First Days-South Italy
First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


15-18 November 2004: Caste de Monte, Meeting Domenico and family, Masseria, arriving Giovinazzo


Castle de Monte

The kids made this in the carpark at Castle de Monte

Inside the Masseria

Playing pretend "Playstation"

The Castle de Monte dance (4.6 meg movie)



South Italy at Last

We made excellent time last night but as usual the last bit was a bit mad coming off the highway. We had cleared the higher inland mountains and looked for a small village to pull into for the night. We feel most secure in these as nothing much is happening and everybody looks at you as if they check everything out. The people we asked about a place to park were really friendly and welcoming as we had been told the southern Italians would be. The local resturant owner pointed towards the back of a building to pull in.

In the morning we were beside some building works so had to move a bit, but were the focus of much bemused attention. We decided to make a move as soon as possible to somewhere with shops. Mike packed up and while I took the kids for another walk I noticed a huddle around a little white van. On a hunch I investigated
and found it was a bread van. We had breakfast and then I noticed a little shop opening so was able to get hotdogs should we need lunch before the next town

We found the landscape that greeted us very different from Tuscany and also not what we had been expecting. It was a bit like what I believe Haute Provence looked
like in a movie called Mannon de Source, but was a sort of mixture: rocky Israeli colours, with bog, and rolling hills, Olive groves, scattered scrub trees, and stone
huts bigger than Irish beehive ones. The stones are really striking in both colour, light pinky creams and some volcanic, we think (at least holes like a swiss
cheese). There are lots of them too. The fields look like someone is growing them like spuds and there are dry stone walls everywhere. These are square compared West of Ireland versions.


We rang our woof host and arranged a 4pm meet in Matera. We thought we'd get there early and look around, but found the isolated mountain roads hard to navigate, so got lost. We headed into a nearby town and  seemed to approach it from a back road. There were some crumbling walls, rusting iron bits, apartment blocks and lots of stray dogs. I asked Mike if it felt like Italy and he replied no more like the west bank. I had been thinking something similar. When we entered the town,  we realized it was market day and traffic was diverted. None of the places we wanted to go were on the signs. We sat perplexed looking at the map when a
friendly Italian with no English stopped to help. There followed a very bemusing ten minutes where he decided to turn about and drive us round the market to
the road to wards Matera. However, when he stopped to chat before seeing us on, he discovered that we were not meeting anyone until much later and insisted we go visit Castle de Monte, a world heritage site. There was no arguing with him and we had to follow him to a different road. We left him, smiling at the eccentricity.

Castle de Monte

The castle was well worth it, build by Frederic in the 1200's, it is referred to as a magic castle because it was built as an octagon with particular mathematical ratios and equations. Apparently Fred was into ancient maths from the Islamic world. Unlike other castles he build for hunting and defense this one had no obvious function and was without servants quarters and according to some, loos.  Its true function remains a mystery. We all enjoyed exploring it upstairs and downs in the Octagonal courtyard as well as the displays inside the encircling rooms. As we walked back to the car park some old men told me to mind the children as they came down a slope. One spoke some English which he had learned in Brooklyn, and Mike whispered that he sounded just like the Godfather. I continued taking with them. They showed me a funny little fruit we could eat on a bush and quizzed me on our plans, origins, and religion. We decided to picnic on the hotdogs in the car park and clean ourselves and the van up before meeting the family. I went back over to the old men to see if they could help with directions they informed me they were not locals but Sicilians, I had to smother my giggles all the way back to Mike.

Meeting Domenico and family

We found Matera after a few more turnabouts and had an exciting time negotiating some tiny roads we accidentally went down before parking.  Mike got himself an Italian sim for his phone, and in the back of the shop the kids found two chiwawas which they have talked about since. Sammy has them in his games and   Eli wants one for his birthday.

We got our co-ordinating phone call and headed for the Piazza principal. We were delighted to finally be in a town where everything was open again after the
afternoon break we'd been hitting consistently. As we entered the night lite square we felt like we were in a movie once again with all the old men in hats and long coats ambling about as if posed carefully by the director as extras.

We were easily identified by Dominico, Emilia and one of their sons Giovanni. They are very friendly and welcoming. We walked over to see the Sossi which is lit up at night. Another world heritage site, we were not expecting this ancient view it is like looking out on Jerusalem apparently parts of it pre-date Jericho, and Mel Gibson used it to film parts of "The Passion."

After a visit to a bakery we attempted to follow Dominico to another town to collect their other son from his grandmother. The narrow streets and random parking and driving made it hair-raising for me as I struggled to go where they did. We collected PiereValdo and headed to the farm. We had a quick look around. The building is wonderful but we were tired and Giovanni wasn't feeling the best so we said our ciao ciaos and headed for bed in real beds indoors.

16th November

The flat in Giavanezzo isn't ready for us due to plumbing problems but should be soon. anyway we really needed a day of rest, which is exactly what we did. We explored the house, and outside, just a little as it has turned very nippy and Dominico tells us when he arrives with water that it is the coldest Nov. for 30
years, but they were swimming in the sea just ten days ago. We look at each other. Still the 400 hundred year old farm house is extraordinary. The main
downstairs room is a sort of barrel vault with alcoves, old farm tools, iron candle holders and skin rugs. It is used by Dominico as a meeting place for the society of philosophy he is involved in. We hang out upstairs mostly with shuttered windows and a paraffin heater.

17th November

What a relief the good weather is back, and we are rested and some of us showered, and the apartment will be ready tomorrow. We have a lovely day walking
and exploring. The landscape here is less sparse there are many olive and almond trees. (The almonds are already harvested and are lying in the house awaiting the de-shelling stage.) There are other woods too and we can hear gunshots from hunters in them. There are more bits of the old farm in ruins around the place including a stone pigeon house as it was a postal center at one time. There are also ancient oaks that have been studied by the Bari university.
The highlight for the children comes when we discover that there are lizards in the stone walls coming out to sun themselves. We have a great time spying

Arrival in Giovinazzo

We get up early to await Dominico who is coming to show us the way to the apartment. We look for lizards when the van is packed and Eli manages to catch
two. I put one in Cal's dish and everyone falls about laughing at me because it runs up my arm and I scream very loudly. Mike thinks its particularly funny.
Eli nearly gets another but it loses its tail which weirdly continues wiggling for a while. We hurtle off to Giovinazzo and are amazed by the warmth and then
blown away by the colour of the Adriatic. Dominico introduces us to Francesca from downstairs as our Italian grandmother who will look after us. Then we go
in. The apartment had all new pipes added and the workmen left it in an awful state so we spend the rest of the day washing and rewashing to get rid of all
the dust. Eventually it starts to look better. It consists of two large rooms with tile floors and peeling walls, and a selection of great paintings and fairly decent furniture. The kitchen and bathrooms are both tiny but adequate and we unload newbie and manage to fill the place. We head out for a brief look at the town and to get to a bank and get provisions from a small supermarket. Nearby at the little harbour we find a little gelaterie or ice cream shop with a lovely fella who tells us where to find things in English and sells us the most delicious and huge ice-creams.

Later Dominico asks if Mike can go back to the farm because he is expecting workers to arrive any day now to collect the almonds for shelling. He says they will arrive at 6 a.m. if they show up and he doesn't want to miss them as they will not show up again quickly if missed. As its a new place the kids are not very happy letting Mike go. We both want to help as we are really pleased with all Dominico and Emilia are doing for us but I am a bit worried about Mike finding his way back in the dark. This concern turns out to be warranted as he takes ages to text me of his safe arrival and when he does he tells me he was lost in identical olive groves like a maze for 40 minutes. I spend a while getting to sleep as the piazza has become a football pitch and the youngsters keep hitting cars and setting off alarms,
not to mention chatting and shouting, car horns peeping etc.

South Italy at Last

In the morning of the 15th we discovered we had parked last night more or less in the centre of a building site, the source of amusement for some of the men, and consternation for a man who gave out to Suzie about the kids and it being cold. She just kept saying "vento forte" (strong wind) which we had learned from the highway signs.

I took some of the kids for a walk to find a bakery and couldn't even find the town centre. That's because there wasn't one, and the 1 1/2 shops were shut, or at least appeared to be. We were braving it out until we had breakfast, but in the end decided to move first so I finished the packing while she took the kids off for another walk.

(See Suzie for Meeting Family and time at Farm.)

Arrival in Gionvinazzo

Domenico told us to be ready at 9:30 to go to the apartment in Giovinazzo. We got up early and got everything packed up and cleaned. We were ready about 9am, and spent the time outside in the warm morning looking at and catching lizards. Eli caught several, including one where he ended up with just a
wriggling tail and the rest of the lizard got away! Dominico showed up after 10:30 with no comment about the time; it appears Italians keep time like the Irish.

I drove with Dominico so he could point out landmarks for me to get back tonight - I am staying to let in the people who will pick up the almonds early in the
morning. We finally arrived in the little piazza with apartments on 3 sides, right next to the harbour.

Francesca, who immediately became our adopted
Italian Grandmother, greeted and welcomed us and the children, communicating very well without any English. She told me to park right outside so she could keep on eye on the camper. We entered the battered old wood door and climbed the worn stairs to our new home for the next 3 months. The place was in a state, as the plumbers had tracked plaster and cement everywhere and everything was dusty. The front balcony overlooks the little square and you can see the harbour and an ice cream shop from there. Suzie started working with Rosa Sammy and Finn to clean up one room while Eli and I unloaded the contents of the camper into the other. Seeing all our things, preparing the apartment, the curiosity and discussion of us from the neighbors (we heard the word Irlandia repeated several times), the layout of the square and apartments, the way the people chatted across the balconies, and our ignorance about how most things worked (e.g. how to get hot water, what the various strangely shaped plastic containers were for) , we felt like new immigrants, maybe something like the
Italian immigrants to New York felt in the last century.

We went for a walk and our first stop was the Gelateria we could see from our window. Eli treated the kids to deliciously creamy soft ice creams and our ice cream man was friendly and spoke English, giving us directions to the nearest bank by using other Gelateri as landmarks.

Suz and Rosa went into the supermarket to get some food while I walked down the road with the boys to see what was there. As it was around mid-day, most
shops were shut; the street we chose focused on car parts, motorbikes, bicycles with a few other corner shops and a drapery. There weren't many people about,
but I did get asked for directions twice, despite it being pretty obvious I was a tourist (blonde kids in tow). We were still very grubby, along with the mess from the ice cream.

Back at the apartment we continued work, having some difficulty motivating Eli. I wondered if we had really immigrated and this was our real life and not just a little adventure, would he have felt differently, or is he just becoming a teenager no matter what the circumstances?

All our stuff was spread out and we just made a little room at the table for the opened packets of food to eat while we worked. Eventually we got it all
cleaned and sorted away and it looked like a place to live.



Arrived at last and they never found me!! I packed up my few belongings and snuck into the Massera where my Italian cousins welcomed me to South Italy. They have a lovely little home in the wall behind  the almond sacks and had a special feast of shelled almonds ready especially for me. I shan't miss being thrown around in that old van and hope to continue my stay in such luxury.



Upstairs in the Massera (farm house)

Pigeon house


Piazza Porto

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This site was last updated 03/26/05