A boat in the night, another pretty city…

I am posting this from Lecce in the south of Italy. Lecce is in the Puglia region, on a peninsula that has one side on the Adriatic, the other on the mediterranean. Like many of the seaside places I have seen these last few days, it would be gorgeous in summer. In winter there is time and space to admire the architecture and to wander the laneways, as there aren’t many people here. Lots of Italians on holidays for the New Year.

My fears about the Jadrolinija boat from Dubrovnik to Bari were unfounded, fortunately. Dubrovnik was starting to get seriously cold and had worn out its appeal for me. And I was sick of the currency – the kuna. Bloody kuna, we grumbled constantly. It seemed to get spent very quickly. We never knew how much we’d need, (or at least, were very poor at calculating this) so kept going back to the bank to get more out – I withdrew money every day in Dubrovnik. And we couldn’t spend the kuna anywhere else.

We collected our bags from the private residence we had stayed in the night before, got ourselves tthe port, bought deck tickets for the boat (the cheapest option) but once on-board decided to upgrade to a small cabin. This was a good decision as we were both tired and in need of a good night’s sleep and I have been feeling like a cold is trying to assert itself in my system. The cabin was cool. It wasn’t the Love Boat, but hey! It was only an overnight crossing. There were two little bunk beds, a sink in the room, toilet down the corridor, and a porthole to look out.

In the morning when we woke up Italy was in sight. We had beakfast in the restaurant (included in the cost of the cabin), grabbed our things, found much to giggle about in the apparent chaos of Bari Port’s customs and immigration systems. Queues? what queues? And why are we all queuing here? SB kept giving up on the unclear systems and just walking through the the front, bags in tow. no-one stopped us, so I would say that this worked well!

We had to get a taxi to the train station.It was very expensive – 15 euros for a 6 minute journey! No metre, despite my protestations. I was pleased that my Italian proved up to the task of questioning the driver about this unreasonably high price.

Then, at the station, there were no seats left on the train to Naples. The driver suggested we could try to get there by bus, but he said that, because people were now returning to their homes after being in the region for the Christmas/New Year holidays, it was possible there would be no seats available.

So SB and I had a quick conference and decided instead to go to Lecce, which is very pretty, very ornate, Baroque in its architecture, with many buildings made from soft yellow sandstone, with ornately carved facades. When we were standing at the ticket counter at Bari railway station, debating what to do, the man behind the counter chimed in to say that Lecce was truly beautiful – much more beautiful than Naples. And as he printed out the tickets for us, going as quickly as he could as the train was due to leave in a matter of minutes, he also wrote the name of a special local dish that he said we should try. Ciceri e trie. Such kindness! In the end we ate this meal twice while in Lecce.

The train was pretty well empty so we had a compatrment to ourselves. This meant we could stretch out and sleep awhile. A wonderful start to the Italian leg of the journey.

SB can speak Spanish so is keen to get a handle on Italian. However, an interesting, creative approach is developing, in which an English word becomes Italian by adding ‘are’ (ah-re) to the end of it. A door that is locked becomes ‘loccare’, for example. Very silly, but enough to make me start to giggle each time a new one is invented. The unceasing bastardisation of languages is proving to be a real theme on this trip.

What next? We are only staying one night here. We have found a very groovy place to stay – an apartment with vaulted ceilings, in the heart of the old town. Very funky. Tomorrow we shall go to Naples. We plan to base ourselves there for the next few days, and use it as a base for visiting Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.

But the big trip is coming to an end. SB flies out of Pisa on January 8th, I leave from Rome on January 12th. Only ten more days.

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