Ancient Basilicas and a Somber Scene

We were determined to have a quiet morning and catch up on emails and plans to come. We are in such a "go" mode that it's been tricky to carve out some reflection time. We were joined in our planning over endless cappuccino by the very lovely Mariangela who helped us scope out our day and kept us laughing!

Then on to the port city of Bari. It was Sunday, so while Bari is a large city, it was a very quiet day in the old section of town. We walked through largely deserted streets and came across the Basilica of Saint Nicholas (yes...that St. Nicholas) where the remains of the saint are buried. It is said that he chose to be buried in Bari, so when political conditions allowed, his remains were taken from Myra in what is now Turkey and brought here where this cathedral was built around 1100 AD to honor him. We arrived during a mass being held in his name and were moved by the beauty of the church and the quiet reverence of the service.

We walked to the promenade by the sea wall and stopped, as Mariangela had suggested, for antipasti (or as she said, starters) that restaurants are famous for in this area. We were not only NOT disappointed, we were overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of the food, and spirit of this family run place. We enjoyed 7 or 8 plates of fried sardines, eggplant salad, tempura, polenta and veggies, focaccia, fish and more. We meant to have a snack!

We left Bari full and happy and headed to Cisternino. We knew this town to have a beautiful old city, and we knew that it too would likely be very quiet because it was Sunday. But! We weren't prepared for the level of quiet! We eerily saw no one at all while we walked for over 30 minutes, and then found not one, but two funeral processions. The somber footsteps of the entourage that followed the carried caskets were the only sounds to be heard. We got a little lost in the tall walled, whitewashed warren of the old city, and were just about to leave when the streets opened to a small plaza with an open coffee shop that sat out on the cobblestones. We gratefully enjoyed our coffee and watched this small area come alive. It was like a sunrise...first, a glimmering of people started walking, and then before we knew it people spilled into the square following the Sunday services. I found a wee shop and met a lovely young woman who took me by the hand to show me a few places nearby (thank you, Ruby!). Julian found some gelato while I was gone (what??!). Cisternino is famous for the custom of choosing fresh meat for dinner at the local butchers, where it is grilled and served to you. We were hoping to do that, but found we were so full and getting tired, we headed back to our little refuge for yet another sleep in paradise.