Archive for Davinia
Many years ago I watched and enjoyed a film called “breaking away” a coming of age film that garnered much praise. It essentially told the story of a group of high school grads who have now to make the decision of what to do with their lives. The central character is a talented push bike racer and loves everything Italian, a theme which is developed in multiple ways throughout the film. The highlight for him is the Italian racing team are coming to town and he has an opportunity to train with them. His adoration of Italianissa comes to a rapid end when he discovers they are a bunch of cheats and don’t like being bettered by an American, resorting to deliberately crippling his bike. Thus probably incubated my love of Italian cars, engines appliances, films, clothes, and eventually the people and the country. My father also saw service in North Africa and Italy and the few 5imes he talked of his experiences he made it sound an exotic place
Such are my feelings as we prepare to leave Bari which I have renamed Barriera. Barriera used to be the place where people left Italy to travel to Greece, and other parts. It has since partially reinvented itself through the historic centre as a tourist stop but has to go a long way to succeed in that. To attract tourists you have to appear to like them while fleecing them, but here you are treated like a piece of dog shit. Yesterday while trying unsuccessfully to find the beach we took lunch at a Ristorante. For some inexplicable reason they couldn’t fill my order, Alisons meal was not the meal she ordered, the couple sitting next to us were still waiting for their food a half hour after ordering and, two tables over, a meal not ordered was plonked in front of a customer who complained only to be ignored. She are it anyway figuring, I guess , that it was better than going hungry.
Later, at he gelatoria, I carefully explained, in Italian, what I wanted. Two cones, one with peach, one with melon, without the biscuit. And the small version. What I got was two cones half and half peach and melon, with a biscuit , at piccolo price but of giant proportions.
Then we sit down on a quiet bench at the centre of three intersections governed by traffic lights. For the next hour or so horns are sounded for each light change. Drivers are so impatient that if you don’t take off a microsecound ater the light changes you are treated like the road version of a leper. And I have yet to work out the rules for pedestrian crossings. You take you life into your hands stepping out onto one. No one will stop and I have nearly been struck down several times. Oh well. Gives me an opportunity to practice my Italian expletives and hand gestures.
And just why are three heavily armed military personnel and a aggressive humvee type vehicle doing in the middle of s peaceful park? Oh yes a group of arab chanting youth have just walked by. There IS a war on you know. ( I later see that they are part of a project on public safety) Yes Barriera is like the italian bicycle team. Loud, busy, rude, exploitive, part of the 21 century yet firmly embedded in it. I question my own attitudes to tourism. Just what do the endless buses, boats and trains offer the tourist?
The distant thunder rumbles and the military retreat to their vehicles with gelatos. The piazza quickly empties.
At the end of “ Breaking Away” the protagonist meets a French exchange student, who mentions the Tour de France and our hero starts thinking those thoughts of bikes and yellow jerseys. Ahh!! The innocence of pre Lance Armstrong 1970s.