Magical Madrid

Our last trip abroad before the world ground to a halt, was a few days in the marvellous bustling city of Madrid in 2019. The capital, and most-populous, city of Spain.

We have an apartment in the Malasaña area – a hip, but slightly down at heel part of the city that is jam packed with little eateries, late night bars and plethora of street art . . heaven!

Malasaña is named after a 15-year-old girl Manuela Malasaña who once lived on San Andrés street. She was executed by the French following the uprising in 1808.

During the day the area is shuttered and quiet, allowing you to enjoy the colourful street art but at night the area is a buzzing hot spot of the young and the hip (so we were quite conspicuous!)

There’s every style of art on display, from basic tagging to full scale murals, colourful topical paste ups to political statements.

I could have happily just spent all our trip mooching around the myriad of streets, merrily snapping away.

So enjoy a few more colourful street scenes before we move onto some thing else . . .

Lizards, piggies and stoned grannies are all to be found plastered across shutters, walls and doorways.

Grotta della Poesia

To end our epic journey around Puglia, we’re ending on another stunning natural high – a turquoise wonder that is loved by the locals.

The Cave of Poetry – Grotta della Poesia – in the southern part of Apulia is rightfully listed among the 10 most beautiful natural pools in the world according to National Geographic.

If you get there fairly early then you can almost get this serene place to yourselves – but it soon gets busy with sun worshipers and adrenalin junkies hurling themselves into the placid waters.

Naturally the little dare devil has to launch himself straight in – despite the somewhat chilly temperature.

The stunning beaches of Torre dell`Orso are a short drive away. This beach is considered one of the prettiest in Puglia and is famous for its white, sandy beaches, its clear water and the towering rock formations raising through the waters.

And that’s it! The end of our 2019 Puglian adventure – what a marvellous, and lesser known, corner of Italy. Well worth a leisurely exploration.

Laidback Lecce

Baroque fantasy Lecce is a marvel of architectural beauty with its buildings hewn from the local limestone.

Building buffs will be spoilt for choice as they wander the streets gazing in awe upwards!

Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by delightful buildings, so if you’re short on time then head there to soak up some of the key sights.

I’m romping through this 2019 adventure as I am well aware that I have lots more travels to get through before I am all caught up!

Gallipoli

Our next home from home for the next few days is in the coastal town of Gallipoli. This is the town in Puglia, not to be confused with the Turkish location that was the site of a disastrous 1st World War battle,

This Gallipoli is an attractive town, split into an old town and a new town. The old town sits on a tiny island connected to the mainland by a 17th century bridge.

It’s a bit of a grey day when we roll into town, but we still head to check out the town beach 🙂

The old town is full of weathered old stone facades and faded colours.

Vieste

Vieste is a coastal town in Gargano National Park. It’s a pretty seaside town that sits on a white cliffed promontory jutting into the sea.

In medieval times, the port was frequently attacked by pirates, Saracens and other enemies of the Kingdom of Naples.

Below the curious wooden structure is a Trabucco – a centuries-old traditional fishing machine that has been recognized as a cultural and historical heritage from the Apulia region.

Trabucchi are located where the sea is deep enough (at least 6 meters), and are built on rocky peaks generally oriented southeast or north in order to exploit the favorable marine current.

A huge net is lowered into the water through a complex system of winches and, likewise, promptly pulled up to retrieve its catch. At least two men are needed for the tough task of operating the winches that manoeuvre the giant net.

I love that this grumpy little feline has his own chair and a clear warning not to disturb!

On route back home for the evening we stop off for a bit more high octane beach chilling!

Marvellous Monopoli

Another couple of Puglian towns to tick off the list are Monopoli and Poligano a Mare. Both are characterful and packed full of architecture and local colour.

A colourful photographic exhibition dotted around Monopoli’s harbour details the local tradition of the Maya. Each spring young girls sit in elaborate altars decorated with fresh flowers to mark the new season.

Then we visit the cliff top town of Polignano a Mare, perched high above the Adriatic, this town is famous for its town beach which is flanked by cliffs where the local dive throughout the day.

Before Bond ruins it…

Before the latest Bond movie makes it super famous, we were there first! In 2019 we visited the impressive town of Matera.

Matera is a magical stone city with breath taking vistas, perched on the edge of a cliff, high above a ravine.

Before Bond, the city was already world famous for for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera”. The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy.

The Sassi are dug into the rock and many of them are really little more than small caverns. The ancient town grew up on one slope of the rocky ravine created by a river that is now a small stream, and this ravine is known locally as “la Gravina”.

There was a Salvador Dali exhibition on when we visited, so there are lots of weird and wonderful artworks dotted around the town.

There are also many churches cut into the rock of hillsides and ravines called chiese rupestri.