The end of Appia

Well, we have walked into Brindisi,  if rather less than triumphantly, having walked the vast majority of the Via Appia Antica.

17 - PALAGIANELLO - TARANTO

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 Via_Appia

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.

DSC_1727

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.

DSC_1730 DSCN0011

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2 Responses to The end of Appia

  1. Francesca says:

    Dear Regula, dear Ian!

    I enjoy very much reading your blog and think a lot about you and your impressing pilgrimage project! I always enjoy reading where you are and imagine in an imaginary map in my mind your progress along the long way to Jerusalem. Sometimes however, your travel reports appear quite judgmental to me – you judge rather strongly what you see passing by, but the reality might be (it generally is) different than it appears.
    For example, you might not know that Italy is a net payer to the EU, that means that it pays more money to the EU than it receives from it in form of funds. At the same time, having worked in Germany for a few years writing funding applications for German companies, I know for sure that there are regions in Germany that receive just as much funding as the Italians do!
    So the view that the German taxpayer is financing all the big houses and the BMWs in South Italy is, to say the least, undifferentiated or simply not correct. This view is currently very wellspread among many people, thanks also to a certain kind of press who loves to depict the world in black and white and make everything very very simple (this sells!), but unfortunately (or luckily?) reality is more complex than that.
    Much before being an economic project (which by the way brings a lot of benefits to all people who are part of it, including German taxpayers!), the European Union is an ambitious political projects which roots in the belief that peaceful cooperation between countries who have been at war with each other for centuries is more valuable than isolation and nationalism and that having a diversity of cultures and traditions is a great richness even if it makes common life sometimes complicated. Please spend just a minute of your time thinking who would benefit from the failure of such a project and who is currently actively working to weaken the feeling of the people that Europe is a common house to all those living in it.
    It might seem strange to you as a British and a Swiss, but if you see the EU flag hanging out everywhere in Italy, it might be because Italian people have made and are still making a great (economic) effort to make this ambitious project succeed – they feel they are European, so obviously they are happy to have the EU flag just beside the Italian flag and this has nothing to do with economic opportunism as you describe it.

    I wish you all the best in your pilgrimage and look forward to read your next news soon!

    Francesca

  2. Hi Francesca

    Thanks for reading the blog!

    Also interested in what you have to say about Italy with the advantage of a seat in Switzerland! Things always look different from a distance, and indeed from the North…

    We have hugely enjoyed Italy and the Italians and been met with interest, kindness and support with few exceptions.

    It’s great to be patriotic, and European even. Accepting difference is part of that.

    But its not ok to turn a blind eye to practices which do not support the European or any other Project – where the standard of governance is lower than any expected standard. That doesn’t help Italy (whatever that is) or Europe (whatever that maybe). These funds are not invented. They are the tax paid by hard working people. They are not to be squandered and acquired or spent improperly – and that is indeed the case.

    The extreme nature of the inward funding in some places is obvious – and the lack of central monitoring. I have been involved in central funding in government too – and the signs of improper process are everywhere in some areas.

    People have been quite open about it. One conversation with an insider indicated that it is not smart, not to be a little corrupt and live in that part of Italy. That’s not acceptable! – and that’s not just the Northern League or some right wing press! It’s what I am seeing, and I’m a liberal leftie, one-world type! The number of Mercs on the road might be easier to swallow, if taxes were paid and civic duties fulfilled, government staff were at their desks sometimes – and the expense of those cars could be related to income? Talking to folks, it is less than clear, and I have been interested to talk…

    It’s not good to argue about who pays and who takes – although the position you indicate is not really fair .re net contribution. Above all those fundingprocesses must be transparent and obviously proper – I have seen and heard that they are not. Period.

    European centralism? Hmmm. I think a Europe of regions would be best. I think the South of Italy I think there need to be a new confidence and pride – less influence and judgement from the North. More of that to come in the blog! It’s a complex issue between centre and regions, control and freedom.

    But in a world full of poverty and need the controls must be much better – and there can be no defence for corruption and maladministration. The failure to have rigour hereabouts is not something that can’t continue – its not good for the place.

    Pilgrims don’t shy from seeing things as they are – but the will to good is there.

    Ian

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