One of the most beautiful towns we visited in Puglia was Polignano al Mare. We walked the old historic center, took lots of photos, and were amazed by their beach, hugged by rocky cliffs of the Saracen Cove on either side. One of the most unusual offerings is the Grotta Palasezze, a restaurant built into a large grotto hanging just meters over the sea. If you frequent pretty much any social media sites about Italy, I'm certain you've seen photos of the place. It's definitely jaw-droppingly beautiful.
To be honest, Voyaging with an eleven-year old, we decided not to go there for dinner. You see, I had researched this place before our Voyage ever started. Not simply because we thought it wasn't kid-friendly (it really isn't), and not because our (then, 11 year-old) son Lucas wouldn't enjoy it. In actuality, he has a very sophisticated palette and handles him self very well whenever we go to posh places. We're always given compliments about him--ever since he was a toddler. There were two other main reasons...
One is the price. This place is very expensive. You're paying for their uniqueness and the view. They charge €10 per person for cover. They'll charge you €50 for a €10 bottle of regional wine which you can usually find in a local alimentari for around €6, but the rest of the wine list will cost from €100 - €600 a bottle. (We tend to like moderately priced, good wines and never pay over-inflated restaurant prices when we can avoid it). You'll pay another €45 or so for a single serving aperitivo. Then another €45 for la primo of pasta or risotto and €45 per secondi--fish or meat entrees. And be careful about surcharges ("market price") for things like shrimp and prawns (up to €150 a pound or more!) If you want to have a six plate tasting menu instead, that'll set you back €140 each. For dessert, a semifreddo is about €15.
So, given the exchange rate when we were there, if we did three tastings, one bottle of mineral water, desserts and no wine, we still would have spent over $600!
The second reason we opted no to go? This place is way too formal for our tastes. I mean, the waiters usually are dressed better than the clientele. There is an old-school dress code in place here... but the odd thing is, they really don't enforce it (for nicely dressed people), otherwise they'd be turning away most of the more casually dressed tourist clientele. Just don't show up wearing shorts. They will turn you away with a real attitude, reservation or not.
This is the new millennium, after all. "Dress codes" are pretty much meaningless, so why should the wait staff have to dress so darned stuffy, too? It's damned off-putting. Besides, if I'm going to be paying such over-inflated prices, I should be able to dress any damned way I want. In reality, you get an odd mix of tourists dressed nicely but casually, mixed in with a few locals dressed for their "bella figura" having dinner for a special event--anniversary or whatever.
And in the end, there are two things that prove this is an overpriced place marketed to foreign tourists: The menus are printed in both Italian and English--a sure sign of a tourist joint. Secondly (according to many online reviewers, and perhaps most important of all), the staff tends to rush you along through your meal, unlike most ristoranti. It's the Italian custom never to rush through a meal--especially when you're in a restaurant. Most local places expect to have only one cover per table each night. People may take 4 hours to enjoy their meal and conversation. At Grotta Palazzase they are trying to move you out of the way so they can have at least two sittings each evening, perhaps as many as four. Not very Italian of them, is it?
As it turns out, we still enjoyed the views of the sea at a chic bistro-pizzeria at the other end of the little bay, and had wonderful wine, fantastic aperitivi, the best pizzas in all of Italy and amazing desserts--all for around €60 for the three of us--at Terazza Pizzeria.
In the end, if you really want to have the experience of dining in Polignano al Mare, try the Terazza Pizzeria (very affordable, casual), or Il Bastione (affordable, casual) with an outdoor dining terrace hanging on the cliff above the Cove. It has a dramatic view of the Cove and its houses clinging to the cliff with a more affordable and diversified menu. (How does €60 for two sound?) The views will stay with you forever--along with most of your cash! If one compares the photos of the dishes served in Il Bastione and Grotta Palasezze, you'll see the quality looks very similar. This is Puglia, after all... most places serve wonderful food--especially from the sea.
Il Bastione, above - Grotta Palasezze, below
But if you're really hell bent on eating dinner in a cave, I suggest taking a drive to Matera, the Sassi city, where most of the restaurants in the Sassi district are in caves. No sea view, but still a great, romantic experience, especially if you take a passeggiata (stroll) down to the Piazza along the edge of the gorge at sunset.
Seventeen year old Giacinto Consiglio attends the Leonardo da Vinci high school in Bisceglie, Puglia. He designed the Florence Duomo and Baptistry entirely in Legos and will build the scale model, from the size of 60" long, 24" wide and 24" tall in the Tuscan capital on October 21 at the Opera del Duomo Museum, from 10am to 7pm .
The project will require over twenty thousand bricks of ten different colors, divided into about 400 different shapes--parts contributed by Lego enthusiasts from all around the world living in nine countries. Giacinto's work can be followed step by step by the public.
From October 22 to November 9, 2017, the model will be displayed in a room of the museum for which an entrance fee will not apply. On November 11 and 12, the play cathedral and baptistery will moved to Obi Hall for the Bricks in Florence Festival.
Young Giancintois supported by members of the AFOL group (Adult Fans of Lego), TuscanyBricks enthusiasts and the Italian Lego users group.
It never ceases to amaze me how interesting Italy is, and how far back its culture goes. In fact, nearly every region has its share of evidence of man in the earliest days of prehistory, such as the images carved into the bald rock face at the
Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri (Incised Rocks National Park) in the alpine Valle Camonica, Lombardy. There you will find prehistoric images of hunters and their game, warriors, a primitive chariot, grass huts and other neolithic symbols.
Valle Camonica was settled by primitive tribes 15,000 years ago, at the end of last Ice Age, after the melting glacier first carved out the valley. It is likely that the first humans visited the valley in epipaleolithic times, and appear to have settled by the Neolithic period. When the Ancient Romans extended their dominions north of the River Po, they encountered a people called the Camunni, of unknown origin, populating the valley. About 300,000 petroglyphs survive from this period.
This was the first Italian archaeological park focusing on the carvings in Valle Camonica, opened in 1955, and is the primary site in a network of similar rock art parks that has grown up since the 1970s in the area. It contains 104 engraved rocks at an altitude of about 1200 feet. The engravings are seen on exposed outcrops of purple-grey colored Permian sandstone (Verrucano Lombardo), smoothed and shaped by ancient glaciers. After the glaciers finished their work polishing and exposing the mountaintop, the prehistoric inhabitants who live in the valley, ions before Christ walked the Earth, took over and decorated them with both illustrative and symbolic images, showing their connection to both the natural and spiritual worlds.
Interestingly, most of the engravings were made by striking the rock surface with a hammer-stone, chipping small pieces out as they carved images into the stone's surface. There are also a smaller number of images made by scraping techniques.
Most of the Naquane engravings date from the Neolithic (5th millennium BC) to the Iron Age (1st millennium BC). The phenomenon was particularly common during the latter period, when the valley was inhabited by the Camunni, although historical-era engravings, Roman and modern, are also present.
The road leading to the park passes by additional rock carving sites of Dos de l’Arca and Le Sante, finds from which may be seen in the Capo di Ponte museum (MUPRE).
As illustrated in the photos below, I'm amazed at how accurate some of the drawings are when compared to their real world counterparts...
Parco di Seradina-Bedolina
The Municipal Archaeological Park of Seradina-Bedolina was set up in 2005 and, located on the right bank of the river Oglio, collects inside its rocks primarily engraved with the Bronze Age (2000 BC) and the Iron Age (1000 BC ).
Il Parco Archeologico Nazionale
dei Massi di Cemmo
In the small valley of Pian delle Greppe, not far from the hamlet of Capo di Ponte, rises the National Archaeological Park of the Cassie Massi, an archaeological area of great importance in the history of the studios of Camuna peoples rock art. There are hundreds of carvings in this park, some dated back to the ninth millennium BC.
Parco di Interesse Sovracomunale
del Lago Moro Luine e Monticolo
The archaeological site of Luine boasts purple colored stone outcrops with engravings dating to the Mesolithic period, along with stone huts and dry stone structures used by one or more prehistoric communities to conduct collective ceremonies.
Il Parco Archeologico di
The Asinino-Anvòia Archaeological Park is located in the heart of the Ossimo-Borno plateau. The site is characterized by standing stone alignments from the Copper Age (3rd Milennium BC).
Riserva Naturale Incisioni Rupestri
di Ceto, Cimbergo e Paspardo
The Reserve is the largest protected archaeological area of Camonica Valley, extending over 750 acres spanning the three municipalities of Ceto (with Nadro village), Cimbergo and Paspardo. The engraved rocks, some as old as the 5th millennium BC, are nestled in a natural mid-mountainous environment alternating at places with man-made structures. You can spend hours to days exploring this area.
But what really makes me pazzo is the thousands of tourists who put
Casa di Giulietta (Juliette's House) on their must see list when they visit the beautiful Renaissance city of Verona. Here's a reality check so you don't waste your time
(and € 6.00) on #faketourist stuff when there is so much amazing history and beauty all over Italy:
For me, this pilgrimage is totally bogus and a waste of time. I've been to Clos Lucé in France and stood at the bed where Da Vinci died pondering his death mask made minutes after he passed on. Real. I've been a to a dungeon where Joan of Arc was held prisoner. Real. I've been to see and feel the actual desks where the Framers of the U.S. Constitution penned that great document. Real. I've stood under the great ceiling in the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo climbed his scaffold for four years. Real. I stood where the Caesars stood in the Colosseum watching blood sports. Real. I visited each room under the Seven Gables in that famous house. Real. I visited the apartment where Victor Hugo penned his Hunchback story. Real. I've even picnicked at the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware--a few miles from our home. Real.
But Romeo & Juliette in Verona? Go see their amphitheater instead--or re-read the play.
When wandering around Rome, you will occasionally come across little miracoli (miracles). Some happen... well, by happenstance, while others are well thought out. Many appear to be mysteries, with no one really knowing how they came about. One of the more interesting miracoli is also one of the smallest... a small keyhole. The Aventine Keyhole.
High above Rome, on the top of Aventine Hill, a surprise view waits for your eye and camera. If you come early enough, or perhaps late enough, you'll pretty much be alone, but some tourists have caught on to this magical view and you might find a line leading out into the street in front of locked doors. Then as you get closer, you'll discover how thousands of people peering through this keyhole have worn away the paint right down to the bare wood, and the metal of the keyhole itself is worn and polished from thousands of peering eyes and pressing camera lenses.
Still, this view is a treat, albeit a bit touristy, just as la Bocca della Verità is worth standing on line to take a picture of you with your hand shoved in it's mouth, or how you'll be compelled to "hold up" the Leaning Tower of Pisa while a companion snaps your picture.
Just after the Orange Garden, the Keyhole of the Gate of the Priory of the Knights of Malta offers the most popular and picturesque view of Saint Peter's dome. Looking at it through the ornate keyhole gives a magical view--an alignment, really--of St. Peter's dome framed by hedges of the gardens of the Priory.
The Priory of the Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic religious order of crusader knights that originated in Jerusalem in the 11th century. It is the oldest surviving chivalric order in the world and is a sovereign entity under international law. The estate also hosts the embassy of the Order of Malta to Italy.
The property was constructed in the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, by Giovan Battista Piranesi in 1765. The Aventine Hill, according to legend, represents a sacred ship setting course toward heaven. There are many nautical elements in the design. For example, the ornamental door is the entrance to this ship's deck, the manicured gardens and trees represented the rigging of the ship.
The property lies in the piazza Cavalieri di Malta, designed by Giovan Battista Piranesi in 1765. According to Roman legend, Aventine Hill was imagined as a sacred ship that would eventually set sail for the heavens, so Piranesi incorporated many nautical elements and symbols into his designs. The ornamental door symbolized the entrance to the ship deck while the manicured gardens within were the ropes and riggings of the ship. Although the position of the door itself and the hedges obviously align with a view of St. Peter's Basilica, the view through the keyhole--although indeed heavenly--was more than likely mere happenstance. Still, some historians claim that Pirasesi purposely aligned the view through the keyhole (curiously, it isn't keyhole shaped at all, but round) to act as a long lens of a sea captain's telescope, foreshortening the view of the dome of St. Peters to look as if it was right at the end of the allée of trees and not miles away, as it really is. Perhaps inferring that the Voyage to Heaven isn't as long as one would think?
While up on the Aventine Hill, pay a visit to the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Gardens). There you'll find a wonderful park with more amazing views of Rome. Before you enter the gardens, look for a beautiful mask fountain to the left of the gate.
Aventine Hill, Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 3 Rome
From the Ponte Palatino on the Tiber River, walk up the Via della Greca, the turn rightand continue up the Clivio dei Publicii. You can visit the rose gardens of Roseto di Roma Capitale on the left. A bit further on, bear right onto Via di Santa Sabina, to a small park on the right filled with orange trees, the Giardino degli Aranci. Enjoy the views of Rome. The Church of Santa Savina (next to the park) dates back to 450AD. Continue further along the road to the Piazza Dei Cavalieri di Malta--on the right hand side you will see an old green door with paint is peeling off. If you look through its keyhole, you will see a beautiful tree-lined path and at the end of the path is a framed view of St, Peters Basilica. Plan your visit on a clear, sunny day with blue sky for the best view.