Day 6: Benevento-Trani
We decide to stop for a coffee and stroll around in Ariano Irpino, which is a good sized hill town perched on top of a steep hill. The town is very prosperous looking and the houses and other buildings are almost all freshly painted. On this Sunday morning, the stores are closed but the piazzas are full of people–mostly men–standing around talking or having coffees in bars. We walk around, admire the facade of the Duomo
The drive is very pleasant with the scenery continuing to be very impressive. When we get closer to the Puglia border, many of the hills are crested with large power generating windmills which are becoming more common in many areas of Italy.
Crossing over into Puglia, the topography changes quickly and the terrain becomes flatter with gently rolling hills but the more striking difference is the color….the landscape looks completely parched–white and arid. (We learn later that it has rained only a few times in the last six months.) These fields seem not to be irrigated and it’s a bit strange to see some fields of olive trees and grapes growing in such dry conditions.
We stop in Troia just before 1 pm. Troia is an attractive small town that has a well known cathedral dating from the 11th century. We hurry down the main street–which is crowded with people strolling back and forth….maybe after church and before Sunday dinner. We slip into the cathedral just before it is scheduled to close–a mass is ending–and get a quick look at the very spare, very appealing Romanesque interior. The exterior is nicely decorated with fanciful carvings and a beautiful rose window.
It is now lunch time and the guidebook recommends one restaurant in Troia…..D’Avolas…where we decide to eat. We have a terrific lunch…the family that runs the restaurant is very welcoming and the food is very good. We have their “typical” antipasto–various stuffed vegetables beautifully prepared and some delicious fried bread. The pastas are also very good–baked “paccheri” with tomatoes and cheese for Diana and a local pasta specialty–ciacatelli–prepared with swiss chard and a good amount of garlic. We even drink a half-liter of red wine and when they offer us their local orange liqueur-”crema d’arancia”–we like it so much that we buy a bottle. Handshakes all around when we leave……another wonderful restaurant experience.
The expedition to Lucera is less successful…it is no problem getting there…the road is now as flat and straight as it had been hilly and curvy in Avellino. But Lucera is not car friendly and we are unable to pierce the center of town. After trying unsuccessfully several times to find parking near the main square, we give up and head on to Trani.
We had been to Trani before so we are pretty confident about finding our way to our hotel….but we don’t reckon with the extensive street repairs and the Sunday afternoon traffic restrictions. Neither of the GPS systems nor Diana are much help as we are able to get within sight of the hotel without being able to access it. On the third try, we succeed by coming in from the other side of town and fighting our way through the crowds of Sunday visitors strolling along the port.
We check in to the Hotel Regia, an 18th century palazzo, which is located right on the waterfront directly in back of the cathedral and just outside the “centro storico”. Our room is very large and looks out over both the cathedral and the Adriatic - a wonderful view.
After getting settled, we join the crowds of weekend visitors walking along the harbor and through the old town. For dinner, my first choice is closed on Sunday so we pick a restaurant called Ristorante la Giudea (it is located on Via la Giudea). [More on Jewish Trani in the next report.] We are the only customers and we get the undivided attention of the proprietor, who advises us to ignore the menu and recites the specials of the day. For starters, Diana has a salmon dish cooked in a light tomato sauce with almonds and I have stuffed mussels. Both dishes are unusual and both are quite good. For the pasta course, he recommends a “risotto” dish with shrimp that turns out be rice with shrimp, minced vegetables and spices but no cheese…very good but not what one thinks of as a risotto. I have a plate of pappardelle with clams, shrimp and mussels…very tasty. We drink a local Trani white wine–another easy to drink Italian white.
It is only a few steps back to the hotel through the very pretty streets of the old town.
Tomorrow we plan to explore Trani.