Sunday 30.09.2018 – Polignano a Mare to Bari (66 km)
Sundays, in a predominantly Catholic country are quiet affairs – apart from the seemingly incessant chiming of the tiny bells that call the faithful to the churches. Our breakfast was eaten to a backing track of this, in no way unpleasant, tintinnabulation.
We packed up and headed off for our one hour ride back into Bari – hoping to find somewhere to buy some cheese. Well, by some, I mean as much as our meagre WiZZ baggage restrictions would let us carry onto the aeroplane !
It was another uneventful ride. It was bright, but still a little cool. The curious little cone shaped buildings, the Trulli, which are unique to this area, dotted the fields beside the road, but there was not much else to see.
Then, our cheese plans were nearly thwarted as I managed to get us seriously lost. Not on the motorway, not even I could manage that. However, because I was overconfident of my level of knowledge of Bari, I turned of the motorway a bit to soon – and got embroiled in the endless suburbs …… Once I lost sight of the sea, we were cooked.
Lucie got out her iPhone and, aided by some unseen satellite, we eventually found our way to a part of Bari we DID know – but, by then, time was ebbing away.
We found a cheese shop, made a hurried few selections (which subsequently did not disappoint us) and high-tailed it to the Harley-Davidson dealership to complete the return of the SportGlide. It was simple, we only had to pop the keys into the letterbox. The ever exuberant Livio turned up right on cue for our ride back to the airport.
Livio may not have been in church, but even in the Sunday traffic, his typically Italian driving made us both feel that a face-to-face meeting with God was a mere heartbeat away. Still, we made it safely. We bid Livio a heartfelt farewell and headed to the gate for our flight home.
A few thoughts and impressions on the Italian People
I thought I would write something about the Italians.
They are very nice and quite friendly but, by our northern European standards inclined to be very physically demonstrative and excitable.
They do seem a little wary of strangers, particularly in rural areas. However, basic hospitality is guaranteed almost as a matter of course and, once they know you, this can be very effusive indeed. An Italian will be your friend for ever – or your enemy for life.
In rural areas, there is very little knowledge of any language other than Italian. As we also found out, in some places, not necessarily the more remote ones, there may be a local “patois“ in common use that is indecipherable.
The driving standards can appear simply appalling to the uninitiated. Even though we come from Prague where the driving is, in the main, pretty bad, it is still very disconcerting, particularly at first. What is different is that, for all the gesticulating, generalised cursing and over-use of the horn, there are actually very few accidents. The behind the wheel histrionics are derived from the excitable latin temperament, not an inflated sense of personal self-entitlement or just plain bad manners. As a consequence, we did not see a single collision (a lot of cars DO bear innumerable “parking“ dents) in 1100 kilometres of driving. We soon realised that the countless “near misses“ just go with the territory.
Italians are, as a nation quite religious. There are countless churches and members of the clergy are respected and deferred to as a matter of course.
In life they are frenetic, but fairly relaxed and, sadly, this can easily descend into a “do not care“ attitude of lack of responsibility. Civic pride is, apart from ostentatious religious observances, by and large non-existent. Outside of obvious tourist locations, many cities, towns and villages are both tatty and unkempt and the widespread, casual dumping of rubbish anywhere it will go, even at beauty spots, is deplorable.
The second religion of all Italians is food. A meal is more of a celebratory event than a way to ward off hunger. They take it slow – and it is a social experience more than just a necessity. In an Italian family, a meal can take hours ! To our eyes, some of the hygiene levels might be slightly questionable, but I have long been convinced that to a point we now overdo cleanliness to a stage where we have no immunity to anything and a speck of dirt might kill us. Anyway, every single thing we ate, both savoury and sweet was as delicious as it could possibly be and at no time did we get sick, or even feel queasy.
Their coffee is world class, we did not try any wine and their beer is quite costly for what it is (we come from Prague, remember !) and could use some work.