We’ve done the trip from Syracuse to Conversano (a town in the region of Puglia) on the southeastern edge of Italy, where we’re meeting our biking colleagues in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, we’re starting this in kind of a mess – Mark has had a horrible back ache for a couple days and I got a fish bone lodged in my throat last night that decided to stay. I spent a miserable night but fortunately it got dislodged this morning while I was eating a hard boiled egg. Who knew that would work? And it appears that the hard boiled egg trick didn’t do anything for Mark’s back, so we’re going to go searching for a doctor soon.
Meanwhile here are some pictures from our drive across Italy. On Saturday we drove from Syracuse to Messina, where we got on a ferry to cross the Strait of Messina onto the mainland. I have to admit, I was surprised by just how close that tip of the island is to the mainland, less than two miles across; there really is no reason not to have a bridge across. We then continued north to Amantea, a little town on the beach for the night, before driving on the next day to Matera.
One of the things we’ve (re)learned in this process is that we really don’t like driving or being in a car. There were small advantages – we wouldn’t have stopped in Pizzo for lunch on a bus or train, we could choose to drive right along the coast in the “instep” of Italy, between the boot and heel – but ultimately mostly just a pain. It’ll probably be a while before we rent a car again.
Matera deserves a few words. The ancient city, called the Sassi,was founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or presumably ever will see. It’s built into the steep side of a valley, with “houses” dug in caves into the rocks. Initially the Sassi looks like sort of normal old construction but on closer inspection you see that most of the construction is just a facade, with the living quarters consisting of caves in the rocks. In the 1950s the government forced most people out of the caves into a newer section of the city and until the late 1980s it was one of the poorest areas in Italy. Now, though, it’s a World Heritage site and some of the spaces are being restored into boutique hotels and other tourist sites. All in all a very cool place to stop for a day.
Now it’s off to get ready to bike!