Otranto, Alberobello, Gallipoli, & Ostuni

Ostuni

Ostuni- The White City

Now that winter is setting in I am having a serious case of summer withdrawal. Specifically Italy withdrawal. In my many posts about Puglia this summer I left out a few of the cities I visited. These are 4 of the little towns we skipped through from our base in Lecce. Perfect little getaways from the city.

OTRANTO

Otranto was a mellow little port town full of charm and not many tourists. My favorite place was this little gallery near the main church called Officina Mosaico. The owners were a lovely couple that made all their mosaics by hand.  Just outside of town was a little lake that they would get minerals from to make some of their glass. They drew us a map so we could drive up there and see it for ourselves. We still managed to get lost but eventually found the little oasis. Smart Cars are really great for abrupt and excessive U-turns.

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OSTUNI

This small and beautiful city on the top of a hill is called “the white city.” We only got to spend an hour or two walking around and buying more leather sandals while enjoying its insanely gorgeous scenery. ❤ ❤ ❤ Very romantic.

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GALLIPOLI

Hate to say it but Gallipoli was not my favorite. We had heard a lot of good things about it but found it to be very grimy, polluted and touristy. Every single shop and restaurant in this town seemed to be aimed at tourists. The harbors were filled with trash. The beaches weren’t nice. It was a sad day for us but it meant we got to spend more time in Lecce, which was a far more appealing to me. Many people we spoke to really loved Gallipoli so it’s possible we just experienced it on an off day….

Exhibit A: This is what the whole harbor looked like….

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Cute little truck full of succulents. The only site worth seeing!

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ALBEROBELLO

By the end of the trip I still couldn’t say the name of this town without tripping over my tongue. Alberobello is home to the little stone cottages called Trulli. This little town was very picturesque and quiet. Definitely stop by if you are in the area, it’s adorable!

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Catalina Island

I am writing his from 30,000 feet in the air. Gotta love airplane wifi. Surprisingly it’s on a US Airways flight which I have ways considered budget. Times are a changin’! I had a request to post a little bit about a recent trip to Catalina Island so here it is…

I went with a group of friends for 2 nights which is a good amount of time. I don’t really recommend this as a day trip but if you’re a hard charger it’s doable. The island has tons of history so it’s good to wiki it before you go, but there are museums there if you have the time.

If you are not familiar with Catalina it is a rather small island off the coast of SoCal that can only be reached by boat. The island has 2 main towns, Avalon and Two Harbors. To get to Avalon there are multiple ferries from Dana Point and farther north, Dana Point being the easiest for San Diegans. There is easy and decently priced parking right at the ferry terminal. The ferry ride is a little over an hour but may take longer depending on weather or sea creatures. On the way over we were lucky enough to see a whale that kept fluking for us. The captain decided to stop and watch which disgruntled a few of my seasick friends but was well worth it.

Once in Avalon there are a bunch of hotels where you can stay more comfortably but the best option is Hermit Gulch campground which is about 1.5 miles from the ferry dock. Prices are very reasonable and per person, not per tent. It’s easily walking distance if you are fit but bringing a bike is highly recommended so you can explore the island (gears are good!) Note: If you want to bring a bike on the ferry you must reserve early and tell them you are bringing a bike which costs $7 extra, otherwise you can rent one in Avalon but the prices are a little steep.

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Pulling into the harbor you almost feel like you are in Portofino!

Hermit Gulch is the only campsite near Avalon. It’s clean and quiet with decent bathrooms and showers. There are multiple hiking trails nearby as well as the botanical gardens and the Wrigley Memorial which is worth the short walk.

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If you make it here in the summer and want to hit up the beach your options are limited. The best beach is private but you can pay your way in! Descanso Beach Club is just past the casino (now a museum) and has a real sand beach with luxurious cushioned chaises, umbrellas and people that serve you drinks and food like you are a rock star. I highly recommend it if you are willing to dish out some extra cash. It’s about $80 for 2 people, and make sure you book in advance for weekends. Next door to that is a public beach and bar/restaurant which is 2nd best. Don’t forget to order the local drink, Buffalo Milk! There are, weirdly enough, free roaming bison on the island that were left there from a movie shoot decades ago, hence the name.

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Near the beach club there is also zip lining and kayaking, or if you want to chillax there is an outdoor massage place overlooking the water. Lots of options!

Incidentally when I was 13 I was sent to a 2 week summer camp here on the island to learn how to Scuba Dive at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. I didn’t get to dive on this return trip but I highly recommend it. A thick wetsuit is a must and you will still freeze your but off but there is nothing like swimming through a kelp forrest with leopard sharks and seals. The Garabaldi fish are pretty cool too, hint hint they love to eat frozen peas.

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Restaurant-wise you have plenty of options including the very laid back Lobster Trap for some seafood and Avalon Grille for something more upscale. They also have a good wine list. On the pier there are a couple of little places that boast some tasty clam chowder and are too cute not to pass up.

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Our fearless leader Erin, thanks for planning and organizing our 1st annual Catalina Camping trip!

Black’s Beach

I don’t know how I have lived in San Diego for over a year and I have never been to this beach. It’s beautiful and hard enough to get to that it’s basically empty, at least on a weekday. The water was warmer here than Coronado or Ocean Beach (not really sure why) but I spent a good 45 minutes swimming in the crystal clear waves. It was a perfect beach day….

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On the way down there is a side trail that takes you up to this cliff with panoramic views of the La Jolla coast. All to myself….

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The view hiking down through the sandstone cliffs.

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Black’s Beach is also the local nudist beach so watching a few guys run by naked took some getting used to. Still plenty of beach that you can have a full football field between you and the nudies.

These will be the last of my crap iPhone pics, finally got the Sony NEX-6 which is charging up for use right this second! Good news!