Saturday, November 21, 2009

101 things to do at least once in your life

About a month ago I stopped by Auchan in Taranto to buy some shelves, and of course I had to take a quick look at there book section, where I fell for the title '101 cose da fare in Puglia almeno una volta nella vita'. The book, written by a local journalist called Rossano Astremo, is exactly what it promises to be, that is, a guide with 101 suggestions for things to discover in the five provinces of Puglia. And although many of the suggestions are very familiar to residents or semi-residents, there are new inspiration to be found and even the old haunts are served with an interesting twist that spurs a second, third or thirtieth visit.

Take for instance the end of Via Appia in Brindisi. The Queen of Roads ends in steps leading down to Brindisi harbour and onwards to Africa and the Middle East. On top of these stairs the Roman constructors placed two 17 metre high columns crowned by a headband depicting Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, and Amphitrite and other gods of the sea. That happened more than 2000 years ago, and one of the columns crumbled in 1528, but there is still one left, and you cannot help seeing it every time you visit Brindisi. For some of us this is really old news.

Still, Rossano Astremo manages to rekindle interest by writing that the remains of the other column are used to support Sant’Oronzo’s statue in Lecce, and that the two cities have lately been arguing about where it belongs. We also learn that beside the column there is a plaque commemorating the house in which the roman poet Virgil died in 19 BCE on his way home from Greece, where he had caught a fever. See, that is the kind of information I cherish, and next time I visit Brindisi, I will definitely look around and pay my respect to the dead poet, who wrote Aeneid and said: 'Omnia vincit amor' or 'Love conquers everything'.

The '101 cose da fare… ' series is published by Newton Compton, and so far they cover Sardegna, Romagna, Milano, Venezia, Roma, Torino, Napoli, Bologna, Sicilia and Genova for the prize of 13.90 euro. Other writings by Rossano Astremo can be read on Vertigine litblog

PS. Please leave a comment if you have come across interesting books on Italy.

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