A July 2005 trip
to Puglia by raycarstairs
Quote: In the heart of Puglia lies a little-known gem, the ancient fortified medieval city of Oria. This unspoilt idyll offers visitors a snapshot of rural Italy free from hordes of tourists and makes an ideal centre from which to explore the region and sample its wonderful culinary delights.
Located in the heart of the Puglia (sometimes called Apulia) region, Oria is undeveloped giving you a sense of being somewhere as yet undiscovered by tourists that offers a wealth of charm.
Despite its size, there is much to see in Oria. Many an afternoon can be whiled away strolling through the meandering narrow streets above above which sits an impressive Swabian castle that guarded the hilltop from ancient invaders. Along with a Jewish Ghetto, a proliferation of churches and palaces are scattered throughout the city.
Part of visiting Oria is not just it's historic sites, but to experience Italian life, the markets,the food - a peacful snooze in the afternoon. Soak it all up. Strategically, Oria also provides a marvellous holiday base from which to explore the Pugliese countryside from the stunning trulli of Alberbello, the white city of Ostuni, the baroque palaces, and churches of Lecce.
Piazza Manfredi is the hub of the community and it is here that locals of all ages congregate in the evenings. In mid-afternoon, it can seem deserted as locals seek the comfort of shade during the hottest parts of the day but it really comes alive at night, with three or four café-bars and lots of local chitchat. However, if you're looking for raucous pubs and nightclubs, don't bother. The scene is very much couples and families, with a relatively low-decibel count.
Oria is about 20 minutes from the clean, sandy beaches of the Ionian Sea, and about 45 minutes from the Adriatic coast. In particular, the Ionian offers safe, peaceful bathing on sandy beaches.
From the hours of around 12:30pm to 5:30pm, most shops and businesses close up for an afternoon siesta and often reopen at 9pm.
Situated in a quiet street in the heart of the historic centre the ground floor apartment overlooks a small reserved area on which sits a tiny church no bigger than an average sized bedroom. All around the apartment, friendly neighbours stop to chat, no matter how limited your Italian, giving the location a real sense of integration that tourist accomodation so often lacks.
The spotlessly clean apartment was originally two Apulian houses which were knocked into one another to provide a very spacious and comfortable dwelling whilst retaining all the period charm with two massive fireplaces (one of which can be used in cooler weather), beautiful honey tones of exposed stonework and spectacular vaulted ceilings.
In terms of practicalities, the generous space is air conditioned and laid out as an open-plan apartment of one bedroom area with shuttered French doors overlooking the chapel, comfortable living area with additional sofa bed and a small but adequate kitchen stocked with all the neccessary equipment should you choose to self cater.
The owner, as well as having dealt sympathetically with the development of the building, has been at pains to enhance the wonderful atmosphere with careful lighting to create a very romantic hideaway.
Indeed, the owner and his wife, Francesco and Watsana Pipino, proved wonderful hosts who showed us incredible hospitality during our stay in Oria and offered us a remarkable insight into the Pugliese way of life.
For more information, availability and booking, check out www.borgodioria.it At around $442 (£248) per week in peak season, this is a real find and offers spectacular value for money and a quality of accomodation not usually found within this price bracket. Please note that my photos don't even begin to do the apartment justice. Check out the website for better pics.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 8, 2005
As you enter the restaurant through the beautiful kitchen adorned with gleaming local tiles and copper pans, you get the feeling that you are stepping into someones house circa 1920. Both sisters lovingly prepare an ad hoc menu according to your preference (vegetarian or hardcore carnivore are all catered for). Local produce features alongside traditional Italian staples such as homemade pasta in tomato sauce and a wide range of scrumptous antipasti which includes delicious local riccota, marinaded artichokes and-- mmm... I could go on forever.
Whilst simple, the quality of all produce is often far superior to many considerably more expensive restaurants. In terms of value for money, I think it is unlikely that I have ever eaten anywhere where the fresh ingredients, tasty traditional-style cooking, charming atmosphere, and service has been provided in such an inexpensive package. A substantial three- to four-course meal with 1 litre of wine will set you back less than £10 per person. Bargain!! An eating experience not to be missed.
Attraction | "The Trulli of Alberbello"
Unfortunately, this has led to a substantial influx of tourists to this attractive village and so, unless you choose your time to visit carefully, it can have a kind of miniature Disneyland feel to it. I suppose that this is in part due to the fact that we visited after a week in the region during which you get very used to being far away from milling crowds and noisey guided tours groups so it's rather a shock to the system to see so many people in one place.
We chose to visit about 9am on a Sunday morning when initially, the streets were totally empty but by 10:30am busloads of tours arrived and commandeered the peaceful atmosphere. However, don't fret because an hour or two is probably enough to get a feel for Alberbello and you should move on to visit the trulli in the surrounding countryside where they take on a totally different persona.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 13, 2005
Trulli of Alberobello
Province of Bari
Attraction | "Rural Trulli"
Many are lived in by locals - others lie empty and isolated surrounded by red earth and lucious olive groves. We spent a whole afternoon exploring pitted farm tracks to get a glimpse of life in the past.
Apparently, when the buildings were erected, as the family and livestock outgrew the living space, another trullo was built adjacent and then the wall was knocked through to join the two structures. It's quite easy to find empty clumps of trulli where you can go in and explore. Nobody seems to mind.
During the course of the afternoon we were at pains to try to find the words to describe the trulli - 'like a fairytale', 'like something out of Hansel and Gretel'. However, if you've seen Harry Potter films, then you'll know straight away where you think you've seen trulli - Hagrid's House, of course. Kids of all ages will love it!!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 13, 2005