[ 19:53 monday 29 july - cala tonda, isola san domino, italy ]
the sun descends into a purple cloud-bank spanning the horizon. the turquoise sea glints golden in these final rays. i sit watching cross-legged on the bone-white rock.
after our adventures in the mountains christian and i decided to come out here to the tremite islands, clustered in the adriatic near the puglia’s heel. this is the only group of italian islands on which i hadn’t set foot.
my expectations were not high. i imagined a few featureless islets smothered in concrete villas and knick-knack shops. the reality is much more wonderful. there are two inhabited islands and two uninhabited. the total population is below four hundred. most of the history and population is on san nicola. most of the tourism is on san domino where i sit.
the dominant rock is limestone, riddled with fossil shells and bleached white by the sun. the dominant vegetation is the scrub and pine which once stretched along the adriatic coast. the south-eastern side of the island is a warren of secluded coves and sea caves. the north-western side faces the prevailing wind and is much more rugged and windswept.
there are three or four hotels which look like they were built in the seventies but overall the island feels undeveloped. the main settlement seems to have grown out of the streets and houses constructed by the mussolini administration to accommodate political prisoners. there’s no sign of any structures that pre-date this.
the first thing we did on arrival was find somewhere to stay. after several false starts we found a hard-as-nails pugliese crone who reluctantly rented us a room. she seems to have us marked as trouble-makers and she’s watching us like a hawk. next we rented a couple of bikes and zipped off to a cove for a swim. the sea reminds me of pantelleria, turquoise green and hypnotically clear.
cycling off-road at midday when the temperature is above forty degrees has a remarkable effect on one’s metabolism. it’s simply impossible to get enough oxygen. one swiftly becomes light-headed and intensely exhausted. on the hills i found myself needing to stop every couple of minutes and stand panting frantically waiting for my pounding heart to return to something resembling its normal pace.
this afternoon we’ve been exploring the north-west coast with its spectacular outcrops and bays. the rock samphire is in blossom and its pungent odour is carried on the air. the rocks are also dotted with beautiful tall-stemmed flowers topped with round seed-heads. my camera has been busy.
it’s doing my spirits a power of good to be here.
: c :