Monday, August 08, 2005

Puglia; Norman Douglas and 15 year-olds; Lunch with Elizabeth David


Take the train from Naples to Barletta. This seaside town has a fascinatingly scruffy atmosphere and is worth a quick visit. The public beach is the filthiest I've ever seen but there are private areas which are cleaner.

Next on the coastal train line south eastward comes Trani, with its attractive Duomo, its nervous people (organised crime?) and the world's best pasta.

A short hop takes you on to Bisceglie which is a restful little spot.

Next day stop at Molfetta a 'non-touristy' little port where the main hotel has excellent service.

Bari is a typical Southern city, the sort of place where you may see someone being kidnapped. Hide your money belt.

From Bari continue on to unremarkable Brindisi and then head West to the exciting large port of Taranto. Now if you like heavy industry and harbours and 'people watching' this is the place.

Also worth a journey are places like Foggia to the North, with its wonderful baroque architecture, and the quaint port of Otranto to the South.

What on earth is the attraction of Puglia?

1.Unlike Venice, real people live here.

2.Unlike Rome there are relatively few tourists

3. It has a rough, uninhibited charm that is the opposite of chic Capri.

4. You can have an adventure in a mysterious land once inhabited by Greeks, Spaniards and Saracens. (Today you may meet the Albanian mafia)

5. The pasta is generally excellent.


Norman Douglas was a fan of Puglia.

In 1897 Douglas had a sexual relationship with Michelle, the 15 year-old brother of his then mistress.

In 1898 Douglas married his cousin, Elsa Fitzgibbon. He divorced in 1903.

In 1916, in Britain, Douglas was charged with the sexual assault of a 16-year boy. Douglas escaped to Italy.

Douglas's book Siren Land, 1911, was an account of his travels in southern Italy.

In his travel book Together, 1923, Douglas had a companion "Mr R."

Mr R. was a 15-year-old Italian boy called René.

Norman Douglas conceals his homosexual tastes in his books. Readers can read between the lines.

Douglas's book Paneros, 1930, 1931, describes 'the art of getting sex' but 'fails to state the sex of the object of pursuit.'


'Lunch With Elizabeth David' is abook by Roger Williams. It deals with Norman Douglas.

Julie Gray, in the New York Times 13 August 2000, reviewed the book.

Gray writes:

'Much of this absorbing novel is told from the point of view of one of Douglas's many ''nephews,'' Eric Wolton, a boy who is only 12 years old when Douglas plucks him from a dreary working-class life to be his companion as he journeys through Calabria.

'The question at the novel's center concerns Douglas: Is he, as one character puts it, ''a monster, the pedophile of the century,'' or is he, as Eric says, a great man who had led him into a ''warm and sensuous world of adventures and light''?'


Puglia's mafia is called Sacra Corona Unita.


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