Saturday, July 14, 2012

Italy - Trani the Town Not the Alternative LIfestyle

Our little get-away ends today, but with a flight at 9:10 pm, we have a full day to explore further. We had heard that Trani, a small seaside village was fabulous, so we headed there. The train tickets are a super deal at 5.80 Euros for both us round-trip. The ride is less than a half hour, so it is quick too. 

Like most Italian cities, one cannot miss the religious iconography that is ubiquitous. Right outside the train station on the grounds is a huge fountain with some monk with outstretched arms. Since he didn't have any wildlife, we ruled out St. Francis. His identity was left a mystery.

Wandering away from the train station, we were almost immediately treated to the greenery of a park with dozens of Italians clustered in groups like gaggles of geese, making as much noise while trying to escape the early day's sunshine. 

On our way to the seaside, we approached the public gardens called Villa Comunale accessible from Piazza Plebiscito; the park was created in the 19th century. The spectacular variety of trees is offset with various gardens brimming with a rainbow of colors from well maintains plots of flowers interwoven with thin fountains. With the park is a section specifically for children that includes a maze with a small castle like structure at the top. If you are willing to risk the blare of the sun, there is a promenade that lines the seashore with a dazzling view of the sea.

A prominent spectacle from any vantage point on the shoreline is the Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino, a church dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, not to be confused with St. Nicholas aka Santa Claus who is celebrated in Bari. We thought we could follow the seaside walkway to reach the church, but it turned out that it led us to an elevated look-out that oversees the yacht harbor and the Adriatic. The view was incredible, but didn't get us any closer to the church.

Taking the longer and necessary way out of the park and then around the town, we came across a couple of men speaking in English, but with accents. As we passed they asked if we would take their photo, which we did. As luck would have it, they were from Budapest on the Buda side and here for a 4 day holiday thanks to WizzAir, just as we were.

Continuing on our way to find Cattedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino, we discovered another church. What a surprise, right? Well this had a twist. This 12th century church was built by the Knights Templar, the Chiesa di Ognissanti. As it turns out, Trani was on a route used by crusaders heading to and from the Holy Land. There was a hospital here for the sick and wounded. We thought our timing was unfortunate, but the church is not usually open to the public. I wonder if they let Dan Brown in?

Nearby is the Caccetta Palace, built by Simon Caccetta, a wealthy Trani merchant. It has been owned by the municipality since 1484, housing the Venetian governors until 1509 at which time it became a Teresiniani monastery and seminary in 1642 until the eighteenth century. The facade decor is late Gothic with a three-mullioned window that surmounts the main entrance.It is one of the most important buildings in this little town.

Finally reaching St. Nicholas, it was closed when we arrived. However, it dates back to the 12th century, the exterior style is Romanesque, but there is no comment on the interior. From our readings, we discovered that there are two lower levels under the main church. Immediately below is an older church that was once dedicated to Santa Maria della Scala; there are some Byzantine frescoes from that era. Lower still was yet another church that dates back to the 6th century. Not to be outdone by Bari, there is a crypt here also with the body of their St. Nick, but this one doesn't spout oil like the other. Nearby and also closed is the Museo Diocesano there the exhibit is a collection of sculpture and archaeological treasures from the local churches.

There was another wedding today. This is the third one we witnessed this trip with one on Wednesday, one Thursday, and now today. The bride and groom came to use the church as a backdrop for some of their outdoor photo shoot. 

Within spitting distance of the church is another Castello Svevo, built by or rather for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Dating to 1249, it was to protect the land from sea invaders. Later and until the 1970s, it was used as a prison. Dreary thought as it has very few windows, so even as a castle it was not a delight. Now it is only a tourist attraction with occasional exhibitions and special events, but this too was closed at our arrival. It looked so similar to the one in Bari, it would I would be hard pressed to perceive there could be much more here than in the other castle. Frederick II must have been the father of minimalism.

Finally, our task was to find refuge from the sunshine, while quenching our drought-like conditions. We rested on a patio with over-sized umbrellas shading us, having a drink and snack. By the time we reached the train station, we found we had a half hour wait for the next train, so that called for more fluid intake. We were already bone dry from the last ten blocks walked from the last filling station.

Arriving back in Bari, we realized we needed an early dinner; we would not get home until after 10pm. Most restaurants like most everything else closes down from 1:30 to 4:30pm. Eateries sometimes do not open again until 8pm. We did find a pub open, but the kitchen was closed. What must have been identified as pathetic looks, the owner did offer us Orecchiette con sugo alla ricotta forte (pasta with Ricotta cheese sauce) and a tomato salad with mozzarella cheese. That and a couple of beers and we were all set. It was the perfect meal for a hot day and long evening.

Picking up our bags at the hotel, we said our good-byes. We would definitely stay at the Hotel Boston again. We took the bus to the train station to catch the shuttle to the airport. We had a 20 minute wait, but it is a good thing we were there early. The shuttle filled immediately and at the first stop, close to our hotel, where we had originally planned on waiting, the driver refused passengers due to lack of room. There were already 4 people standing; mind you this was a shuttle van, not a bus.

When we arrived at the airport, the displays showed WizzAir as checking in our flight at desks 12-14, but there was no 13. However, at those desks the flight for Air Berlin was checking in the Berlin flights. It approached an hour to the flight, but still no sign of WizzAir. When they finally opened, the agent told us we had already checked in and hadn't needed to do it again. Strangely, in Budapest, we have to go to the agent first since we have American passports. The Italians don't care. 

Cannoli siciliani on a plate.
Cannoli siciliani on a plate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WizzAir, RyanAir, and easyJet have a combined 'dedicated' check-in security area in Bari's airport. Everyone needs to weight their hand luggage. It was quick and easy, though Ron's bag was .5 kg over, she waved him on by. The flight was late coming in, so we were delayed leaving. As luck would have it, our gate was directly across from a pastry and candy store. I popped in, really without any intent on buying, but found they had cannoli, my absolute favorite dessert. I bought one with the last of my Euro change, 1.30 making this the perfectly sweet ending to a sweet get-away.

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