Exploring the Sassi

Day 9:

We tour the ancient city of Matera; our overnight stay as well, which is perched high on a beautiful hillside and just recently seen by foreign eyes. This famed UNESCO World Heritage site is just across the border from Puglia, in the Basilicata Region. Matera is a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Evacuated in 1952 due to poor living conditions, the Sassi now houses museums like the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, with period furniture and artisan tools. Nearby rock churches include St. Lucia alle Malve, with 13th-century frescoes.

I found this great article on the city of Matera. Please read this to further understand how this impovershied town received a facelift and new life. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/17/matera-italy-culture-capital-cave-homes-from-squalor-to-airbnb-film-sets

In the afternoon we are lead on a walking tour of the ‘sassi’ ancient cave dwellings which have been restored for current use as homes, shops and restaurants. The nights light up in the dwellings and these pictures really dont show the true picture of what the eye sees.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

A day at the beach in Puglia, Italy

Originally we were set to go on a boat ride to see the sea caves but the weather was not cooperating this morning, rain had fallen last night and the wind was still bringing in a chance for rain so we postponed our boat ride for tomorrow.

So off to the beach we went. We went to the White Beach club, set up our lounge chairs and enjoyed a sunny day. At this beach the sand is a mix of tiny shells, a bit tougher on the feet and to enter the water you need to be careful as the shore is spiky lava rock. We enjoyed watching a little school of fush scurry through the water and crabs hide from us under rocks. We gathered shells along the shore, which I love to do at every beach I visit .

We enjoyed pizza at the restaurante

and tonight we had dinner at Grotta Palazzese, set in the cliffs.

This place has a spectacular view, is a romantic spot BUT THE FOOD WAS HORRIBLE! Not even edible and expensive too. So disappointing. We had heard the same reviews but were told there was a new chef so decided to try it. I dont usually give bad reviews but this restaurant needs to step up there game and get a chef that can cook.

The town itself is vibrant with lots of cute boutiques, restaurants and gelato shops everywhere. There was also a vendor street fair and the whole town seemed to be enjoying being out on a Sunday. Definitely worth going to see this cute town but skip the Grotta Palazzese please!

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

Puglia’s Green Gold

Day 7:

We begin today’s journey riding bikes along the beautiful Adriatic coast through some of the worlds most ancient and monumental olive groves.

Our first stop is a visit to a local producer of olive oils where we sample “Puglia’s Green Gold“. So called thanks to its golden color and its value ensured sustenance generation after generation. This property has been in the same family since the 9th century, the most antique agricultural arboreal existent landscape. We explore a cave that they uncovered once used in ancient Roman times to extract the oils.

Puglia supplies around 40% of olive oil production in Italy (it is the first region for quantity and quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced per year).The Italian heel also provides around 12% of the olive oil production in the whole world.

After our tasting we hop on our bikes winding through country lanes; and I am in awe of the beauty that I see; getting a different perspective on a bike to view the landscape and smell the fragrances of wildflowers. We stop to taste ripe figs and discover a caper bush. The path we ride on was an ancient Roman passageway and we contine on this path before returning to the coast. After a 20 mile bike ride we are on our own for the rest of the day and enjoy a fresh fish lunch in the fishing village, a gelato of course and meander through Savelletri which is a Province of Brindisi.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

Tuscany Farewell onto Bari

Day 6:

This is the final morning for my Backroads active hiking and culinary adventures. Although I could do one final hike to the hilltop town of Bagno Vignoni; with its hot springs and 12th century castle and tower; I decide to save my energy for the 2nd part of my Italian vacation. Alitalia has gone on strike so I am diverted to a long day of travel on the train from Florence to Rome to Bari. I look around in Florence a grab a bite to eat, then head to the train station to wait for my train to arrive, read and people watch.

Heres what happens when you travel. S..T happens, right! So the train pulls up and someone had smoked in the bathroom so my compartment had the sprinklers going off. Twenty minutes late we leave and I anticipate not making my second train. What to do. So put it in Gods hands and said a prayer. Arrive in Rome and my transfer is in front of me , thank you!! Arrive in Bari and driver picks me and finally After a full day of travel I arrive safe and am ready for a shower and a soft pillow to lay my head. Just a day in my adventures. I meet up with my sister Lisa, niece Ali and family friend Natalie for the coastal second half of my trip; active food adventures in the region of Puglia by http://www.ItalyinStyletravel.com.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene

Cooking Lesson at Ristorante Degli Archi

Day 5:

After breakfast at the hotel we head out towards the village of an Quirico d’Orcia along the gravel paths of the Via Francigena; an ancient pilgrimage route. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful; every vista a perfect portait

The scotch bloom is a vibrant yellow, the smell seeet and fragrant. The red poppies dust the fields creating more color along with sprinkles of lavender and white roses everywhere. I slow down taking pictures trying to absorb every detail. The colors of the green fields of alfalfa, wheat, and hay against the browns and tans of the stone buildings.

Once we arrive in San Quirico we are left to explore or stop for an espresso, visiting this charming town before continuing on to Val d’Orcia, a World Heritage site. (see UNESCO for a list of all World Heritage Sites) Our route takes us on farm roads, past cypress trees and verdant land en route to a favorite agriturismo (working farm and country retreat); right up my alley! Such beautifully landscaped hills. Picture perfect spots everywhere.

The hike for those of us wanting to continue takes us across rolling hills to magical Pienza. This town was designed by the 15th century Florentine architect Bernardo Rossellino who was chosen by Pope Pius II to transform his birthplace into a hamlet that exemplified Renaissance ideals. The main square (piazza) showcases two of his masterpieces: Palazzo Piccolomini and a classically inspired duomo. (Italian cathedral)

We continue our hike to San Quirico to put our Tuscan cooking (and eating) skills to the test. At Ristorante degli Archi, the owner and master sommelier Lorenza puts on a full Tuscan spread from start to finish. Can you say Heaven! It all starts with an aperitivo but for me I want in on the action as cooking and Italian cooking are my passions so I grab a glass of vino and I join in on the cooking excitement. The food lingers on my palate with the wine and I know I will be re-creating these dishes for family and friends in the near future.

We continue our hike to Pienza stopping to take pictures of where the Gladiator movie was filmed, you can see the house with yhe cypress trees in the distance and we walk to the church where the wheat is rising. The small church is beautiful, standing on the top of a knoll. Then into Pienza for some shopping.

Dinner tonight is at Cisterna del Borgo where we indulge in so much food once again. This is our last night here. New friends, new memories and a new sense for more adventure

Vegetarian lasagne

Chocolate Salami!!

Hiking options: San Quirico Route: 3.2 miles; II Rigo Route: 5.2 miles; Pienza Route: 8.6 miles.

Love and Light,

Jeanine on the Scene