Our last day in Rome we decided that we hadn’t quite had enough of the Burrata and Pesto pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli so we met our friends there that were also staying nearby and yeah, well, let’s just say we had pizza for breakfast. Afterwards we all made our way to the airport to catch an afternoon flight. Not sure if I have mentioned it already but we are all actually in Europe for a good friends wedding. Many of us have flown over from Australia to attend the wedding which is in London next weekend, so obviously we decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it.
We were meeting more friends in Polignano A Mare, a small seaside town in the city of Bari in Puglia for a bit of pre-wedding drinking, eating and relaxing. Puglia is well known for a few things, most importantly Taralli – a savoury biscuit shaped a bit like mini donut that I nicknamed the Italian Jatz because of their addictive nature. Secondly, Puglia is known for its Burrata. Some of the best Burrata in the world comes from Puglia and in both Rome and Florence I found menus with Burrata from Puglia on it. And thirdly the small little round pasta known as Orecchiette is also famously from Puglia.
When we arrived at Bari airport the five of us collected our two rental cars with MS and I upgrading from our Toyota Yaris to a Renault Clio. It was cheap to upgrade and the Clio had built in Navman. Funnily enough our friends upgraded from their Alfa Romeo Giuletta to a Ford Mondeo wagon which proved to be an extremely bad idea when we arrived in Polignano to find the narrowest streets in existence. Thankfully both cars got away from the trip unscathed but only because of some absolute standout driving from both MS and the Ford Mondeo driver, PS.
The town of Polignano A Mare is one of the prettiest little places that I have ever had the opportunity to visit. It is a quaint little town with a labyrinth of laneways filled with restaurants, cafes, shops and breathtaking lookouts over the Adriatic Sea. Unbeknown to us before we arrived Polignano was also gearing up for their second ever hosting of the Red Bull Cliff Jumping competition. Had we known that we probably would have stayed a couple more days but we had flights booked to leave the day before the competition began. I don’t want to ramble on too much about Polignano because to be honest, it’s all a bit of a blur of drinking and repetitive pasta and pizza eating so I am going to try and condense it into one (or two posts).
On the first night in Polignano we checked into our Airbnb (La Casetta Nel Vico) and reunited with our friends at their Airbnb which wasn’t far from ours. We made our way to a popular little cocktail bar called La Casa Del Mojito down one of the laneways. There wasn’t much to it… a few metal stools to outside to sit on and some nearby steps but man did they do good, cheap cocktails! 7 Euros for a huge selection of cocktails that were certainly not stingy on the pours. I started on the Aperol Spritz and moved onto the Negroni’s which wasn’t the smartest move since I hadn’t eaten since my breakfast pizza. Over the next four days we visited a couple more times. La Casa Del Mojito was a definite highlight of our time in Polignano.
During our stay in Polignano we dined at so many places that it really is just a blur for me now but I do have a few highlights. Fresh seafood is the name of the game in Puglia and there is a tonne of seafood places to eat. Il Pescato was on my radar after it was recommended to me by our Airbnb host Francesco however since much of the group (there was 9 of us) weren’t the biggest seafood eaters so 5 of us made a booking for lunch while the rest fended for themselves. The Grilled Swordfish on the menu was only 9 Euros (an absolute steal) so most of the table ordered that as a starter. It was freshly caught, perfectly grilled and with a squeeze of lemon over the top… Bliss!
I had the Tagniollini with Clams, Red Prawns, Squid and Fava Bean Puree. Fava bean puree with pasta is a first for me but hopefully not the last!
I sampled my fair share of pastas over the week with plenty of memorable ones and some not so memorable ones however the best one for me was at a restaurant called La Locanda Porta Picc. The Spaghetti with Seafood or as they say in Italy ‘Spaghettoni ai Frutti di Mare’, which sounds far better than the English version was a standout for me and the others at the table that ordered it. You can’t beat the simple flavours of top quality olive oil and garlic with freshly made pasta and seafood caught that very day!
I did really want to go to the Grotto Palazzese (a restaurant built inside a cave) but after reading some reviews about it and looking at the price of the menu I decided that it wasn’t really worth it at all. It seem you’re really just paying for the view and no doubt it’s amazing but I don’t need to spend 40 Euro per dish just to look at a view like that. I mean I work on a ship so that kind of thing isn’t all that foreign to me. Plus according to many a review the food wasn’t spectacular and the service was woeful so yeah, nah.
Polignano is a popular spot for Italian’s that want a seaside holiday where they can lie on the beach in the sun and work on their golden tans. The actual beach at Polignano absolutely tiny. There are so many people crammed into one little spot, it’s quite a contrast to what we are used to in Australia. Not to mention that but the beach is also mostly rock. The ones in the know have special plastic slip on shoes that they wear to walk on the beach and swim in the water – kind of like a cross between a Croc and a reef walking boot. We missed the memo on that one so ended up painstakingly making our way in and out of the water. I also found the beach to be quite dirty. The Italians love a good cigarette and there is no shortage of cigarette butts littering the tiny beach. We even found a sanitary napkin right where we decided to lay our towels which just grossed me out and made me wonder what else was hiding amongst the rocks.
Earlier that day we took the car north to find a sandier type beach about 7km away at the town of Monopoli. What we found didn’t really qualify as my idea of a beach and the large red graffiti on the seawall that said ‘Die Bitch’ was also slightly disconcerting so we had lunch and headed back to Polignano. Other friends had also been scouting for a good swimming spot and found somewhere just north of the main beach in Polignano where we spent a bit more time. I think we are pretty spoilt in Australia in terms of beaches and space as it sure is a premium over here.
We had a fabulous 4 days in Polignano A Mare. In fact it makes me kind of sad that it’s all now just a memory – a much treasured one at that. Afternoons on the terrace with Aperol Spritz’s, cheese and white anchovies and good friends is certainly something I could get used to but sadly all good things must come to an end. Next up Florence….
Today we woke up early because we had an earlyish tour of the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
When we arrived at the gates to the Vatican Museum to meet our tour group I was so glad that I had booked the Skip the Line tickets because the line just to get in was absolutely enormous. Not just that but inside was mayhem. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many crammed into such small spaces before. Anyhow I am glad that we made the time to do the tour – it was three hours but our guide was incredibly knowledgeable even if she did talk for the entire three hours without taking a breath. Sadly I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Sistine Chapel. The place is under strict copyright from a Japanese Film Company that apparently paid to have the place cleaned some 20 years ago. That didn’t stop plenty of idiots sneakily taking photos and having the guards yell at them. It annoys me that people are too wrapped up in their phones that they can’t stop to appreciate something anymore.
After the tour we had time to go up to the dome of the Vatican and see the view but we decided three hours of statues and marble was enough and it was clearly time for lunch. We made our way back to Trastevere near our hotel and to a bakery that I had been dying to get to that was literally about 30 metres from the restaurant we had dined at the night before.
Upon arriving we were greeted with slabs of the most beautiful fresh pizzas I have ever laid my eyes on. The brash lady behind the counter pointed to the most popular which was the Burrata and Pesto Pizza. Without a doubt we were getting that one plus a few slices of the Burrata with Tomato and of course something with meat on it for the meat eater that I live with.
It was beautiful. In fact I have to say it was the best pizza I have even eaten. Beautiful thick, crunchy bread, unbelievable fresh toppings and generous serves for the price. After finishing the first lot we decided we could definitely fit in another couple of slices of the Burrata and Pesto. I mean we had been walking all morning so technically we deserved it right?
After a short siesta we met some friends that were also in Rome for some afternoon drinks on the rooftop terrace of our hotel. 15 Euros for an Aperol Spritz (that’s AUD$22) almost made me choke on my complimentary chips but it was such a nice spot to sit we figured we would have one. To put it in perspective in the SE of Italy where I am now they are only 5 Euro.
For dinner we took our friends to the pizzeria that we visited on the first night, Dar Poeta. Since it was still technically early in terms of Roman time for eating (7pm) we walked straight in and got a table for four. I probably didn’t need the two pieces of Gorgonzola and Honey Bruschetta before eating a whole pizza but hey I’m not going to feel bad about it anymore.
Dinner for me was the Super Bufala with tomato sauce, artichokes, buffalo mozzarella, olives and pecorino cheese. The olives were a bit of a let down but the rest of the pizza was tip top. We overstayed our welcome a little bit catching up with our friends that we hadn’t seen in 6 months until I finally understood what the waitress was glaring at me about and we cleared out. Turns out there was a tonne of people outside waiting for a table.
We wandered down to a touristy area with marquees set up alongside the Tiber River and realised it was way too touristy for us. Heineken signs and stuffed toys was the name of the game in this area so we didn’t stay very long. As we were leaving we saw what MS swore was a cat swimming in the Tiber. Upon further Googling it turns out it was a Nutria (a type of rodent but a bloody huge one)… Stay tuned for my next post!