Gallipoli

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.

  
The local train has so much graffiti that the windows are opaque with painted tags. So I spend the train trip back writing this blog.
A few pictures of the Gallipoli Castle and fort 

   

 
 

inside of the knave and altar of the Basilica on Gallipoli – panorama shot

 

Lecce Tuesday 

I watched the movie ‘Mine Vaganti’ on a plane to Europe several years ago. It was a delightful Italian production about a wealthy Italian family who owned a pasta business in the southern city of Lecce in the Puglia region. It has a gay sub-plot. I brought the DVD and have watched it many times since, needing little excuse should friends suggest a movie at home!The title roughly translates into ‘Loose Cannon’.

Lecce, as many such Italian towns have, has a distinct historical centre often traced back to Roman times. Lecce is famous for its sandstone which when analysed is more than 60% lime.

Consequently the medieval buildings are wonderful baroque creations out of this limestone – richly ornate and with white marble cobbled streets. Again pictures will demonstrate this more eloquently than words.

however the most frightening characteristic of this soft sandstone is that it is easily degraded by moisture and do i suspect that the acid rain of our polluted society is provoking a sort of rapid crumbling ‘rising damp’.

   
    
    
 

Paella before Florence

Practicing the Recorder tonight before seafood paella- a Friday night special at the local restaurant. Suddenly the door to the balcony of the room next door opened and two middle aged men dressed in bike leather appeared! Should be some fun tonight if I play my cards right? Actually one is German, the other Swiss, so I promptly play the Kaiserhymne by Haydn. They are suitably impressed! I seductively tongue an A in the upper register, throw in a grace note and finish on lower F.

My last day in Avigliana was spent cycling mainly around the lakes (there are two) on small back roads then to Giaveno and on to Coazze and back to Aviagliana. The road up was of a gradual ascent over about 12 km. The last village lies at the foothills of the Alps and the entrance to one of many national parks. I wandered through both villages each of which had a local produce market. Coazze has signs proclaiming it to be the mushroom capital of Italy! Food for thought. What about a huge sign at Sydney international airport arrival lounge: “Welcome to Australia – the mushroom country of the world”.

The return cycle trip was a delicious descent over about 10km. I earned a gelato- lavender flavoured.

It’s now Saturday and I have arrived by high speed train in Florence to be greeted by sweltering heat and swarms of tourists. As I walked to the apartment via the Duomo, I was confronted by a snake like queue at least a kilometre long! I have a tremendous sense of foreboding.

The DeBoo family arrived around 4 pm – hot and sweaty so we put the kettle on. It’s almost too hot and humid to venture out. A siesta is appealing.

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An approaching electrical storm from the restaurant balcony.

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A medieval gate (portico) on the old part of Avigliana

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The seafood paella

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One of the multitude of Japanese tourist groups, frustrated by the queue at the Duomo, are led on an excursion of the industrial waste bins of Florence