For the weekend, Betty and Perry organized a wonderful tour of nearby cities. After breakfast we were off in a 16 passenger van (with driver) for an adventure. We drove past expansive olive groves and some gnarled trees, some hundreds of years old.
Our first stop was Ostuni. We swarmed the local market in search of the perfect”buy”. Back on the bus, we can check purchases and regrets. Next in the “old city” part of Ostuni, we followed a windy, climbing stone street shopping, sightseeing, and relaxing with a gelato. The cathedral was closed for a funeral but we were rewarded with a wonderful overlook of the city and sea.
We also visited Martina Franca, where we explored La Basilica do San Martino and had refreshments. Then we were off to Alberobello, where we saw the unique Trulli – small, round hobbit like dwellings assembled of flat stones. According to legend and tax collectors were to come to “assess” your property the houses were taken apart and scattered in the fields. We also tasted a variety of liquors and purchased pasta and other food stuffs.
We also visited the Grottos of Castellana. We descended by foot into the mouth of the cave, the stone path made slippery by the 95% humidity. We then walked for 3 km through the twisted caverns. The highlight of our explorations was the farthest keys of the system, “The WhiteCave”.
On Sunday our team divided into small groups to relax; to reconnect with the local friends, and further explore the region. Four of us took the train Bari and visited the 11th century Romanesque Basilica di San Nicholas (Santa Claus).
Another group of volunteers took the train south to Lecce, anther beautiful Puglian city. They enjoyed a beautiful day sight seeing in this historic town. Many churches and quaint little shops were visited during our afternoon excursion. Trattoria San Carlino provided us with a perfect spot for a delicious lunch. Bruschetta, salad, pizza, orecchiette and gnocchi were the tasty dishes we sampled at this charming restaurant.
Everyone make it back to the Hotel Clio just in time for dinner, where we enjoyed dinner with local snacks provided by Phyllis, our team leader.