This 13 th-century fortress on a high hill commanding 360 degree views is interesting in that it has eight towers on its eight sides. The interior courtyard is an octagon and one highlight for me was the mathematical opening to the sky.
Castle Del Monte has an interesting mix of styles with the yellow limestone in the main building and red coral limestone around the doorways and columns.
Large fireplaces, interesting windows that give great views over the countryside, and richly decorated columns give some hints to its former glory.
A macabre sculpture exhibition of skulls, skeletons and body parts added to the interest of our visit.
The old and new Gallipoli are thriving. Local shoppers flocked into the boutiques and cafes in the shopping district and when we crossed the stone bridge to the island the old town is built on, we joined the throng of tourists there. All this late on a Sunday night.
Traffic runs anti-clockwise around the island on the only traffic road. We took the other direction on the top of the sea wall.
Like veins in a bloodshot eye, lanes head to the centre of the town, the cathedral, from all directions on this ring road.
It is impossible to get lost for if you wander up a side street to look at an interesting balcony, or spy a bright light in a church doorway, a five minute walk brings you to the sea again, and you can continue on the circuit.
Leaving Gallipoli, we continued on a slow drive down the coast to the southern most point on this peninsula, then north to Otranto.
There are so many places to swim and relax on this coast, be it on a sandy beach, a rock, a square metre of sand or a few pebbles, though I was not sure if these were bathing or were survivors washed up on the rocks from an afternoon shipwreck.
Otranto has a wonderful church because of its 1000 year old mosaic floor. Sadly, the pews covered most of it, but it is a church and parishioners need some place to rest during long sermons.
I took some photos but this website has some beauties if you too are interested in this form of art.
Lecce was our next stop and as usual we wandered the streets.
Near the cathedral we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch ordered blindly from the menu. When I pointed to the large lunch a large man was eating at a neighbouring table, my finger translation was lost on the waitress. Instead of the one plate my finger ordered, we ended up with three, a large sandwich, an enormous plate of antipasto of local treats and another plate featuring a mound of buffalo mozzarella the size of a large orange, ringed with two or three sliced tomatoes.
The group at the adjacent table laughed when they saw it arrive. Or did they laugh at our shocked expressions and open mouths barlely wide enough to receive this offering?
It was good and we were determined to do the fine tastes justice. We also enjoyed the three olives each we had for dinner that night.
It is hot in this part of Italy, so in the afternoon we took the short drive to Torre Sant’Andrea, a minature version of the Twelve Apostles, with standing rocks in the coast and arches to swim to and through.
Like the others enjoying the coast, we stopped to watch the young teenagers jump from the cliffs.
I spoke to one lad advising him when we parted, to be careful. I later sent him the photos I took, and received this reply.
It was a pelasure ti meet you to
Thanks for the phot i willl try to jeep myself away from rocks
He’s a clever boy. He knows more English than I do Italian and he knows what car I drive.
It’s my fault. I found the fastest zip line in the world online before we left home and opened my mouth. Now we were just a day’s drive from Castelmezzano, in southern Italy. What sounded exciting then, was less so now the hour was near.
I said, “It’s too much out of the way.”
She said, “It just looks far on the map. It’s really close.”
I said, “It’s another mountain road to drive.”
She said, “We like driving in the mountains, don’t you.”
I said, “It costs €72 for a couple flight.”
She said, “But we’ve saved our centimos by eating just gelato for the last few days.”
No matter what I said, it seemed I couldn’t get out of it.
We paid the money, booked nights at a hotel overlooking the valley and drove to the picturesque village of Catelmezzano.
Our balcony overlooked Pietrapertosa, the village across the valley we were to fly to.
Morning came, we caught the shuttle bus up a narrow mountain road, then trekked up a steep hill, meeting Sarah from Romania on the way to the launch pad.
In front of us a 1500m steel wire stretched across a valley a kilometre deep.
There are no photos of us starting off but I took some photos of Sarah and her father as they launched. She was excited and he kept his eyes closed.
I was comforted when we were trussed up in a harness like a rolled roast in a net and straps were pulled so tight that bits poked out the gaps. Clipped to the wire, we were asked to stretch out horizontally and someone said in halting English, “Goodbye.”
See you later might have been a better farewell!
Sharon has palpitations when I enter roundabouts and grips the door handle and gasps in horror as tiny Fiats appear out of nowhere in narrow streets But the thought of dangling from a thin wire with nothing but a helmet to prevent concussion when we fell to the valley floor 1000m below, had her buzzing with excitement and anticipation.
A slight push and we were off down a grassy slope just a few metres off the ground, then over the cliff we sped and the abyss opened up below us. We were racing across the valley at 120 km/h and other than the hum of the wire it was strangely quiet.
An ant beside a car on a road far below us aimed his camera at us, houses flashed by, the fear subsided and we were able for a short time look around and enjoy the view. What an incredible feeling. It’s why people jump out of planes, I guess.
I looked up to see the finish line approaching at what seemed like the speed I travel on the autostrada. The fear returned.
By the time I’d said, “They must know how to stop this thing!” we’d hit the braking line and it was done.
Flying is a wonderful thing. Google maps tells me it takes 23 minutes to drive from Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa. We’d zipped across in 90 seconds!
The return trip was a more sedate 110 km/h. The crossing back to Castelmezzano was just a kilometre long and not as high as the first and as we were old hands, we were able to lie back and enjoy the view. It would be a cruel thing if the memory of our shadows lying side by side flashing across the landscape below us was ever taken away.