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  • Dougie

Not quite Route 66 -- coast to coast on Puglia's SS16

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

We drove from coast to coast across the 'heel' of the 'boot' that is mainland Italy. From the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea. From Otranto on the east to Porto Cesareo on the west.

The journey (according to Google Maps) is 66.6 kilometres. I kid you not. And it takes, says Google, 57 minutes. But that -- like the great American highway -- is only in your dreams.

Google never once considered the glory of the road signs in southern Italy or the Puglian small town 'bypass' (which doesn't pass by anything but takes one into a maze of streets that twist and turn so that frequently none of the four occupants of the car driven by Joe could agree which sign corresponded to which of five roads one should take to reach ... a place that was omitted from the forest of signs anyway).

If you are not in a hurry, the drive is charming. If your life depended on it? Well, that would be a different kettle of fish entirely.

Fortunately, as it happened, buying freshly caught fish is one of the reasons we travelled to Porto Cesareo. Caught that morning while one of us said ... "I think I saw a sign for Porto back at that roundabout". And Joe ... counted to ten. Slowly.

The other was to swim in a different sea. It's not often you can do that on successive days. Although -- these being seas off the nearly landlocked Mediterranean -- one doesn't swim so much as walk or float on your back with your feet in the air. High salt content, apparently.

I went for a wander while the others were in the water. I was beguiled by the boats, the water, the sun, the heat, the colourful pottery. Like every tourist in history I thought, "I could live here." Maybe I will one day.

But that fantasy was fried by the heat. So after the swimming and the wandering (but before the sun stroke) we found an emergency gelato seller (for crisis situations) and lingered in an air-conditioned room even though it had plastic bananas suspended from the ceiling and too many mirrors.

Later -- cooled down -- we bought the aforementioned fish. Joe drove us back to the Trullo where the team prepared and cooked them. Then everyone ate too much.

Stephanie beheaded, gutted and prepared the fish (sea bass and brill). Spike cooked the prawns. Joe lit the barbie and grilled the fish. We all contributed to eating them.

Sometimes -- on some days -- if you're lucky -- life has nothing but good in it. Just ask me and the kitten.

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