Off the Beaten Path

At the conclusion of our Albanian trip, 3 days in Durresi on the Adriatic Sea were needed to unwind. Off season rates were” in season” and we got a top floor suite with a big balcony overlooking the sea.

Hotel Adriatik, Albania

Our view from the balcony overlooked the Beach walk and all the people enjoying it as we would shortly be when heading along the walk to find dinner.

Beach Walk

For the 3 days we were there,  around 6 PM, entire families,  would appear entering the park , purchase ice cream, popcorn or drinks and jovially continue walking the shore.

Our Concierge said that these were mostly poor people who rented small apartments in the older section and had no televisions.  (My feeling was they had something much better.)

While there we visited the Roman 2nd century Amphitheatre  and other sites including one of the  15th century fortifying  Towers the Venetians built….and now converted into a wonderful bar,  and, naturally sampled their wine.

Shipping port, Durres, Albania

Ships have anchored in this harbor since the 7th century BC. And eventually it grew into a vital staging port.

This is the site for our Ferry departure and thank God for the marvelous taxi driver or we would have missed it entirely.He had to park the taxi and help us with luggage for a half mile, then through passport clearance  and boarding. I know Mike tipped him well because he grinned and said “When are you coming back?”

Our cabin was small, 2 double decker beds (good, needed one for luggage), small bath with a shower over the sink(?)—but a large porthole.  Dinner offered in the Cafeteria from 8 to 10 and it was excellent. I took my coffee out to the top deck and noticed  2 ships paralleling I asked a deck hand and he said “We travel in trios because of potential hijacking.”

I went to the bar for another glass of wine.

Arriving at Bari

You see the last trucks exiting while 80+ people are lined up inside the left doorway… having been breathing the toxic fumes for an hour and being told to wait there. (If they ever want to get our money again: PEOPLE exit first!)

Picked up rental car hereHad to walk from the port to pick up our rental here. No problem, Mike carried the heavy stuff and I just sneezed and sneezed and….

Restourant at Montefalco

Stopped for lunch at a small village.  Food looked good but I couldn’t taste it….but the fresh air  was  delicious. Now on our way to see some of the 300 year old “Troulli  Houses”.

Trulli Houses

These were located in the middle of a narrow street in the village. Most of the owners advertised their shops on the outside to take advantage of tourism….but you had to drive a block to find a parking space. And we did!


Looks like a Hobbit Village!

Farmers originally built these Troulli  houses because they were inexpensive, expandable and moveable. They’re made of concentric stone rings and stone floors. The roof pinnacle  locks the last layer in place, double walled filled with rubble for insulation, and water drainage from the roof to a cistern below.  The originals were one large and one small room.

We found  one “For Sale” as we drove out of the village and stopped. The front door was open and we were fascinated by its simplicity!

We continued to Montefalco, not from road signs–nonexistent–but we saw it at the top of the hill.


The name means, “Falcon’s Mount”, not for the bird, but because of its sweeping views and lofty position. In the 13th century, with many warring tribes abounding, the height of the city was extremely  important.

Around Villa


There was a sign for the, “Villa San Luca” and the single lane took us to the front of the Villa. This building,  16th century, was everything you expected: classically formal dining room, a large friendly bar/patio with an excellent view.


Hotel Villa San Luca, Montefalco

This view from our balcony overlooked the surrounding mountains, vineyards and a large pool which had closed 2 weeks earlier…sigh…but it was October!


It was Sunday  and I wanted to attend Mass at the Assisi Basilica di San Francisco and the 1228 burial site. There was no room left in the larger upper church so we squeezed in to the lower church (13 century) which was to accommodate the growing number of Pilgrims who came to honor St. Francis of Assisi.

The Lower level Church

A lovely ceremony but a little overwhelming with the smells of vino and garlic. Communion was a tussle with some rotund women pushing and pummeling to be first. When 2 of them “sandwiched”  me, I just stopped and said  “Appre’ vous  Madame”…loudly—then they backed off.

Afterward  we had coffee and toured this wonderful site. There was a local winery nearby and, of course, we had to taste their wares. Mike and the owner needed no translation for the “international” wine discussion while I got into the tasting and loved the Trebbiano Spoletino.

Since our formal dinner last night at the Villa, we wanted to find a local restaurant in the nearby village  of Montefalco. Our hostess gave us parking directions to the top of the hill, stopping outside the town, and walking through the main entrance. We understood her directions after seeing the single lane street.

Glad it hadn’t rained:  wet cobble stones are hazardous! The setting sun was reflecting  on the surrounding mountains and we watched till it dipped.

Cobblestoned streets

The Frederico II ‘s specialty that night was “wild boar” and I can’t think about it without drooling.


That was a trip (and a meal) to remember!



About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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