Lisa Grainger is a travel and style writer and Deputy Editor of The Telegraph’s Ultratravel magazine
I’ll never forget my first foreign trip with my friend Amandip. Every week we produced a newspaper fashion page – she styling the clothes and me writing about them – and one March, in order to get some sunshine into our pages, we were dispatched to St. Tropez.
We had suitcases of handstitched couture to photograph on statuesque French models. The markets were full of ripe, sun-sweetened fruit and veg which the two of us – both keen cooks – turned into Provençal feasts for the fashion crew at night. The air was thick with the scents of lavender and lemons. We drove our soft-top car through the hills, singing along to schmaltzy pop ballads and giggling like teens. Away from home, from the office, from our families and our homeland, we felt like Thelma and Louise: in girl heaven (alas without Brad Pitt but, rather marvellously, on expenses).
Since then we’ve travelled together twice: to Florence and to Puglia, both of which have been a total hoot. Why? Because, as we discovered in St. Tropez, travelling with a friend doesn’t come with the same responsibilities or commitments as travelling with a family or romantic partner. You’re not responsible for the other person. You’re there to do one thing: have fun. Provided you both enjoy doing the same things, and have agreed a budget, all you have to do is to get on and enjoy life.
Which, in Puglia, meant veering off the road at every possible market, to stock up on olive oils and hand-made soaps – in the maze that is Gallipoli, in the whitewashed hill-top towns with their conical trullo homes, in baroque cities lined with golden cathedrals, and finally, to the north in neighbouring Basilicata province, in the almost Biblical cave town of Matera. We stopped, unplanned, at tiny vineyards outside the whitewashed city of Ostuni, and flirted with fishermen cleaning fresh oysters in the port of Savelletri; drank wine over salad lunches at chic restaurants, before browsing boutiques and snoozing on beaches (all of which most men would have hated); sang in the car, between pulling off to photograph beautiful scenes along the Adriatic Coast; and of course, being women, talked non-stop: about men, relationships, food, friends, families, religion, charities, our communities, the bits of our bodies we hated, the cakes we loved, the places we wished we had been. No man, child or relative could have stuck the endless drone, but we revelled in it. There were a few moments in which being with a girlfriend seemed a bit odd: eating at a romantic candlelit restaurant or sleeping (in full pyjamas!) in a four-poster made for lovers; visiting an ancient building we knew our mothers would have adored; getting lost in tiny villages (if there is one thing Amandip is hopeless at, it is map-reading). But I’ll never forget the singing, the laughing, the giggling, the dressing up, when she did my eye-make-up and I helped her choose her outfits. Those scenes are ones that, when I’m too old to travel, I’ll think back on with great fondness – as I know she will.
A 10-night road-trip in Puglia and Amalfi is from £2,500pp including flights and car hire. 020 8682 5080