Trulli living in Alberobello, Italy

Trulli living in Alberobello, Italy

It all started with a 1997 episode of Lonely Planet (or GlobeTrotter depending of who you ask) where Justine Shapiro made her way through Southern Italy, ending up in a small town known as Alberobello. The unique huts made of stone with cone-shaped roofs that scatter the town’s skyline left an impression on me and I knew that as we embarked on our Italian adventure for my 30th birthday, we just had to stay in one of these trulli amazing houses. (Note the puns here? ;))

Trulli houses Alberobello

After our Amalfi Coast scootering adventure, we made our way back to Naples (avoid if you can!) to pick up our rental car. After dealing with Naples and having an ambulance bump our bumper in a gridlocked round about, we were on our way to Alberobello. The drive takes you just over 3 1/2 hrs which is a much more efficient way to get there vs train or bus which takes you between 5 and 6 hrs depending on when you can get your tickets for. The drive is an easy highway drive and takes you right through the middle of the country, passing by Bari as you drive through the Puglia region. Without a GPS, we did get turned around a few times but managed to get back on track with a little luck and my iPhone’s compass.

When we arrived in Alberobello, we located our hotel’s main office to check in. Tipico Resort is made up of apartments in traditional Trulli, like ours, and others in apartments. After checking in, one of the staff members jumped into our car to take us to our Trulli. When we arrived, he helped show us the best place to park in Alberobello’s narrow streets, and getting us settled in, showing us our Trullo, the mini “balcony” and informing us about when our complementary breakfast would be served. From the moment we arrived in the town, I had a good feeling – much better than my initial feeling landing in Rome (see the Amalfi Coast post for details).

By this point, it was Perroni time so B and I head out in search for a beer and a snack. As we make our way into the centre of the town, we stumbled upon a gate with a sign that said “bar”. It looked innocent enough and we had had a long drive so we decided to take our chances. As we turned the corner, we saw a few tables with the most beautiful view of the town and an older gentleman resting by the door. As we head toward the entrance of the “bar”, he got up and lead us in… into what appeared to be his basement. Unfortunately, he didn’t have Peroni on hand but gave us other options, or so I assume. He only spoke Italian… and we only spoke English. In the end, we ordered a beer each and went outside where we brought out our beers, glasses, and a yummy crispy snack.

Peroni

Alberobello’s Trulli core is easily walkable and heavily populated with restaurants, gift shops, and “look-offs for photos”. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it draws in lots of visitors each year, which is really starting to have an impact on the stairs and streets with which these little houses are accessible by. Since the streets are made of stone, the ample foot traffic that walk them are causing the traction to become treacherous. Tread carefully for risk ending up on your ass.

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The little shops that line these streets are packed with nick nacks and lots of food items that are known to the Puglia and Apulia regions. From wine to olive oil, orecchiette pasta (ear-shaped) to taralli crackers (the yummy snack the old man at the “bar” served), Alberobello really does pull it’s weight in being an epicurean destination. The breakfast at our hotel was extensive and delicious, with a mix of breads, fruits, and yogurt. One of the breakfast elements that really stood out to me was focaccia barese – it was like eating pizza for breakfast! Focaccia is made across Italy, but has regional differences. Focaccia Barese is the regional version that comes from Puglia and I made it one of my staples during my stay, in addition to my afternoon beer at the old man’s “bar”. (On our second stop to the “bar”, the old man noticed my countless bug bites and offered a solution… a garlic clove and ointment. He instructed me to rub the bites with the garlic clove first, then apply the ointment… the itching went away and it didn’t bother me the remainder of the trip – who knew?!?)

Focaccia Barese

20 years after Justine Shapiro visited Alberobello and peeking my interested in Southern Italy, I found too myself surrounded by beauty, amazing food, and some of Italy’s most kind and generous people. While not every aspect of my larger Italian adventure went as I had expected, Alberobello left a completely different impression on me. The uniquely shaped houses, the wine, and more may have just been impressionable enough to make me want to return for more.

Trullo Alberobello

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Sorrento & Amalfi Coast, Italy

Sorrento & Amalfi Coast, Italy

It’s been a long few days. I’ve just turned 30 and since then, everything has been going downhill. I got sprayed with toilet water, I arrived to Italy without luggage, I can’t find decent clothes in Rome that fit me, and now I had to go through Naples – the armpit of Italy (in my opinion). All I wanted was a little Italian adventure to celebrate the end of my 20s… but this wasn’t what kind of adventure I had in mind.

After just two days in Rome, we head to Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast. As we make our way through the streets of Naples, I’m struggling to see why people fall in love with this place. It’s smelly, the people are rude, the food has been overrated up until this Naples Pizzapoint, and its hot, really hot. My goal in Naples is to eat pizza – of course. As we wander the narrow streets, we stumble upon a little restaurant that appears to be packed with locals, a sure sign of quality. We head in and settle near the back. On the walls are awards and blue ribbons that symbolize just how good this pizza is. I order a Margherita pizza with a Lemon Peroni and my hopes are high. The beer is good, as is the pizza, but to be honest, I can’t tell the difference between it and the pizza at Piatto in Halifax. Oh, and on the way out the owner played a little game with the bill and claimed “the payment didn’t go through” and demanded payment in cash. Sure enough we had been double charged, which resulted in a call to the fine folks at Visa to straighten things out and report the incident.

From Naples, we board our ferry to Sorrento, which is just under an hour transit. When we disembark, we’re greeted by an abundance of taxis, buses, and men holding signs waiting to tout tourists around the twisty roads of the Amalfi Coast. We opt for a local bus, but of course, the bus we need is at the top of the hill. With my plastic bag of recently purchased clothes, we make the trek up the steep hill to the town centre. We catch the bus and head towards the campground where we’ll be calling home for the next four days. After a short bus ride, we arrive at our destination and when we check in, the hostess says, “The airline called, they have your bag.” This is the best news I’ve heard the entire trip! She continues, “But it’s a long weekend so they can’t be here until Tuesday”… the day we leave for Southern Italy. *Sigh*

Sorrento 1

As you can tell by the way I’m telling this story, I was having a pretty shitty time in Italy.  That is, until we hit Sorrento. I never imaged the joy that staying in an Italian campground could bring me, but it was just what I needed. The cabin we rented was perfect and fully equipped with a corkscrew, pasta strainer, and an espresso pot – all of the Italian essentials. The staff were wonderful – taking on the task of continuously calling the airline and airport to let them know I wouldn’t be arriving back in Rome for another week and to hold onto my luggage (they never did get a hold of the airline – never fly Veuling… or just fly carry-on only when going to Italy). The campground also has a pool, full-service restaurant, and access to a private “beach”. Wine at the camp shop costs less than 5$ for a litre – but you get what you pay for.

Riding a scooter is probably the best way to get around the Amalfi coast, but it’s not for the faint of heart, or inexperienced. The roads are narrow and twisty with cars and buses entering into your lane as they themselves vie for space on the road. But, for those who have experience riding, it’s an exhilarating and worth-while experience. There are a few rental places to rent from, just be sure to take lots of photos of the bike before you hit the road in case they inspect the bike when you return it (recommended by the guy we rented from).

Sorrento 4

Sorrento is largely known for two things: lemons and leather. As you walk through the narrow street of the old town, you’ll see countless gift shops with lemon-flavoured candies, lemon scented soaps, and bottles of lemoncello for purchase. Aside from the lemon-inspired goods, visitors can reap the benefits of high-quality, handmade leather goods. Before heading to Italy, I didn’t know of Sorrento’s reputation but quickly realized that I would not be leaving Sorrento without a new, hand-made, leather purse.

Sorrento 5

From Sorrento’s twisty, scenic riding trails, to their giant lemons that produces the most amazing lemoncello, Sorrento provided the Italian experience I was looking for, and needed.

PS: I did finally get my luggage when I returned to Rome for our flight back to Canada…. but that’s another story for another time.