From Rome we boarded the train with seconds to spare (literally – the sophisticated Italians looked at us with distaste when we burst on to the train, red faced and panting, having sprinted up four sets of stairs and across the expanse of the station to leap on, the whistle blowing and doors shutting behind us) and travelled south to Puglia, to stay in the coastal town of Brindisi.
We got off the train on a Sunday afternoon to find our selves in a beautiful ghost town – the palm tree lined streets deserted in favour of traditional family Sunday lunch. Our stomachs rumbling and fearing the worst, we managed to stumble into a pizzeria with mere minutes before closing. Luckily, they took pity on us and served us up Margherita pizzas oozing with mozzarella and dotted with devilishly hot cherry tomatoes.Relieved, we ventured back out into the blazing streets to get our bearings.
Brindisi is an old port town, with ancient trading links. The streets were lined with white stone worn smooth and slippery by centuries of pedestrians. The town seemed more traditional village than Rome, a welcome relief after the hordes of tourists in the city. The afternoon rests were observed strictly, and we were recognised immediately as being outsiders – even before we attempted to speak!
We spent three nights here, venturing to the beach one day where we hired an umbrella and beach chairs and read our kindles for hours between dips into the waves to cool off. Our first swims of the holiday!!
We also took a day trip to the nearby town of Ostuni, known as the white city. The old town perched on a hill overlooking the coastline, the terraces of white rise like a castle, the steep and narrow lanes a maze, dotted with hidden shops, restaurants and cafes.
The food in Puglia was as delicious as we had come to expect! We visited the local market one morning, where one stall holder waved away my payment with a grin after kindly helping me select the best pomodoro for our bruschetta lunch. Searching for somewhere to eat on our final evening, we rounded the corner to where the market had been, and found that chairs and tables had been set up in place of the market stalls, diners clinking glasses by candlelight. Treating ourselves we dined on crumbed mussels, octopus from the crockpot and seafood linguine, washed down with a carafe of delicious house white wine.
Another notable dinner was again stumbled across, noticing a long line coming from a seemingly nondescript pizzeria down a lane. We found the diners enjoying fritte, a pizza folded in half and deep fried and something of an institution in Brindisi. Even wrapped in brown paper, the Italian version of takeaways!
Our final day we tried again to head to the beach, but the wind had picked up, leaving the beach deserted and a far cry from the packed expanse of the day prior. More depressing was that the lack of people made the amount of rubbish washed up on the beach apparent – piles of plastic, like seaweed, along the sand, that had been hidden (caused) by the bathers when we were there the first time. A few die hards braving the wind even had their beach chairs casually set up amongst the plastic.
We returned to Brindisi, disheartened, and i also with apprehension, wondering whether the wind that had prevented our beach day was a hint that we might be in for a rough ride when we embarked on our 17 hour long ferry to Greece that evening.
As the boat pulled away from the harbour later that evening, I stared out the window at the receeding lights of Brindisi, nervously checking and double checking for the tell tale rocking and rolling of large swells – a dicey cook strait crossing with green faces forever giving me anxiety about ferry crossings, despite my past island life!
Eventually I closed the curtains and willed myself to get some sleep. A few hours later I woke with a start, to find we had pulled into a Greek port, the sky and hilly landscape pastel pinks and greys against the blue sea. Relieved to have survived the night, I fell back asleep as we continued the journey to our Patras destination.
From there we caught a bus to Loutraki, a gorgeous Greek resort town. With a magnificent pebbly beach, with the kind of water that is perfect for swimming, gets deep instantly and beautiful and clear, we made the most of the sunshine. Even better was the rows of beach recliners and umbrellas free of charge, and waited on from the bars and restaurants that lined the beachfront. We even found a gelato place!
Kelly Pro Travel Tip:
is hot in summer. Freeze a big bottle of water and put in your bag. You’ll have cold water all day. What? I can’t do a serious one?