do that. All in all I was detained about 15 minutes.

When I told Ton about the incident she was startled of course, particularly as the guy had been in François with us for about 3 hours while we waited for the ferry. Before we boarded we did a thorough check of our stuff, and I looked at all of the locks and sky lights, he didn’t take anything or touch anything for that matter, and he didn’t do any damage to François.

Our cute Sosta in Italy.

The rest of the trip went as planned and the boarding and unloading process was slow but under control. We are now parked up at a nice Sosta in Italy with a wild travel story to tell in the future.

September 19, 2023 Igoumenitsa GR

You may be wondering why the top photo is of a toll both, and the answer is that as a gift on our final day in Greece we were passed thru all of the toll booths on our route for free. For reasons we were never able to figure out, every time we pulled up to a toll booth today, the gate went up and the toll attendant waved and said free! The cars in front of us were being charged, but we were free. Even the Patras bridge over the Straight of Corinth which usually costs €21 was free today. All together we saved about €80 in tolls. We finally came to the conclusion that the Greeks just really wanted us to come back!

The Patras bridge usually costs €21, it was free today.

We left the campground as late as we could because we had a lot of time to cover the four hours to Igoumenitsa. The ferry we are taking to Italy leaves at midnight and boarding is not until 10:30.

Our last meal in Greece, Gyros of course.

We killed some time at a Lidl stocking up on some of our favorite Greek groceries. We then filled up with diesel as fuel is about 10 cents per liter cheaper here than Italy. We finally showed up at the ferry terminal about 5pm and got our ticket. The agent told us that we would board about 10:30, so we had plenty of time to walk around town and get a meal. We took her advice but the nice part of town was about 2km’s away, and the only restaurant near the ferry terminal was pretty nondescript, so our final meal in Greece was not our most memorable.

I will cover the ferry ride tomorrow, we are really looking forward to the boarding process after our experience with the ferries to Crete. Also, this time for “security” reasons Ton has to go thru the pedestrian boarding while I drive on board.

September 18, 2023 Aigialeia GR

We are finally on the move after nearly a week resting and recovering in Nea Makri. Ton is still under the weather but she says she is starting to feel better.

Our day started by revisiting the RV repair center in Athens to get another water pump, it turns out that one of our faucets was not closing completely, causing the pump to run continuously even though the faucet was not dispensing water. This caused the pump motor to eventually burn out as they are not designed to run continuously. We had them install another pump and we were on our way by noon, short an additional €50, though no labor charge this time.

Ton loves the color and clarity of the ocean in Greece.

We escaped from Athens quickly and were shortly on the Peloponnesus peninsula, and the rest of the drive was a relaxing but expensive autoroute that paralleled the straight of Corinth.

The mountains of the Greek mainland across the Straight of Corinth from our campground.

We arrived at the campground about 3 pm and headed down to the beach to get some photos. For the first time on the trip Ton was in her element. We then returned to François for some relaxation and dinner before calling it a night.

September 17, 2023 Nea Makri GR

Today was spent resting and letting Ton continue to fight the bug that has her feeling under the weather. We are heading out for our ferry to Italy, but our departure will be a little more complicated than we would like.

Last night the new water pump that we had put in on Friday stopped working, so we will begin the day by heading to the repair shop to get that sorted out. Fortunately, it is more or less on the way we would be taking to leave the city so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Once we get our water pump going again, we will be heading in the direction of Patras for the day. It is about half way to our departure point for the ferry.

September 15, 2023 Nea Makri

Today was busier than planned. Last night when I went to brush my teeth there was no water. We had a problem with the water pump, the first thing I needed to do was check the fuze as hopefully that was the problem. The first issue was I didn’t know where the fuze was. So I dug out the owners manual, which was only in German. I had looked at the owners manual for the truck from Fiat in the past and it was in English so I had assumed the owners manual for the camper was also in English. After looking thru the manual I realized I was not going to understand anything. I checked to see if there was an owners manual in English on line, but I couldn’t find one. So I went to one of our neighbors who was German and asked if he could translate it for me, but it turned out he didn’t speak English. But, luckily he owned an RV business in Germany so the next thing I knew he was troubleshooting the water pump for me with a running commentary in very technical German. After spending about 30 minutes looking things over (and showing me the location of the fuzes and the waterpump) he looked at me and said ze wasser pump est kaput!

I spent the rest of the evening looking at my options to get a new water pump, we already new that there was only one dealer for our RV in Greece and it was located over 500 kilometers away. There was a dealer near where we would land in Italy, but that meant going without water for 5 days in 90 degree temperatures which was not ideal. I remembered in the spring we had talked to a repair place near Athens on the phone, so we put our hopes in them.

After tossing and turning all night worrying about the water pump and fighting with the mosquitos that had invaded the interior of François during the water pump diagnosis, I was up bright and early. At 8:30 I went to a nearby garage to get a fuze to double check that it was not a fuze problem, as I didn’t want to drive 40 kilometers to a dealer only to have them slap a 50 cent fuze in and send me on my way. After inserting a new fuze we still had no water.

Promptly at 10 am I called the repair shop and they did not answer their phone. I tried several more times and no answer. On a whim I sent them a text and less than a minute later I got a request for a picture of the water pump. After looking at our water pump they said they had one that would work. I asked if we could come over this morning and did not get an answer. So after a couple of more texts about coming that went unanswered I told Ton that we would just go.

After a drive into the heart of Athens, that went very smoothly we showed up and they were able to get us right in. An hour later we were on our way back with a new and bigger water pump.

Ton is a bit under the weather so that was enough adventure for her today. The rest of the day was spent napping in François. So today no photos.

September 14, 2023 Nea Makri GR

We had a restless night. The daytime temperatures have been in the mid to high 80’s so even with all of the windows and the door open it is taking François a while to cool down, we are still jet lagged, and on top of that a few mosquitos managed to penetrate our perimeter so we spent part of the night hunting mosquitos with mixed success.

We finally got going mid-morning and headed over to the weekly market in town. It was quite a big market, and we enjoyed looking at the local foods on display. Ton stocked up on some fresh local vegetables, I would try to google the appropriate Greek questions, and would be greeted with a bemused “what do you want” in English every time, but they usually got a kick out of my poor attempt. When we were done it was quite hot so we headed back to a toasty François for an afternoon nap.

One of the cats that have adopted us.
One of the cats that have adopted us. He loves anchovies, and was a little disappointed with the sausage piece I gave him at dinner, after waiting a minute or so for an anchovy he decided he would go ahead and eat the sausage, but not without a look that told me he was disappointed.

We headed into town to look for dinner, but it was so hot we decided that a salad would be good. So it was back to François for a nice cold salad, before turning in early.

September 13, 2023 Nea Makri GR

Today we slept in fighting jet lag. When we finally got going around 11am we had to do all of the exciting stuff it takes to get going on this trip. Part of the reason we have adopted Nea Makri as our Greek hometown is that it has 4 grocery stores withing walking distance which makes Ton very happy, it has other stores and some nice waterfront restaurants we can use for entertainment while we get over jet lag.

Today we visited 2 of the grocery stores to get our initial food stocks, and one of the banks to get some Euros. Besides that Ton spent some more time organizing and I tried to stay out of the way, and get the refrigerator to cool down. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, it is just hot outside and it is struggling to get ahead of the heat and cool down. I tried a couple of tricks I learned on line, so hopefully it will cool down more overnight.

We have been in this campground long enough that one of the kittens we fed on our first visit, brought her kittens by today for us to meet, and I’m sure she hopes we will feed them. I’m sure we will not be able to resist.

Our plan is to spend the next few days getting over jet lag, and completing stocking up for the trip. Once we get our legs under us, we will be heading North as we have a ferry ride to Italy coming up on September 20.

September 12, 2023 Nea Makri GR

We took a bit of a gamble today and it worked out. We usually book a hotel for the first night in case there are problems with the flight. We do not have to worry about having a place to stay on arrival if we arrive in the middle of the night. This time hotels near the airport in Athens were really expensive. Our flight was scheduled to arrive in Athens at 4:30 pm and the storage where we kept François over the summer said they could pick us up at the airport up to 6 pm. From the airport to our adopted Greek hometown of Nea Makri is about 30 minutes, so if all went well with flights we would be at the campground at around 6:30 pm. If things went badly we would be paying an exorbitant hotel bill for something last minute near the airport.

In this case everything went to plan, our flight from Portland departed 20 minutes late, but arrived in Amsterdam on time. Our flight from Amsterdam departed 25 minutes late, but arrived at Athens only 10 minutes late. Our bags appeared promptly at baggage claim, and the great folks from Clio Parking scooped us up 10 minutes after we had our bags. When we arrived at the parking François was sitting there ready to go and freshly washed.

We have left François with Clio for long term stays twice and they have been the epitome of customer service. They are really not looking for more motorhome storage business, but if you need long term storage in Athens, try to convince them to take your motorhome, you will not regret it.

The final step was driving the 20km’s to Nea Makri Camping and the traffic was smooth and relatively light so that we arrived at 6:30, exactly as planned. Our old friend Stavros guided us to our spot, and then Ton spent the next two hours arranging François for our next adventure. Finally at 9pm we settled in for the night to see how jet lag was going to effect us for the night. Hopefully it will not be too bad.