The Italian town of Giovinazzo is exactly as we remembered it from our last visit in 2015. Most, if not all, shops in the town closed at 1:00 PM on Saturdays and reopened for business at 5:30 PM. The people are extremely helpful, but it can be quite difficult to get around without a car. This town is out of the tourist belt of Italy. Taxis are rare but buses run every few minutes.
The two-hour flight to Bari from Brussels Charleroi was at 7:05 AM on Saturday, December 17, 2017. The train to Giovinazzo was only an hour long. We had to take the airport train to Bari Centrale Station and make the switch to the train going to Molfetta. We walked from the station to the S. Martin Hotel overlooking the Adriatic coast.
The family-owned and operated hotel is a historical landmark as a 13th-century Benedictine nuns’ abbey. Our room was in period-style furnishings and modern facilities. I thought about it but did not feel brave enough to use the stove and cook something in the room.
The town prides itself in close ties with its people. It seemed like everyone knew everybody! We entered a local restaurant to ask for directions in getting to Puglia Outlet Village for the bib pick-up. A young lady eating her lunch heard us and paused to call her uncle who brought us to the shopping area which was at least ten kilometers away and not on the bus route.
The bib came with a goodie bag, and who does not love goodies?! My bag contained the race shirt, a rubber bracelet, pasta, and local cookies. They also had a booklet full of coupons to redeem at any of the shops in the shopping village.
We were back at the hotel shortly but the restaurants were still closed. We spent a few minutes looking at at the hotel’s limestone displays, bronze sculptures, and Caravaggio-style paintings before succumbing to a nap.
We were up again by early evening. I went outside to take some photos of the religious procession going to the Parrocchia San Domenico from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
Dinner was fresh seafood pasta.
The breakfast option the next day was continental with limited offering but enough to fuel me for the race. We walked to the Area Mercatale. The buses were already waiting to transport runners to the start line in Barletta.
The race is also called the marathon of the five cathedrals because the route passes through five major cathedrals. The start line was in front of the first of the five, the Basilica Cattedrale Santa Maria de Maggiore. The cathedral, in turn, was in front of the Svevo Castle.
We received a special benediction from the cathedral priest prior to the start of the race.
I aimed to get a selfie in front of each of the cathedrals, but I missed two. I was only able to have my photo taken in front of the Bisceglie Cathedral and the Trani Cathedral, and missed the Molfetta Cathedral and the last Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta.
The weather was colder and windier than I remembered it. I wore merino everything. I was in a merino wool baselayer and a vest but I was still cold. I usually wear a plastic layer to keep warm and discard it midway. This time, I decided to keep the race plastic from the Copenhagen Marathon the whole way. I also wore a merino beanie over my racing cap and a merino buff.
We ran with the breathtaking view of the Adriatic Sea on the left, cutting through several marinas. The aid stations were spaced five kilometers apart, with the usual water, sports drink, and bananas.
Richard took some photos of Giovinazzo from different areas.
I crossed the timing mat in a slow 5:30:11; the race had a six-hour time limit. We walked back to the hotel for a quick shower and started our journey home.