Bari to Milazzo, 20 – 29 June, 2017
We looked forward to travelling Italy most. Both of us have been to Italy before, but not in depth. Arriving in Bari from Dubrovnik was a met with happiness, excitement and a smothering heat – even though it had just gone 8am. And the chaos that surrounded most cities was no less in Bari.
We headed down the coast, making a stop at a place called Monopoli, where we shopped for all sorts of fruits and vegetables at an incredible market we stumbled upon, trying our virtually non existent Italian. That night we found a little gravel road in amongst the trulli huts, which led us to a spot on the edge of an unused field. We enjoyed the intensity of the afternoon sun as we cooked and read.
The trulli are conical shaped houses, used as field shelters for the workers and animals. They remain incredibly cool in the extreme heats and are perfect for sheltering in and the storing of foods or tools.
We continued through to Ostuni, on multiple recommendations from a friend who is from there. Ostuni is a little town on a hill, with narrow, steep and windy roads – which we discovered too late. Once we’d gone in with the van and couldn’t make a turn, resulting in us (to the amusement of the locals) having to reverse out, make a 10 point turn at the nearest ‘intersection’, which (luckily) happened to be just longer than the van when positioned the right way. We then decided it was time to get the van out of the town! We found a nice little spot on the beach front and took the bikes up the hill and into the town. We cycled around, enjoying the pretty city, some Italian craft beer and a nice traditional meal, which you can read more about here.
We had this idea to cook some food out of the van, to try and support our travels a little. We got told of a very good butcher, so we made a stop there on the way out. See more on the Puglia and Calabria post of what we did with the gorgeous Ostuni pork prime rib.
We drove towards Leuca, night after night enjoying the Mediterranean sunsets, the beaches and the wild camping spots along the way. These differed much from the ones we were finding in the Balkan states. Further east we were finding very remote spots to camp, often encountering only a few other people in a 24 hour window, but here the spots were wild, but always populated.
As we headed further south, it just kept getting hotter. We hit 40C one day, which to us was a huge shock! The nights were becoming too much to handle with the doors closed. The still, hot air would send us into intense sweats. We simply had to get a draft going on in the van, which meant leaving our sliding door, along with the side window open. This meant we had to begin thinking about our night spots in more depth, as we didn’t want to find ourselves in a bad neighbourhood having to leave our door open.
The siesta tradition over here was starting to become normal for us. Trying to adapt to this mid afternoon rest period took a little while; a little frustrating at first if you try to ‘achieve’ anything (shop or get gas) over this time of day, as everything shuts down. It soon became a way of life for us though. The heat is seriously intense over the period when they shelter and it can really tire you out.
When we had the chance to gain some altitude we did so with much enthusiasm. We hoped for a little reprise from the extreme heat and found this in a couple of National Parks, firstly in the hills of the eastern side of the Pollino National Park and then as we continued along the mountain range we found a spot overlooking Acri. These were slight exceptions to the previously made comment about populated areas, which was nice.
Via Tropea – and its incredible landscape, beaches and onions – it was then on to Sicily!