Il boème mediterraneo (The Mediterranean Bohemian) Part I

350-il-boeme-mediterraneo-the-mediterranean-bohemian-part-iMy friends and those of you who have read some of my posts are aware of the fact that I was born on a peculiar date and my birthday is much awaited …. Yessss.

So, this year has been my special year, dedicated to me only and to my travels in the Mediterranean region of Europe, more precisely to Italy, Hellas and Spain. That is why I can call myself a Mediterranean Bohemian who adores this sunny territory of Europe.

By the way, there’s one saying in Bulgaria according to which your New Year will be the way it starts and my New Year started in … 

C   A   M   P   A   N   I   A

350-il-boeme-mediterraneo-the-mediterranean-bohemian_1_campaniaThe region is blessed by God. Coincidentally, the ancient Romans called it Campania Felix (or Fertile Countryside). The Tyrrhenian Sea and i Monti Lattari are “guilty” for the formation of the pretty cities with breathtaking views as well as for the development of the numerous branches of light industry, craftsmanship, artisan and hand-made products. Unlike Italy to the North, the southern parts of the country don’t have heavy industry. Campania relies mainly on tourism (almost every place there is worth visiting), dairy products, wine industry and production of lemon based liquors, goldsmithing, red corals and cameo carving and so on, and so forth.

Speaking about Campania, you have too many places to visit and explore but surely, the most interesting and beautiful sites which are worth a visit are La Città Sepolta (The Buried Town), Positano, Amalfi and Ravello which are beautiful beyond any belief and the Island of Emperors. Of course, when you are there you shouldn’t miss the 3rd biggest city in Italy, i.e. today’s ancient Greek city of Neapolis.

Speaking about volcanoes and buried cities, the first to come to our mind is the ancient Roman city of Pompeii near today’s city of Naples in Italy. The eruption of the nearby Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD (during the reign of Titus) totally destroyed and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum and damaged severely the surrounding villages and villas around the Bay of Naples. They were buried under 6-metre layers of ash, stone and lava killing thousands of citizens. After the volcano eruption the site was forgotten and lost for around 1500 years before the first rediscoveries started. Nowadays it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world most famous tourist attractions in Italy keeping a record of the ancient Roman city.

I do believe most of you often dream of the brightness of the sky and the dazzling sun, of the unnaturally azure sea and breathtaking views. Or in other words said, you often dream of Amore … Mare … SoleIf you are such a dreamer, your place will be somewhere there on the Sorrento Peninsula that is situated in the south-western parts of Italy separating il Golfo di Napoli (the Gulf of Naples) from il Golfo di Salerno (the Gulf of Salerno). And this place bears the simple name of la Costiera Amalfitana (the Amalfi Coast). Yes, the Amalfi Coast has a simple name but it’s extremely rich and it possesses unique Mediterranean landscapes and natural beauty. It’s dotted by small and picturesque fishermen’s villages that attract visitors and locals alike with their vividness and bright colours. These are the main reasons why the Coast is among one of the 50 Italian sites declared UNESCO World Heritage.

There is one particular island in Campania that is often nicknamed as the “Island of Emperors” because it was a preferred place by two of the greatest ancient Roman Emperors – Augustus and Tiberius. That fame continued even after their reign. Even we can say that this small island has always been a favourite destination of wealthy people up to now and the reason is simple – Capri has breathtaking views, crystal clear sea waters, rich vegetation and nice and pleasant climate. The island is situated not far away from Sorrento by sea and la Costiera Amalfitana (the Amalfi Coast). There are two unforgettable and distinctive features of the island. Do you know which they are? … The lucky scent of Capri and la Campanula.

As to Naples, it has always been very attractive through the centuries due to its strategic location at the sea. It was ruled by mainly the Spaniards but also by the French who left their heritage in terms of castles, buildings and art to the city which has still been seen in Napoli up to now. The city possesses seven amazing castles and fortifications, fortresses and strongholds with their history in every stone. So, when you are there visit the castles of Naples and enjoy the whole city for which the following saying is well-known: Vedi Napoli e poi muori.

Being once in Southern Italy, I wanted to know much about it and that is why I planned to celebrate my much awaited birthday and to come back to Southern Italy but this time to …

P   U   G   L   I   A

350-il-boeme-mediterraneo-the-mediterranean-bohemian-part-i_2_pugliaThe Italian region of Apulia (or also known as Puglia) lies to the South and makes up the high heel of the Italian boot. A greater part of its coastline lies on the Adriatic Sea to the east but technically the sea borders of the region washes into the Ionian Sea as well to the southeast. The place where the two seas meet between Italian Puglia and Albania is the Strait of òtranto while the instep of Italy’s boot is the Gulf of Tàranto. Nowadays Apulia is a huge producer of wheat, oats and vegetables. Puglia also cultivates wine grapes and it’s among the wine producers in Italy. And it produces olive oil. Apart from this, the region of Puglia really possesses a huge number of historic sites and tourist places.

Surely, every journey in Puglia starts with fantasy in stone which could be easily reached by train starting from one of the four railway stations in Bari. I trulli fiabeschi are a common view in and around the Itria Valley, peppering the countryside. There are about 1500 similar in an urban environment in the region of Puglia in Italy. They are spread out everywhere, even as sheds in olive groves. But there’s one particular town in Apulia that is famous for its trulli. It’s the 14th century town of Alberobello (Aiarubbédde in apulo-barese) that is known as the capital of trulli because it is home to the highest concentration of these“trulli fiabeschi” (fairy-tale trulli houses) in the region.

Locorotondo is another pearl in the sea of white-houses in Puglia. Like Alberobello this paesino (extremely little town) has its own style of houses. Trulli disappear here and they are substituted for cummerse. These are narrow rectangular dwellings with pointed gable roofs.  Not the houses but the town’s plan gives the name to Locorotondo (i.e. “rotund” or “roundish”). The tiny settlement is a commune in the province of Bari. It’s situated on a hill which dominates the imposing valle d’Itria (the Itria Valley) in south-east Murgia.

I have to admit it is always great fun to travel by train in Italy. Italian trains are as “punctual” as the Italians themselves. 😀 Why? There is a common message at Italian railway stations that could be heard quite often everywhere in Italy, in Apulia in particular. If you plan to visit some of the towns to the south of Bari, be prepared to hear the following frequently”:  “Il treno regionale 30082 proviene da Milano a Lecce è in ritardo di 30 minuti. Ci scusiamo per il disagio ….. Attenzione. Il treno regionale 30082 proviene da Milano a Lecce è in arrivo all binario 3 invece del binario 5” (“The Regional train 30082 coming from Mila to Lecce is 30 minutes late. We are sorry for the inconvenience … Attention, please. The Regional train 30082 coming from Mila to Lecce arrives at platform 3 instead of platform 5.” 😀

Once your train arrives with a 30-minute delay at the changed platform, get on it and take a journey to a nearby town where tutte le strade portano al mare (all roads lead to the sea). Do you know which the town is? It’s a tiny town near Bari which can be easily reached by sea-lovers. Its name is Polignano a Mare and it’s situated on the Adriatic Coast of the Italian region of Puglia. This place possesses only postcard views no matter you wander somewhere in the historic old town or along the three rock terraces facing the sea.

Your next stop should be the Cherry Garden of Puglia. The town of Conversano is in the province of Bari. It’s situated on one of the hills of Murgia and very close to the Adriatic shores. The town is of ancient origin and proof for this the archeological remains and tombs dating back to 300/200 BC. In the Medieval times it was an object of battles between the Byzantines and Longobards. The settlement was fortified in 600. Later it was an Episcopal seat and then it fell under the Acquaviva family of Aragon.

The Italians have their le Città Bianche (White Towns) like the Spanish Pueblos Blancos but unlike them the Italian “white queens” are spread out in several Italian regions. Puglia is an absolute “winner” possessing 7 of them and one of them is the town of the White-Blue-Green Queen of Puglia Ostuni. It is really known as La Citttà Bianca (the White Town) but at the same time its closeness to the Adriatic coast “colours” it in blue and the numerous vineyards and olive groves bring the green colour.

Your adventurous soul will bring you there, i.e. to your last stop along this train route. Lecce is the main town of the province bearing the same name in the Region of Apulia. It rises in the central-northern parts of the Salentine Plain or more precisely in the sub-region of Puglia – il Tavoliere – which comprises the three provinces: Brindisi, Lecce and Tàranto.Lecce is the main town of the province bearing the same name in the Region of Apulia. It rises in the central-northern parts of the Salentine Plain or more precisely in the sub-region of Puglia – il Tavoliere – which comprises the three provinces: Brindisi, Lecce and Tàranto. The economy of the town is a point of reference when it comes to the Salentine economy which is one the most dynamic of Southern Italy. Speaking about the most developed sectors in Lecce, I ought to mention agriculture, artisanship, agribusiness and tourism as well as tobacco industry.

After this short round trip you would want to go back to the City of Saint Nicholas which is the capital city of the region of Apulia. It is situated on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Its location is almost in the centre of the coast of Puglia (although a little bit to the north). The city has always been a very important commercial centre and that’s why it’s the second significant commercial hub of Southern Italy after Naples. The most vivid economic sectors developed in Bari are food, petrochemical and mechanical industries plus agriculture (grape, olives and almonds, in particular). It’s also a major port and University City.

If you stay in Bari you might make a short trip to the place of mysteries and magic in the heart of Puglia. Castel del Monte (Castídde d’u Monte in Barese and the Castle of the Mountain in English) is an old 13th century edifice commissioned by imperatore Federico II (Emperor Frederick II of Swabia) and it has turned into a symbol of Puglia through the centuries.

When you’re in Puglia you may make a jump to neighbourhood ……

B   A   S   L   I   C   A   T   A

350-il-boeme-mediterraneo-the-mediterranean-bohemian-part-i_3_basilicataThere you might enjoy the beauty of the town of Matera (la città sotterranea – the subterranean city) which is the main town in tregion. It is situated close to Murgia and in the upper valley near the Bradano River. The area is mainly hilly and is crossed by la Gravina. It was inhabited in the Paleolithic era when a group of hunters and refugees settled down and laid the foundations of the original dwellings. Thus whole ancient residential areas were formed inside the surrounding grotte naturali (natural caves) or along le gravine (the ravines and canyons).

So, these are the places which I enjoyed in the winter period. It’s certain I didn’t stop at all. Just on the opposite I continued travelling farther to the South … to the Trinacria in Mare Nostrum.

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