Ostuni isfull of life even at 10pm, with the car parks overflowing and the streets full of families with children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.
The hotel we’ve booked, La Sommità, is (as the name suggests) at the top of the historic centre of this hill town, known as La Città Bianca (the White City) because of its whitewashed buildings. Only vehicles with special permits are allowed into the narrow streets of the hill town, and so we have been instructed to find a particular car park, where we will be picked up.
It’s late, we’re tired, and we can’t find the right car park. But the driver from the hotel manages to track us down, leads us to the right car park, and takes us and our luggage up the hill in a little Piaggio van. It’s a bit odd, and a little reminiscent of the 60s TV show The Prisoner, but it adds to the charm of the town and the hotel and puts us in a good mood after a long day on the road.
The hotel, next door to the cathedral, is very laid-back and relaxed, and Rufus and Heidi love running up and down the stone steps to our room at the back, which opens out on to a terrace looking out to the sea a few kilometres away.
After being shown around, we venture out and find that within yards of the hotel’s entrance is the coolest bar in town – Gipas 111, with shaped beanbag seats that you can actually sit comfortably on, great cocktails, and simple but excellent food. Rufus and Heidi come along too; Heidi even jumps up on one of the beanbags, but looks so cute that no one seems to mind!
The next morning, after a restful night and and a superb buffet breakfast, we walk past Gipas 111 again to find that it has virtually vanished – all that remain in the little square that was the bar the previous night are a few tables. It’s the same nearly all of the bars and restaurants in the old town: they take over the streets at night, and disappear during the day.
We spend the day in and around the hotel, not venturing more than 500 metres away. But there’s plenty to see, including the beautiful cathedral and a number of art galleries and shops selling local produce. We decide that we like the place so much that, having planned on staying two nights, we extend the booking to a third. And that evening we enjoy a very good meal in the hotel’s restaurant.
The next day we decide to try again to find an Italian beach where the dogs are allowed. The hotel receptionist tells us that dogs are allowed at Guna Beach, which is a short drive away.
By the time we get there it’s mid-afternoon, and as we get out of the air-conditioned car into the heat we think we may be able pay only a brief visit.
But the owners of Guna Beach have created the perfect spot to beat the heat, with a line of trees shading a cool grassy lawn that sits above the sandy beach. Here it feels at least 10 degrees cooler, and Rufus and Heidi look very relaxed lying by our sun loungers as the breeze runs over their Cool Dog coats and lowers their temperature even more.
We spend a couple of hours, lounging in the shade for nearly all that time but also having a quick swim in the sea (Rory) and a quick paddle along the shore (Rufus and Heidi).
In the evening we go out for a wander round Ostuni. There are lots of other dogs out walking too, and Rufus and Heidi get lots of attention from both children and adults in the streets. Then we have a simple meal of local specialities at an on-street restaurant, Sapere & Sapori: Courgette Fritters, and Aubergine Parmiagana Ostunese.
After a third relaxed night in our beautiful room, it’s time to head north again – we plan to be in Berlin at the weekend, and there are a lot of kilometres to cover. But before we leave we call in at one last cafe, Casbah Art Cafe, where Rufus and Heidi get a great welcome and a cup of water from the barman, Luigi, while we enjoy a cappuccino…
Denise and Rory (Terriers on Tour road crew)
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