I really love staying in B&Bs. Much more so than hotels and even more than (gasp!) AirBnB rentals.
Why? Because it’s the people you meet there (owners and other guests) that really make the difference – if you ask nicely they’ll tell you local secrets, and they can be a lot of fun (or at least leave you with a great story to tell).
Casa Li Jalantuumene in Monte Sant’Angelo is a perfect example of this.
While the website looked great, the TripAdvisor reviews gave me the distinct impression that the owner was at the very least a little eccentric, and quite possibly mad. After having survived a B&B in Tasmania where the proprietress thought she’d been abducted by aliens and burnt our breakfast while she told us the story, I can cope with anything. So we booked a two night stay.
Monte Sant’Angelo is a gorgeous hilltop town in the Gargano region of Puglia in southern Italy, and I was going there to see the place where the Archangel Michael appeared and hopefully add to my stash of religious souvenirs.Of course as is the case with many gorgeous Italian hilltop towns, your GPS is useless and finding your accommodation can be the cause of marital stress and much gnashing of teeth. Not wanting to test Mr Travelling Pantaloni so early on in our trip we parked near the castle after we realised the street the GPS was trying to coax us into was actually a set of steps, and I called the B&B for guidance. Being lovely people they drove over and gave us an escort back to the piazza closest to the B&B. Of course we’d been nowhere near it.
From the piazza we walked up a few broad sets of steps that make up the tiny roads that criss-cross Monte Sant’Angelo.Li Jalantuumene is a B&B but it’s also a restaurant and the owner Gege, is its chef. He showed us around and left us to it. No signs of madness yet.
Our room was gorgeous.Even though we did feel like we were being watched from the bedhead…Our door opened right onto a tiny piazza enclosed by a church and other houses.Which while charming, was actually really noisy. At first I was a bit ticked off, but after a while the conversations, screaming kids, singing (from the church across the piazza) and soccer balls being kicked on our wall made me think that there’s not many places where you can experience real village life, and just like that I thought how lucky we were.
Breakfast was a real surprise. Gege had promised only coffee and a cornetto, but instead he brought out that plus all sorts of local biscotti and a local sweet called ostie piene (a delicious combination of honeyed almonds sandwiched between communion wafers which were invented by a nun in the church opposite where we were sitting!), and an unusual salsa of fruit, cucumber & tomato which I loved.I think the trick at these places is to chat, be open and genuiunely interested. I have always found that it’s the way to unlock generosity and those longed-for local secrets.
We had dinner at Li Jalantuumene on our second night when the weather was a bit nicer so we could sit outside in the piazza (you can also sit inside) . We asked for recommendations on what to order and Gege said just leave it to him, he’d bring us a few dishes he thought we might like. What followed was a spectacular procession of six dishes (not all of which were on the menu), each one brought to the table and described with pride. Our enthusiasm for the food only egged him on and I’m sure six dishes could easily have become eight had we not begged him to stop.The next morning we sat around and chatted some more over breakfast while he showed us the light fittings he made …And posed for photosAnd just as we were leaving we discovered that it’s Gege who owns the gorgeous mint green Fiat500 we’d been admiring all weekend.Mad or just extremely passionate? Decide for yourself if you’re ever in that neck of the woods.
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Until next time, happy travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni