|We were definitely in the wrong place to make a quick escape to Turkey. Airfares from Florence to Istanbul required the receipt of a mammoth fiscal stimulus in order to purchase same. I wanted to take the train via the Balkans but I could not get much info from the Italians which I wasn’t at all surprised about. So to undertake a train journey may have required hopping off in several spots and sorting out the next leg, which we are happy to normally do, but time is creeping by and Turkey is big and apparently very interesting.
We compromised. We took a 7.30 am train journey of about 8 hours south to the Italian eastern coastal city of Bari. We had never been down that coast so this in itself was a bit of an adventure and we knew that the Italian train system was generally efficient and comfortable.
The journey to Bari passed without incident. The scenery, at first hilly, gave way to flat dry farmland as we meandered down the coast, occasionally striking inland only to soon retrieve ocean glimpses and all the time the sun’s warmth on the ascendency. The towns looked less and less affluent and often charmless. We alighted at Bari, a bustling city of helpful folk dressed less elegantly than their northern compatriots, and determined the direction of the port before setting off on foot. We were taking an overnight ferry to Baras in Greece from whence we would catch a coach to Athens before considering the next step.
After 45 minutes of walking - initially through the new town then via the labyrinth of lanes in the old town, a framed and illuminated Virgin Mary or crucified Christ in every nook - we stepped onto the vessel ‘Superfast 2’ where we were to spend the next 16 hours.
Peggy-Ann looked suspiciously at the billiard table flat sea daring it to raise even a ripple whilst she spent the next several hours floating upon it.