White sandy beaches fronting shimmering turquoise water – Greece!
Maybe tomorrow. Today the rain is hosing down, giving us intermittent views across the bay and of the surrounding hillsides, the temperature is a gooseflesh inducing 12°, with a breeze that drops the temperature even further. She’ll be right, though, at some point.
Our last day in Italy, Bari, tried hard to impress us with the more fluid driving style adopted by southern Italians, and, no doubt, an effort to prepare us for Greece. I was, completely, unprepared for cars passing us, in the face of turning traffic, on red lights, and not once, but almost every red light – no, not orange, RED. My best example was of a young mother (I surmise) with young kids (no seatbelts) driving towards us, through a red light, realising she was on the wrong side of the road (i.e. head on towards me), breaking and losing control, coming to an undignified halt across the intersection. I smiled and gave her a wave as she attempted to merge with her side of the traffic again – I really am trying this Zen approach to driving.
We were going to visit a few sights in Bari, but the weather was grim, and we’d already done our touristy stuff in Trani (see below) so we decided to get to the port earlier for our ferry across to Patras, Greece. Just as well, as the ticket seller informed us that we bought the last campervan ticket! Later, on a very empty ferry, I wondered how that was possible – but for a while we felt good about the decision. Getting on to the ferry was a very un-Norwegian type process. No lanes, only two roads which, of course, came to the gate from opposing sides, necessitating that kind of collegial ‘one from that side, one from this side’ type of entry through a restricted gate that characterize Switzerland, for example. This is not Switzerland.
Ferry costs were €437, return, for the two of us + campervan. Niki’s budget calculator immediately burst into tears, informing us this was 387% over budget, and that it was going to shut down if we continued this irresponsible behaviour. The ferry was an absolute joy, allowing us to hook the van into the 220V socket, giving us electricity. We could also sleep in the van, and it also became a great refuge as a group of 100 Italian students took over the lounge. Italian teachers are to be admired for the way in which they, chameleon-like, just merge into the background, avoiding all interaction with their charges… So, after a beer, we retired to the comfort of the van. Given that we were on a semi-sheltered deck with low sides we are able to see the passing islands as we sped towards Patras. 18 hours of this – not bad!
Earlier in the day we had taken a walk through the old town of Trani, after spending a somewhat restful night in an open lot opposite the official campsite. I say somewhat because there was a constant stream of very quiet cars proceeding past us to the water’s edge, about 20 meters past us – no doubt to engage in deep and meaningful discussions of Byzantine versus Gothic church architecture, or Byron versus Yates. In any case, an uneventful night. Our walk through town was just lovely, with winding streets, the smallest of town squares, a working old town harbour, and a magnificent Basilica.
We entered the Basilica – I was a little disappointed, but Niki enjoyed the low roof, the multitude of columns and the sense of intimacy that this engendered. Following a sign pointing upstairs we arrived in … the Basilica – and it was stunning. Downstairs was just the crypt (Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim, AD 1094) – well, live a little, learn a lot! The Basilica is characterized by a very narrow nave, accentuating the unbelievably high ceiling – I just couldn’t get a shot that would adequately capture this.
So that was Italy, for the time being. Really enjoyed our time there, and looking forward to the next instalment of our travel year too.