Taranto - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

April 6, 2022

Taranto

Today Vivien George and I set off for Taranto, to the start of our Puglia cycling tour. We were traveling by train and I must say it was the most stress free train trip we've taken together. Arriving at the train station, I noticed that they let folks enter the track area when they arrived at the station, before their track number appeared on the tote board. Thus, there was no mad scramble of waiting passengers to get through the ticket control point when the track number posted. In addition, I had pre-booked assigned seats in couch number 3, the bike coach, and waited dutifully under the Coach 3 sign as the train approached. Again, no frantic search for the bike logo on the side of the car, no scramble to the opposite end of the train when you've guessed wrong as to which end the bike car will be.

There were three narrow steps up into the car, but I managed everything pretty easily in two trips. As is becoming the norm, the bikes spaces were in vertical racks, with which I often struggle. However, the height of these hooks alternated and I was able to hoist Vivien George up onto a lower hook on the first try. I found my seat and we both settled in the the four+ hour trip to Taranto.

Ready to get this show on the road
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Vivien George settled in for the trip to Taranto
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Suzanne GibsonNot so easy, well done!
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4 months ago
Such a fine day to arrive in Taranto
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On arriving in Taranto I found that I had no internet connection - very puzzling as I just purchased a new European data plan for Italy and all worked fine in Naples. Since we've become so internet dependent, I was a little nervous about finding my hotel, where I would be able to get on WiFi and scope out the problem. But not to worry, I had a pretty good idea where the hotel was as I had mapped it onto my gps route. And it was right where I expected, easily spotted as I crossed the bridge from the train station. There was still almost an hour before check-in so I popped into the restaurant next door for what I deemed to be an excellent meal of linguini and shellfish. Later during check-in, the hotel receptionist told me the restaurant was "trash" and there were a number of excellent options along the waterfront. Okay...  I quickly got the internet problem figured out and set off to explore the town.

Taranto is a large industrial port city on the Ionian Sea originally founded as a Greek colony around 700 BC. The “Old City” established by ancient Greeks is now an artificial island between two bodies of water referred to as the Big Sea (a large bay in the Ionian Sea) and the Little Sea (a large lagoon). My exploration of this small island started along the Little Sea, where rows of fishing boats were reflected in the still waters of the sound. There was little to no activity on the boats, perhaps they were back from their morning run. In fact, the entire quay was quiet – it’s tranquility best captured by a large dog who’d found a small spot of shade for an afternoon nap. I did spy a pair of bikes with Ortlieb panniers and went over to chat with a couple of touring cyclists from Austria, Hans and Edith, who were on a 9 day trip through Puglia.

Along the Small Sea quay
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Along the Small Sea quay
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Along the Small Sea quay
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Maybe one too many?
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Hans and Edith on nine day tour of Puglia
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I continued my circumnavigation of the island toward the southeast end, where many of the ancient landmarks are located, including Argon Castle and two Doric Columns dating to a Grecian Temple of Poseidon. Completing the circle along the Big Sea, I ventured into the wonderful central maze of small streets and alleys that form the heart of the small island.  

The Old City of Taranto seems to be caught between a decay and rejuvenation. The heavy industry of the city has come at an environmental cost, which only recently has begun to be addressed. I also learned (Google) that the city was declared bankrupt in 2005, reputed to have owed up to €637 million. While I observed many run-down buildings on my walk today, they were juxtaposed with recent and ongoing renovation projects – to landmarks, to hotels, to restaurants. 

Aragon Castle, built between 1486 and 1492
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Doric columns from a Temple to Poseidon
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Along the Big Sea
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Along the Big Sea
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Mural celebrating Taranto's opera culture
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The decay and rejuvenation of Old City Taranto
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Street art in Old City
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Street art in Old City
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Among the maze of Old City Taranto
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The tourist information center in Old City Taranto
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As I walked back to the hotel, the quay along the Small Sea was beginning to come alive. Small gatherings of fishermen and their customers lounged on deck, telling stories and drinking beer. An excursion boat was unloading day-trippers and strollers were lazily enjoying the fading afternoon warmth. Back at the hotel, I retrieved Vivien George from her roof-top home and we went for a little test spin along the quay. We both passed with flying colors! 

Telling stories, drinking beer
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Vivien George is parked on the roof of my newly renovated hotel
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Suzanne GibsonHope you had an elevator...
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4 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Suzanne GibsonYes, but a small one. Vivien George rode standing up on her rear wheel.
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4 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Susan CarpenterThe advantage of going without fenders. Something I've never done...
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3 months ago
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This afternoon has invigorated me for the next few weeks to come – that wonderful combination of cycling, cuisine and culture that I so love. The plans for this trip are a bit open-ended. Two weeks ago, right after my kiné said I could take a cycle tour, I devised a fantastic route - a mash-up based on many Cycle Blaze journals (thank you Scott and Rachael, Suzanne, and Lyle). It was a grand tour that included the tip of the heel, Easter in Matera and a swing through Gargano National Park. Last week, I faced the reality that I cannot really plan right now. I just have to ride and reassess each day and know that eventually all will be good. I don’t return to Paris until April 27 so I have almost three weeks to explore Puglia. It will be a marvelous tour, no matter where I go or how far I ride.

Today's ride: 1 mile (2 km)
Total: 16 miles (26 km)

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Rachael AndersonGood idea to not plan it all out! We’ve seen wonderful places we wouldn’t have seen otherwise by doing that.
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4 months ago