To highlight the life and energy of Puglia, Italy amid current environmental devastation, I will be posting photo-essays about southern Italian cities I had the chance to visit in 2015. On-going protests wouldn’t stop me from visiting the region again, but to each his own. Travel consciously.
Ostuni — a small town near Bari known for its winding, fortress-like old city and white-washed homes — is first in this series. (It’s not quite south enough to be in the middle of pipeline construction. So I don’t know how the city has been impacted by that.)
Ostuni is misunderstood. So misunderstood that I planned a week-long stay in drafty, rainy March after reading another blogger’s fantastic opinion about her one-day stop during the summer. I did a lot of soul-searching and coffee drinking that week.
Go with a car, in the summer. I took a bus from Bari, which is doable but requires a lot of aiuta from strangers. (The bus stop in Bari is less than five minutes from the train station.) Ostuni has a few bus stops you can get off at, so get comfy asking your bus mates for help too. If you have a car you can visit nearby nature preserves and beaches. If you don’t, you’ll get more creative.
There’s a tourism office in the center of town. During my trip, I didn’t find it that helpful because their activity suggestions required driving outside of the city. But they did direct me to a shuttle bus, which ran between Ostuni and a smaller local train station, when it came time to leave.
Ostuni, like mainly Italian cities, has an old historic center, a newer but still historic part, and commercial areas one-or-two miles out (with supermarkets and clothing stores). Visit artists’ studios in the centro storico, eat crepes at Les Crepes Fantastique in between both historic centers, and pop in churches. There’s an archeological museum of sorts, but it’s small and didn’t interest me much inside. If you need an ATM (bancomat) there’s a bank a little farther out from this central district.
It rained every single day I was there. The city is beautiful even in the rain, but as a solo-traveler feeling cold and stuck can bring you down.
After exploring every museum/studio/church with open doors, taking older men up on their invitations to cafés, walking through a thrift market in one park, and finishing Three Cups of Tea (borrowed from Nikki), I still had some free time on my hands. I found Cinema Teatro Roma (with discounted Wednesday tickets) and watched an Italian rom-com, basically a two-hour soap opera. It was comforting to be in a crowd with no need for talking, cozy in a seat, after running out of ways to entertain myself alone and spending many days in my amazingly central, but damp Airbnb.
The rainy season means few tourists, no-one in your photos, and no wait at cafés. There are many extravagant hotels, bars, and restaurants in the old city. Alberobello and its trulli are a short drive away. I met a British expat who had been fixing up a trullo and waiting for a business meeting in one café in Ostuni. If you go to see the architecture and history of Ostuni, think about traveling with a friend, in warmer weather, with a car, with specific things you want to see, or for a day. I showed up and winged it, così é la vita.