If you love flowers, especially flowering vines, then Italy is the place for you. The flowering season is long and dazzling displays are everywhere, from the northern regions all the way down the Boot to Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. Early spring is best to see the wisteria displays, but don't worry, there are many types of flowers that grow all through the season, such as the amazing tropical bougainvillea. The grow up and around houses, seemingly in an attempt to swallow them up completely. The balcony gardens are another pleasure to see when Voyaging throughout Italy. So, bring your camera, your pastels or watercolors and take in the scents of Fioritura Italia...
Trullo Gallo Rosso, where we stayed for several nights while exploring Puglia
When we planned out Voyage to southern Italy, one of the things on my bucket list was to stay in a trullo--the pointy roofed stone houses of Puglia. Trulli are dotted throughout the countryside, some in the more ancient style of chopped-top cone, others abandoned and in ruins, and many in farm complexes made up of as many as 6-8 trulli. Their roofs can be adorned with painted hex symbols by their owners and they are topped with a wide variety of finial, sometimes in the shape of stars. They are restored into B&Bs and year-round villas with some being very chic. But nothing can prepare the Voyager when he visits the UNESCO town of Alberobello, with over 1600 trulli clustered in the town center.
The amazing Miniature Alberobello model is worth seeing... look for the sign in one of the gift shops.
In Alberobello, there are many wonderful gift shops, and while some offer the standard tourist kitsch, what I loved about the town is the amount of local artisans offering their hand made products. You can buy beautiful jewelry in the many different religious and pagan shapes found painted on the pointy roofs, local pottery and ceramics, wooden bread stamps carved with your initials, hand made pocket knives (I came home with a sommelier version)... but my favorite local craft are the miniature trulli. They are all made using local stone to mimic the real stone and techniques used to built the real trulli. There are tiny ones that you can hold in your hand and large ones that you can place in your garden.
Artisans have lots of inspiration with the real world Trulli of Alberobello.
There is a lot of detailed stone cutting involved in creating a miniature trullo
Many use a type of gypsum rock for the main walls
An artisan putting the finishing touches on a rather large trullo
Miniature trulli being sold inside a life-sized trullo
Doll-house sized furnishings
A more ancient type of chopped-top trullo found in the Salento region
A beautiful model of a multi-cone farmhouse
A real trullo under restoration
Here's a short video about trulli and how they make miniatures.
Lucas loved sleeping under the cone shaped trullo roof
Our experience in a trullo inspired one of our Christmas gingerbread house creations
You'll find this fruit and vegetable barge selling its produce at the base of Ponte dei Pugni, the bridge of fists in the Dorsoduro sestiere (neighborhood), while other vendors move from place to place using other types of watercraft. Look for them while in Venice--it's how the locals buy their fresh produce.
This winter in my Bucks County Pennsylvania home, we've had less than normal snow, and they've all been little annoyance snowfalls... half inch here, two inches there, a dusting, a coating of slick "black ice". I think my son Lucas has only enjoyed two leisurely "snow days" so far, the last for a very wet and slippery 4" of wet snow. A couple of years ago we had over 6 feet of snow over the winter--one event dropped 28 inches in one day. That's the sort of snow that stops everything for a few days until we plow and shovel out.
But in Italy, at least in the more central and southern parts, snow is more rare. Sure, in the mountains they get snow, but in Rome, not so much. So when it snowed on Rome this past Monday, Romans were both delighted and crippled. Snowball fights erupted, cyclists slipped and slid their way to work and police were called to many fender-benders.
They are simply not used to the white slippery stuff. In fact, the government announced they were going to call the army in to clear the snow away... all 2-4 inches of it. Hell, I love when the snowfall here is more than two inches because I can use my snow-blower rather than have to shovel it by hand. Our local road crews spread a salt slurry on the roads before storms and have the roads cleared before breakfast.
Someone give this man a proper snow shovel!
But when the snow hit Rome, it suddenly fell silent. Few cars were on the streets that usually host a melee of honking horns, "bee-doo, bee-doo" sirens, scooters, cursing and Grand Prix wannabees. People stayed home... perhaps to simply enjoy throwing snowballs or making a pupazzo di neve (snowman). Enjoy it while it lasts... Rome will heat up soon enough. Trust me.