Day 60 Gallipoli to Ionian Coast, Calabria

Last night’s outing turned out to be quite an experience. Howard had done a recce of the pizzeria restaurant, whilst I was typing the blog. He had reported the it was huge, and there was not a soul there – would I mind being in an empty restaurant? Since the menu looked fine, we decided to give it a go. By the time we had changed and walked the 200 yards down the road, the large car park was completely full. Inside there was a hoolie! The place was absolutely heaving with large groups of families and friends. We managed to get almost the last free table, and were duly given a drink and a menu. We looked around us, and nearly every other table had a long rectangular metal trolley at it’s side, on which sat the most enormous quantity of pizza. The waitress came over to explain the drill. The pizzas in the restaurant were sold by the metre! Yes, that is correct – by the metre!! We tried to explain we wouldn’t eat a whole metre, so we compromised with half a metre, and ordered two different types of 25cm each. As we sat waiting for our food, from our table situated by the kitchen entrance, we watched metre after metre of pizza being wheeled out, at breakneck speed. The favourite combination for the locals appeared to be a metre of pizza, piled high with chips on top. The kitchen couldn’t produce them fast enough, and the waiter charged with delivering the food to the tables came out of the kitchen pushing his long trolley at what seemed like a decent pace for a hundred metre sprint. It was utterly hilarious! Our pizza was good when it came, but the entertainment value of the restaurant was priceless. We mused as to why this concept hadn’t caught on back home – I’m sure it would go down a wow with the St. Andrews students. By the time we left, the queue was out the door and into the car park.
Once back at our campsite, all was quiet as we went to bed. I awoke though, an hour or two later to a loud cacophony of dogs barking. It is not that unusual, particularly in rural locations, to sometimes hear the odd dog barking, but this was like something out of ‘One Hundred and One Dalmations’. As I listened, I started to hear other noises – that of loud whirring rotor blades, and realised that there were helicopters flying overhead. Eventually, Howard stirred and got up to look. The campsite was right on the coast, and he thought he could hear the helicopters out at sea. I am only surmising, but I did wonder if this might be emergency services responding to rafts of immigrants out at sea.
In the morning, I looked it up, since I had thought that the immigrants were largely landing in Sicily, but according to news reports, they were also sometimes appearing off this part of the foot of Italy. We have certainly encountered plenty of Sub-Saharan individuals, mostly men, since we have been in Italy. In Rome and around Naples, they sometimes approached and asked for money, but here in Puglia, they had been selling cheap wares, such as you might find in a market – clothes pegs, plastic lighters, flip-flops and the like. We had only watched two men the day before in Otranto, whilst having our coffee. As they approached the locals, they seemed well received, and I had watched one old man offer some money, although declining any wares. So it seems, that despite the problems with the economy and unemployment, the Italians seem to have tolerance and empathy for the plight of these immigrants. I had read that the immigration issue was one of the key policy issues in the recent elections, with Berlusconi threatening to deport them all. I guess Europe-wide, immigration is a hot topic, just as in the UK – but I was warmed to see some semblance of humanity being shown towards these poor individuals, who were prepared to risk their lives crossing the seas in flimsy rafts to make a new life for themselves. The helicopters last night made me think about it all the more, as I tried to get back to sleep.
Today the weather was dull and overcast, which suited us fine, since we had a long drive through Calabria, the instep of the foot. The scenery was pretty unremarkable, initially lots of olive groves, and then flat and featureless by the coast. The only incident was being flagged down for a police check on the motorway by three heavily armed policeman. They took one look at Oscar, asked Howard a few questions and waved us on,  but nonetheless a bit scary. Being ‘Mother’s Day’, I must admit to rather missing my boys, especially after stopping off for lunch in a restaurant full of family groups. I made an error of ordering what I thought was Tuna Taglatellie. In fact it was Tagliata di Tuna – a huge plateful of pink Tuna, barely cooked, with a scanty garnish. Needless to say, I swapped it for Howard’s plate of ravioli!
Tonight is washing night, having eventually arrived at our campsite. Not before time – Howard’s running kit is virtually jogging out of the van!

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