A few days later, we took our leave of Lecce and set off. A hot stretch of olive orchards and blackberry bushes led us, at long last, to the sea. The sea brought relieving cool breezes, spectacular scenery and the road passed through many little beach towns with some wonderful gelato. Nothing hits the spot quite like gelato after a long, hard morning of riding in the hot sun. After many stops for scenery, swimming and snacks, we rode the final stretch to the farm where we’d stay for the night. For me this was one of the most beautiful rides of the trip. The evening sun brought forth a golden glow in everything around us. We sped down the dramatic hills surrounded by golden fields of grain, with the ruined silhouette of WatchTower Sant’Emiliano in the distance near rocky cliffs which fell quickly away into the deep blue Adriatic sea.
Some of those fields belonged to the farm. As we walked our bikes up the dusty paty to the farm, I was stunned to find the whole panoramic view could be seen from the patio of their restaurant. With such a view behind us, and of the breezy rooms, clean white sheets and showers welcoming us, we were excited to join this civilized life on the farm.
The next few days revealed dazzling blue swimming holes, the ancient/antique/old beauty of an ancient maritime city, one of the best preserved Christian-Byzantine floor-mosaics in Italy, sad stories of the martyrs of Otranto, and some wild dinners on the farm.
Wild dinners means- I ordered a mixed antipasto, and the waiters begin to bring plates… grilled vegetables, fried potato balls, marinated sardines, squid salad, fresh cheeses, eggplant in tomato sauce, arugula salad….soon there were four..then six…then eight plates a person! So many they had to stack them in a pyramid shape and we had to move the empty plates immediately!
Then after all that, they brought out two incredible pastas- orecchiette with homegrown tomatoes and mini meatballs, and sagne- another local handmade pasta- with tomatoes, sausage and aged ricotta. The dinner was a spectacle in itself- but the coolest thing was that Adriana’s sister, Stefania, was able to come join us, and afterwards we got to play and sing (with the restaurant/farm owners) until late into the night. Alex hung out with us too and he got a chance to talk to the farm owners (via translator-Laura) and I think they both got a lot out of that experience. He was really touched by their sincerity, care and generosity. I’m so happy when people get to connect like that across the boundaries of language and culture. That’s probably one of the most fulfilling things out these trips.