Southern Italy Road Trip

Today marks our three month mark from leaving Italy.  I cannot believe it!  Last week, Bobby and I took our final road trip to southern Italy, where we visited Bobby’s sister Eva and caught some rays on the beach.  Okay, to be honest, it was several beaches.  :)  Even though the southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Campania aren’t the most visited in Italy, they are certainly among our favorites.  The people are open, generous, and (generally) love getting to know us, a welcome change to some of the colder responses we’ve received in the north.

Eva and her husband live in the town of Grottaglie.  Although small in size, it has a large art and ceramic scene.  Everywhere we turned, there were painted murals on the walls, some by famous artists like Os Gemeos.  “Os Gemeos” are identical twin artists that painted the Brazilian airplane for the World Cup.  (Sorry for the quality of these photos.  I still have my ancient iPhone!)

Bottom right photo done by Os Os Gemeos

Bottom right photo done by Os Gemeos

Grottaglie street art

Grottaglie street art

As for the ceramics, there are artiginal shops on every corner.  If I’m not mistaken, one owner said there are 60 different shops in Grottaglie alone and they handcraft all their works on site.  We ended up buying a set of dishes (to go along with our set we have from Sicily!) and a “pumo,” a traditional Pugliese symbol of hope, fertility, and good luck.

Our gold-plated pumo

Our gold-plated pumo

As most people know, one of our favorite pass-times in Italy is eating.  We play it off as “learning the culture,” but really, we just like to eat.  All joking aside though, in Puglia, you really do eat well.  Geremia and Eva took us out to three different lovely restaurants and we were never disappointed.  Unfortunately, I only got one photo of the four of us and it was after we were finished.  :)

Dinner with family

Dinner with family

We spent the following three days in Basilicata laying on the beach along the Costa Jonica.  Unfortunately, it rained on and off all three days.  Seriously?  It has never rained on us in southern Italy before.  I guess we were due.

Taking advantage of the 20 minutes of sun

Taking advantage of the 20 minutes of sun (see? there is no one there!)

I braved the water, which really wasn't too cold.  I'd say it was "fresh".

I braved the water, which really wasn’t too cold. I’d say it was “fresh”.  Granted, the look on my face says otherwise…..

One of my favorite parts of the day was watching the elderly people at the nearby resort get their “early-day sport” on.  Every morning at 10am, come rain or shine, there was a large group doing some awesome shuffles that looked strangely like the YMCA.  I thought it was so awesome (honestly!) and I want to be like that when “I grow up.”

See?  Look at the group on the left.

See? Look at the group on the left.  Down low……

And up high.....

And up high…..

In Calabria, the weather was the same, but there were longer stretches of sun.  Luckily, we had a beautiful afternoon in Tropea, which is seriously one of the prettiest towns we’ve visited in a while.  We talked about the fact that we could live there (if the famed ‛Ndrangheta Mafia group didn’t have such a stronghold on the region).  Tropea is an old Roman port town which sits up on a cliff, plunging into the Mediterranean Sea below.  There is a legend says that it was Hercules who, returning from Spain, stood on the Coast of Gods and made Tropea one of his ports.

We ended up being a little late for lunch service, so we stopped and got a slice of the Calabrese specialty pizza – sweet onions and red peppers (some also add the Calabrese nduja spicy salami as well) – and found an awesome invention.  Maybe these exist in other parts of the world, but I’ve never seen it.  We were given a little cardboard cutout in the shape of the pizza slice that held the slice so it wouldn’t do the “flop-over” and burn your chin.  You know you’ve done it before……

The genius cardboard pizza slice holder

The genius cardboard pizza slice holder with our Pizza Calabrese

We also splurged for dessert in Tropea and it wasn’t too difficult to figure out what to choose.  “Tartufi,” or truffles, were on every sign in front of every restaurant and gelateria in town.  These are the ice cream versions of the truffle, which are basically packed gelato with a filled center.  I went for the chocolate/hazelnut truffle filled with chocolate (it’s like the ice cream version of the lava cake) and Bobby had “la cassata,” the Sicilian-specialty-turned-Calabrese with the ice cream version.

Bobby's Cassata and my chocolate truffle

Bobby’s Cassata and my chocolate truffle

After our pizza pick-me-up and the subsequent gelato sugar crash, we were happy to take a little stroll through town.

View of Tropea's Castle (the original was knocked down due to damage)

View of Tropea’s Castle and beach from the town above (the original was knocked down due to damage)

Another view of the castle

Another view of the castle

Tropea's famous sweet red onions

Tropea’s famous sweet red onions

The main road in Tropea's old center

The main road in Tropea’s old center

Nothing like a beautiful villa with a tire street sign

Nothing like a beautiful villa with a tire street sign

Check out these beautiful flowers

Check out these beautiful flowers

And one more for good measure...

And one more for good measure…

Tropea is World Cup ready

Tropea is World Cup ready

Our last stop in southern Italy came in Castellabate in the Campania region.  I don’t think the film “Benvenuti al Sud” ever made it to the States, but it’s one of the comedy classics here in Italy and it was filmed in this town.  We stayed on the property of a lovely old villa that sat right on the beach, with Castellabate towering above.  Luckily, this time, the weather was perfect.  The only downside is that we only stayed one night.

Hotel beach in Castellabate

Hotel beach in Castellabate

View from our hotel room

View from our hotel room

Sunset

Sunset

Dinner view

Dinner view

Benvenuti al Sud!

Benvenuti al Sud!

We parked at the bottom of Castellabate and took the winding path to the top

We parked at the bottom of Castellabate and took the winding path to the top

Castellabate

Castellabate

View of the coastline (where we stayed) from Castellabate

View of the coastline (where we stayed) from Castellabate

And this is our hotel - the big square villa with the courtyard

And this is our hotel – the big square villa with the courtyard

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

Comments

  1. Wonderful post, Carrie! The tartufi looks amazing and the folks on the beach make me smile. We’ve decided to extend our time in the southern region of Italy – staying three weeks instead of two. We’ll definitely put Castellabate on the list and hope to spend some time in Matera. Enjoy your last few months!

  2. Looks beautiful! I’ve loved following along with y’all over the years- I can’t believe your next assignment is approaching so quickly! Thanks for sharing the journey with us!