Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ostuni, the white city

We sadly left AP and our shopping frenzy, climbed into the beast and headed south.  Along the way our friend, Doug, offered to drive, and he did an excellent job, once he figured out where 6th gear was. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Francavilla al Mare.  A comment about traveling and eating in Italy past and present.  For those of you who never traveled in Italy without a GPS, you have no idea how insane it used to be.  We were always lost, always trying to read 20 vertical signs in 10 seconds and always choosing the wrong road.  We wandered into trattorias having no idea what we would find. Yes it was more adventurous, but it was also very stressful with undue pressure on the driver and navigator.  Switch to present time.  We plug in our destination, check it with the map on our IPhone, check it with the actual map (don't forget to always have a paper map) and we have a sense of security as we start out.

Finding lunch is also much easier.  We pick a town then I check TripAdvisor in Italian and English. I read the worst reviews, decide if the person is a crank or not, read the excellent reviews, and then we decide.  It was in this way that we came upon the restaurant Il Marchese del Grillo.  It had 83 reviews in Italian, none in English.  The owner was very kind in seating us and once he learned that we were Americans, he really wanted us to try all of the dishes...we tried was the first time I have had 2 pasta dishes in one meal.  He is from Rome and the dishes served are typical Roman, but that suited us just fine.  Thanks to a GPS, iPhone, and some luck, we found this great place, ate in an hour, and were back on the road headed toward Ostuni.

Ostuni is referred to as la citta' bianca because it is a white city.  It has that Moroccan, Tunisian look to it, with back alleys, stairways leading into enclosed patios etc.

The area around Ostuni has been inhabited since the Stone Age.  This is hard to comprehend. Anyway Hannibal destroyed the city (what was up with him by the way? the elephants, the ransacking!  I wonder what his mother was like). Anyway, the Greeks rebuilt it and named it "Astu (new)Neon (town) which became Ostuni, in case you wanted to know.  People come here for the beaches, which we never got to, the city architecture which you can see, and the grapes and wine which we tasted, molto buono.

We stayed at a beautiful hotel called La Sommita' Relais.  The hotel was an old building in the middle of town that had been restored by a company in Milan.  The look of it was fantastic.  The biggest shower I have used in Italy.  They came and got us, and parked our car at the bottom of the hill, so we could walk around with the other tourists and not worry about the "Beast" other wise known as a Nissan Pathfinder.

The combination of the old Baroque style and Milanese minimalist style is so luscious for me.  I love the juxtapositions of the two.  This hotel has a one star Michelin restaurant which is as you would expect: beautifully presented food, minimalist, great colors, good tastes, expensive.

The other site to see in town is a museum that has the remains of a 25,000 year old pregnant woman.  She was found in a cave nearby and they carbon 14'd, or whatever they do now, her age to be 25,000 years ago.  We were all most intrigued with her. They said she was 20 years old and the baby was almost full term.  They found sea shells that were used as her burial bracelet and red shells that were used in her hair. You must use your imagination to think what she was like.  They don't know how she died.

The Brents left early the next morning on a 6:00 AM train...we did not see them off.  We drove home in one fell swoop, stopping to eat a sandwhich at an Autogrill.

Getting back to Umbertide was lovely.  Antonietta called to make sure we were ok and that the trip had gone well.  She told us to stay home for a while and save money for the new renovation.  We plan to do just that.

It is great to have company and see Italy through different eyes.  We also see ourselves differently. Gary and I both remarked how food obsessed we have become.  We can't help it, it is the entire country.  We have been eating at home since we got back, waiting for our next set of visitors and our next adventures into the Umbrian life.

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