Rain buckets down all the way and much too heavy even to stop and make a dash for a coffee break. Arriving in Molfetta as the rain eases and squelching all the way along the seafront under an umbrella to the cathedral, we are rewarded with a festa atmosphere to mark the birthday of Our Lady.
Perchance, the local bishop catches sight of two soaked Australians and beckons us to say hello and to be photographed by one of his young priest assistants. After ͚saying one͛ in front of the relics of the patron saint Corrado, we step otside to find the clouds parted and patches of blue. Palms around the large enclosed harbour and sweeping limestone piazza add a touch of Arabia to this East-facing Italian city.
Molfetti and the old city of Trani just up the coast formed part of the historic routes to the Middle East. They are treasure troves of beautifully restored houses, palazzos, churches and streetscapes, and where, in earlier times, Crusaders, Templars, pilgrims gathered.
With so many tempting restaurants to choose from with the promise of freshly caught seafood from colourful trawlers with fishing nets still on the decks that lined the harbour, we pause at what Paul likes – a ͚cheap and cheerful͛. I͛m subjected to a very ͚rustico͛ lunch of ͚baked leftovers͛ at in a hole in the wall establishment next to a statue of an early pilgrim enroute to Rome from Greece that caught Paul͛s imagination. I now count the hours wondering how long it will take for the pile of re-heated mussels, rice, potatoes, tomatoes and rice doused with oil will take to ͚be my undoing.