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  • Writer's pictureGary Mack

Puglia and Pulia: A day trip to Bari

The weather report said that today was going to be a little cooler. A mere 27 degrees c. I forgot to mention that the first night was a stifling 31 degrees c!  We didn't sleep very well. The apartment has aircon and I am not sure why we did not turn it in. Lesson learnt.

Even though 27 degrees is a lot warmer than we are used to, we think it's going to get hotter. So, today we thought it would be a good idea to head out to Bari. Last year on the way to the airport we saw Bari from the bus window. We promised ourselves that this year we would spend a day, if not two, there.

We were not disappointed. The main drag to the old town was full of posh shops (non of which we could afford, but lovely to look at). Lovely Jonathan bought me a holiday treat from H&M!

The old town of Bari is beautiful. Very traditional and not too touristy. I do wonder what it would be like at the height of the Italian summer holidays. My main goal was to watch  the Bari ladies making their fresh orecchiette, literally "little ears" of pasta. Sadly, the closest I got was seeing trays of pasta drying in the midday breeze. Next week we may come back and see if we can hunt them down.

Despite the fact that the English guide books to Puglia are out of date, generally pants and not much use in suggesting restaurants, food was not hard to find in Bari. We decided to pick a road and see what we could find (this was Jonathan's choice and a good road he choose too!). We bumped in to La Tana del Polpo. It was offering a 20 euros menu. I do love it when you know the food is good and you don't have to choose what to eat and you know there's going to lots of it.

The questions were easy to understand and answer even in Italian: "red, white or pink?" and "still or fizzy?"

The lovely waiter explained to us that there would be 4 antipasti, then primi and secondi. Even the wine and water was part of the deal!  Bingo! Everyone eating there was Italian, I hoped this meant it would be a good meal.

The highlight of this meal had to be the pasta served for primi. The simplicity of this dish amazed me. My guess is that the tiny pasta shells would have been briefly boiled in very salty water. Then mussels must have been cooked with wine and the pasta added, with tomatoes tossed through. This must have all all happened very quickly, as the pasta was very fresh. The tastes were fantastic: The juice from the mussels brings the sea to your senses; The acid from the wine brightens the flavour of the tomatoes. 

The fresh plum tomatoes we're eating in Puglia have a very thick skin. Their intense taste is amazing. We have some at home for lunch tomorrow. 

The second highlight was the octopus.  I know, if you're counting that means we've had octopus three days in a row! But this one was special. The restaurant was called polpo (octopus) so we had a feeling it was going to be good. A whole (small) octopus arrived in front of Jonathan. His face lit up when the first mouthful! It was chargrilled and seasoned to perfection. The charred, slightly burned tentacles was delicious. We were happy chappies by the time we rolled out.

After lunch we wandered around the town in search of St Nicholas' church where the saint's body rests. It's a very special building. There are two cows on either side of the entrance of the church, which reminded me of India. They seemed to be holding the weight of the door pillars up. 

The interior was quite extraordinary. It was a massive space, the walls are simple but the roof is wonderfully ornate with gilding and painting and beautiful wood carvings hovering over us, so high up.

It's home time and a 3.50euro ticket takes us back to Monopoli by way of a little nap on the train. It's been a long day. No need for dinner this evening. Just a light supper of gorgonzola and peaches.

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