South Italy Tour 2011 Buttons

South Italy Tour 2011

Day 4 Thursday October 6, 2011

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The cliff before dawn.

Fish never sleep.

I got up at 5:30 to work on the journal. I had plenty of energy; I am a morning person.

Aaaaarrgh! The light was not lit on the laptop’s power supply, which meant that the battery on the computer had not been charging overnight. I determined that the problem seemed to be the power converter that I had purchased at Home Depot, not the power supply itself. The electrical converter was able to recharge my camera’s batteries without a problem, but the laptop’s power supply made it overheat after ten or fifteen minutes even when the computer was turned off. I suspected that the problem involved the two settings on the converter – 50 watts and 1200 (!) watts. The former seemed to be insufficient for the computer, and I was afraid to use the latter. Whenever I had tried it in the past, I had blown circuit breakers at various hotels.

Ti voglio bene” means “I love you.”

The silly thing was that I did not really need a converter. All of my devices could handle the European voltage. I should have bought more of the simple adapters for Italian outlets. They probably sold them at the Conad Drugstore below Termini.

The Jessica was packed.

I went out on the balcony to watch for rosy-fingered Dawn. A line of clouds squatted on the horizon, but the colors were still impressive. I took a few photos of the sunrise and of a guy who was on the sea before there was any sunlight at all.

Valentina remained in the marina.

The weather was delightful again. The sun was out, the sky was clear, and the temperature rose from the sixties in the morning to the low eighties in the afternoon.

Vieste and its breakwater.

Rainer’s plan for this day was fairly ambitious but not especially stressful. The group was scheduled to take a boat ride along the coast of the Gargano Peninsula in the morning. The outing would also include an opportunity for swimming, so several people planned to include their bathing suits. The afternoon featured a pasta-making demonstration in the restaurant followed by a sampling of several types of pasta. In the evening we were set to gather in the hotel’s bar for some drinks and the introduction of the buddies.

Breakfast was the usual hotel fare in Italy. I sat with Robbie and Jeff, but they were almost finished when I arrived at the table. I forgot to bring my camera.[1]

This guy’s boat had a spoiler.

At nine the intrepid group assembled to walk down to the sea. When we reached the marina, we discovered that the plans had changed. Rainer had told us that we would be cruising on a boat named the Valentina and that there would be plenty of room on it. Instead we learned that our voyage would be on the Jessica[2], a slightly larger vessel. Another group already occupied the front half of the boat when we arrived. No explanation was given for this change. We could see the Valentina, and no one seemed to be working on it. My guess was that the company running the excursions decided to save money by combining two tour groups into one.

Vieste from the sea.

Fishermen on the shore.

The boat was quite crowded. Seating was on benches. Sue and I at first tried to sit in the third row from the rear, but it was so narrow that we had to move. We ended up in the very last row behind Wilson and Ching.

The Jessica sailed south from the harbor down the coast. The voyage was basically one photo opportunity after another.[3] The harbor itself was surrounded by mounds of cubical stone that looked like a giant’s dice collection. No one explained what they were.

Palm trees lined the shore.

Fishing from the cliff.

The boat afforded us a good look at Vieste from both sides. Looming above us were the castle built by Emperor Frederick II and the abandoned Capuchin monastery, as well as the lighthouse. We got a very good view of the Hotel Seggio. We were even able to pick out the balcony of room 107. Considering that we were on the first floor, we certainly were quite a ways up the side of the cliff.

South of town was a very long beach that was practically empty even though the weather was fine for swimming. The holiday season ended in September.

This is a trabucco.

Beyond the beach the coast became very rugged with pale cliffs rising starkly from the sea. We passed one unique white rock, the Pizzomunno, that rose vertically from the sea. The coast appeared to be almost uninhabited.

The sparsely populated beach.

We motored past several individual fishermen in small boats. Two of them showed us that they had been successful at catching octopi, which was a favored delicacy on the Gargano Peninsula. We also saw anglers on the top of the cliff using fishing poles.

The Hotel Seggio.

Our balcony was the lower one on the right.

The most startling feature of the coastline was the abundance of caves. Four of them were large enough that the boat was able to enter a short distance inside them. It was surrealistic. From our vantage point in the back of the boat it definitely appeared that we were descending when we entered each cave. This was strictly an illusion, of course, but it was very strong.

The Bradleys and their cameras.

Caves on land ...

... and sea.

When possible, the captain maneuvered the boat into the cave twice. The first time the prow entered first. The second time he backed the vessel in. So, all of us got a pretty good view of each one.


Ruins on the hillside.

Trees occasionally grew on the cliff.

A keyhole-shaped opening in the rock ...

... from both sides.

This fisherman was proud of his cephalopod.

I suspected that this guy did not have both oars in the water ...

... until he displayed his catch

One of the caves was really a tunnel. After traversing a short distance in it we could see the landscape above us.

Roof of a cave.

Everyone took photos ...

... including Kathy.

Cave opening.

The only seat left for Sue was next to this old guy.

Cherry tomatoes?

The walls of one of the caves were embedded with small red objects that resembled cherry tomatoes just below the surface of the water. I am not sure what they were. My camera could see them better than my eyes could.

Look for pignoli nuts.

A lonely girl on the beach.

It sure seemed like we were going downhill.

The Zieves were prepared if we hit an iceberg.

Back to the sea.

The Jessica.

Sue went in the water.

Our last stop was a small gravelly beach. This was the point at which I learned that I had been sitting on the anchor. Two crewman made the people in our row move over to the extremely narrow row while they retrieved the small anchor.

Most of us got off of the boat and got our feet wet. The gravel was not a bit comfortable for walking. Sue, who enjoys swimming much more than I do, went in and bobbed around in the water for a few minutes. A few members of the tour joined her. By far the strongest swimmer was Jeff. He obviously had spent a good deal of time in the water.

The Horenkamps went up.

Tom and Ed Zieve got their feet wet.

A few hours on the sea evidently had disoriented the Horenkamps. Perhaps their Midwesterners’ instincts kicked in and impelled them to head for higher ground at the first opportunity, or perhaps they thought that the beach was at the top of the cliff. As soon as the boat landed they began making their way up the cliff face. By the time that they realized the error of their ways and returned to the ship, it was time to depart.

The walk back up from the marina to the hotel was not as pleasurable as the stroll down had been. Sue and I took it easy. She had to stop a couple of times to give her knees a break.

Most of us went up from the beach to the boat.

Bob and Connie came down to it.

That is my foot next to the anchor.

If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Jessica would be lost.

Nicola and Valentino.

The dining room of the hotel’s restaurant served as the location of the pasta-making demonstration. Rainer served as MC and translator for two chefs named Nicola, who did most of the work, and Valentino. They explained that the flour used in Pugliese pasta was somewhat different from that of the rest of Italy. It was an 80-20 mixture of durum wheat and semola.[4] To the flour they added water and a little olive oil to add elasticity (and because Italians add olive oil to everything that they cook).

Sue and Janelle tried their hands at fashioning orecchietti.

Truth to tell, I did not pay a whole lot of attention during the demo, but I did take a number of photos. Sue really got into it, however. When they asked for volunteers, she popped right up to try her hand at making orechietti, the pasta that is shaped like little ears. Incidentally, they assured us that the tasting would involve pasta that had been made by the experts, not the efforts of the volunteers during the demonstration.

Sue and the expert.

One of the varieties of pasta was not made with the fingers. Instead a wooden contraption with fine wires strung across it was used to slice the dough into thin strips that resembled linguine. The box was called a chitarra, which is the Italian word for guitar. I had heard about this on the segment on Acquerello Italiano that was devoted to the food of Puglia, but I could not previously visualize how it was done. The pasta produced this way was called troccoli.

Troccoli ...

Finally we were allowed to eat. The feast began with a plate of orecchietti served with a green sauce made from broccoli leaves. They explained that ordinarily turnip tops were used for the sauce, but they were not in season.

... is made ...

This was followed by a dish of cavatelli, which looked like miniature hot dog buns, with beans. Then came the fusilli, which were made with three fingers. One is supposed to leave one’s fingerprints[5]. I forgot to write down what accompanied the fusilli.

... using a chitarra.

The troccoli was saved for last. It was served with tomatoes, basil, and dried ricotta cheese. All of the dishes were tasty, but this was my favorite. Unfortunately I was pretty well carbed out by the time that I finished. I left before we were dismissed, climbed up to our room, and took a nap. I even left my spiral notebook in the restaurant; Sue had to bring it to me. I learned later that they served still another course, which, if I recall correctly what Sue told me, was a salad. I could not possibly have eaten any.

The various types of pasta.

We assembled in the hotel’s bar at 6:30 for the introduction of the buddies. Sue and I were the last to arrive. I let Sue have the last available seat. I squatted on the steps in an alcove. I could not hear very well because the two waiters were a few feet away from me, and they chatted during the entire event. I did not bring my camera because I expected to be busy taking notes.

All gone.

Rainer had requested that each person focus on one or two unique facts when introducing the buddy. Nevertheless, quite a few speeches disclosed very few memorable bits. Instead they just emphasized what wonderful people the buddies were. This was a disappointment to me. I was hoping to absorb as much information as possible about each tour member.

Here is a synopsis of what I learned. Some of it might have been lies. Moreover, I might have gotten some things wrong because I could not hear very well.

Gail got the ball rolling by introducing Ching as a tax specialist who worked very hard. Gail also claimed that Ching had been an “exotic dancer” at some point in her life. Actually, in the twenty-first century I suspect that the term “exotic dancer” has become as rare as “ecdysiast.”

Gail lived outside Vancouver on a thirteen-acre property. She spoke Italian quite well, and had been to Italy several times. She was thinking of purchasing property in Italy, possibly a trullo.

Judy was from the San Francisco area. She had worked as a medical technician or something like that.

Janelle Jones was a realist. I never figured out what that was supposed to mean.

Edie Martinelli was a retired teacher. She had taught a bilingual (Spanish) kindergarten. She was also pretty fluent in Italian.

David Jones was from Austin. He was born in Fort Worth, but he had lived in Austin since 1968. He knows Japanese. He had intended to become a missionary, but he ended up translating chemical patents.

Wilson spent twenty hours a day in front of the computer. He designed educational software for a large publishing house. He was born in Hong Kong.

Wilson told a story with multiple endings about Steve. I could barely hear his presentation, and I could not follow most of it, but it had something to do with India and a monkey.

Tom’s company had thirty employees. Ed Zieve’s description made him sound like a workaholic, but I already knew that he and Kathy took nice vacations.

Ed Zieve was actually in the same business that Tom was. He owned several patents on high-tech devices. He liked to sail. In World War II he had been on an aircraft carrier.

Bob made Connie’s wedding ring. No one asked where he got the gold. I had to assume that he got it from gold teeth that he had extracted. Even if he did not, that is the way that I will always visualize this.

Kathy was an artist and a gardener who helped maintain a ten-acre property in Northern California.

Ed Bradley worked for a long time at Boeing in Washington until he got canned. He and his tiny wife Diann had been on quite a few Rick Steves tours.

It will make it.

Frank was from Brooklyn. As a young man he and a buddy had hitchhiked across the country as far as Joplin, MO. There they purchased a 1934 Chevy and drove to Los Angeles. Thence he wandered up to Portland, OR, became a logger, and ended up in the state of Washington. He had a son and a daughter. He had been to Italy several times.

Renee was a pharmacist from Phoenix, AZ, who worked in a government program that was mostly for native Americans. She was physically very active, and was especially into hot yoga. She was born in Minneapolis. She had two children.

This was Diann’s seventh Rick Steves tour. Her parents toured with Rick Steves in the seventies in the legendary VW microbus. She had never been to college, but she had a PhD. That is, she put her husband’s dead ass through school.

Go ahead; try it.

Amy was only twenty-two. She helped her mother plan this trip, which would continue on to Barcelona after our tour was done. She was into guinea pigs. I should have engaged her about this topic, but by the next day I had forgotten that anyone had mentioned it. She would doubtless have backed me up when I informed people that whenever someone picks up a guinea pig by its tail, its eyes pop out.

Debbie had traveled throughout the US and had also lived for a while in Chile. She had been to Machu Pichu several times. I missed most of the rest of this introduction.

Sue was introduced by Charlotte as a dance hall lady. What can I say?

Sue emphasized Charlotte’s strong political views. She had taught environmental studies at the collegiate level, and now she thought that everything that environmentalists had done was being torn down. She wrote very astute letters to newspapers whenever she thought that they had misstated something. She had traveled to over eighty countries. Her other trips had been self-guided.

I introduced Bob as a family man, a dentist, and a hunter of pheasants and wild turkeys. In his speech of introduction he thanked me for my service to my country.[6] I don’t remember what else he said about me. He might have just made it up.

After dark the cats owned the Piazza del Seggio.

I could not understand Robbie’s speech about Gloria. She was on the other side of the room.

We ate at the Locanda la Macina, ...

Jeff said that he was impressed that Mark wore a white shirt every day. If he explained what Mark did that required that attire, I missed it. We also heard about some automobile repair that went awry.

... not the Osteria al Duomo, which this sign says is twenty meters down the stairs.

Mark and Gloria were not there to defend themselves and to tell us what they knew about Robbie and Jeff. They were having supper with the Vieste branch of the Ascoli family. Rainer said that they would get a chance to give their introductions, but to my knowledge it never happened.

Dining on the steps at the locanda.

On our previous Rick Steves tours the meeting with the introductions had often been my favorite part of the trip. I was sorely disappointed with this event because I could not understand half of the speeches, and quite a few people provided little or no information about the interests or accomplishments of their buddies.

After the meeting the group adjourned and went to supper. We meant to go to the Osteria al Duomo, but we ended up at the Locanda la Macina. To get to the Osteria al Duomo, you actually had to walk down the stairs through the locanda’s outdoor seating, but we did not realize that fact when we sat at a table behind Renee, Debby, Ching, Wilson, Amy, and Gail. A couple of tables down (and I do mean down) were the Neithercutts and the Horenkamps.

Ching’s enormous fish.

Sue and I started with prosciutto and melon. Then I had trocolli alla sepia ragu (cuttlefish) while Sue had the spaghetti ai frutti di mare. Sue also ordered some fried cheese and honey. I thought that the meal was pretty good. We should have arranged to dine with someone. We were getting off to a bad start socially.

During supper we were entertained by a pair of cats that darted among the tables. One sat very peacefully next to Sue for minutes at a time. Also, our perch above Ching’s party gave us a great view of her strategy in attacking the gigantic fish that the waitress had plopped on her plate.

As we dined by the light of big candles ...

... and small.

This little cat ...

... almost let Sue pet him/her.

[1]  A few people have cruelly remarked that previous journals went a little overboard on the descriptions of breakfast at hotels. This was the one day that I did not want to go overboard on anything.

[2]  The boat’s namesake must have been a foreigner; there are no Italian women named Jessica because there is no J in Italian.

[3]  I amassed an impressive collection of photos of Wilson’s right elbow that I am thinking of publishing as a coffee-table book.

[4]  I may have this wrong. Even though I was born and raised in Kansas, I know nothing about wheat.

[5]  I learned a little about fingerprints when I was in the army. I was surprised to find that my fingers include an example of each major pattern.

[6]  I earned a commendation for my superior performance in the New Mexican War of 1971. Some peace-crazed Ghandiists sat in the main street of Sandia Base. I was an MP, and our company was mustered to apprehend the enemy combatants and put them in trucks. I brought my clipboard with me and walked around pretending to supervise.