Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bari and Alberobello

The ship docked at 13:00 at the port of Bari.  We were booked on a tour with the cruise ship, so we were to meet with the group at the Royal Theatre. There were eight groups meeting so, in a true Italian organisational setting, it was a little chaotic. There were several guides handing out the stickers identifying which group you would join but you needed to be able to guess which guide was handing out your particular group’s stickers.  We were lucky and found the girl handing out the "English Speaking Stickers" (oh Mr.Bogue would have a field day J ).  That’s really were our luck ended because we ended up on an English-Spanish tour.  As nice as the guide was, it was really annoying to hear everything in two languages.  It meant that everything took longer because she had to say it twice, so we also got a lot less free time then the other groups.  But it also meant that I heard about a third of what was being said in Spanish and it was giving me a giant headache trying to understand what exactly she was saying.  At one point, the guide was explaining in Spanish that the some of the buildings in Bari were built by Napolean’s hermano … cool I think, Napolean’s brother was in southern Italy.  But the English description was that his brother-in-law built that section of the city.  Not quite the same thing.

Alberobello wasn’t at all what I expected but it was nice.  It’s a world Unesco protected city for its famous Trulli houses.  Round with conical shaped roofs, they used to be temporary.  In order to avoid paying taxes to the King of Italy, they citizens used to remove the keystone from the top of the roof and the buildings would collapse.  They could then claim that they were temporary dwellings and not a town.  But the king’s inspectors finally caught on and Alberobello was proclaimed a royal city, forcing them to pay taxes one way or another. After that point they started using mortar and lie to make the houses more permanent.  At some point the keystone became an identifying marker, and was use used like a civic number to indicate which family lived in the house. I had expected really a remote location with a cluster of trulli buildings but this was snug in the middle of another town.  There are 1500 trulli and it really didn’t seem as ancient as I thought it could.  The Trulli style church, which was built by the neighbourhood, was erected in 1920!  Not exactly Ancient or even medieval for that matter.  The local church in Vaudreuil is 70 years older! Alberobello was unlike anything I had seen before, so for that I was quite happy, but I have to admit, I kept thinking I would run into Frodo or Papa Smurf ;)

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