Encanto/Palmcroft – A beautiful historic neighborhood

Typical street scene in Encanto-Palmcroft
Typical street scene in Encanto-Palmcroft
Street sign - Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Neighborhood
Street sign – Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Neighborhood

It’s hard to imagine a more attractive neighborhood so close to a major city center than Encanto-Palmcroft. Its palm lined streets accent some of the most attractive housing in Metropolitan Phoenix.

Encanto-Palmcroft is one of about a dozen historically designated neighborhoods scattered around Phoenix’s central business district. It is the most upscale of all the historically designated locales in the City of Phoenix. These areas were designated in order to preserve Phoenix’s past as well as enhance the image of the city. To encourage investment, properties are taxed at half the rate of residential property throughout the city. Tight restrictions are in place limiting property modifications.

Probably the best way to see Encanto-Palmcroft is to stroll its quiet palmed lined streets that are filled with a wide variety of housing types mostly built in the 1920’s and 1930;s. There are no cookie cutter sticks and stucco tiled roofed boring tract homes here.

Dutch Colonial
Dutch Colonial
Southern Colonial
Southern Colonial
Monterey Spanish Colonial
Monterey Spanish Colonial

Monterey Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Tudor Revival and  International are a few of the housing styles represented in Encanto. Every 2 years there is a home tour. This year the tour will take place on March 29th from 10AM to 4PM. Tickets can be purchased online for $18 or at the site for $20.

International style
International style

A fixer-upper in the neighborhood can be purchased for about 250K. A more typical price would be 500K with some of larger homes going for 2 million or more. In total there are about 330 homes in Encanto-Palmcroft. Encanto Park (including golf course), one of Phoenix’s largest,  borders the neighborhood on the north.

If you have a bit of time to spare and would like a visual treat, check out Encanto-Palmcroft. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

 

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No free lunch, a free museum

Old Arizona State Capitol Building
Old Arizona State Capitol Building

Tucked away in plain site is the Arizona Capitol Museum. It’s housed in the old state capitol building smack in the middle of the state capitol complex. It’s open 9AM to 4PM weekdays and 10AM to 2PM on Saturdays, closed on state holidays. Guided tours are available arranged in advance for groups of ten or more.

I stumbled upon this little gem while wandering around the central city and the state capitol.

What a great way to step back into the past and the history of Arizona. It’s housed in the original state capitol building complete with shining copper dome. The halls are lined with paintings of Arizona’s natural wonders  by an Arizona landscape artist David Swing.

Arizona desert scene
Arizona desert scene

The first floor has a great exhibit featuring the USS Arizona and its story. It was the largest ship sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 with over 1100 American casualties.

Model of the USS Arizona
Model of the USS Arizona

The upper floors house the original  offices of the secretary of state, governor and other historic offices. The ends of the building of the third floor hold the original state house of representative and the senate. One can almost hear the echoes of past debates. It all reminds one of simpler and more innocent times. The men’s and women’s rooms are labeled Gentlemen and Ladies. Maybe that is only wishful thinking.

Original Arizona State House of Representatives
Original Arizona State House of Representatives
Recreation of Arizona Sanitary Livestock Commission Office
Recreation of Arizona Sanitary Livestock Commission Office

One of the rooms on the third floor traces the history of Arizona since before territorial days and on up to statehood. I was surprised to find out that Arizona was a part of the Confederacy in the early days of the Civil War.

This site is definitely worth an hour or two  of exploring the history of Arizona and its government.

 

 

Vico del Gargano and the Gargano promentory

Prior to our sojourn in the Trullo near Castellana  Grotte , we stayed several nights in Vico del Gargano, a relatively small community up the hill  overlooking the Adriatic on the Gargano Peninsula.  The Gargano promontory is one of the most picturesque, inviting and undiscovered parts of Italy. No crowds, no tourist traps, just a warm and inviting place full of scenery, delicious food,  and friendly people  all at very reasonable prices.

Old town Vico del Gargano
Old town Vico del Gargano

Vico del Gargano is a very pleasant place.  I choose it because of its location and promotional efforts of Giuseppe Romondia whose family owns and runs the Bar Pizzicato in the center of town and  in conjunction with Pizzicato B and B(http://www.pizzicatobeb.com). When we arrived in Vico our first stop was at Bar Pizzicato to arrange for our accommodations. Giuseppe greeted us with a welcome drink and appetizers. It was more than I expected. Bar Pizzicato is the local hub in Vico where both locals and visitors hang out.

Tempting treats at Bar Pizzicata
Tempting treats at Bar Pizzicata

Bar Pizzicato offers an amazing array of drinks, sweets and  local products along with comfortable tables, both inside and out to enjoy the available goodies.

Giuseppe preparing a specialty of Bar Pizzicato
Giuseppe preparing a specialty of Bar Pizzicato

After giving us a choice of staying in a studio apartment in the center of town or one a bit further out and a bit quieter, we opted for the later. Another surprise was Giuseppe’s offer of a free half day tour of nearby points of interest the next day and a free lunch at his uncle’s farm. Only an ingrate or an idiot would have turned that offer down.

We settled in and rested until evening when we ventured out to the old part of town and It Trappeto , subterranean restaurant that once housed a medieval olive press. There by chance, we met our fellow tour mates for the next day, a couple of American journalists/bloggers who were checking out the area and Giuseppe’s establishment.

The next day began with bright sunshine and breakfast at Bar Pizzicato. After breakfast  Giuseppe drove us down the hill to one of the many beaches dotting the coastline. Since it was April and too early for swimming, the place was essentially deserted. I have to admit I prefer my beaches deserted or sparsely populated, but that’s not something one is likely to find in Italy in high summer.

Deserted beach in April before the season
Deserted beach in April before the season

After the beach it was going to get very interesting. We next stopped at Il Trabucco di Monte Pucci. A trabucco is a fishing apparatus jutting out into the sea. Nets are suspended on long wooden poles. These sites dot the coastline of  the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia and Abruzzo to the north. They make it unnecessary to go out in a boat to face the wind and waves. This trabucco had a restaurant onsite to cook the freshly caught fish and seafood. That morning the crew was retrieving one of the long poles that had been lost in a storm a couple of months previously. We returned that evening for a fresh seafood dinner accompanied by generous amounts of white wine.

The entrance to the Trabucco di Monte Pucci
The entrance to the Trabucco di Monte Pucci
The trabucoo from a distance
The trabucoo from a distance
The Trabucco
The Trabucco

 

Pulling the lost pole out of the water
Pulling the lost pole out of the water
Lunch at the farm
Lunch at the farm

We made our last stop at Giuseppe’s uncle’s farmstead where his aunt and uncle prepared a feast for us in the open air. They served us prodigious amounts of fish, seafood, vegetables and bread, all locally caught or grown. Wow!, we were treated just like family. This is  the Italy I have come to know and love, far from its more well known and frequented sites.

 

 

Trullo Yours

We had heard and read about the “trulli” in Puglia for several years.  Trulli are white washed domed roofed dwellings  native to Puglia, a southern region of Italy with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Last year we decided to explore Puglia and check out my wife’s father’s home town of San Fernando di Puglia. More about that latter.

Trullo
Trullo we rented

I found this trullo located in the countryside on HomeAway.com, my favorite website for vacation rentals. What made this property special outside of its immaculate and renovated condition, was its location. Italy is a crowded country and its hard to find a property that doesn’t have some close neighbors. The only close neighbor’s this trullo had were olive and cherry trees.

View from patio of trullo
View from patio of trullo
Cherry orchard
Cherry orchard
Olive trees
Olive trees
Our access road
Our access road

Puglia gets very hot in the summertime and the beaches are crowded. For these reasons, we decided to travel there in April when the everything is green and the spring flowers are in bloom. We choose a location about 20 minutes from the coast near Castellana Grotte.

Our proprietor, Francesca, met us in the nearest town in front of the church. She drove up in an old sedan with her coworker, Abdul a hippie looking Moroccan. I have to admit, at that point I had a few doubts as to what we where getting into. We followed them along a dirt road for almost a kilometer until arriving at our quarters. Any doubts that I had were dispelled upon entering the charming trullo complete with a bottle of wine and a bowl of fresh cherries on the dining room table. Abdul turned out to be an engaging and educated fellow who enjoyed English conversation. Before we left he told me the story of how his family had migrated from Morocco to Italy.

Trullo- dining room
Trullo- dining room
Trullo - bedroom
Trullo – bedroom

We situated ourselves near some very interesting attractions, namely Castellana Grotte, a large and beautiful cave and Alberobello, the noted Puglian settlement full of trulli.  Obviously, our isolation required having a car. In addition, our nephew Alessandro, his companion Angela and her eleven year old nephew Matteo joined us after a couple of days. Now we had two cars at our disposal and I had a native Italian to do the driving leaving me free to enjoy the scenery.

We first stopped a few kilometers to the west at Castellana Grotte. The name “grotte” means caves in Italian and we took a two hour tour. I was surprised to learn that there are lots of caves scattered throughout Italy and also surprised that my Italian was good enough to understand 90% of what the guide was saying. It was a cool, damp and rainy day. Consequently, touring a cave with a constant temperature of 18C was a good decision. The cave, it seems was used as a garbage dump until the 1930’s when the town fathers realized its value as a tourist attraction.

Grotte Castellan
Grotte Castellan
Grotte Castellana
Grotte Castellana
Castellan Grotte - natural opening
Castellan Grotte – natural opening

As if living in a “trullo” wasn’t enough we had to visit Alberobello, the world’s capital of “Trulli”. It was a cold and windy day, but we enjoyed it all the same and the weather kept the crowds away.

Alessandro, Angela, Ada & Matteo
Alessandro, Angela, Ada & Matteo
Alberobello - Trulli
Alberobello – Trulli
Typical street in Alberobello
Typical street in Alberobello

Alberobello was not the end of our Puglian adventure. We were yet to meet some of the relatives in San Fernando di Puglia.