The Story of the South: Photographing Puglia
Saturday June 8 to Saturday June 15, 2013
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Puglia (or Apulia), Italy’s southeastern-most region, the “heel” of the boot, is bordered by both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, giving it one of the longest coastlines of any region in Italy. It is largely untouched by tourists, with a few exceptions. Because of its proximity to Greece and the east, Puglia’s towns have influences that represent those diverse ancient inhabitants.
Puglia’s landscape is often flat and arid, punctuated by millions of olive trees and charming, often whitewashed towns. While much of our time will be spent in towns, we’ll see broad expanses of vineyards and olive groves as well as miles and miles of azure-tinged coastline. One of the great things about traveling with other photographers is that no one gets upset when we stop the van to take advantage of great light on a beautiful scene.
Because we will work with digital photographic equipment, we’ll be counting on its rapid feedback and we will be able to critique our images individually and as a group. I will work with you as you edit your downloaded images to help you find your own personal sense of the places we’ll explore. Because the group will be shooting together and editing together, you will learn a lot from your fellow students as well.
I limit my workshops to a maximum of 7 photographers in order to ensure the best level of personal instructional attention for each participant. While I welcome students with any level of photographic experience, most participants will have a basic understanding of photographic processes and technology and should be comfortable using their digital SLR camera in manual mode.
Day 1 Saturday, June 8 Pienza to Matera
Jeff and those travelers continuing on to Puglia from the Tuscany workshop will fly on AZ #1678, which depart Florence at 11:25 a.m. and arrives in Rome at 12:20 p.m. This flight then connects to flight AZ #1613, which departs Rome Fiumicino at 1:15 p.m. and arrives in Bari at 2:20 p.m. If you are joining in for the Puglia portion only, this would be the ideal flight to arrive in Bari as the driver will pick up from the airport in line with this flight’s arrival.
From here, you will continue on to your accommodations in Matera, (actually in the province of Basilicata) which is 60 km from the airport. You will be staying at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, which was restored from the abandoned and decaying ancient caves of the town. This unique hotel has just 18 rooms, which integrates traditional design made from local materials with minimalist contemporary amenities only where necessary. In order to provide its guests with proper standards of luxury, the site was meticulously taken apart, entirely wired and piped and finally reassembled with each stone replaced in its original location. The result is an unparalleled marvel of beauty providing a truly once in a lifetime experience. Its panoramic terrace overlooks the historic Sassi of Matera and the Murgia National Park.
Get to know your fellow photographers and learn more about your photographic course over dinner tonight: you will dine at the hotel’s restaurant, set in an ancient church hewn into the rock and a hard-to-beat setting for a meal. In keeping with the hotel’s philosophy, frills and furniture are minimal, food is traditional and local, and service is fuss-free. By night, flickering candlelight lends a romantic glow to the tables. The chef uses local ingredients and traditional methods. Begin to think about how you can use this careful attention to detail that is evident everywhere in this location to your advantage as you start to photograph to create your story.
Day 2 Sunday, June 9 Matera
“The best advice I can give you is to take a walk, alone, through the area and breathe in the air of the stones,” says Matera architect Tonio Acito.
After breakfast, you have a full day to explore Matera, which has gained international fame for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera” (meaning “stones of Matera”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sassi originate from a prehistoric settlement, and are suspected to be some of the first human settlements in Italy.??The Sassi are houses dug into the tufa rock itself, which is characteristic of Basilicata and Apulia. Many of these “houses” are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. ?In the 1950s, the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of poverty, since these houses were, and in most areas still are, mostly unlivable. Current local administration has promoted the re-generation of the Sassi and today there are many thriving businesses, restaurants, bars and hotels.
This area is dotted with no less than 150 rock (called rupestrian) churches, some of them dating back to the days when Matera was part of the Byzantine Empire. Perhaps the most artistically impressive and historically important of these is the so-called Crypt of Original Sin, which was opened just about 8 years ago after being discovered in the cliff of a ravine that shears through a wine estate. The frescoes within, of apostles and angels, Adam and Eve, and God the creator, are thought to have been painted by a Benedictine monk in the early ninth century, shortly before Matera was seized by Muslim conquerors.
We will convene back in the hotel in the afternoon to edit and review the day’s shoot and begin to identify threads of ideas that we can start to work into our stories.
Dinner tonight at Osteria Pico.
Day 3 Monday, June 10
This morning after breakfast, you will travel from Matera to Otranto, stopping in the utterly unique town of Alberobello on the way.
The drive from Matera to Alberbello is just 70 km, but you will feel that you’ve entered another world when you arrive. The small town has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unusual districts of trulli, the characteristic white-washed conical-roofed houses of the area. They exist nowhere else in the world but in this area. More specifically, a trullo (singular) is a small dwelling built from the local limestone, with dry-stone walls and a characteristic conical roof. It is a traditional and simple type of structure which you’ll see dotted around this part of Puglia, sometimes in its most basic form used as a kind of shed among the olive groves. The Monti region is the main area of town with lots of tourist shops; we’ll spend our time in the Aia Piccola area, where people still live in these charming little houses.
You will then continue on to Otranto, far south into the heel of the boot and near the sea. This drive is about 160 km and will take about 2 hours, 15 minutes; our longest “transit.”
Your accommodations for your stay here are at Le Corte di Nettuno, a short10-minute walk to the center. Once a farmhouse, it was renovated with respect for nature and tradition. Throughout the hotel, you will find a unique marine design with sea-themed mosaics, shipping maps, and other nautical objects as décor. The hotel also houses an ancient and magnificent collection of marine objects and everything is dedicated to Nettuno – Neptune. On the ample terrace is the sun deck where you can enjoy your breakfast in the morning.
Dinner at a local establishment, focusing on fresh seafood.
Day 4 Tuesday, June 11
Spend today photographing in Otranto.
This historic seaside town with its picture-perfect blue waters, white buildings and diving rocks make Otranto the frequent cover star of maps, books and articles about Puglia. It is within the area known as the Salento, the tip of the peninsula which is the heel of Italy’s boot and it’s Italy easternmost town. On a clear day it is possible to see over the Strait of Otranto to Albania. Like many of the local place names, Otranto is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable. Highlights include its Byzantine church, 11th century cathedral with its fine mosaic floor, the ruins of an imposing15th century Aragonese castle, and the cobblestone streets of the old town.
Pizza dinner at Profumo di Mare or La Botte.
Day 5 Wednesday, June 12
Transfer from Otranto to Lecce this morning, a journey of about 50 km. Your accommodations in Lecce will be at the luxurious Risorgimento Resort, housed in an old historic mansion, but with amenities that are new-world chic.
When we arrive we will meet with an expert local guide who will show us the highlights of this amazing city.
Lecce, known as the Florence of the South, is the main city on Puglia’s Salento Peninsula. Because of local soft limestone that’s easy to work, Lecce became the center for the ornate architecture called the barocco leccese and the city is filled with over-the-top Baroque monuments. The historic center is compact making it a great place for walking and exploring. Also notable are the traditional handicrafts, especially the art of paper mache’.
We’ll photograph for a few hours before and after lunch, then head back to the hotel for some time to work on our images.
Dinner at the hotel this evening, perhaps on the rooftop.
Day 6 Thursday, June 13
Work on your own this morning and then gather in the afternoon to start to put together our slideshow stories. We’ll still have some time to edit them the next day, but it will be helpful to get a start now.
Dinner at Cucina Casareccia “Le Zie”. This is like eating in someone’s home. After we ring the bell for admittance we’ll be seated where nearly every table has a view into the kitchen where simple, peasant classics like fave e cicoria and pezzetti di cavallu are prepared with love. Order the antipasto misto to get a taste of Salento’s typical flavors like zingy marinated anchovies, sweet peppers, and sweet and sour zucchine.
Day 7 Friday, June 14
Transfer from Lecce to Ostuni, a distance of about 75 km. Our last evening will be spent at Hotel La Terra, located very close to the historic center.
Ostuni, known as the White City, is one of the most stunning cities in southern Italy famous for the dazzling effect of its whitewashed houses. The city is a series of levels, staircases, small roads, alleys, arches. Hints of the Middle Ages are at hand in every corner, in every view to the sea, in the portal of a palace, in the walls of a convent or the front of a church. The brightness of its whitewashed houses, set against the pink-tinged brown of its principal monument, makes the town stand out in the green of the surrounding area. Make sure you keep photographing as the late afternoon sun starts to turn the whitewashed buildings orange and yellow.
We’ll enjoy one last dinner together tonight at Osteria del Tempo Perso.
Day 8 Saturday, June 15
After saying our goodbyes we will transfer from Ostuni to the Bari Airport. We recommend that all who are departing Bari by plane are on AZ 1614, which departs Bari for Rome at 8:35 a.m., and the transfer will be in line with this departure.