14th June 2015
Monopoli's Old Town - Pretty as a Picture
It was thrilling to stay in an apartment in the old town of Monopoli, Puglia and to take part in the daily dramas. One day, from our windows, we watched a small lorry, only six inches narrower than the street, take thirty minutes to reverse down it, accompanied by a lot of sighing and shaking of heads and some well meant but hardly practical advice. Once the show was over I skipped down two flights of narrow steps to ground level, placed my plastic bag of rubbish on the door step and then made my way through the alleyways that opened out in Piazza Garibaldi. My daily breakfast (included) was a coffee and a croissant at the Premiato Caffè Venezia. The square was quiet and I found a table outside where I could watch the town slowly come to life.
That day there was an unusual amount of activity for the hour – people were arriving with flags and banners. I moved on and was delighted to encounter the local band parading through the streets and after one wrong turn followed by a long discussion of the right way to proceed I found myself back in the square I had just left but now it was full of protesters and the band was stationary once more.
As always I felt a frisson of pleasure as I stepped out of the square and onto the old port. Little blue fishing boats bobbed on the water, the oars of rowers from the local club slapped the water rhythmically and round the corner the whirr of cranes unloading commercial cargoes blended with the crash of waves on the rocky shore.
I left the old port through the arch in the walls by the Charles V Castle and strolled along the sea front to the bastion of Santa Maria pausing for a while to watch some young fisherman on the rocks.
I turned off the lungomare (promenade) and followed a narrow cobbled street into the old town intending to explore some more but almost immediately I came across a traditional restaurant serving traditional food so I went inside to sample the famous orecchiette con le cime di rapa – ear-shaped pasta with ‘turnip tops’.
From the roof terrace above my room I had admired a skyline of spires and bell towers and now I wanted to explore the buildings beneath them and in particular the churches with Rupestrian crypts.
It was early evening and time to return to Piazza Garibaldi for an ice cream. when I rounded the corner I was amazed at the transformation the peaceful square of the early morning was now a frenzy of queues for tables outside the bars and restaurants inter-mingled with the longest queue of all – at the gelateria. When in Rome …
British Airways operates flights from London Gatwick to Bari and there are trains and buses from the airport to Bari Central railway station. From Bari Central there are regular trains to Monopoli I found my accommodation through www.booking.com
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