Well, we have walked into Brindisi, if rather less than triumphantly, having walked the vast majority of the Via Appia Antica.
From Taranto we covered the 80 odd remaining kilometres in two days. The end of the Italian section being an incentive to use our time effectively!
The first day turns out to be a very hot day indeed, back into the high thirties,which is unwelcome. I guess we thought we were finished with extreme heat, but the reality is that there is plenty more to come in Albania and Greece. We have booked into a simple “agritourismo” but when we call for directions, they are pretty unfriendly, so we carry on to Oria. Oria is another historical revelation – il Castello Svevo – the Swabian Castle! Accommodation is found in a B and B. A woman who has been clever enough to have the EU fund the building of her luxurious and spacious house.
There is rather too much central European Money being used for questionable purposes, seemingly unmonitored. Virtually every project, infrastructure or cultural sports the circular stars of Europe, and every government building flies a European flag – just in case it wasn’t clear where the money was coming from. There are huge numbers of very expensive Mercs and BMW’s too. I guess for the German tax-payer, this is a little circular anyway. I wonder how long the very obvious problems with European funding can go on? …and why they have gone on this long?
The Second day is another blummin’ hot one. We find that the Appia goes along nicely enough but then joins the autoroute quality road to go into Brindisi – wall to wall Armco barriers and no safe route for pedestrians, the predicted nightmare last 10km are here. Fortunately, the old road remains, alongside. The old Appia, the previous less fast, fast road. We find it by meandering through an industrial estate, and after a long boring route alongside the “ autoroute” we arrive at an impasse, where for 2 km we simply have no realistic option by to jump onto the fast road. It quickly ends at a roundabout where recognisable, habitable Brindisi starts. The suburbs – with the marked straight Appia cutting through, as if planned in 1960.
The last few kilometres – inside the unattractive concrete suburbs of Brindisi – were poignant. For once every street corner was clearly marked Via Appia, with many of the local businesses being “Appia titled”. The railway cutting across the route, with a pedestrian underpass, does not conceal the Appia which continues up to the old town wall and its gate. My guess is that the gate marks the edge of the Roman town and the end of Appia!
I cannot deny that I am pleased to walk these last few meters, at the southern extremity of the first Roman Road, thinking about the first meters, and the heavy thunderstorm as we walked the first few meters from Rome. It is soon raining again, as if in acknowledgement of the connection. A lot of living has happened in between.
We end our Appian journey at the 11th Century Temple of St Giovanni. Like the Church in the Temple in London – it is designed to be some facsimile of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.