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May 12, 2006

Castel del Monte

We are now at the chosen spot for the start of our tour. We find an "agriturismo" just south of Castel del Monte where we will also be able to leave our car (at last) while we tour. The Italian government has supported the development of this brand of B&B on a farm as an effort to provide additional income for the rural farming population and thus prevent the farms from being abondoned. The room was decent enough, but it definitely smelled like the stables behind it.

In front of our room at Sei Carri, the B&B where we stayed before leaving for our bike trip.

Castel del Monte

On our first evening here we cycle the few kilometers to Castel del Monte which is perhaps the best known monument in all of Apulia. This mighty castle with eight towers of the same shape was built in the 13th century by Frederick the Second of Swabia. Its architecture, a combination of classic, oriental and Gothic inspiration, is unique worldwide and is now on the UNESCO world heritage list.

See the knee. Not quite six months ago, Janos had a total knee replacement! And he's riding his bike as if nothing happened, no, actually better and we are both elated that the operation was such a success. His life as a cyclist has been prolonged by many years.


May 13, 2006

Castel del Monte - Minervino Murge - Castel del Monte,
46 km

Today blue skies. We take a little day trip from our B&B to Minvervino Murge, often called the "balcony of Apulia", as it looks over the Murgia plateau from 450 meters above sea level. The streets leading to  the center of the old town are narrow and steep.


It's been a late spring - the fields are still green and dotted with wild flowers. When we return to Castel del Monte at the end of our two-week tour the flowers will be gone and the fields brown.

May 14, 2006

Castel del Monte - Altamura
52 km

The quiet road to Altamura takes us through a beautiful countryside of rolling hills, again a carpet of wild flowers on either side of the road. We pass no villages, no cafés or restaurants, no gas stations to refill our water bottles, but we see many ruinous, abandoned houses and farms.


We arrive in the early afternoon. It is Sunday and Altamura has the appearance of a ghost town. Hardly a soul on the streets, hardly a café open for a cup of coffee or a sandwich. We are puzzled to find the town so dead. But we are newcomers to southern Italy. We have no idea that in a few hours the streets will be brimming with life when everyone comes out for the evening corso.

First the elderly gents appear for the corso, all dressed in dark suit, often with a tie, later the families with young children, and then the young people in much more casual attire. The promenade goes on for quite a while, until it seems everyone has greeted everyone. Many stop for an ice cream (and nowhere does ice-cream taste as good as in Italy) or cake.

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