Southern Italy Paradise

Trip Start Jan 24, 2014
Trip End May 02, 2014

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Flag of Italy  , Puglia,
Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hello all!

Earlier this week we have a dinner party with all of the Brothers and Sisters of the Assumptionists.  Yes, we had nuns and priests over for dinner and they spoke a variety of languages ranging from Italian to French to English to Spanish. It was a ton of fun and they are all so friendly!
After this stressful week of midterms, we traveled 3 and a half hours (on the fast train) to the region of Puglia!  We stayed specifically in a very small town called Barletta which is where our Professor's niece, Marissa, lives! Her and her husband, Manu, were our guides for the weekend.  Actually her story was quite amazing!  She studied abroad in her junior year for a year in Urbino and attended an actual Italian University where she met Manu.  After her year was over she went home, finished college, and within weeks bought a one way ticket to Barletta, Puglia where Manu lived, and has been there for five years.  She kept telling us not to let anyone tell you that you can't do something if you truly want it.  She was a huge influence in our vacation, tour wise, and style wise!

We arrived late Thursday night and went out to a dinner that started at 8:30 and ended at 11.  Thats consider an early dinner for them.  But anyways, the best part of the meal was the pasta.  We had the pasta Orecchiette, which is the specific pasta of the region.  At that restaurant, the pasta was hand made by local grandmothers of Barletta! It was delicious!  Nico, Marge (Maggie as we now call her), and I shared a room together, and we got the best room in Barletta! It had a spiral Rapunzel staircase that led to a Hobbit-door.  Inside we had a futon, queen bed, bunk beds, and two balconies! One attached to the bedroom and one off the bathroom!  Some people didn't even have windows and we had a gorgeous room!

Friday we woke up and Marissa showed us how to get to the beach which we could only see for a few minutes because we then traveled by train to the nearby town of Trani!  Trani was a stunning seaport town with the bluest water you can imagine!  We ate lunch there and climbed rocks and took tons of pictures, obviously.  When we returned to Barletta we went shopping!  Sadly, I didn't find anything Friday.  We did learn however that Siesta in southern Italy is way more intense than in Rome.  In Rome Siesta ends at 4:30, in Barletta it ends at 5:30!  We had dinner that night at a fancy restaurant where this MASSIVE family was having an 80th birthday party for an 80 year old bachelor.  He was with his 5 living siblings out of six, each having five children each and grandchildren.  Professor Bonanno had us give a toast to this guy we don't know and then the family gave us pasta from their party after our dinner.  They were really friendly and the family started talking to us.  The whole time I was in this restaurant, the owner was amazing because he coordinated my dinners to not have lactose products in it and even gave me a separate dessert and googled ingredients in the dessert to make sure I could eat it.  He was a saint and really nice.  In fact Bonanno told every restaurant about how I can't eat lactose products and the running joke between us, Bonanno, Marissa, and Manu is that the entire town of Barletta knows that I'm lactose intolerant.  Its a little embarrassing, but everyone was really nice.

Saturday morning we traveled to the Castel del Monte which is a castle near Barletta with an interesting story.  No one has any idea as to how it was built, who built it, and who lived there, if anyone lived there.  It is an octangular castle with eight rooms on each corner, all exactly identical.  The second floor is exactly the same.  and in the center of the castle is an open courtyard with the rooms attached the open area.  The only known information is that the ruler of the region in the 12th century commissioned the same stone used for the building to be collected from mountains.  There are no building or inhabitant records at all.  Its as if the castle just appeared out of thin air.  It is even debated if anyone lived there because there weren't enough fireplaces to keep the castle warm and there were no doors to the courtyard, it was wide open.  There is one speculation that it was a hunting lodge, but no one knows anything for sure, not even the locals.  It truly is a mystery.  Later in the day we went shopping and I bought a few things, among them Italian playing cards because they are different from American cards and have their own specific games.  I learned one, called Briscola, which I will be teaching everyone at home and others once I learn them!  We went out to dinner again where we had a delicious dinner.  We didn't know it at the time, but apparently we all ate horse meat... I am disgusted.  On a different note Saturday was International Womens Day! Nothing happened at all but it was cool and people wished us Happy International Womens Day!

Sunday we woke up, ate breakfast, went to the local flea market (where I bought an Italian CD) and then went to the beach.  We found cool shells that looked like half-starfish/ half shells.  We also found an empty bottle on the beach and decided to write a note on the back of a receipt and throw it into the water!  We then packed up and boarded the train.  We were all devasted to leave Puglia because it is such a calm, clean, serene place!
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