With the intention of visiting my friend in Abruzzo and ticking off some major Pinterest swoon worthy images, I decided to holiday in Puglia last October half term. Flying into Bari was the most cost effective and convenient (Heathrow) so as soon as we landed, I hit the highway and made it to Pescara in 3 hours. Ripa Teatina is a small village with a great family run pizza restaurant right in the centre. They kindly involved the kids when making the pizzas!
First stop next day was the university museum. It is dedicated to Natural Sciences and History of Science, focusing on biological and medical aspects arising from research in archaeology, medicine, anthropology and paleontology. Full of interesting objects, and an impressive collection of crap taxidermy. We spent an hour...
Down the road is a gorgeous park Villa Comunale with a courtyard fountain and cafe/restaurant on the edge. Lovely place to sit, drink coffee and catch up over 10 years. The kids played around the fountain, rollerblading and sniping (rolls eyes)
The next morning was spent at the seaside resort of Francavilla al Mare at Pescara. A long white sandy stretch of beach that at this time of year was surprisingly empty. The walk to the centre of Pescara took us past some amazing street art that I had to stop and photograph. We stopped for some morning tea at Caffee Venezia where the kids fueled up on chocolate and I ate my body weight in pastry.
We walked that off through the city, finding our way back to the beach where the kids skateboarded along the promenade stopping briefly around a fountain. I sadly came home empty handed as it's impossible to just nip into a shop with 5 kids in tow...
We headed back to Puglia the next day and our first stop was Polignano a mare. To get to the tiny old town you must walk through the Porta Vecchia gate, which leads you into charming maze of white washed streets. All roads seem to lead to the incredible view of the coastline. After taking in the panoramic scenery, we enjoyed an ice cream (one of the three things Polignano is famous for) on the way to the beach at the foot of adjoining cliffs where locals dive from limestone terraces the second thing its famous for. The third Domenico Modugno.
We stayed at the Pietrablu Resort and SPA for the next 2 nights which was centrally located and full by bunnies! Ruby was delighted (as was I to be honest) very cute and everywhere. Quite unexpected. Staff were utterly charming and rooms were immaculate.
The Grotte di Castellana is a must. I am not into caves and suffer from claustrophobia but this was extraordinary. Book ahead to avoid having to hang around. I just pitched up with the kids, fortunately there is a Planetarium (a very small one) nearby and when buying tickets they suggest you do both. Thought I was being fleeced but it was well worth doing. Great movie explaining the solar system and narrated by someone from Harry Potter. Due to my complete lack of organisation I missed out on the English tour so was guided into the caves with my children in Italian. I'm sure we missed out on a lot, having said that I do prefer an elevator pitch when on tour.
The tour takes you 3km into the cave with a drop of 70m. Now it's not a steep decline and there is a plastic flooring of some sort attached so it's not too slippery. A couple of steps here and there but accessibility was better than expected. At the end we are rewarded with the White Cave. An impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites (throwback to geography) and precious crystals form this awesome chasm. It's hard to believe it is real and I kept thinking I was on a set. Annoyingly we keep being told not to take photos. All 30 of us had phones in hand snapping away without a flash and were regularly scolded. It became a game.
At the end, in the lift, the guide said 'did you enjoy that?' in English and I was floored. I did feel she could have thrown the odd detail across our way to accommodate. She asked if there was anything I wanted to know. I replied, the moment has passed. But thank you.
For lunch we made our way straight to Alberobello, the highlight of the trip. It means 'beautiful tree' and it really is Trulli amazing (see what I did there..?) the town is made up of Trulli, stone dwellings with conical roofs. I won't prattle on about the history etc. If you're interested, there are plenty of sites that cover this and I don't like to plagiarize.
We happily wandered for about an hour taking it all in. The afternoon seems like the best time as you then get that incredible light for the all-important photos. Tripods seen, Selfie sticks -4. We asked another family to take a photo of us, I find it promotes human interaction and conversation, and I don't look like a wanker.
The Resort was perfectly located for these visits, as 20 mins from airport and 30 mins from the Caves. There were other places on the list that I didn't make and will happily revisit. Lecce, and Monopoly will have to wait til next trip.