Not only does it mean mean-day but it is the term used to describe the South of Italy including Puglia. It was first used in the 18th Century and popularised by Garibaldi and came into vogue after the unification in 1861. It is sometimes associated with poverty and crime and to highlight the disparities between the North and the South but also often to describe the feel of the south as hot ( though not today I hasten to add) dusty and sleepy. It aptly describes the fact that down here the afternoon is for sleeping and not working.
I had to pop to the bank this morning and chose to leave it until after 1 p.m. once everything had closed. As I drove into Martina Franca at just after one the traffic racing out of the town was almost endless. Car after car desperately trying to get home to have lunch a 1.15 p.m. then after lunch down with the shutters and a couple of hours shut eye is on the cards. It is summer and even if it is more like a fairly cool English summer’s day today it still is summer and we sleep.
Martina resembled a ghost town, for today is also early closing day so no one is coming back to work. Shutters were down over the shops and parking normally almost impossible in the mornings an absolute doddle. The bank though open was deserted and the ATM area empty. Paradise. But not if you are a tourist who has retreated from the winds at the seaside in search of shopping and gifts I thought as I drove around the pedestrian and vehicle less streets . Nothing is open nor will be until tomorrow morning and we are in the peak of the season now.
At 7 a.m this morning Mein Schiff 3 sailed into Brindisi harbour.
She is the new flagship of Tui Cruises and on board are 3,000 mainly German passengers. She looks like a skyscraper placed on to the hull of a ship to me .
Crowded too ! Still Brindisi is delighted to have won the right to feature as a port on the cruise schedule. The ship is in till 6 p.m. tonight when she sails for Corfu. There are 8 visits planned for this summer and the Comune of Brindisi has implored the good citizens of Brindisi to pull out all the stops to make the passengers feel welcome . Thank god Germany didn’t knock Italy out of the World Cup.
Apart from tours to Salento and Lecce there are 2 trips around the town between 10a.m. and 12.30 and then another 2 of them between 2.30p.m. till 5p.m. Good luck to the afternoon passengers.
Last year for this blog I popped into Brindisi one lunchtime to get a couple of photos (which I never used ) of the end of the Via Appia that has run from Rome to here since Appius Caecus started to build it in 312 B.C. When the road finally got to Brindisi they erected a pillar to mark the place and it is still there.
I chose to go in at about 2.30 p.m. because I hoped it would be quiet. Well quiet was an understatement. The place was a ghost town especially around the historic area. I parked right by the monument and as you can see on July 29th 2013 just 2 people in the shot when in the mornings it is busy.
The shops around the area including touristy ones were closed and the streets deserted. I had taken a couple of house guests with me and it was an hot day so we decided to have a beer. Well we walked and walked past shuttered bars until we found a solitary one open.
We ordered draught beers and as an aside they are still the most expensive beers I have had in Italy apart from in Venice. They certainly know how to fleece the tourist in Brindisi so I don’t think the Comune has much to fear ho ho.
Tui cruises have told Brindisi that they chose the ports they cruise into based on the passenger feedback forms they receive. At the end of this season they will assess Brindisi in light of the feedback and let them know if the ship will return next year or not.
The trouble might be that Montenegro was open for business all the time the ship was there and most certainly Corfu will be jumping with restaurants, bars and shops eager for the tourist business. Lecce Brindisi and the towns of Salento will have been closed. The inhabitants asleep and oblivious or uninterested in the business potential as the coaches drove past their shuttered shops.
Surely in this time of air conditioning and crisis the cruise passengers might expect a little more than an hugely overpriced cold beer in the afternoon.
Think of the fuel Italy would save if the Mezzogiorno gave up having four rush hours a day instead of two.