Before leaving Matera we drove across the canyon to get a look back at the cave city. But first, a stop at an outdoor sculpture park where Lucas' favorite was an old Italian car crushed between two boulders about 60 feet up in the air. Wild.
Then we drove to a spot overlooking the canyon. As we drove into a wide parking field at the edge of the canyon, I saw another of the dreaded parking lot scammers... waving for me to park where HE commanded. I didn't drive toward him and went right to the edge of the canyon to park. When I got out of the car, he started claiming that it was too "pericoloso" (dangerous), even though there were others parked there. Mind you, this is a parking area in a free, national park. He got upset when he realized he wasn't going to get a parking "tip" from me and seemed to disappear (just like the one in Florence... must be in the same union).
The gravina looked like a little Grand Canyon with cave homes clinging to the mountain above the gorge. A wide stream was far below. We explored some ancient caves that people had lived in tens of thousands of years ago... and saw a cave church. Both lizards and blue shirted Italian boy scouts darted about.
On the road again, I had a quick stop for Lucas that I thought might interest him. The Italian Space Agency had a radio telescope research facility nearby... with several large telescopes. I had heard there was an exhibit inside the facility but we were not allowed in. Perhaps it's only for Italian school trips. Still it was great to be up close to these large devices.
We then told Tommy to head toward our Trullo rental...
Trullo facts: Trullo = one. Trulli = more than one. They say that the people in this region designed trulli around 1400 to get out of paying taxes (sounds like modern Italians) because a distant ruler raised taxes on permanent houses. A trullo traditionally was built using no mortar, so when the tax man came visiting they would dismantle the trullo. I'm not so sure about that because there are more ancient tombs and more rounded trullo looking structures that might be an earlier version. Besides, it would have been a huge effort to completely dismantle and then reassemble even a dry laid stone structure. It might simply be a method of dealing with the very strong seasonal winds that can plague the Adriatic coastline--wind won't blow down a pointy, cone shaped roof. For the same reason church steeples on the Côte d'Azur are made from filigree ironwork and not brick or stone. Many trulli have ancient symbols painted on their cones... some early Christian, some pagan, some zodiac. These are supposed to protect the home. Trulli are often made of us more than one connected trullo and the rooms inside have tall pointed ceilings--keeping them cool in the hot months.
As we got closer to trullo country, the roads closed in with white rock walls on either side... like they have in Ireland or England. The fields contained horses, olive trees--more olives down here than anywhere else in Italy--or crops of various salad greens. There are vineyards too. This part of Puglia makes most of the country's wine. Some fields had been harvested and fresh manure was spread, reminding me of the spring back home, except this is October and they must be preparing for a winter crop.
After driving through narrow, wall lined back roads, barely seeing any other cars, we pulled into Trullo Rosso. It's like a little hobbit house with eclectic gardens decorated with various tools from olive oil production from the old days. Our host, Hugo was extremely friendly and responded to our every need. The rooms were clean yet rustic... with four trulli cone ceilings.... each of our bedrooms looked up at a cone. There was even a fireplace... too hot for that, though.
That afternoon we decided to do the big tourist thing around here... we visited Aberobello, a town filled hundreds of trulli in the historic center. It was like a festival... lots of people, but curiously mostly locals. The cruise ship bus tours drop off thousands in the mornings but they were all gone and the locals were in their passeggiata mode.... strolling, smoking, gossiping, drinking, all wearing puffy quilted.coats.or other winter garb. The cool 68 degree evening was way to cold for them. We were stared at... shorts and shirts gave us away as other worldly.
We bought some gifts and I got Lisa a silver pendant of one of the ancient trullo symbols... the trident... representing the Holy Trinity and (my thought) our We Three family.
We three had dinner in a tourist restaurant... after 8pm, of course. Sigh. Not great, but similar to a stop at a pizzeria back home. Having gone through another day with no lunch, we were starved.
The drive back was easy because of the white walls lighting up the sides of the roads. Sleep came easy as we looked up at the rustic cones above our heads...
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