ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend: It can be about memorials, and maybe a bit more.

There’s a lot to think about on ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend.  We thought for Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we would look at some of the sites around Perth and Western Australia that you can visit to remind you of the ANZAC story.

If you’re going to an ANZAC Day Service and want to experience a little more later in the day, or if you can’t get to a service but want to visit a site that is connected to our ANZAC history, we’ve put together a list of significant places you can visit to make silent contemplation your offering or perhaps find an adventure that helps tell you a story.

I grew up with men and women in my community who had been soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War One.  They had been Prisoners of War on the Thai Burma Railway and they had dropped supplies to the soldiers on the Kokoda Track.  I knew their stories and felt connected to them because they lived in the streets around me.

There were also bunkers just out of town that had been built during World War 2 to store supplies and where we used to go for school holidays there were lots of adventures to be had exploring Point Peron which was a wartime observation post.

There are lots of places around Perth and Western Australia where you can find tangible reminders of our wartime past and the contribution made by our men, women and our communities. 

Some of the places in Perth and around the state include:

  • Point Peron/Leighton Tunnels/Oliver Hill: Observation posts, gun emplacements and storage bunkers.  Amazing to think these weren’t built as a tourist attraction.  These were designed to spot enemy ships attacking Fremantle Harbour.  They provide a view that lets you imagine what it must have been like to look out to sea with a pair of binoculars and having real fear that enemy ships might appear on the horizon.
Tunnel Tours at Rottnest and Leighton
  • Mount Hawthorn Bus Stops:  Gallipoli and Vietnam themed, complete with sandbags.
Bus Stops on Kalgoorlie St and Anzac Rd
  • ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn.  Built in a day!  In 1916, they started work at 3:30am and before the going down of the sun, a community finished building a house for John Porter and his family. John was with the 11th Battalion and landed at Gallipoli.
  • Broome Flying Boats: On 3 March 1942, Japanese fighters strafed Broome, including dozens of flying boats filled with refugees from Java, to escape the war.  At low tide in Roebuck Bay you can see up to 15 flying boat wrecks of PBY Catalina’s and Dutch Dorniers. Many refugees, including women and children, were killed either by gunfire or drowning and as you walk around these wrecks they are a physical reminder of when war came to our shores. 
  • Wireless Hill Station:  During World War 1 the navy took control of the Applecross Wireless Station and this is where a signal was received from the Cocos Islands that reported the position of the German Cruiser Emden which was then sunk by the HMAS Sydney. The navy again took over the station during World War 2 and communicated with ships off the coast using a mast over 100m tall.
  • HMAS Ovens: I asked Tom to research this for his ANZAC education and school holiday counter to boredom. This is what he came up with:
    • One of six 90m Oberon class submarines
    • Entered service in 1969, decommissioned in 1995
    • Crew size 63
  • ANZAC Centre Albany: Located on Mount Clarence this is one of the greatest interactive and immersive museum experiences in the world.  It looks out over the waters of Albany where many of the troopships left from. Follow the story of a service man or woman through the museum, not knowing if they survived the war until you finish your journey through the exhibits.
  • Merredin and Cunderdin: Major bunker complexes and airfields located throughout the wheatbelt and around Merredin and Cunderdin. There are still old aircraft hangers you can find and the remains of a World War 2 army hospital and a radar hut and concrete ammunition bunkers.  There’s also a museum located in Merredin that contains a lot of displays and memorabilia from all Australian conflicts.
  • Yanchep Bunkers: Walk up the Yanchep Rose Trail off Indian Ocean Drive.  In recent years these RAAF radar bunkers have been decorated by a local school with murals that are bright and discourage vandalism and tagging.
  • Corunna Downs Airfield: Just south of Marble Bar is one of World War 2’s greatest secrets. This is where B-24 Liberator bombers took off from runways over two kilometres long to attack Japanese bases from Singapore to Borneo, Java and other islands. You can still see the runways, bunkers, revetments and bits of rusted metal lying about the place. Also Nookanbah near Fitzroy Crossing,
  • Newcastle Gaol in Toodyay: Tells the story of the Toodyay connection to Prisoners of War in World War II.  Alma Beard trained at Royal Perth Hospital and was an army nurse, and four local men; Herb, Gordon and Tom Dorizzi and Reg Ferguson, were all killed after they’d been taken prisoner.  Alma was alongside Vivian Bullwinkle in the shores of Banka Island south of Singapore and the men were in the jungles of Borneo, west of the town of Sandakan.

Visiting sites that connect you to our wartime history is just as important as visiting a memorial site.  You can acquire knowledge and pay your respects to all of those who have served, particularly to those who died.

As Lord Byron wrote, “There are deeds that should not pass away, and names that must not be forgotten.”

Community Art Centres & Collectives in Perth and in the Regions

One of our favourite discoveries in Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast are the secrets of the suburbs; what’s off the main drag, what’s in the heart of the suburb and what is the heart of a suburb?

Enjoy listening to the audio file below and reading a few notes as well:

While our public art is easy to see, and sculptures and murals continue to be popular and prominent, have you ever wondered where you can do an art class or where you might be able to see art on display from artists who live in your community, or a community just down the road?

Community art centres and art collectives are one of the best reasons to do something as a family or justify a weekend drive and activity.

Let’s get into some our suburbs and regional communities and discover how easy it is to put a bit of art in your heart.

  • Let’s start at the Midland Junction Arts Centre!  This is an old school site and the corridors and classrooms make excellent spaces for exhibitions, workshops and classes.  I took Tom and his mate Nick away from their tower of consoles last year to see an exhibition that was all blue and included a blue slushy machine.  You could pour yourself a slushy while you considered the art on display. There is a year-round program of community led classes and some of the ones coming up are dance classes for over 55’s, experimental arts sessions where the audience give feedback and the good old life drawing class!
Slushies and Art … Perfect for the Kids
  • From one edge of the city to the other, let’s go out to Scarborough where the beautiful Scarborough Art Space Collective runs every day on the energy of Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin and the whole space honours their character traits of inclusiveness, peace and fun.  They have so many classes, particularly for children, like making clay echidnas but they also do some adult stuff like macrame making and evening drawing sessions (if you know what I mean).  Macrame and evening drawing is sounding a bit like you leave your keys in a bowl but I’m assured this is just one of the most beautiful spaces in Perth to breathe and try something new.
  • This criss crossing is making me dizzy! Let’s head back eastwards but stop in Mount Hawthorn at the Little Arthouse Collective that is as eclectic as it is exciting.  There are often local artists exhibiting and even more often they have their famous soap making classes and indoor plant design courses.
  • Let’s go regional to a little art space called East End that you’ll find in Beverley.  There’s a lot of art and rusty metal to see and they describe themselves as motorcycle friendly with lots of sofas to take a rest from the ride and throw your jacket and helmet onto.  They’ll give you tea, coffee and chocolate for taking the effort to ride out there and they will even clean the visor on your helmet!
  • Other regional arts centres to get immersed in:
    • East Pilbara Arts Centre in Newman is a big space and a beautiful collaboration of the local shire and the even more local Martumili artists, linking the community in events requiring participation and a colourful, striped bar code style design on the building that means, “This is a big thing!”
    • Roebourne Art Group welcomes everyone to their exhibition space to learn local culture from more than 70 local artists.
    • Gwoonwardu Mia is in Carnarvon and has story telling interactive exhibitions from local Aboriginal groups and all this week they’ve run cultural easter hunts looking for the Bigurda, which is a kangaroo in Yinggarda language. 
  • Other art collectives to explore:
    • Ellenbrook Arts HQ was established 20 years ago by the Ellenbrook Cultural Foundation to create a diverse, healthy community that participates in arts and cultural experiences.  It’s a great place to get to know how art is valued by different cultures and brings us all together.
    • Atwell House works hard at social connectivity in the Melville area.  Great classes coming up like Chinese Brush Painting of a Rooster which if that isn’t the greatest name for a workshop than surely Sip Paint Repeat is!
    • Others include Liddelow Homestead in Kenwick (lectures as well as workshops), look for the reopening of the Rockingham Arts Centre after it’s refurbishment, Laverton Art Centre for displays and workshops by the Wongi people and the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre just out of Derby holds workshops, exhibitions and the famous Mowanjum Festival each year in early July.

Big Tip!  When you see something you like, buy it.  I regret not buying a painting of honey ants in Laverton, I regret not buying Tom a clay model of the face hugger from the movie Alien that was in the Art Garage at Mount Hawthorn but I’m really glad I bought a metal fish skeleton, mounted on corrugated iron and surrounded by driftwood from Esperance.

Community arts centres are hidden treasures because they provide one of the best ripple effects in our community. They connect you to the creativity in your community, inspire you to participate and explore your talent and lack of talent and give you a reason to make a discovery on your weekend. 

As Published in Just Ubane (May): Singapore in a Hurry

The May issue of Just Urbane has just been published and inside you’ll find my story about a weekend in Singapore, just a weekend. Just Urbane is India’s leading lifestyle magazine with a print circulation of nearly 80,000 and online subscription readership of much more than that.

Enjoy my story in the file above but to read all my stories in Just Urbane, every month, take out a subscription with Just Urbane by clicking on: https://www.justurbane.com/subscribe-justurbane

Lau Pa Sat satays are the best in the world (sorry mum!)

Spooky Spaces & Places on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast

Perth isn’t that old is it?  And our regional communities aren’t any older? While our Aboriginal culture is tens of thousands of years old, our oldest buildings are less than two hundred years old.

But that doesn’t stop many of them from sending a shiver up or down our spine and feeling that spirits from another time and another place are with us.

The ABC Facebook page was inundated with paranormal experiences across Western Australia. Callers to the show also spoke about regional haunted places.

Many of us swear to have seen ghosts or felt their presence in places and spaces so my sidekick Tom and I went to investigate some tales of the unexplained from right here in Perth.

The great thing about Scooby Doo is that it was always an old, grizzled fellow from an abandoned amusement park who was scaring people while wearing some ghoulish costume – and he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t from those meddlin’ kids!

But the real thing is somewhat different.  As I discovered, there’s tours telling ghost stories and buildings with ghosts in them, right here in our suburbs.

  • Gosnells Ghost Tours – Get in line with your ticket for their summer season at the end of this year.  These tours encounter the spirits of timber workers from the 1860’s community of Orange Grove. 

Over a five kilometre bush track walk from the Victoria Dam to Bickley Reservoir you’ll meet friendly ghosts who will share history of the area and colourful tales from convicts under the railway bridge.  It’s dark, it’s spooky and it’s very entertaining!

Friendly and full of fact ghosts on the Gosnells Ghost Tour
  • Leederville Hotel – I climbed the stairs up to the dome on top of the hotel with my son Tom and staff member Isobel, although I quickly noticed Isabel was more than just a few steps behind! Isobel has, in her words ‘been completely creeped out’ and many of her staff refuse to go up there alone. 

Apparently, a fellow named Kanga lived in the tower bedroom and died on the premises and although there’s no violent or tragic story to his life or demise, many people have come in contact with Kanga, particularly in the corridors of the old, original upstairs part of the hotel. 

Is that Kanga the ghost of Tom my sidekick?

Isabel tells me that his strongest presence is felt on the on the stairs.  She tells me this from the ground floor as Tom and I are making our way up the stairs.  Tom you go first.

Creeeeek!

The Leederville alarm story must be told!  Leaving a note to calm Kanga and the next morning the note was gone and the alarm that had been going off in the middle of the night for months never happened again.

  • The Alkimos – Stranded just north of Mindarie in 1963 it was while it sailed around the world that crew members reported a ghost on board, possibly a US soldier or German prisoner of war. There’s also been many reports for divers and snorkellers who claim to have seen Harry, a ghost in oil skins who loiters around the wreck and even on the shore.
  • Kenwick Cemetery – Alongside the Albany Highway, most people who drive past would never know this little final resting place for early settlers was there.  Built by convicts, most of the graves have no headstones and speaking of heads, many people have reported seeing in the area a man riding a horse, holding his own head. 
  • Woodman Point Quarantine Station – If ever there was a ‘creep you out’ destination, this is it.  It’s a reminder that before Covid, there were other pandemics. 

This station was used to isolate bubonic plague patients, smallpox, Spanish flu and leprosy. Over 300 people died there, and most would have been isolated from loved ones and in great pain.

There are walking tours you can take through the buildings, including the crematorium where it is believed by many that orbs of light floating through the crematorium is the spirit of the final smallpox victim who was cremated there.

Others include the Fremantle Arts Centre (Fremantle Lunatic Asylum), Midland Town Hall (the ghost of Daria Mulawa, brutally murdered on its steps in 1955), Rose & Crown Guildford (oldest hotel in WA and more paranormal encounters than an episode of Scooby Doo. 

Regional haunts include the story of the Coolgardie Cat, the Israelite Bay telegraph station, Gwalia and Kookynie in the Goldfields are well known for the restless spirits of prospectors and railway workers.

Spooky spaces and places are hidden treasures because they provide a sense of adventure and also provide a link to the past, creating a way to learn about a buildings history and often a communities history. 

Just send your sidekick up the stairs first.  That’s what sidekicks are for.

And I Took The Road Less Travelled. What About You?

Perth! What’s your favourite street and how do you like to travel?

Enjoy listening to the audio from ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast that included a very special guest, Perth’s famous traffic reporter, Bernie D!

One of the ways we really get on a roll is when we talk about a topic that includes a roadtrip.  We both love a roadtrip and a reason to see something that requires time spent driving is good time spent. 

Some of the stories we’ve done that have been linked to roadtrips include hometowns and lakes, country destinations including Dryandra and the Avon Valley and where you can find Aboriginal tourism experiences.

We’ve also sought to slow you down and ask you to explore a suburb. Rather than just race through on your way to work, come back on a weekend and make it your destination. Explore Mount Hawthorn or Bull Creek, Karrinyup or Bassendean.

The Main Street of Bassendean

Tips for a good roadtrip:

  1. Make it about what’s on the way, not just what’s at the end.  Be prepared to stop if anyone in the car wants to.
  2. With the point above in mind, plan your trip based on time for stops not the kilometres you’re travelling. By distance it should always take me less than two hours to get to Narrogin but we stop to climb up Sullivan Rock, stop at Williams Woolshed for a sausage roll and if we go through Wandering we stop to look at bulls and sometimes horses.  It’s a 2-3 hour trip.
  3. Do a bit of research.  You may have a clear destination but what’s around the corner from your destination?
  4. Find something to buy. Local jams, local art, find something that is a reminder of a great day out … like a talc rock from Three Springs!
  5. Who’s on the bench?  If something is closed, how are you going to use your time without heading straight back home.  Who’s coming off the bench to save the day?

Road travels are hidden treasures because they can be easily planned, easily budgeted for, can be any length you want and is the best reason you’ll ever have to create a new playlist.

Travelling for Sport

When we started Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast in 2021, it was intended that I would speak every couple of weeks.  After a few months of fortnightly discussions, I was asked to come in every week.

Well, we’ve reached a milestone.  This is our 50th episode of Hidden Treasures.  To mark this achievement we’ve got a special guest lined up to contribute to our discussion about some of our favourite hidden treasures over the past 50 episodes.

We’re lifting our bat for the half century.

While we’ve travelled regionally and even gone overseas, this show is grounded in the discoveries you can make in Perth. 

A little city hanging on to the edge of a continent that has so much to offer for staycations or day trips with destinations motivated by sport, culture, hunger or just because you want to hit the road for an afternoon and see what’s out there.

Fun Fact!  Half of our episodes have featured a suburb of Perth.

Fun Fact! In nearly half of our episodes I’ve found a way to mention that I grew up in Narrogin.

Fun Fact! One episode inspired you to travel to a long lost theme park.

One of our best hidden treasures is discovering sport around Perth that you might not have known about or maybe always known about but never gone to.

One of our favourite stories last year was when we talked about WAFL grounds and what it’s like to attend a WAFL match. 

Claremont FC’s Trophy Case (not a real tiger)

The support from WAFL clubs who let me hang out at their Members Bar and to the mighty South Fremantle Bulldogs who let me hangout with the team after a big win.  To talk about the footy, footy food and tribalism was great fun.

On the day of the AFL Grand Final we also did a story about different sports you could watch or have a go at in Perth.

Bring on Clint Wheeldon from ABC Sport!

We asked Clint where he’s travelled for sport and why is sport such a great reason to travel.

We talked about what we have stolen from a sporting ground. For me, I’ve taken grass from Lords and the MCG.

Travelling for sport sometimes has to be done at all costs.  My wife allowed me to spend a fortune to see the Socceroos v Uraguay in 2002. I was like a Roman Emperor in the Southern Stand of the MCG.

Travelling for sport can also be a pilgrimage or a party.  Sometimes it’s just about seeing the ground even if there’s no game being played.  Sometimes it is about travelling with friends or a tour group and seeing your favourite sport.

So after 50 episodes what have we learnt? What makes Hidden Treasures a hidden treasure?  Because we have fun and the reason we have fun is because there’s so much out there and all you need is a reason to find it. 

Reconnect with a hometown, stop for a while in a suburb you normally just commute through or find hidden treasure in known treasure, like we did on Wadjemup, or take a break in Perth like we did in Innaloo and Karrinyup as part of staycation homework for Molly, or take the advice of my man Tom and get to a regional show.

Get out there and find a rite of passage like Ebonnie’s trip to Busselton Jetty or find any jetty, like we did with Ben Carlish from Recfishwest. Find a new sport like Padel, or find a fishburger or laneway mural.

Why is travelling for sport a Hidden Treasure?  You don’t have to play it to enjoy it?  Take a road trip to a country footy match and honk your horn, or just take a walk down to your suburban ground.

Sport is yet another reason to get out and about. It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight and it’s the thrill of finding something new to do and finding a new tribe to enjoy it with.

What ground do you want to walk onto?

Have You Travelled for a Special Milestone or Occasion?

It was Ro’s idea that we do a Hidden Treasure show about travelling for a special occasion or milestone. She had just returned from yet another trip to the Kimberley, this time for the birthday of a favourite aunty.

Landing in Broome … again

On Hidden Treasures we often find ourselves focused, or more accurately – distracted – by the reasons for travel.  We’ve talked recently about rites of passage and hometowns, and we started thinking about other reasons why we head to a destination.

Sometimes it’s for the bucket list, sometimes it’s to get a tan.  What about when it’s for an occasion?  Have you travelled to attend a wedding? Have you travelled for a birthday celebration, or perhaps conspired with your partner to secretly elope?

This weekend on Hidden Treasures, we’re exploring the travels we’ve done to mark a special occasion.  Where’s the furthest you’ve been for a wedding, a birthday, a funeral, a wedding anniversary, or another occasion you might like to tell us about.

Did you still have to buy a present or was attending a far flung destination considered a good enough gift?

The first time my wife Rebecca and I travelled overseas was for a wedding.  In his grooms speech, in front of a setting Tuscan sun, Simon remarked quite accurately that the wedding was an excuse for most guests to have a broader European experience. 

A wedding in Tuscany was actually part of a ‘broader European experience’

Affordable luxury for a large group is also a motivating factor in travel for an occasion. My friend Annie got married in Bali because she wanted a luxury experience for all of her guests that in her hometown was going to be difficult to accomplish.

I’ve been to Broken Hill for a wedding and I doubt I would have ever visited Broken Hill if not for the invitation to attend a wedding. 

That’s the point isn’t it.  It’s the destinations you got to go to that you may not have ever gone to without an event to attend.

It’s not just weddings, birthdays and other occasions, I’m also interested in those life milestones that inspire travel, like Josh getting his P plates a couple of weeks ago.  For his first time driving solo, where did Josh go? Did he play The Triffids ‘Wide Open Road’ as he took off?

One of the best pre-Covid travel opportunities to mark special occasions was in the cruising industry where as many as 50% of passengers list a special occasion as the reason for travel. 

On ‘The Love Boat’ it always seemed to be someone’s wedding anniversary or birthday.  Captain Stubing always seemed to have a plate of cake in his hand.

We love talking about reasons to travel because sometimes it has to be more than a holiday that gets us somewhere.  Traveling for an occasion is a hidden treasure because it can get us somewhere we might not otherwise have thought about going to and just like those words from Simon about the “broader European experience”,  once you’re there you can go anywhere. 

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Springs a Surprise

Ro indulged me recently in a show about hometowns. I was allowed to talk about Narrogin in great detail and we only heard a little bit about Ro’s hometowns. So, I set out on a secret roadtrip to visit one of her hometowns and then turn it into a Hidden Treasures story.

What is it that drives us to drive?  What is it that makes us want to hit the road less travelled?  For me it might be that I’ve never been there before.  It might be because my daughter needs to log some hours on her L plates.  Or it might be because it’s come up in conversation and it’s sparked a curiosity to see it for yourself. So here is Three Springs.

Three Springs is north of Perth, north of Moora, north of Coorow and Carnamah and east of Eneabba.  It’s a good day trip.  Not for the faint hearted who struggle to get over the escarpment on a road trip.  It’s over three hours away and a bit longer if the L Plater doesn’t want to get above 80, which isn’t for the faint hearted either.

Here’s a few things you’ll see all year long, not just when the wildflowers make this one of the great destinations in Western Australia:

  • Yarra Yarra Lake Conservation Park is a shimmering salt lake in summer but the Lakes Lookout has amazing views that is pink in summer and deep blue through the wet months and filled as far as the eye can see with birds!
  • Dookanooka Nature Reserve is brilliant for wildflowers but even in summer is a great expanse of mallee against blue skies.
  • The Historic Well is one of the original three springs that give the town its name.
The historic well, one of Three Springs original spring water wells
  • The Talc Mine started in 1948 and digs out 250,000 tonnes of talc a year. From white to dark green talc, this mine has a wonderful lookout that shows off the mine and the surrounding landscape.
Talc!
  • Take a look at the pink lakes on the Perenjori-Three Springs Road on the way to the talc mine.
  • The dominant wheat silos in the middle of the town are emblematic of the reason for the towns existence, surrounded by wheat.
Time for a mural on these silo’s I think
  • The main street is broad and straight with most of the towns services lined up for you.
  • Rossiter & Co Butchers is where Glen still makes his famous sausages.
  • The Commercial Hotel is a big old pub on the main street.

One of our callers to the show, Simon, told us about his visits from the farm to the town as a kid growing up near Eneabba. He remarked that coming to Three Springs was like a metropolis and a great day out to play at the wheat silos and hang out at the shops in the main street.

Three Springs is a Hidden Treasure because it’s on the road less travelled if you want to explore the north on a roadtrip from Perth.  It’s also a great destination outside the wildflower season because it’s a town that’s small enough to discover quickly, surrounded by land that’s big enough to take your breath away.  Importantly, you can also imagine little Ro standing outside the butchers on the main street munching on her slice of polony.

As Published in Have A Go News: Lakes in Western Australia for setting world records, watching birds and maybe even jumping on.

I’ve always loved a lake. From Dad’s stories of the Bluebird on Lake Dumbleyung, to watching my kids leap into the sunset at the not so pink lake in Esperance, they are a great reason to travel close to home or further afield.

Enjoy reading the story above or even better, grab your own hardcopy of Have A Go News, a real newspaper. There’s 80,000 copies around Western Australia every month.

Maybe our most famous lake, or at least our most arty: Lake Ballard near Menzies

It’s a Love Story

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we made the big decision to travel further than we have ever done before. If ever there was a short four word sentence dominating water cooler conversations more than any other, it has to be, ‘Our borders are opening.’

While the anxieties are obvious, so too are the growing opportunities.  While it may take a bit more planning, this could be the first time in a while that you are thinking about travel.  So, dust off the cover of your passport, check that it hasn’t expired and groan at that passport photo because to mark the borders coming down, Hidden Treasures is going international.

Puglia

This is a love story.  This is a story about Puglia, a land with towns that a much loved young reviewer of my work described as, ‘Being full of towns with funny names’. Puglia does have lots of towns with names you just want to keep on saying, not just for the memories, but for the mood it puts you in. Feel the linguistic seduction as you pronounce Locorotondo, Alberobello, Ostuni and Polignano A Mare.  I am besotted.

You probably think Italy is well discovered and all of its roads well-travelled by tourists and only leading to Rome.  Let me take you to an ancient city that you can visit and not see groups of tourists pouring out of buses.  Let me take you to an ancient city where evening walks after dinner are quiet and the light has the flickering softness of a medieval village.

Italy is often described as looking like a boot.  I’m going to take you to Puglia which is just above the ankle of the boot.  Where a cowboy might have his spurs.  Puglia is largely an agricultural region and you’ll find rows of olive trees that are hundreds of years old, towns perched on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea and peculiar cone shaped stone huts that can only be found in this region of Italy.

Matera

Matera is one of the oldest, continually habited cities in the world and features in the latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die. Just like James Bond, I have an appetite for adventure but, unlike James Bond, my appetite for gelato is stronger than his.  He can keep his Walther PPK, I’m armed with a pistachio gelato!

This is a destination that demands you experience it in daylight and in the evening.  Matera is like having a lunchtime picnic with your girlfriend and going to a gala ball with her in the evening. Both are enjoyable experiences and she is beautiful no matter what the occasion but Matera by night has a glow and a softness that is seeing her at her absolute best.

Matera

Polignano A Mare

A little town perched on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea.  Famous for the little inlet; Cala Porto, little wine shops, restaurants in cliffside caves and the home of Domenico Modugno.

Cala Porto

Domenico Modugno

As a former cabaret singer of absolutely no repute this is my Holy Grail. Overlooking the sea is a statue of Domenico Modugno. This wonderful singer performed Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. While I’m there, I am doing some work for an Italian TV travel show and we encourage the crowd to sing the song with me.

Grotta Palazzese

In a cave on a cliff, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the atmosphere is just magical. After a few hours of wine, grilled octopus, olive oils and breads, it’s time for me to find my way out of town.  I stop in a little shop called La Nicchia selling olive oil and wine, and then swagger, sway and sing my back to the train station where I head to Alberobello.

Grotto Palazzese

Alberobello

A small town that is famous for its trulli huts that have held UNESCO heritage status since 1996. Each circular trulli is built without mortar with overlapping stone and a conical roof.

Trekking Slowly

The best way to discover Puglia is on a walking tour, with an occasional little train ride.  This way you travel slowly and see more. You have time to sit in the shade of an olive grove, picking grapes to snack on and even stop for a swim at the beach.  If you see a horse stick its head over an ancient old stone wall in an olive grove, you can stop and create your own experience, rubbing its nose and giving him a real vine ripened tomato.

Why is Puglia a hidden treasure?

Italy can be a bit like the Chevy Chase European Vacation style bucket list; get a photo to prove you were there and move on to the next attraction.  Puglia puts its arms around you and sits you down to slow you down, even though your heart is bursting.

I know why I feel this way. It’s love. Just like taking your girlfriend home to meet mum and dad for the first time, sharing Puglia with you is something I am so proud of. Puglia is a hidden treasure because it is an undiscovered land in a well discovered country and the quicker you get there, the quicker you will fall in love too.

And, with thanks to the lyrics of that special song, ‘No wonder my happy heart sings, your love has given me wings’.