Yesterday's ride began in Alberobello, and we soon left the land of trullis--the conical-roofed traditional houses of that area of Puglia--and set off across the relatively flat area characterizing western Puglia. Along the way, I was enthralled by the vast skyscapes and the fields of green and red--green of growing grain and red of poppies.
|Mottola in the distance. We stopped here for our morning coffee break.|
Our guides explained to us that we are extremely lucky to be able to see all the poppies because they only bloom for about a week. They also said that, in the many years that they have been guiding this particular tour, they have rarely seen it so green in the area we passed through yesterday. I feel fortunate, and it was just after we had stopped to take the above picture of the whole field of poppies that I felt a tremendous sense of happiness, doing what I was doing, being where I was with the group of people I am with. It truly is great to be here, and I'm grateful.
We stopped at an agritourismo place for lunch and had it all to ourselves. It typically isn't open during the day, only in the evenings, and the food, wine and experience were all great. All fresh ingredients. Homemade. Delicious.
|The owner, Giocomina, and her helper, Luigi.|
After lunch, we set out again. Bob, Kevin and I opted for the extra loop that took us back up to the plateau that forms much of Puglia. On the way down, we ran into a bit of a traffic jam involving sheep. Once they passed, we found ourselves dodging sheep poop on the road for several miles.
Following the sheep incident, we had another 20K to go before reaching Matera, our destination for the day. Of course, there had to be a kilometer of 14% grade to get up to the city. Of course. But we made it, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the town under gorgeous blue skies, the late afternoon light illuminating the scene.
From the overlook, it was a short distance to our hotel, the rooms of which are--like many of the structures in old Matera--formed from caves. The tour company selects the hotel, and the rooms are randomly assigned, so I was blown away when I walked into my room for the next two nights. I've never stayed in such an amazing room, which came complete with a semi-private terrace and a killer view.
|View up toward my terrace and room as I came home from dinner last night.|
|Scene that greeted me as I walked out of breakfast this morning.|
After a break to wash out our cycling clothes, shower and relax for a bit, our group met up for aperitivi on a terrace overlooking the canyon and caves on the other side.
|An Aperol Spritz, local focaccia, baked olives, truffle bruschetta. Best happy hour ever.|
Then it was time for dinner at a restaurant that was also built into caves. I had to call it quits, however, before we got to the main course. Stuffed and tired at 10:00 p.m., I excused myself to walk back to the hotel. It had been another magical, adventurous, fun day in which I was glad to be alive.