A Slow Drive to Guilford

On the Road to Guilford

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When we turned out the lights last night, it sure was dark! When you are in the forest on a moonless night, there is only blackness. And it was quiet: no spring peepers, no owls, no coyotes. 

Our breakfast was awesome. Wanda prepared blini with fresh fruit and blueberry and strawberry jam with scrambled eggs on the side. Delicious! A healthier repast than what we had at the Country Diner. Supper was good, not gourmet, but the amount of gravy on our ground chuck steak with mushrooms and onions was heart-stopping. Brian also had gravy on his fries; I declined. The vegetables offered were peas, cole-slaw, cheese or applesauce. I do not know when the last two became vegetables but we both chose cole-slaw. We were so full we had no room for the enormous ice cream cones being served at the dairy bar next door.

Back at the log cabin, we walked the hilly dirt road, hoping to burn a calorie or two and aid digestion.

We decided to not drive back to Lucifer Falls; we will save a repeat walk there for another day. The first few hours of driving through forested hills was uneventful but refreshingly green in many shades. Sadly after we crossed the Hudson River, we had many, many miles of stop and go traffic on Highway 84.  Very short sections of construction were responsible. Our six hour trip took us nearly eight hours.

We listened to the end of the West Cork series of podcasts about an unresolved murder case in Ireland from twenty years ago.

We were happy to arrive in time for pizza. From the dining room Brian spotted an indigo bunting at the feeder. Shawn did not think he had ever seen one here. The azaleas are dazzling! Agnes is happy to see them getting bigger every year. The hellebores are also very content in this environment as they spread throughout the garden.

This evening we were fortunate to take in Alex’s cello performance in his school’s orchestra concert. Although we concentrated on our grandson’s performance we were very impressed with all of the talent in the grade seven and eight orchestras. Alex also performed with the select orchestra. 


Arrivederci Italia!

Arrivederci Roma

May 6, 2018

La Cantinola was a good choice for dining, not fancy but good friendly service with good Sardinian food. Brian had ravioli and I had lasagna. We shared a large salad and tiramisu, the first time we had a little room for dessert. I was presented with a long stemmed red rose at the end. We gave it to a day with an umbrella shortly after leaving the restaurant. She was delighted. 

We walked to the Trinita da Monti Church at the top of the Spanish Steps. The church was not open but the crowds were thick among the many pots of flowers adorning the 135 steps. Brian said, “Even if St. Peter and St. Paul were playing chess at the bottom, he was not going down the steps.” So I left him at the top and cautiously descended on the wet marble steps. I counted 167 steps including the paces between each set. There was a boat shaped fountain at the bottom. The saints were not there, just vendors of red roses, slingshot LED helicopters, and selfie sticks and tourists. It appeared to be “a thing” to toss your rose into the fountain. I ascended faster than I descended and found my patient husband waiting.

We added seven kilometres of evening walking to our day and happily returned to our room. This morning Cara had our breakfast ready for us at 8 AM as requested. There were fruit tarts, a variety of cold cuts, cream cheese, croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice and cappuccino. All perfect. Cara is Roberto’s sister; she teaches English at a science high school near the Vatican where she lives. She and her brother each have a twenty year old daughter at university. They inherited this flat from their grandmother and converted it to three B and B suites in 2015. It took five months to complete the necessary two hundred pages of paperwork. Our room had antique furnishings from the original flat. The other two rooms were decorated in modern style. There rooms are usually booked every week day by business people as this is the financial and ministry district.

We learned just before breakfast that our plane would be delayed an hour but since we were already to go, we left for the train station as planned. At the station people were lined up to purchase tickets from a human but we went to a ticket machine and got ours without waiting. It took less than thirty minutes for the trip to Fiumicino Airport. We zoomed through check-in, security, and customs. Now, after a cappuccino and sandwich it is a waiting game. Time for a novel on the iPhone. At least it’s quiet here, not bombarded with announcements, sun shining on us through the skylights. I just need a lounger and I could nap.

Ciao, Italia!

The winds in Toronto on Friday delayed flights by five hours. Somehow those winds or new winds affected our flight so that we were nearly two hours late leaving Rome. It was nearly a ten hour flight. A long one. I watched movies. I finished watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I had started it on the way to Rome. Then I watched The Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill and the war, then Wonder about a fifth grader with facial disfigurements. All three dramas are well worth watching and brought on laughter as well as tears.

The plane was not full so as well as legroom, we were able to spread out and have more shoulder room. Brian dozed for part of the flight. I am never very good at that.

7:54PM Toronto… the car with Brilynn! Yeah! We will pretend it is not 1:54 AM Monday Rome time.

Pescara to Roma

200 kilometres by train across Italy

Saturday, May 5, 2018

After an excellent breakfast including a plate of sliced fruit with a banana decorated as a dolphin, the symbol of Pescara, we hoisted our packs onto our backs and walked down the stairs and to the nearby train station. The station was not at all busy. We easily found our train on Platform 7, walked around on the platform until closer to boarding time at 9:23 AM. Several cars on this train but they were mostly empty.  We were in second class although it does not look much different from first. Train travel is cheap, 14 euros for a three hour twenty minute trip to Rome.

Brian cleaned our window on the outside with a tissue so that we could see better. I took a few photos of our mountain scenery as we flew along. Many trees with white blossoms, snow on the higher mountains, tunnels to glide through, rails and road follow river valleys,  villages cling onto mountain sides or hill tops, fields, gardens and orchards on flat lands, forested hillsides, stony outcrops, castle ruins, church steeples, white clouds making beautiful patterns against bright blue sky. It poured for about a half an hour near the beginning of our trip.

Our train was only a few minutes late then we walked the kilometre to our B and B, Alla Locanda Malandra in the Sallustiano neighbourhood where Roberto was waiting to show us to our elegant eighteenth century style room with a large beautiful recessed oval light in the ceiling. His sister will be around to prepare breakfast for us in the morning. They have three rooms on the first floor of this interesting building across the street from the Porta Pia in the city wall of Rome.

Then we wandered for seven kilometres. We went looking for the Margherita Palace as it did not look too far from here. That was for you, Margaret! I did not get great photos of it since there is a very large wall with iron work above it and enormous magnolias that hide the beautiful statues and building. The palace is enormous and is now the American Embassy. The guard at the gate looked bored.

There are many beautiful buildings in the area as there are throughout Rome. I added to my collection of photos of door knockers. 

We walked along many pathways in the Borghese Gardens. I love the tall pines. I was hoping to also see some interesting flower gardens but the gardens where an aviary once was, looked weedy, sad and locked up. Maybe it will garner some attention for the summer season. As soon as the rain began, the people began to disperse. People were strolling, using inline skates or segways, driving four person golf carts or riding in a sightseeing train.  We took our time walking back to our room for a rest.

We plan on dining just around the corner at La Cantinola, recommended by Roberto as good food, not expensive. Our last dinner in Italy will probably be pasta.

Pescara, Abruzzo

Pescara, Abruzzo

Friday, May 4, 2018

By the sea, by the beautiful sea. After an egg, cheese, prosciutto and croissant breakfast we were driving again for the last time. As we drove north we were never far from the Adriatic. Sea green, turquoise, aqua, azure, Mediterranean blue: take your pick! We saw them all today. So peaceful, so calming even with big waves. The sky had its own wonderful blue with large cumulonimbus clouds to the north and wispy white streaking overhead. 

Most of the coastline north from Termoli is sand beach with many resorts, holiday homes, campgrounds and mobile home parks along the shore, but only one set of buildings deep, not blocks and blocks of constructions. Most buildings are not more than four or five storeys. On the other side of the road, olive trees again gave way to vineyards terraced up hillsides.  

We drove straight to the train station where we handed over the keys to our Citroen and Brian especially breathed a sigh of relief. Surviving 1080 kilometres of driving in Italy with drivers who do not obey traffic rules or speed limits is nothing short of a miracle. From the train to our lodging was an easy five hundred metre walk.

Not many places to pull off the road for photos on our drive but we took some while we walked the beach after arriving in Pescara. Pescara is the capital of the Abruzzo region, with a population of about 150 000 but 500 000 when the surrounding metropolitan area is included. I don’t think there are any buildings more than eight storeys. The room we are in is on the seventh (top) floor on main Corso Umberto 1 street. There are twenty-eight steps per floor. So far we have taken the elevator! We have a view to the sea from the balcony and as normal at three in the afternoon this pedestrian street is pretty much deserted.

A Cuban family runs this three room B and B called uPPer. Daughter and mother-in-law greeted us and showed us the kitchen, lounge and balcony available to us as well as our comfortable spacious room with ensuite and balcony. Every room in the past week has been tastefully decorated in grey and white usually with black and white photos or paintings. This is the first room with colourful paintings. It also has a large screen tv with Netflix. Brian and I have watched a few shows on his iPhone. A big screen might overwhelm us!

We had lunch at Bavaria American Food Bar. We split a chicken club sandwich with fries. Brian ate most of it. That was a huge sandwich. Brian had a beer and I enjoyed an “energy” slushy.

Rest time after only five and a half kilometres of walking. We must be slowing down.

We went back out for more walking and found the Museo Villa Urania which featured ceramics from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. There was also a special exposition of nineteenth century paintings.

Another walk to the beach and restaurants began their 7:30 PM opening. We dined at Locanda da Pia and we are full! I had a huge bowl of minestrone soup with pasta. It was twice the size of Brian’s first course of spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce. Even Brian could not finish my soup for me. He then had steak with salad and I had grilled veal with salad. All very good with friendly service.

Before supper we walked down our seven flights of stairs and after dinner we walked back up. We probably should still be going up and down.

During the Second World War 78% of the city was destroyed by bombers. That explains why there are relatively few old buildings and many apartment buildings that look as if they were built during the fifties and sixties. it is so young that it is known as the “city without wrinkles”.

Based on the prices we have seen in shop windows it is now a shopping city for the wealthy.

Termoli, Molise

Termoli, Molise

Thursday, May 3, 2018

While in Vieste we stayed close to the centre on the first floor ( that still means up twenty steps) at I Cordari where Rosella and Pietro have eight rooms with ensuites that they rent out. We had the lovely Margherita Room with comfortable bed, two pillows each and extra large fluffy towels, very good WIFI. It was lovely walking around Vieste, back to stair exercise after a couple of flat days.

Rosella put out a wonderful breakfast: specialty nut pastries from the area as well as her own homemade baking, two kinds of pizza, rolls, croissants, almonds, salami, cheese, fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, cappuccino. No one could go away hungry!

Last night’s dinner at Osteria degli Archi was fabulous. We shared our dishes. We had a platter of five different local cheeses from fresh to old, orecchiette in a white bean sauce with shredded cheese and bacon, a plate of seafood: deep fried sweet shrimp, the best calumari ever, tiny squid, mixed grilled vegetables, a large mixed salad with fruit and vegetables and roasted beans. No room for dessert. The service was excellent. We learned about the area and bought a tin of their locally produced all pressed olive oil.

We finished supper at 9 PM just in time for the concert at the cathedral. I guess the organ tuning was for another day. We had an older singing priest with a rich voice.

It rained last night then stopped for us to walk to our car then it poured. Our first daytime rain since our arrival. We drove the switchbacks on the north side of the Gargano Peninsula past many olive groves. Our GPS took us steeply up one particularly narrow road. Even in first gear our Citroen was struggling. Happily we did not encounter too many cars. One was enough. It forced us to the lip of the precipice. Our windshield wipers are not great.

We left Puglia and are now in Molise region. We arrived in Termini with a little sun and parked on the street a block from our six storey apartment building. We did not quite picture the Anemos B & B in blocks of apartment buildings, but our second floor (40 steps up) room is comfortable and Stephania welcomed us and is planning on eggs for breakfast. She sent us off walking with a map.

We had not gone far when the rain began in earnest with thunder and lightning. We took shelter under arches pathways and made it to Il Gordini  where we made our lunch a sampling of deep fried items: potatoes, fish, chicken, rice and cheese with a beer. The rain let up a little and we kept walking. Only one other couple was in the streets. Everyone was having a siesta. Nothing was open, not even the Duomo but we kept walking. The sun eventually came out and the Cathedral dedicated to the Purification of Mary opened at exactly 4 PM as the sign said it would. As with many churches this one was built on the remains of a previous one which was built over a temple. Because of earthquakes and raids this thirteenth century Roman style church has been renovated many times. It was unusual to see so many steps up to the altar.

We observed pigeons and rooks darting in and out of the many drainage slots on the fortified red and yellow brick town walls. We saw little birds peeking out looking for their dinner.

The lengthy sand beach has been almost completely raked. There is a substantial stone break wall protecting the swimming area. Lots of interesting views from the upper town and castle.

We descended to the shore to check out the large fishing boats. We think they may have been rigged to suck up clams. There are also ferries here which travel to the Tremiti Islands and to Vieste. Not for us on such a wavy day! We made our way back up to our room for a rest after 8.2 kilometres of walking with 145 metres of ascent. Many more people came out as shops opened and clouds dispersed.

The Gargano Peninsula

Vieste, Puglia

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Brian got up at midnight to open the patio door to let in some fresh air. There were still people eating pizza in the alley below.  Brian put his earplugs in. I did not hear anyone. The bed was extra comfortable. Our breakfast was waiting for us outside our door. Brian made his coffee and a cup of tea for me, my first morning tea! Juice, yogourt, fruit, muffins, chocolate cake, chocolate tart: a standard Italian breakfast, at least what is usually offered to tourists.

What a difference walking in Trani this morning! Just the fishermen, a few people shopping for fresh fish and us.  The harbour was no longer for pedestrians only but there were not many vehicles and there were plenty of parking spaces.

When driving yesterday we passed olive groves and cherry orchards. Some of the cherries looked like our sweet white ones: Victors! I would love to have tried them although they were probably not quite ripe. I have not seen any for sale.

For the first half of our 130 kilometres today we started seeing cherries then peaches but we were soon on an isthmus along the Adriatic. To the west of the road were large salt pans. Any land on either side of the road was filled and planted with vegetables. The asparagus was finished. New carrots were up. Tomatoes and potatoes were blooming. The air was redolent with garlic being harvested, rows and rows of white mounds of garlic were being loaded into bushels and then into trucks. Red poppies and yellow sow thistle grabbed any ground they could.

Homes were much more humble, small concrete rectangular prisms, many in need of repair. There were also many, many abandoned houses, many of which were two storey, probably abandoned since the war. The area had seen more prosperous times.

The second half of our drive was going to the tip of the Gargano peninsula to the fishing village of Vieste. The Gargano is mostly national park with hiking trails, sandy beaches or rocky coves with grottoes. I would like to have done some kayaking but we are not yet “in season”. Today kayaking would have been a little difficult as there were waves. We have only seen very calm sea until today. 

To get to Vieste we travelled through four tunnels, on after the other, for five kilometres. The longest tunnel was 2.5 kilometres. When not in tunnels we were driving switchbacks up and down the mountain. We encountered a few transport trucks but no tour buses. We were glad that it was not yet “the season”.

People are getting ready for the season. As we walked up and down the streets of Vieste, people were busy repairing, painting, raking beaches, cleaning up litter, preparing campgrounds, setting out lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. We walked the long sand beach then I had a swim and Brian waded but even he said it was the warmest water yet.

The cathedral is richly decorated for the month of May, the feast of Mary. A number of evening concerts are planned. When we visited, video cameras were being set up and the organ was being tuned.

We will be looking for a fish dinner tonight with orecchiette pasta, a specialty of Puglia.

Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Adriatic Sea, Puglia

Monday, April 30, 2018

To the sandy beach! Yeah! It was less than twenty kilometres to drive to the beach at Capitolo. Free parking. You only pay for parking from June 1st to September 30th, 1 euro per hour to a 5 euro maximum for the day. A lesson for Sauble Beach? Because of the holiday, there were plenty of people at the beach and in the water although more were wading rather than swimming. I swam. Delightful! The warmest so far! Brian waded. We walked the length of the beach and back in the water. There were not many seashells but I picked up four little ones. The beach is sandy but there are rocky shelves in patches just below the surface. The Adriatic is varying shades of aqua, turquoise and blue. There were about forty individual change houses and a couple of washrooms along the beach but they were not yet open for the season, which apparently does not begin until June. I think when the air temperature is over 25C the season is now!

We drove passing above Fasano to the beach. Fasano is a city in a valley surrounded by olive trees. Most of the groves (orchards?) have been filled showing a red pebbly soil. Many of the orchards have been planted with vegetables: row upon row of tomatoes, beans, onions, artichokes. The cherry orchard beside our trullo has been filled but not yet planted. By the size of the green cherries I think they will be ready for picking in three weeks.

We drove back by a different route, less traffic but more twists and turns also through many olive groves, past many trullis. We passed near Alberobello where we stopped for gas. We have done about six hundred kilometres on three quarters of a tank of gas. It cost twenty one euros to fill the tank. The newer houses that are not trullis are flat roofed and rectangular often with arches on an open porch, usually painted white, parged over concrete blocks.

We had to drive to Locorotondo this morning for our breakfast that is included with our accommodation it is not served here. We had been given tickets to turn in at a bar/cafe/gelateria. We were almost there when we received a message from our manager to go to a different bar as the owner of the first decided he would close for the holiday. Fortunately Bar Guida was just around the corner. Our server delivered our cappuccino and filled

The table with a variety of pastries, yogourt and muesli. We liked the custard tarts with kiwi, strawberry or blueberries best. With our second cappuccino the server brought more pastries. We said we did not need any more but she insisted. We took them for a snack later.

The bar had internet; so, I posted yesterday’s blog.

Last night we prepared our own supper. We had bought a roasted chicken. We fried mushrooms and added tomato sauce (from Sicily) to our sausage stuffed pasta. We had a prepared salad that included three greens, tomatoes flakes of parmigiana and prosciutto. We finished with chocolate ice cream. We still have some leftovers for tonight to add to our beef/sausage kebabs. Brian splurged on a red wine from Puglia for 2.94 euros. He wanted one red pepper to fry with the mushrooms but they came as two huge ones in a package. Lots of vitamins! We used the remains of the chicken in sandwiches for today’s lunch.

Back to reading on the patio in the shade of the grape vine that already has tiny grapes.

The full moon the past two nights has been magnificent. In Matera it was a bright moonscape flooding our room from above. Last night it spilled in through our patio doors. We left the wooden shutters open.

Locorotondo, Puglia

Locorotondo, Puglia


April 29, 2018

We really should have taken a photo of Brian beside one of the nuns, especially the last one this morning; she was not even at chest level. None of the others were much taller. We made an easy exit from Matera. 

Perhaps because it was Sunday and a holiday weekend, there were many cyclists and groups of motorcyclists on the road. Initially there was even a cycling margin. I would have wanted an electric bike for the uphills. Many of the motorcyclists drove the middle line, passing vehicles on curves and hills and narrowly missing buses, cars and trucks.

Brian is disappointed that he has only seen one Ferrari and no Lamborghinis. Upon

reflection he decided that no one drives expensive cars here because they would get scraped and dented.

There were huge yellow limestone quarries in the countryside near Matera. Then as the land became gently rolling to flat, there were large fields of various grains. I believe Puglia is known as the bread basket of Italy, known for its flour, bread and pasta. As we came closer to Alberobello (Beautiful Tree), the fields became orchards and vineyards. 

And the trullis appeared: round stone houses with thin stone tiles forming conical rooftops. We drove into the centre of Alberobello. From photos I had seen I was expecting a small town, but it is a large city. Trullis grow together between churches and surrounded by four storey apartment buildings. Plenty of tourists strolled the narrow streets. The first challenge was finding a parking spots. Drivers park in both directions regardless of the side of the street and some park diagonally in a parallel parking spot. Organized chaos.

After the cathedral and a stroll, we had a cappuccino and shared a chocolate croissant then left the city behind. The country side has plenty of trullis, some abandoned, some turned into useful dwellings, some remade into gorgeous dwellings, all more interesting than what we saw in Alberobello.

It was a short seven or eight kilometres to our Trullo Panorama in the country near Locorotondo. However when we arrived at the address given by Booking, there was no sign that said Trullo Panorama and no one around. It did not seem to match photos on the Internet. There was a large rectangular swimming pool but not a kidney shaped one. We drove down to the neighbouring farm. I asked about the address and he sent us farther to the corner then right then left. We saw many trullis in passing but only the first one had the corrrct address. We phoned the Booking number and after an Italian/English conversation the manager said he would meet us there in ten minutes. Half an hour later he showed up. The trullo is truly beautiful. There is a room for you, Eliane, and others too, but we only paid for the large bedroom and bathroom with tub! We have access to kitchen, dining room, living room and outdoor space. We must be the first renters of the season as the ma Ger had to get someone to come and add a propane tank and turn it on. Sadly the pool will not be ready for use until June. Very disappointed!

We think from the names at the gate that a pair of Englishmen own this place but it is managed by a local. He gave us tickets to go to a bar/cafe in town for our breakfasts. The internet is supposed to work but does not. He told us he has the phone company working on that.

We visited Locorotondo and liked the smaller town much more than Alberobello. We asked locals for directions to a supermarket and the best beach. The man and his mother were delightful and he happily showed us his cell phone cover: a Canadian flag.

We now have supplies for lunches and suppers and are reading on the patio. The only sounds are birds and bees. Ahhh!

We had a good meal last night in a restaurant filled with locals. Brian had the menu turistico: spaghetti with sausage, scallopini, French fries and water. Actually I drank his water and he drank beer and wine. I had a very thin slice of beefsteak with grilled eggplant and zucchini. All good with friendly service. We were amazed at how much food other customers put away. I could not eat a whole pizza by myself but many, even young kids, ordered that and ate other dishes as well. From who we have seen, Italians are not overweight. It must be the stairs. Margaret, Brian thinks he is ready to challenge you on stairs.

We attended mass before supper in the “plain” rock church of St. John the Baptist and witnessed the baptism of baby Alessandro Leon. We were not invited to the festivities that surely followed. 

Exploring Matera

Saturday April 28, 2018

We are getting into the Italian routine. Siesta time is much appreciated after four hours of walking up and down in the heat. Yes, it was only 6.6 kilometres so far but today is not over yet. We found a better closer district for restaurants; so, we will head that way later.

We hear that it can be 45 C here in the summer and that is when the crowds are bigger. I cannot imagine coming here in July and August. There are already enough school and adult groups being lead around by a flag. We had to wait five minutes to join ten others to squeeze into an old time Sassi home. To think that as many as eight people used to live in one of these caves with their mule, chickens, pig and goat and one chamber pot. It was typical for a couple to have six children although the infancy mortality rate was fifty percent due to poor sanitation.  

The system for collecting rain water looks like a terra cotta plant pot turned upside down and a channel made with terra cotta tiles to a cistern. There were no aquifer or springs in the limestone strata.

We walked the footpath that led us around the edge of the old centre. Many times we stood at the precipice above the Gravina River. We could see caves on the cliffs on the far side. There are footpaths that snake down to the river on both sides to a footbridge. We saw people on the paths and the bridge even though access to both have been blocked with two metre high barriers and signs warning that access has been cut off due to the risks of falling into the chasm.

Much of the quarried stone cut into large blocks for building is a yellow limestone. Yellow and pink Are the most common finishes used on “newer”  eighteenth century buildings. Cranes vie with church towers as restoration continues. The castle Tramontano is not open to the public. A construction fence surrounds its moat although no work appears to be underway. There is a sign referring to the important 2019 cultural year. 

We entered the Monastery of St Agostino and from there into the ancient rock church that was partially under it still bearing frescoes and pieces of statuary. 

We visited in a workshop with a wood sculptor who now does more ceramics but also makes bronze items and stone carvings. His workshop used to be a cave dwelling but he made it his workshop in 2010. He proudly showed us his wares and photos in a artisan book in which he is featured. 

We came back to the Conservatory of Music plaza where we found a supermarket that also served hot and cold dishes. We sat in the shade of an umbrella with an Italian family while we shared our breaded fried squid and an orzo salad loaded with olives.

This morning after cappuccino, breads, cookies, cheese and jam, Sister Tina, the head of this Sacred Heart community, gave us a tour of the school where we also chatted with the youngest nun who was cleaning the chapel. She was from the Philippines. There are no noviciates here. There are fourteen nuns. It is an international order with one hundred houses around the world. They teach forms one to five here and have kindergarten classes. They have a SMART board in each classroom, and as many as twenty-seven students in a class.

Tomorrow we will be heading into Puglia. We will be staying in a trullo between Alberobello and Locorotondo for two days. There is no internet.


Istituto del Sacro Cuore 

Friday, April 27, 2018

We made it into the centre of Matera, 200 kilometres from Cersuta. We hugged Eliane farewell at the train station where she will return to Naples then fly home to France in the morning. We are staying with the nuns at the Sacred Heart Institute, a convent with an elementary school in it. Students were just exiting for their four day weekend. May 1st is a national holiday. We were happy to discover that there was onsite parking as the historical centre of Matera is for pedestrians only. Apparently many locals do not know this; certainly it does not apply to delivery vans. Walkers, beware!

The nuns are a cheerful bunch,  very accommodating. Our room on the second floor is spacious with thousands of tiny hearts printed on the sheets and amply covered with the word love. Cute! And I have a pillow case embossed with roses. The framed print on the wall says, in Italian: “You are a gift from God.” The only thing we do not have is a view because we are on the top floor. A large window opens up. We will need the air flow tonight. 

It was thirty degrees Celsius today as we walked 8.5 kilometres in the cobbled streets of Matera. The cobbles are large, many are more than fifteen centimetres in diameter and they are shiny with wear thus slippery. Many appear to be a form of marble. Our gps tells us we did 350 metres of ascent and descent. Certainly there are many rock stairs.

Matera is a UNESCO world heritage site. It has also been declared the European Cultural Capital for 2019. It continues to undergo many restorations. We wandered the streets marvelling at the unusual formation of buildings upon buildings, palaces, churches ( yes, there are a few and no, we have not been in all of the them….yet), and statues. There are thousands of years of history here. In the 1950s Matera was “the shame” of Italy because of the abysmal living conditions of its citizens. The government turned its attention to the Sassi (caves) dwellers and now it is a tourist destination. There is still much architectural work in progress.

Our drive today took us from the boundary between Calabria and Basilicata to the boundary between Basilicata and Puglia; from forested mountains to bare hills and large fields where hay was being cut to the flat Ionian coastal plain of fruit orchards: peaches, oranges, vineyards to this amazing city.

We searched for a long time and waited for the seven o’clock opening to have pizza, but a very different pizza called Fantasia. No tomato sauce, covered in a variety of vegetables with bacon, pepperoni and buffalo mozzarella.