Saturday, April 30, 2022

Biking in Puglia: Day 6

“Back in the saddle again, back where a friend is a friend…” 


I began singing this old cowboy song as we once again mounted our bikes after a two-day rest. Farewell to Matera and out again into the countryside. Some of it a bit too trafficked for our taste, but then a long section with stone walls on both sides and only occasional cars. We passed a herd of cows, each with the large melodious bells hung from their necks as they do in Spain, so that when they wander to graze, a John Cage-style composition emerges. Adding to my list of minor regrets that I didn’t stop to record it.


Stopped to lunch in the town of Gioia del Colle, but the main square had no benches and no trees and we found some church steps instead. While I wax rhapsodic about the wonders of Italy and/or the pleasure of Europe, good to remind myself that not every place is extraordinary and not every town memorable. Just as life and music has its peaks and valleys, so does geography have its memorable convocation of elements that we perceive as beauty— and the rest is filler.


From Gioia del Colle another 12 miles to the more attractive town of Noci, with our main objective to find a gelateria. We did and I am proud to report that I resisted. Giving in to pleasure has its place, but so is resisting it occasional, especially in deference to the bulging belly. While the others enjoyed their cones, I notice a public bulletin board with funeral notices, much as they do in Ghana. Of course, we have our newspaper obituaries, but I wonder what it would be like for neighborhoods to have such public announcements of fellow citizens who passed on. 


Now there was some 9 more miles to go to our destination of Alberobello— and yes, they use kilometers here, but I’m saving you the trouble of conversion. Today was our longest day, some 70 kilometers (42 miles), but it was a bit longer for me. I got out ahead of the others and while zooming down a long hill, thought I should stop and wait for them. Five minutes later, none appeared and so I doubled back to meet them. A half mile back, no sign of them, a mile back, no sign, now probably two miles back and they were nowhere in sight. 

Now I began to worry, wondering if one of them had had an accident. I re-read all the directions to make sure I didn’t miss a turn-off, but didn’t see anything I did wrong. The one vague possibility was an Abbey that the directions suggested we stop at, but when I entered what might have been it (it was not well-marked), again, no sign of them and a passing car told me it was a farm. 


Trying to keep calm and collected, I decided to follow the directions to our next hotel and hope for the best. Now my battery started to give out and my handlebars kept slipping and my mind was not wholly unchained with worst-case-scenarios, but definitely wondering how I could have missed them and where the heck they could be. I turned at the correct sign, struggled uphill with my faltering battery and at some point, came around the bend and there they were riding ahead!


I caught up with them and came up next to the last person, she said, “Oh, there you are.” Quite casually. It seems they assumed I went on ahead and none of them seemed particularly worried about me! So much for the big drama of it all from my side of the matter. And what happened? Apparently, they had gone to that Abbey and had left long before I finally turned off there. 


So here we arrived in the town of Alberobello and it is somewhat astounding how each of the places we’ve spent the night is memorable, but in a different way. Bari, Lecce, Trani, the farmhouse in la Bagniola, Gravina, Matera and now this town made distinct by its Trulli buildings used for hotels (we’re staying in one!), restaurants, cafes, houses and such. I feel like I’ve arrived in Hobbitown or some other fantasy place! Now at 5:30 pm, about to go out and explore and I promise I’ll come back with the photos. Stick around.


Cruised the town amidst a few hundred other tourists with my camera out and so, photos below. A pleasant dinner, but Italy, like Spain, begins late, starting around 8:00 pm. So keeping our normal 10:30 bedtimes means there’s not much post-dinner evening— and going to sleep with a full stomach. When in Rome…

And so ends the last day in April, with two more biking days awaiting…

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