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Posts Tagged ‘Adriatic’

Puglia

On day two of my stay in Polignano a Mare, I rented a bicycle for 5 hours and rode along the seaside road to the small village of Santo Stefano, location of the historic Abbey Santo Stefano. Along the way, I saw olive groves and trulli, the conical-roofed stone buildings that are traditional in this agricultural region. On the way back from visiting the abbey and eating lunch, I stopped to swim at one of the many coves that provide sea access.

The first view of the Abbey Santo Stefano from the road.

Boats anchored on the beach in front of the Santo Stefano abbey.

Inside the abbey courtyard looking toward the sea.

A trullo in a field overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

The view of Santo Stefano from the olive groves behind it.

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After spending quite a bit of time on the Balkan side of the Adriatic–a week in Croatia and later 5 weeks in Albania, it was finally time for my first visit to the heel of the boot! From Durres, I took an overnight ferry to Bari, the main port in the Puglia region of Italy (which is the region that appears to be the heel of the boot on a map of Italy). The overnight ferry was quite a deal: 68 euros and I had not only transportation to Bari, but also a private cabin with a shower for the night. Combine that with the very good prosecco available at the bar for 3 euros per glass, and I was set! Once I reached Bari the next morning, a 30-minute train ride would take me to Polignano a Mare, where I rented a small apartment for 2 nights. This was my “relaxation” phase of my trip home–two nights in a quaint sea-side town in rural Italy. When I finally arrived in Polignano, it was everything I had hoped for! The owner of the apartment met me at the train station and drove me the short distance to the wall of the old city; from there we had to walk with my suitcases because no cars are allowed within the city walls. The apartment was adorable and the old city itself was like a mini version of Dubrovnik. It was gorgeous!

The buildings of Polignano a Mare go right to the edge of the cliffs over the turquoise Adriatic waters.

I cannot rave enough about how wonderful Polignano was! I found an adorable café with a tiny balcony overlooking the water, where I had an amazing, local lunch of burrata verdure (burrata mozarello on a plate with local veggies, including cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant, rugula, and grilled peppers) and rigatoni al forno with a house-made tomato sauce, accompanied by a local white wine. The owners of the café served me espresso while giving me lots of interesting information about the town and what to do in the area, as well as just providing an interesting conversation about each other’s lives. This was a great start to my stay there, and I found it to be true that everywhere I went while I was there, people were unbelievably friendly and helpful. Another great thing about Polignano was the cute library right at the edge of the city walls that had free wifi access–my apartment didn’t have it, so this was a lifesaver since I needed to finish coordinating the rest of my trip. Finally, the swimming cove right next to the city provided a close, easy spot for spending some time in the refreshing cold water of the sea.

The beach at Polignano a Mare

The same beach, viewed from the bridge behind it.

This cute little stray kitten was sneaking out from under a house. He did not want to be petted!

Buildings in the main piazza of Polignano

My first night, I ate an amazing dinner of local fresh fish at a nearby restaurant. I ended up talking to the Swedish couple next to me, and we we had to move inside during a sudden downpour, we just sat at the same table and continued our conversation. It was a great night, and one of those times that traveling alone feels really good, because it makes you more open to talking to strangers when having someone with you to talk to might have prevented it.

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After a 9 hour bus ride, we finally reached the Dalmatian coast. Though long, the drive through the mountains was beautiful, and the sunset over the mountains was impressive. At one point, we were all wondering if the bus driver knew where he was going, since we were driving along a barely-defined dirt path under a partially constructed bridge between two mountains. Everything turned out fine, as we eventually ended back up on a paved road. We passed through the strip of coast belonging to Bosnia, and made a quick stop in Neum, which I had visited 2 years ago with my boyfriend. It was already 10:00 at night (22:00 for you Europeans) when we reached our hotel in Mlini, just south of Dubrovnik itself, so we didn’t get to see the sights until the next day. However, we did get to sit on our balcony over the water and watch the moon set over the ocean horizon, which was a unique experience.

Sunset over the mountains in Croatia

The view from our bungalow balcony in Mlini, Croatia

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I took this panorama in the lovely city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, in July 2009. Dubrovnik is on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. The old city is a walled fortress and you can walk around the entire city on top of its walls for a small fee. Though Croatia seemed like a less-frequented tourist spot from my American perspective, it was surprisingly expensive and quite busy. However, it was a truly amazing place to visit.

City walls of Dubrovnik

A view of the Dubrovnik city walls

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