Conversano to Giovinazzo (64 kms)
We left Conversano for an easy day today, bound for
'somewhere near Bari airport', ready for tomorrow's flight home. I
knew Bari was the biggest place we'd ride through on the tandem to date
and I wasn't particularly looking forward to it.
Just before we left, we asked the receptionist if she
could recommend any hotel in Bari thinking that she could probably book it
for us. We were a bit alarmed when she told us of the impending Papal
visit to Bari this coming Saturday and that some of the roads may be
closed already for security. On top of that there was a week long
cardinals conference taking place this week in Bari, so hotel rooms would
be thin on the ground (and how right she was!).
We set off bound for Rutigliano which we reached without
problem, and then headed on for Noicattro and Triggiano. At
Triggiano we stopped for a coffee where we got chatting to the local
dustman. He'd asked me if I spoke English? I said I did and he
then proceeded to give us directions in Italian, advising us on small
roads into Bari. Having looked at the map, we decided to ignore this
advice as he seemed to be taking us way off course. So, with a 'we
know best' attitude, we left Triggiano and headed for a place called San
Giorgio. About 1km before the road meets the superstrada near the
coast, we turned left onto a very small road. We missed this the
first time and had to backtrack. This small road had no traffic on
it whatsoever, and it came as a bit of a shock when it suddenly joined the
start of a main road into Bari. When I say 'start', I mean the
start. To the right, the tarmac just stopped and disappeared into
the grass. To the left it was a major road heading in to Bari.
At first it was very quiet, but as we got nearer the centre and as other
roads joined it, the traffic built up, though it was nowhere near as bad as
I'd expected it would be. Once into Bari proper, the traffic was very
heavy, but it was pretty slow moving due to all the traffic lights, and
seemed to give us a wide berth. Maybe they sensed we didn't have a
clue where we were going! It was pretty amazing that we managed to
navigate right into the centre without any problem.
Had lunch in a cafe and the owner gave us instructions on
how to get out to Bari Palase which we thought would be a good place to
start looking for a hotel. By a stroke of luck, we were only about 2
blocks down from the road we needed to be on. His instructions were
perfect, and after a short stretch of busy main road, we turned off onto the 'complementare'
a sort of service road that runs alongside the main road. This took
us right into Palase.
We tried 3 hotels here - all full. The cardinals
conference and papal visit! We headed right out on to the coastal
strip but couldn't find anything open here at all and it looked extremely
run down. At the last hotel we tried (full) the receptionist kindly
rang a hotel in Giovinazzo, about 6km up the coast and thankfully they
confirmed that they had a room available. The hotel was 'very nice'
and sadly that reflected in the price - 180 euros! But, it was that
or sleep on the beach, so we paid the 180 euros. There seemed little
point in going back and trying to find others (if we could find any).
Bari was obviously THE place to be this week. There also didn't seem
much point in going further up the coast as a) there didn't seem anything
particularly near, and b) we were getting further away from the airport.
After a shower and a couple of drinks, we readied the
tandem for flying. The very friendly hotel manager said that they
would transport us (and the tandem) free to the airport in the morning.
We weren't convinced the tandem would fit in the estate car, but it did -
just. It did mean that we'd have to take 2 cars to the airport
though, but again, they were very obliging.
The meal that night in the hotel was superb. Once
again, I'm not going to divulge the cost. Lets just say it added
substantially to the total bill! Definitely not the cheapest bike
holiday I've been on. I feel like we've been a tad reckless these
last 2 nights, but I'm not sure what else we could have done (I don't do
So, that was it. The Italian riding was over for
another year. Another enjoyable tour. I loved the Gran Sasso
and Gargano Peninsula areas, they were all I hoped they'd be and more.
The jury's still out on Puglia. It certainly has some lovely old
towns, the food and wine was great, the people very friendly, but I found
a lot of the roads there a bit boring for cycling. Once you've
ridden past several miles of olive groves, you start to hanker for
something else. We would have perhaps been better starting in Puglia
and finishing in the Gran Sasso. Maybe next time.