“Ciao bella!” are the first words that get tossed at my head. If I didn’t know for sure before, now I do: I am in Italy… I arrived in the port of Brindisi. There are supposed to be shuttle busses to the centre, but apparantly they are on strike. The local taxi drivers try to scare me, telling me the centre is more than 8 kms away and that they’ll make a special price for me which is obviously too high. With lead in my shoes I start to walk, this is obviously not the welcome to Italy I had expected. I pictured myself sitting on a square near the sea with a large gelato in my hand and the sun on my face. Instead I am walking along a big road with cars speeding fast and everything smells like smog. Luckily I am a girl and within a minute I have a ride to the city centre.
From Brindisi I go to Lecce. Which is South. Obviously not in the direction of Holland. But people told me I had to see Lecce, and since I am close now, why not? They were right about seeing Lecce. It is a beautiful old city with two Roman amphitheaters. I had never heard of the place before, but it really is a must-see and I will definitely recommend it to my friends back home. At Lecce I get picked up by Alessandro, my couchsurfing host from Salice Salentino, a village near Lecce.
I really don’t like coffee. Never have. But since I am in Italy now, I have to drink coffee. It’s the birthplace of coffee. It’s embedded in the culture. And since I want to experience the culture, I have to drink coffee. Alessandro made me one for breakfast. I look at it. I smell it. Actually I like the smell of coffee, it’s only the taste I don’t like. I take a zip, closing my eyes, preparing for the bad flavour and aftertaste to kick it. But it doesn’t. It actually isn’t bad. I quite like it. My first good coffee in Italy and I like it. Now I hope I won’t become an addict (with yellow teeth, using the cofffee to wake up and regulate my bowel movements and eventually suffering peptic ulcers)…
The next day I spent with Alessandro. He thinks I should go South even further, to Galipoli and Otranto, which are supposed to be in the most beautiful areas of Salento (the “heel” of Italy). But that would be going South too far. Instead Alessandro drives me around and we visit some beautiful places, like Torre Lampillo at the coast and Castel Monaci where we visit the whine museum and get a guided tour about making whine.
And then it’s time to go up North again. To Mesagne (which I thought would just be a town I would quickly pass by, but which turned out to have a been a very important city in the past with a big castle and old tombs. There even is a bar built on the tombs, with a glass floor, so you could look down. And since it was Easter, we watched a big procession and I eat my first pizza on Italian grounds again,) and tomorrow to Ostuni. A big walk, more than 30 kms. I’d better prepare, go to bed early. And maybe take a coffee in the morning.