The third stop on our tour of Italy (as we're calling it now) was Bari, a city in Puglia which is a region on the eastern coast. The scenery was a little bit different there:
We stayed in a great neighborhood with tons of small food shops and a market every morning that sold all kinds of vegetables, fruits and fresh fish. The market was probably our favorite part of Bari; it was so typically Italian and everything was so bright and vibrant.
There was one fish man who was great: every day he would scream out "CHE BELLE COZZE!" while he worked. One morning he gave Ryan a raw clam to try and we ended up buying a bunch of them. He told us to cook them with parsley, garlic and diced tomatoes and then to put it over fresh spaghetti, so obviously we followed his instructions and it was one of the best pasta dishes we've ever eaten.
Bari itself isn't very touristy, although there are several tourist destinations nearby. One day we took the train to Matera, an ancient town that is thought to be one of the first human settlements in the world.
The houses are cut into the rocks and the area has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period - many people still live there today and there are lots of restaurants, cafes and hotels. We walked around and explored for a few hours and it was beautiful.
When we stopped for a glass of wine, it was served to us in this pitcher with ceramic cups which felt very authentic. We saw a lot of ceramics in the restaurants in Bari - and the surrounding area - and now we're on the hunt for perfect cups to bring home.
Another day we went to Alberobello to see the "Trulli" which are little huts that people used to (and still do, actually!) live in.
This is another example of an early settlement that is still thriving today - it's a Unesco World Heritage Sight (as is Matera). Many of the Trulli are shops now, or restaurants, but some are still lived in by local families.
Puglia was interesting because there are a lot of tourist sights that are slightly under the radar. There are fewer museums/churches/monuments in this region and more early settlements and...
...caves. We stopped in Castellana Grotte one day to see the caves there and they were incredible. They began to form 90 million years ago and they're full of stalactites and stalagmites and crystals.
For the rest of the time, we kicked around Bari, exploring the city and eating delicious fresh seafood.
We noticed that the food was incredible and so different than anything we've had. One of their signature dishes is oricchiette pasta with cime di rapa (broccoli rabe) and sausage. Another is a casserole made with rice and mussels and thin slices of potato on top. And, as we learned on our food tour, Puglia is the birthplace of Burrata, so we made sure to eat lots of that.
Bari turned out to be one of our favorite stops because it was so different from anywhere that we'd been before. Plus, everyone was very friendly and they were all super impressed with our Italian because they didn't know that we'd been living here for four years! And, food-wise it was a personal favorite as well.
If you're in the area or are planning a trip, we stayed at a great airbnb apartment that we'd highly recommend.
And later in the week: part four of our trip! Stay tuned...
PS - Our first two stops: Cinque Terre and Rome.