Having taken in the fascinating baroque architectural limestone edifices that make up historical Lecce over the past few days, I embark on a journey to Gallipoli! Italian Gallipoli not the famous Turkish destination. It is a seaside town about 40km to the south west of Lecce. It takes a little more than a hour by slow, local, single carriage diesel train.
The train is filled to capacity,if not illegally over the limit. I reassure myself that local creaky trains overcrowded and slow, are much less likely to tip over in high winds and kill most on board. Half way to Gallipoli the majority of passengers disembark and every one now is able to grab a seat. Moreover it seems to me the train actually picks up speed.
There are a disproportionate number of African refugees on board as black as an Abbott open cut coal mine. They seem to randomly alight at various stops along the way. Some travel all the way to Gallipoli and I subsequently see them on the seashore selling trinkets and umbrellas. I suspect they travel this journey every day for the sake of a few Euro – and they need at least 6 to cover the return ticket. Surely depressing and degrading yet I also assume that they have escaped an even more futile existence in Africa.
The ancient walled city of Gallipoli was built on an island reached by a 17th century bridge. At the bridge head is a huge fortress and Castle whilst the old city expands behind it. A pleasant walk around the perimeter and then exploring the maze of narrow cobblestone streets. Other than a small rather sandy beach the sea laps against the battlements and rocks.
The waters are deep blue and crystal clear. Indeed so transparent that the rubbish carelessly and thoughtlessly discarded paints a depressing watercolour of polystyrene, plastic and rubber on the seabed. It would be criminal if indeed not a mortal sin to even contemplate stripping off and taking a swim after my last week in the Ionan Sea.
The civic museum of Gallipoli is housed in what I suspect was the original library. The huge square room with a domed ceiling has 3 levels of landings filled with stacks of sweet musty smelling leather bound volumes. The vast interior ground floor is also lined with antique wooden glass fronted cabinets. The curator of this municipal menagerie has I calculate managed to acquire and display at least one item from the beginning of creation with geological rock and mineral specimens then trending to ancient Roman artefacts, stuffed and mounted birds, specimens in perspex formalin filled jars. On the floor is amongst other things an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a rusty German sea-mine from WWII, whilst pride of place in the centre, is a whale skeleton. Every inch of the glass cabinet shelves is occupied by something that is either stuffed, preserved, mounted on a pedestal or pined to a board. So enthusiastic has been this curator with his hoarding it has seen him throw in the towel and somewhere around 1958 I suspect he gave up any pretence of attempting to label each item in the display cabinets. All is not chaos as thoughtfully everything in perspex, everything stuffed, everything pinned or everything made of mineral is lumped together.