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Zurers in Italy 2019

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
I am writing on Thursday, May 23 in Trani (Puglia)....a beautiful warm sunny day in a very attractive town.

Since the last report from Lecce, I have mostly recovered from flu-like symptoms but over the weekend, in Polignano a Mare (another beautiful town) Diana got some sort of virus or food poisoning which knocked her out for a few days.

When we arrived in Trani yesterday, the internet at our hotel was extremely slow and I couldn't get the pictures into the final report from Lecce....I'll be checking today to see if this is the normal state of affairs here. In any case, I plan to resume as soon as possible.

For now, we are feeling mostly better and (finally) enjoying the warm sunshine of a typical month of May in Italy.

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
May 25: Trani: STATUS REPORT

We are at the end of our stay in Trani. Tomorrow we move to Le Marche to stay for a week at the Locanda della Vallenuova near Urbino....the prize that I won in the recent Slow Europe web site contest. (No skill, all luck...thanks Pauine Kenny and Giulia da Urbino.) I am confident that I will then be able to get the pictures into the reports and catch up.

We are now both reasonably healthy and have been enjoying the warm, sunny, more typical May weather here in northern Puglia. We hope that the nice weather continues next week to the north of here.

Trani is a great place to stay....beautiful setting on the harbor and the Adriatic, a very nice centro storico, a stunning cathedral overlooking the sea and a pleasant vibe--a great place to walk around or hang out watching the boats and the people. In addition, the Jewish history of Trani has now been recognized and lends another facet to its appeal.

While you are waiting for the next installment of Zurers in Italy 2019, I thought it would be interesting to include a report I wrote on our second trip to Trani in 2008. Our reactions then to the town, public park, countryside etc. mirror our experiences today. I have copied it below and also included the link if the old report doesn't make it intact.

Tomorrow we have a five hour drive north....

Jim and Diana

Monday, October 20, 2008 - Day 7: Trani

The weather is overcast this morning…lots of clouds over the water that we see from our window. The breakfast room in the hotel is exceptionally bright and cheery and the breakfast is very good also. Our first stop is the cathedral which is right outside the hotel door. The Trani cathedral has the most striking location…..set on a wide piazza just on the water’s edge. The cathedral is taller than most because it is built on top of two older churches. Entering from the side, we first go down to the low-ceilinged crypt which contains the remains of Trani’s patron saint–San Nicola Pellegrino–and some old frescoes on the ceiling.

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Upstairs, the main space is quite restrained….no wall decorations but many handsome columns, graceful rose windows, some lively floor mosaics and the original carved bronze doors now displayed inside.

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Outside in the piazza, the view of the front of the cathedral is very impressive….especially with the Adriatic Sea as background.

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Let me digress and talk about Trani. Trani has a very unique layout….the port is almost completely enclosed and there are restaurant and shops on one side of the harbor. The cathedral is on the end of one side of the harbor, along with a number of government buildings; the same side is also is home to the fishing fleet. On the other side of the harbor is a new hotel and one of the nicest public parks in all of Italy….beautifully kept, attractively planted with pathways, benches, a playground and three sides that are directly on the water. The “centro storico” is crammed in between the cathedral, the waterfront and the modern town with narrow streets and attractive white buildings. The very appealing modern town starts at the end of the harbor and stretches for blocks inland. And to the southeast, there is a long stretch where the road out of town hugs the waterfront and is lined with hotels and apartments.

Here is a Google map showing Trani’s harbor and “centro storico”.

View: https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d4708.323438001611!2d16.422093!3d41.279806!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x1338046c70780ea3%3A0x3e4422a665b12fd6!2s76125+Trani%2C+Province+of+Barletta-Andria-Trani%2C+Italy!5e1!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1558807611469!5m2!1sen!2suk

Trani also has a historic Jewish connection. It was a center of Jewish learning and up to the 12 century, there were about 200 families and four synagogues. When we visited here seven years ago, two of the churches in the “centro” were identified as having formerly been synagogues. I had read that two of the churches had been deconsecrated and that there were plans to restore them as historic synagogues and Jewish centers…even though no Jews are left in Trani. I had also read about a restaurant that served Mediterranean-style food with an emphasis on Jewish recipes. I wanted to return to Trani to see how these plans were coming along as well as because we had liked Trani so much.

In any case, the plans have not progressed too far although there is construction going on at the Scolanova and there is a Jewish star on the top of building. And the restaurant is no longer serving “Jewish” food on a regular basis…only when there is a Jewish event in town.

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Even so, Trani is a very appealing destination…:)

We spend some time in the public park, walking around and sitting looking at the water…on this Thursday morning, it is quite busy with mothers and children, old men sitting on benches, joggers, tourists and students. It is still as beautiful and pleasant as we had remembered….a very good respite from the “hard work” of sightseeing.

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We have a quick lunch at one of the bars on the harbor and then get in the car to explore the countryside above Trani. The expedition is fraught with touristic mishaps however. Our first stop is at Cannae, the sight of a battle where Hannibal crushed the Roman legions during one of the Punic Wars. However, when we arrive the site and the museum are both closed….another “in restauro” experience. We make a short detour to the town of Canosa di Puglia but the historic sites there don’t seem particularly striking to us and the town is not very attractive either.

The most interesting thing about our expedition is seeing the fields stretching out as far as the eye can see filled with either olive groves or vineyards or both. Once in a while, there is a small peach orchard….but it is not hard to believe that Puglia produces most of Italy’s olive oil and alot of wine. The cultivation goes on for miles as we climb onto the plateau called La Murgia. Once on the plateau, the topography changes dramatically…this appears to be wheat country and there is not a olive tree or grape vine to be seen. One other interesting part of the expedition is our drive through Minervino Murgia…this hill town seems to appear abruptly out of the plateau and looks like a sheer face of houses just rising in front of us.

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We drive to the top of the town and head back down to Trani on a different road…but one that is just as heavily cultivated as the one we drove up on.

One last stop before we head back to Trani…..Barletta, another port town on the Adriatic about 10 miles northwest of Trani. We take a short stroll through the “centro storico” and pop in to the duomo. But even at 5 pm, many of the shops are still not open so the town is very quiet. We do drive past one of the town’s tourist attractions, the Colossus of Barletta–a 20 foot high statue of a Roman general (no one is quite sure who it is) that is located right in the middle of the sidewalk of a busy street.

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Dinner is at da Miana, the restaurant that was written up as serving “Jewish food”. At 8:15 pm, we are the first customers (in fact, only one other table is occupied by the time we leave at 10 pm). The host is very charming and, since we are the only customers, spends a lot of time with us. We have the da Miano special antipasto…three hot dishes–a red mullet in a sauce under a piece of pastry, fried shrimp in a crust of almonds (a bit too heavy on the almonds) and terrine with anchovies. Very inventive dishes and very good……No pasta tonight; instead a delicately prepared “fritto misto” for me and an excellent tagliata–steak cooked rare garnished with parmigiano-reggiano for Diana.

We have a pleasant stroll back to the hotel through the quiet streets of the old town. Tomorrow we explore Bari, the largest city in Puglia and a town with a “reputation”.

Link to this trip report:
 
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Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
We are now in the countryside near Urbino for a week of some rest and some sightseeing. I am jumping ahead to the present to test out the connection with the goal of catching up on the missing days during our week here.

Sunday: May 26: Day 21: Trani-Fermignano

Gray, chilly and raining in Trani....makes it a good day to leave town.

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After our last breakfast in the very attractive hotel breakfast room--the chapel of the old convent--

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we pack up and get on the road.

The trip is almost all on the autostrada...about 4.5 hours...so the steady rain in the beginning of the trip doesn't affect the ride. As we reach the region of Abruzzo the landscape becomes much more attractive than the coastal plain of Puglia...rolling hills, very green, with hill towns scattered above. The road also hugs the Adriatic so the water is often in view.

We stop for lunch at a very crowded Autogrill--the sandwiches are fine as usual--and exit the autostrada at Fano. The toll for the trip is Euro 37.40 - over $40.00 US...higher than we are used to back home.

We find the very scenic back road

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that takes us to the agriturismo Locanda della Valle Nuova and are met by Giulia (da Urbino) Savini who shows us our apartment. It is a spacious one bedroom with high ceilings, cheerful modern furnishings, very up-to-date and well-equipped bath and kitchen, helpfully provided with bread, butter, fresh eggs, homemade peach jam etc. for our breakfast. We are very unused to staying in apartments since we mostly stay in hotels...so we try to pay close attention to the instructions about heating, garbage, etc.

We have a struggle connecting to the internet and, once connected, realize that either something is not set right or the connection is extremely slow. Giulia says she will check with her tech guy in the morning.

After settling in and resting for a while, we drive into Fermignano--the nearest town--to do some grocery shopping and have dinner. The drive into town, on a different road than the one we came in on, takes about ten minutes...I am relieved that the Locanda is not as remote as I had thought.
We find the surprisingly large and attractive Conad supermarket and buy some paper goods, coffee, tea, cheese and fruit before driving around town a bit before going to the restaurant. The restaurant--Trattosteria di Romina--is small and attractive.

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The friendly waitress tells us what's available..there is no menu. We pass on the mixed antipasto course and order two excellent pasta dishes....spaghetti with asparagus and burrata for Diana and cavatelli with fava and sausage and a plate of swiss chard for me. We have a couple of glasses of a delicious local red. Diana enjoys her dessert--cookie crust, chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. We tell the waitress that we hope to return for the antipasti during the week.

Two of the tables of four are served gigantic hunks of bistecca fiorentina....apparently also a specialty of the house.

The ride back to the Locanda in the rain on the dark, narrow, curvy road is challenging but we make it. We discuss perhaps changing our eating style and switching to big lunches out and lighter dinners back at the apartment.

Tomorrow...the weather report is not promising but we live in hope.

Jim and Diana
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I really liked Fermignano. We stopped there several times. There was a very good Gelato place that Giulia told us about. And the supermarket there was very good and had a lot of vegetarian/vegan and organic options.

When we were there, there was a restaurant in the countryside only a mile from Giulia's. We had pizza there one night and it was very good. I agree with the idea of having lunch out and dinner in - easier driving in the daylight.

There was a ginger cat when we stayed there, called "Ginger". Is he still around? He used to visit with me every morning when I was sitting outside having coffee.
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
>>Gilded Bronzes<< Just returned....we were the only ones in the museum. Did you see the video/sound and light show that they project on the walls and on the figures? Pretty complex...
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday: May 27-Wednesday: May 29: Days 21-23: Fermignano

I am combining our first three days at the beautiful Locanda della Vallenuova because the weather has kept us inside much of the time...it has been rainy and cool. We also were taking a "vacation from our vacation" even though we couldn't take advantage of the the beautiful surroundings and the swimming pool.

Also this report will be without pictures...the internet isn't cooperating with me. I will try to insert them when I get a better connection.

Monday, May 27

We sleep in....whether it was due to the peace and quiet or the rain, I am not sure. After a late breakfast--the first one we have had to prepare by ourselves--we hang out at the apartment for most of the day. We drive over to Urbania--about 20 minutes west of here--but by the time we get there, it was raining and we don't feel like getting wet while sightseeing. We also try to visit another nearby town--Cagli--but find it hard to penetrate the "centro storico" (traffic patterns and narrow streets) and it was too wet and cold to park outside and walk in. Before heading back, we stop to do some food shopping. Dinner is at the Locanda with some of the other guests...Giulia cooked a delicious dinner--antipasto platter, bean soup, beef stew and chocolate mousse. We enjoy talking to a British couple of our age who are old Italy hands and indefatigable sightseers...putting us to shame.

Back in our apartment, we watch Jeopardy, Diana reads and I watch some baseball.

Tuesday, May 28

The weather in the morning is improved...it had rained during the night but it has stopped by the time we get in the car to do some exploring. Our first stop is the Furlo Gorge...a striking narrow passage where the Candigliano River has cut through sheer cliffs.

The old Via Flaminia, the Roman road that reached the Adriatic at Fano, ran alongside the river and the Romans had cut tunnels under the cliffs to make room for the road. Today the old road hugs the river and the traffic alternates in each direction every five minutes. We pass lots of hikers along the road, enjoying the views and the absence of rain.

We then head for Fossombrone, a historic town to the east where we will be having dinner on Friday night when Maureen and Franco come to visit from Rome. The porticoed main street--Corso Garibaldi--is lined with grand "palazzi" and attractive shops. We walk past the Duomo and admire the grand doorways. After a leisurely stroll, we get back in the car and decide to take a ride in the country before lunch.

The weather has turned sunny so we take some back roads which give us some spectacular views and panoramic vistas over the green hills and high mountains in the distance. We lose some time because I ignore a "strada chiusa" (road closed sign) and we have to double back for about six miles...which gives us twice as much scenery to enjoy.

Our plan is to go to Pergola to see the Bronzi Dorati (Gilded Bronzes); we had seen them on a previous visit to Le Marche. They are the oldest known Roman era bronze statues; they had been lost until broken pieces of the group were discovered by accident in 1946 outside the town of Pergola. While waiting for the museum to reopen at 3:30 pm, we stop for a late lunch at the Osteria del Borgo in Pergola. We share an antipasto platter (including an asparagus puree spread on something that closely resembled a bagel). Diana's ravioli is okay but my sausage and rib platter is very tasty....

We are the only people in the museum and we are ushered directly into the room that was especially built to showcase the bronzes. They are really quite spectacular...four figures, two standing (women) two on horseback. One of the standing figures and one of the men on horseback seem almost complete...the other two are missing a number of pieces. There is also an elaborate video/sound and light show (in Italian) that explains who the statues may represent and how they were found and restored.

No dinner...just odds and ends at the apartment.

Wednesday, May 29

Rainy and cold....we are not too motivated to go anywhere so we hang out in the apartment. We decide to go out for lunch and drive over to Urbania to try another of Giulia's recommendations. Our GPS (Google maps..which has been very accurate for the most part) leads us astray and it takes two full circuits of the town to locate Osteria da Doddo. It is in fact just steps off the main square but you couldn't tell that from the GPS directions.

We have an excellent lunch....Diana has an inventive artichoke flan with toasted almonds and cheese sauce followed by a plate of tagliolini with asparagus, cheese and guanciale...her best meal of the trip. I have a salumi and cheese platter accompanied by "crostone"...a warm, flaky flatbread that is addictive and a big plate of swiss chard and cicoria. With a glass of wine apiece and the rain still falling, we head back to the apartment and wait for the weather to improve.

Since our lunch was again late, we have no appetite for dinner so we make do with some very good gelato from the spiffy gelateria in Fermignano. We watch some television (we are enjoying the Hulu series Catch-22 and also following James Holzhauer's victory streak on Jeopardy) and hope for better weather tomorrow for our visit to Urbino.

Jim and Diana
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We also try to visit another nearby town--Cagli--but find it hard to penetrate the "centro storico" (traffic patterns and narrow streets) and it was too wet and cold to park outside and walk in.
I remember that town! We drove in and parked in the narrowest spot I have ever seen. First we drove around in circles three times on very narrow lanes, then Steve decided to try the spot even though I was positive the car would not fit. He parked it.

The weather has been horrible in central Italy for about two months! I had friends traveling in Umbria and Tuscany from mid-April into May and they were texting me every day. They had a lot of rain and the weather was cold. It was colder than usual for our recent two weeks in Campania but only a couple of wet days. May is usually a very good month to travel to Italy.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
LOVE your trip report!! Makes me feel like I'm travelling with you. All the effort you put into it is much appreciated. Too bad about the weather. It can't be helped but it's a bummer. And being sick as well. Nevertheless, you seem to be coping and adjusting well.
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
June 4: Rome: STATUS REPORT

Today is the last day of our very challenging trip...we fly out tomorrow morning and we are ready to come home. Due to the mostly unpleasant weather during the first three weeks, our health issues and the internet challenges in Trani and Le Marche, it has been impossible to keep up with the reports. I will make no promises but I hope to be able to send out recaps of our time since the last report and include some pictures from the missing periods.

As a token of my intent, here is a picture of the dome of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome--seen from our hotel room window

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and a shot of the Colosseum at sunset taken from the roof garden of our friends Maureen and Franco.

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Jim and Diana
 

milgreen2

10+ Posts
Sorry to hear about all of the challenges, but from where I sit, reading your reports, the trip seems *mostly* delightful. Looking forward to reading about your Rome days, as we'll be ending our October trip in Rome and I'm looking for some good, not-on-the-usual-guidebook itineraries-ideas.
 

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