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 café 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.