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Southern Italy: October 2007  (Sicily is in a separate file)

Note to Seasoned Travelers: As of September 2007 it is no longer possible to hop on a train in Italy and buy your ticket from the conductor. Riding without a ticket or without validating your ticket before boarding makes you vulnerable to a 50 fine.

    This area is definitely worth a visit to see the "trullo" stone houses. The intense cluster in the heart of Alberobello's old town is distractingly commercialized, but a way to quickly understand the concept. If you have the time, cruise around the hill top town and look down on building tops where ever you can to find old trulli integrated into new buildings. There are several areas besides Alberobello to see trulli, and more rustic examples can be found in the countryside between the centers.
    Brindisi was a  bust for our history-buff minds as the archeological museum was enveloped in construction with no comment on hours or schedule and the cathedral was buttoned up (on a Sunday?!). But we found Brindisi to be a pleasant strolling city, even on a rainy, everything's-closed Sunday. The city center looks like was the object of a recent and successful urban renewal project and many of the historic builds have been brightened up. Benches along the main streets, little pocket parks, and wheel-chair cut-outs on the sidewalks made it welcoming. The stroll around the port area was an interesting conglomeration of military vessels, tugs, fishing boats, and pleasure craft. It's dark history of being a dangerous town seems to have been washed away. There wasn't a lot to do, but it's a port town we'd look forward to passing through, especially since we found an affordable hotel (see below). Boats leave here for Greece, Albania, and Turkey.
    Our Lonely Planet guide book had nothing kind to say about Potenza but it had the only archeological museum in the region that we visited that had English text with the displays. The fresh museum opened in 2005 and has well displayed Greek-era artifacts. The items in the cases are only labeled in Italian but the general info in English in each room orients one to the subject material. Lodging is expensive and we'd look further before staying again at the overpriced though well-situated Tourist Hotel.
    Lonely loves this place and we agree. It's a lovely setting and take it in before heading south, as nothing we saw afterwards matches it.

Lodging: October-November 2007 (roughly north to south)
Brindisi: Hotel Torino  must be the best kept secret in town. A 3 star hotel nestled in with other 3 star places that start in the 90-100 range, Hotel Torino charges between 45 & 73. We paid 45 for 2 people for 1 night without breakfast. We were thrilled with the smallish room #16 which had AC (though it wasn't needed), English news on the TV, 2 balconies and a big bed. We've paid a lot more for much less and expected to pay double the price in this city. My only complaint was the persistent  cigarette odors, despite the extensive airing-out that the corner room permitted. They only have about a dozen rooms, so it would be wise to call ahead. When we were there, the clerk spoke English. Our bikes were stashed in the lobby.  Follow the signs to Hotels Regina & Barsotti a block apart on Via Cavour, which are between the train station and the port. Continue on past the Barsotti and you'll run into the Torino on Largo Pietro Palumbo, 6, 72100 Brindisi; Tel 0831 597587.  

Locorotondo: "Sotto le Cummerse" was a real find for us. The main hotel in town was quite pricy and the only other option we had found was dreary at 60. The "Albergo Diffuse" or dispersed apartments of Sotto le Cummerse were a delight. About a dozen single units are scattered about the old town. The fully equipped, beautifully decorated, modern apartment was a breathe of fresh air despite the shortage of windows. Terry bath towels and slippers aren't usually included in our standard fare but were there for our use. The shoulder season price for a single night for 2 was 82 though Bill negotiated a slight discount that dropped it to 75. The Standard units at 82 are at the bottom of their range. Our bikes stayed "in" with us. We'll definitely stay here again if in the area. No English on the TV. They have weekly rates and are available for extras, like having a "local housewife" prepare a meal in your apartment for you. With a car or a bike, Locorotondo would be a good base for exploring the trulli region.Tel: (+39) 080 4313298, www.sottolecummerse.it; info@sottolecummerse.it.

San Vito dei Normanni (near Brindisi): we struggled to find a place to stay and shortly after leaving town we were given the card to a B&B. We talked to the young owner and his bike-tour-guide cousin, though didn't see the place. Poggio Reale B&B, Contrada Poggioreale, 72019 San Vito d. N.; Tel 0831 981842 &  338 4550020; www.bbpoggioreale.it; info@bbpoggioreale.it.

Gallipoli: B&B Palazzo Angelelli is new as of 2007 and has a cheery and eager Italian speaking hostess to go with it. It's not staffed, so you must call in advance: Tel: 0833 266 181, Cell: 348 794 8560 or try her website: www.palazzoangelelli.com. A regional tourist office made the initial reservation for us. It's at Via Buccarella, n 1 off the main street into the old town.

Lecce: "Salento Time" at  Via Regina Isabella, 22 in the old town was the agency we used to locate a pleasant apartment in the city the day we arrived: www.salentotime.it; Tel: +39 0832 303 686.

Marina di Maratea about 5 km out of Maratea: at 60 for 2 per night, the Hotel Martino was deeply discounting its high season rate of 150. The spacious, lovely, modern room which was spotlessly clean and well maintained was a treat. All rooms have a patio or balcony and face the sea and the whole affair is situated in a lushly vegetated setting. We stayed 4 nights instead of the planned single night because it was such terrific value. The markets are a hilly 5+ km away and the walking opportunities aren't great, but it is very "tranquillo." No English on the TV, no internet, but the rooms do have mini-bar refrigerators. Some of the very friendly staff speak English. Bikes stayed indoors without a fuss. Tel: 0973 879 126, Fax: 0973 879 312: info@ hotelmartino.net; http://www.hotelmartino.net. It is 1 of a handful of places in the area open in the off season. The rates for 2 people are under 75 from October 1 until June 1; Nov 1 until March 1 they are 60-65 for 2.

Paola (the 1 in northern Calabria): Albergo Blumentag had lovely, colorful rooms for 65 or 75. Via Magna Grecia, 8; Tel: 0982 613544/621526; www.albergoblumentag.it. The high season rates were in the 110 range.

Reggio Calabria: Hotel Lido is a spare 2 star with a dandy location a couple of blocks from the waterfront promenade and the archeological museum. At 70  it was a great value for the city. The beds were good, the room surprisingly quiet for its inner city location and there was free wifi internet connection. The staff didn't seem to be aware of it as they only directed us to their very old but free internet station in the lobby. The bad thing about the hotel is the tab water, which is the foulest tasting and looking water we've seen in a hotel--and it wasn't just rust. We settled for imagining that the deep yellow water with a very high mineral content was a spa mineral bath for no extra charge. It's piping hot after 8 pm and warm before that time.  Do walk up the hill and to the left to buy drinking water from the supermarket. Via 3 Settembre, Tel: +39 0965 25001, Fax: +39 0965 899393.

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