It was 03:45 am and my wife Juliet and I were pushing a 2005 Audi A4 wagon on the very busy SS16 from Monopoli back to our villa in Capitolo. Cars filled with mostly drunken disco douche bags were streaming by at 150 kilometers per hour and we were making at best 10kmph into a headwind.
This was clearly a dangerous situation and we were in fact, out of gas and ¼ mile from safety.
The day had been scripted by the gods of decadence as we awoke far too early from our previous night’s excessive consumption, in order to catch a train to Lecce.
Me, my wife, and two American companions embarked on the 20 minute walk to the train station, having only 15 minutes to make the train. One of my friends was celebrating her birthday and I was feeling the pressure of being the tour guide and responsible for this painful, hung-over half jog as the temperature was already at 90F by 8:45am. I assured the team that we needed to double time it in order to catch the train, but I could not promise them air conditioning once we got on board. Much to our happy surprise we made the train and the AC was cranking. We were, as is often the case in Italia, the main attraction for the locals on their way for another day at the office. The ladies who were heading down to babysit the bambini were all too amused to sit ears cocked to the sides to hear the not so dulcet tones of our American English. A nun had taken up residence in the seats behind us and I am certain Rosaries were being said for the protection of the young and the infirmed from the interlopers of Treno 12571.
Hunger was beginning to get the best of the birthday quartet when we landed on the platform in Lecce. A quick duck into the disgusting filth hole of a restroom revealed some friendly immigrant males making their way into the womens room much to the chagrin of the classy Italian gents in wife beaters and suspenders. While no fight ensued, we were already dangerously low on hand sanitizer by the time we began to negotiate the sun drenched streets of the Florence of the south. That term really makes me laugh. I still even use it sometimes in our marketing materials, but make no mistake, Lecce is not Florence and thank God I say! Florence is easily my least favorite major city in Europe and I am sure it was 2006 since the last time there has been an Italian sighting there. I am fond of many things Tuscan, but Firenze is not my bag. Florence has more pictures of menu items on restaurant walls than the Houston Hong Kong Market. I come to Italy to meet, work with, argue with, and sometimes even eat with Italians. In Florence I am rarely given the opportunity to do any of the above and while I am certain I will get a list of GFY and die emails from Florentine acolytes, I simply needed to state my case and now I can move on to really cool towns, like Lecce.
…to be continued