2nd October Goodbye Beautiful Italy
Strangely feel good today. I’m excited about nothing happening. Let me explain. The probability of my having a meaningful conversation is low, although asking services and hospitality operatives for coffees and maybe something sweet from a Pastalleria does constitute one even if it’s a simple preference that my milk is poured hot and not warm.
Polignano a Mare is a town on Italy’s southern Adriatic coast. It’s known for beaches like the white-pebble Lama Monachile, also known as Cala Porto, which is bordered by a Roman bridge. The Ponte dei Lapilli is a cove nestled at the bottom of a cliff. The Museum of Contemporary Art Pino Pascali displays photography and paintings. Overlooking the sea, San Vito Abbey has a Romanesque church and a 16th-century tower.
Tonight I’ll say goodbye to those coy smiles when I pass all the old men. They are to a man, wistful. Adventuring brings out the excited boy in any old man and when it skims past so close you know it. The journey is close to completing leg 1 of 7, 15% of the journey has actually happened. It does not yet feel like a dream. Memory has not put a shroud on those vital moments which are still sharp in my head. The Trees of Puglia are my standout image of the day, 30kms before Brindisi I pass by a Colony of Ents (trees from Middle Earth) small and swarthy and gnarled in the shape of the wind.
It is said habit forming strategies to change stubborn behaviour can take 22 days. A week in my habit of early starts is beginning to help my schedule. Sleeping longer, recovering better. I breakfasted at Charlotte’s Cafe on the main stone paved high street then left.
In Monopoli, roof tops and balconies are tidy. I pass through as if it’s a secret. We are invisible to each other. My favourite author Italy Calvino said that such cities like dreams, ‘are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd.’ In his city their perspectives are deceitful where everything conceals something else.
Italo Calvino (15 October 1923 – 19 September 1985) was an Italian writer and journalist. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979). Admired in Britain, Australia and the United States, Calvino was the most translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death. He is buried in the garden cemetery of Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany.
And, as if randomly I pass by the almost intact Roman remains at Egnazia where buildings have stood for 2800 years.
Egnazia is an ancient archeological city in Puglia, near the town of Fasano. The ruins found there date back many millennia; in fact, it is thought that the first settlements here were established in the 13th century BC! Bronze Age huts turned into a village, which later became a Greek colony during Magna Grecia times in southern Italy. It was a prosperous town, even more so after the Romans took over and built the Via Traiana, which linked Rome to Brindisi, making Gnathis, as it was called, an important crossroads as well as port for trade and commerce.
I am more pedestrian and as a slow moving body look for signs that make me feel safe. You can also look for signs of danger. They are both there you just have to decide what you see.
In Monopoli you have to ride down narrow streets sided with tall buildings. It looks like a stretched photograph that descends to the sea. In a corner ally I see an old lady gently pointing me to a better way. At the supermarket the till ladies are too busy to look up, it’s a local shop and it’s a squeeze.
Where I cross the train line on the outskirts of this city the sound of a stone crusher is a stand out signal for the builders intent. In Bari there were cranes on the High Street where it crosses the shopping street disallowed to traffic. Just beyond I ride over the main Bari-Brindisi train line. Then 5kms on I am back in old Italy. Small road Italy where fields bordered by boulder walls line narrow lanes. Nice deep earth the colour of mashed tea. No people. Clean and tidy. Rocky coastline. Sandy beach. Lots of people. Filthy littered mess.
Stop at a gas station, and compared to the rest of my solitary day it is luxurious, fun, cool and sexy. Tabacchi to my left, sandwicherie opposite, cold drinks in the glass fronted fridge, hot drinks served by a pretty girl. Want to get to Brindisi now so my brief but short lived love affair with Italy is over. More than its beauty I loved her flaws. The old people the back lanes the irritable drivers from whom you can coax a smile.
Until on the outskirts of this famous port a the sound of an ambulance bears down on us all. You certainly miss a heart beat because you think that could have been men.
“It’s not always about you Nick,” said the voice in my head.
“Thank god for that,” I say
“You don’t even need to do that,” said my head, “just keep going.”
Map of the Day