Saturday, February 11, 2012

Puglia Plans

While my Italian friends are submerged under many feet of snow, I'm making plans for my upcoming trip to Puglia. I'll be there for several weeks in March, before I head to Zagarolo for two months. Puglia's history goes back 8000 years, and its architecture has Greek, Byzantine and Norman influences. At this time of year, not many people venture into the region of Puglia, in the "heel of the boot" that comprises the larger peninsula of Italy. It will be an adventure!

Puglia is not a big tourist draw for foreigners at any time of the year, and few Americans journey there. However, Italians flock to the many Puglian beaches in July and August. One of the main reasons that tourism is low in Puglia is due to the difficulty of traveling between many of the cities in the region: public transportation is unreliable, so the best way to see it is by car. As usual, I'll be traveling by train, so I'm headed where there are reliable connections. Fortunately, the most interesting places to go are on my route!

courtesy of
First, I'll travel by Eurostar from Rome to Lecce, a 5 1/2 hour journey. Lecce is often called the "Florence of the South," due to its beauty. Lecce's Basilica di Santa Croce, pictured below, is rich with Baroque symbolism.

Lecce (from
While in Lecce, I hope to take a day trip to Ostuni, also know as la citta bianca (the white city).

Ostuni  (from

Then I plan to spend a few days by the beach in Otranto. Otranto is almost at the tip of the heel of the boot. It's the easternmost city in Italy, and only 45 miles from the Albanian coast across the Adriatic Sea. While there, I hope to travel by bus down to the southernmost tip of the region, Santa Maria di Leuca, where one can view both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas lapping the shores. I'm also eager to see the 700-square-foot Tree of Life mosaic that covers the entire floor of the cathedral of Otranto

Otranto (from
Next, I'll travel to a popular tourist area, to view the unique stone houses in Alberobello and Locorotondo. The Trulli of Alberobello have been on the UNESCO World Heritage site list since 1996.

Trulli in Alberobello (from
Locorotondo (from
I'll also be traveling west to the nearby region of Basilicata for several days to see the Sassi of Matera, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
Matera  (from
Each of the towns I'll be visiting has an unusual and unique history, but I'll save those stories for later, after I've had the chance to see them up close and can report in more depth.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Snow in Rome!

For the first time since 1986, Rome has been dealing with a heavy snowfall, as much as 2 feet in some areas, and it's creating chaos.  The Colosseum and the Roman Forum, icons of the Eternal City, have been closed, though Romans and tourists alike are enjoying snowball fights near the Colosseum.

The entire peninsula of Italy has been inundated by snow and sub-zero temperatures, and due to the fact that many parts of the country rarely see snow, they are ill-equipped to deal with it. Many crops are in peril from the freezing temperatures. The mayor of Rome has issued the distribution of 2000 snow shovels to volunteers in Rome, hoping to help with snow removal, and ice is also a danger. Trains, buses and many flights are unable to run or meet their schedules. Truck drivers are unable to deliver goods, as several highways have been closed.

But the snow scene is even more dramatic in Bologna, where nearly 80 cm (@ 3 feet) of snow has fallen. And is still falling! 
a street in Bologna
And still, there's always time for creative fun.
Italy has been hard hit with a variety of troubles this winter, and it could be a long, slow recovery. I'll soon be there to witness it firsthand.

For more great photos, click on this link:      Rome in the snow