Sunday, 31 May 2015

Highway 55* Revisited

I first visited Puglia in the summer of 1969, during a final tour, backing a singer called Maurizio, in the death throes of what was left of Dave Anthony’s Moods.  We’d come there from the nightmare of the Calabria toe, where in small hilltowns the police patrolled at night in fours, with dogs, and black-clad young women hid their children behind their legs and their faces behind veils at the approach of this bunch of harmless would-be capelloni hippies, and you had to get Davide, the roadie, to persuade a suspicious cafĂ© to sell you a horsemeat steak.

Puglia wasn’t a bit like that.  Enlightenment was the word I used to myself, back then, and it was a good one: the area was full of light, both literally and figuratively.  I remember a late night conversation with a university student in Lecce, in which he summed up the difference: “They are Arabs, we are Greeks”.  Politically incorrect nowadays, perhaps, and historically broad-brush – Puglia has been invaded more times, by more alien forces, than perhaps anywhere else in Europe, including Britain – but it nailed it at least at one level.
So my recent visit was more than just a holiday.  I wanted to discover whether my hazily-recalled impressions from forty-five years ago were still real – was it still the same?  Or rather, did it still feel the same?

Well, the short answer is “Yes”.  I’ll share a few details of the trip next time, but meanwhile here are a few pictures.

*The E55 is the coastal near-motorway (I haven’t been able to discover what the E stands for, as Italian roads are officially A, S, R or P) which runs from Bari in the north to Lecce in the south, and hence will be much travelled by any motorised visitor to Puglia.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Getting Ready

I have a wimpish streak when it comes to getting on an aeroplane.*  I don’t do this very often nowadays, which makes it loom even more threateningly.  In a way, although the procedures are supposed to be much slicker nowadays, what with t’internet and that, I hanker after the good old days when you went up to Meadway Travel, sat down for a couple of hours with an expert called Jenny who did all the legwork and answered all your questions (including the ones you hadn’t thought of); and three days later a fat envelope dropped through the letterbox, you gave the contents a skim, read the bit which told you where and when to turn up and then forgot about it until departure day.  They supplied all the bits of paper which now you have to identify, download and (if you’re lucky and your version of Adobe is the same as theirs – possible but unlikely) print off.  And how is it that my question has never been Frequently Asked?

Anyway, all that’s sorted, so I’m distracting myself with details.  I went to Staples (you know, the wonderful shop where you buy your, erm, staples) for some luggage tags.  (They had a choice of colours, I chose white.)  I went to another wonderful shop called Clas Ohlson, which sells everything you can’t buy anywhere else, and got continental plug adapters, a two-way headphone splitter, and an alarm clock.  I added antihistamine cream and paracetamol to my packing list.  And a penknife.  Never travel without a penknife (in the hold, of course, not the carry-on): as I have noted before, it contains a corkscrew.  You have to be equipped for emergencies when travelling.  Grand Tourists used to have several trunks-full of just-in-case stuff sent luggage-in-advance.

I’m going to Puglia, just in case you wondered.   


*Multiply everything by ten when two aeroplanes (consecutive, not concurrent!) are involved.