G’Day Molfetta


This is the big day, the day when Cathy and I go to meet Franco Pansini, we arranged to meet at 10:00am outside Molfetta’s civic building. Any hopes of meeting the Mayor or Councilors was dashed due to the upcoming elections. The Italian system is different from ours, Councilors are elected for a five year term, when the elections are called all sitting members are stood down and administrators put in to ensure free and fair elections. Puglia was in that caretaker phase during our visit. Franco is a self styled ambassador for Molfetta and his reputation for being welcoming went before him.

The alarm was set and a bus chosen to get us the six kilometers from Giovinazzo to Molfetta in good time. However, we were not in good time and saw the bus depart the square as we arrived at the other side. All was not lost as shortly after a bus to Trani, via Molfetta arrived. ‘Biglieto?’ said the driver. Can I pay for my ticket on the bus? ‘No’ was the reply, go to a shop and buy one. We got off the bus and went to the nearest Tabac to buy tickets. The next bus came and we finally got to ride to Molfetta.

As we walked across the square I heard a voice call ‘Jon!’. Franco and Roberto were coming towards us and gave a very warm welcome. Roberto Pansini runs the I Love Molfetta brand and webpage, along with many other interests. Both Franco and Roberto gave very generously of their time for our visit, abandoning any other commitments they may have had. They were also generous of spirit and lunches.

Molfetta and Fremantle are very similar in some ways, but quite different in others. One of these differences is the role of the Catholic Church, the church and the priest is central to life in the town. For example Council’s list of ‘wards’ also includes the Church that ward represents.

In that spirit our first visit was to meet the Priest of the Cathedral of St. Maria of the Assumption, Don Giuseppe De Candia. He made us welcome and introduced his Cathedral to us. We were invited to return the next day for a service and to perhaps meet Bishop Domenico Cornaccia. That day we were to visit three more churches and meet their priests. The President of the Molfetta Association, Angela Amato joined us for the rest of the day. From the Cathedral we walked across the road to enter the old city through the S. Antonio gate, but first we had to have a photo opportunity at the town map and Roberto’s I Love Molfetta logo.

The old town is similar to Giovinazzo insomuch as is was a walled city of great historical significance. At it’s heart is the Duomo di San Corrado, which is quite unique with its twin bell towers.

At the head of the promontory was one of the older buildings, which we were able to enter. The basement has small arches to the sea, they now have glass panels in them to stop the basement flooding. In historic times the sea level was higher, our guide told us the old walled city used to be on an island. We looked around the old streets and some shops. In one section walls were being buttressed across to walls on the opposite side to stop them from falling over.

We then exited the old city and went into the Church of Purgatory. We met the Priest, who kindly showed us around the church and I was presented with the book of photographs of the Duomo and Molfetta – Tra Cielo E Mare.  From there we were driven to the other side of the bay to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Martyrs. Like all the other churches this one had a display of statues depicting key Catholic events, but it also had a model of the old part of the town. Glass panels in the floor allowed one to look down at the old foundations of the church.

Basilica Model

By now it was lunch time, and of course a restaurant had been booked for us. The owner chef prepared a stunning seafood meal for us, including sardines, muscles, clams and Molfetta’s signature dish Octopus on a white bean puree. All washed down of course with local wine. Cathy and I suggested we needed a siesta, Roberto would hear nothing of us using our return bus ticket and drove us back to Giovinazzo. As he dropped us off he said he would return to collect us in 2 hours for more appointments.

When Roberto collected us he took us straight to the Molfetta Association office, there was no parking, so he dropped us off and went to park the car. After convivial greetings Cathy and I were sat at a table while the Association members faced us in a row of chairs.  Angela introduced us, then I was invited to give a speech, translated by Anna Amato a local High School teacher specialising in English. There were then questions, including one on why Fremantle does not have a Molfetta Street, and when will I be able to arrange it?

They showed me a photo board with pictures of Mayor Utting and Cr Graham during their visit in September 2000. Many people wanted to talk, including the inaugural president who had original come from Argentina, of Molfetta parents.  As well as Australia, South America was a chosen destination for post war migrants. We left the Association office and went to the waterfront to attend a trade display of import and export businesses. We inspected all sorts of products and tasted much cheese and preserved meats.

We rounded the day in Molfetta off by visiting the fishing and sailing boat jetty and taking sunset photographs.  The fishermen were selling their catch on the waterfront so I bought some crustaceans. At home I made them into a modest bowl of pasta, simple but delicious.

We then fell into bed around 12:30am! Thank you Franco, Roberto and Angela for making it such an enjoyable and productive day.

Posted in Architecture, Italy, Trips | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discovering Giovinazzo


Our airbnb apartment was right in the heart of the old city, in a building with a DNA going back to the year 1100. The owner was an architect and had designed the renovation himself. The front door opens onto stairs to the first floor housing a large lounge with high curved ceiling typical of the old buildings in the area, and through an arch into a kitchen with modern appliances. From the kitchen more stairs to a small landing office and bathroom, also with high arched ceiling. More stairs took you to the bedroom, but part way up double doors gave access to a large rooftop balcony. The bedroom had two balconies, one with views to the adjacent ocean. The ancient part of the city had many narrow streets and alleyways, most of them closed to vehicles. It is not a large area, but can be confusing to navigate. Using the ocean as a guide could be problematic because the old town is on a promontory jutting into the ocean. Our street has ocean at both ends. There are many small piazzas and cafes. There were small churches, not obvious as such behind small doors, many used as community places where people met, in one we saw a man sorting his apricots for sale. There were also two or three large churches all competing with their bells, and this been Sunday the competition was strong.

We walked to Molfetta Road to check out the bus stop we would use tomorrow then into a modern café for coffee and croissants. We then ventured into the town square with its very large Cathedral. It was packed full for a confirmation service. There were many children dressed up to the nines, accompanied by proud parents, and of course photographs and videos. We went for a walk along the waterfront; it was getting quite hot by now. The Adriatic was deep blue, with groups of people sunbathing on the rocks, at this point my Australian instinct kept me out of the sun, so we dropped into a café on the edge of the harbour for a light lunch. It was early Sunday afternoon and the time for brides to come out to be photographed by the water and the ancient buildings. More photographs, videos and this time a drone as well, which the younger ones loved playing up to.

I then ventured out for some basic provisions, bread, milk, water and wine. This was my first Italian lesson. Nowhere is open in the afternoon. I found 3 supermarkets, all closed, time for a siesta.

Our host had suggested two of the many restaurants, so we walked to one, had a pre-dinner drink and perused the menu. It looked good, but as it was only 8:30pm we decided to book a table and take a promenade, returning at 9:15pm for dinner. The coastal path was packed full of people promenading, kids playing and babies in prams. The day was cooling off now and very pleasant. We returned to the restaurant and had a delicious meal. It really did not get busy until after 10:00pm. If only Fremantle could adopt such civilised opening times.

Tomorrow was going to be a big day; we were meeting Franco Pansini or our introduction to Molfetta. I downloaded a bus timetable, chose a bus and set the alarm clock. Only 24 hours in Puglia and We already feel at home.

Posted in Architecture, Italy, Trips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bonjourno Puglia


Getting from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands to Giovinazzo in Puglia was always going to be a logistic challenge. The night ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen had been booked long ago so the first part of the jigsaw was in place. Flights from Aberdeen offered little options, Edinburgh was the only viable option, and there was a direct flight, but it left too soon to be able to catch it, just by one hour. The next alternative was a very early flight the next day via Milan, with 4 hours in Milan, maybe we could take a quick trip to view the city?

We hitched a lift in the whisky trip car from Aberdeen to Dundee, where we caught the train to Edinburgh. Dundee station was been patrolled by TRG with sub-machine guns; they are taking terrorist threats very seriously. The taxi from the friend’s house arrived just in time to go out for dinner at the local pub to celebrate 2 birthdays. Cake and candles at midnight, a quick nap on a sofa bed and a taxi booked for 3am. We arrived in Milan to be told we could not leave the airport, so a bit of a wait before our next flight to Bari. Bari is a provincial town that does not show her best side to people arriving on the bus from the airport to the train station. A 10 minute train ride finally saw us in Giovinazzo where our airbnb host kindly collected us and took us to our apartment. It was as good as it looked on the web-page we were happy but exhausted. We walked to a restaurant next door for dinner before collapsing into bed.

Next morning I opened my suitcase and found it full of dirty washing. I made espresso coffee, filled the washing machine and we went out on Sunday morning to explore Giovinazzo!

| Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Whisky Trip: Day #1

It’s a grey day as we pull out of Leeds Station heading for Aberdeen. It had started with an early alarm clock and taxi to the station where I clearly chose the wrong coffee vendor; it was large, very hot and tasteless. I like traveling by rail; it seems so much more civilised than flying, especially when there are interesting places along the way. The Virgin train was quite new, clean, comfortable and almost empty when I boarded. I logged onto the wifi and spent some time checking emails, we arrived in York in no time at all, and the train started to fill up, as it did at each stop along the way. We headed due north through the farmlands of north Yorkshire, passing through Thirsk and Darlington. From the train one gets a great view of the City of Durham, with its cathedral and castle. I wished I could have alighted there to take more time to get to know the place, but I had an appointment in Aberdeen I could not miss.

The towns and cities along the east coast are steeped in in history and rugged beauty. A fleeting glimpse of Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North sculpture near Gateshead heralded our arrival into Newcastle. As we crossed the Tyne I had a great view of its famous bridges, and the iconic Sage Cultural Centre. The Tyne Bridge opened in 1928 and bears a great resemblance to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, whilst the more recent Millennium Bridge became famous for revolutionising swing bridge design. Onward and upward we hugged the Northumbrian coast to Berwick on Tweed and the boarder, then into Dunbar. In no time arrived in Edinburgh Waverly. The stewards and the accents changed from Yorkshire and Geordie to Scottish. After crossing the Firth of Fourth iconic rail bridge we headed back towards the east coast. As we arrive in Dundee we cross the river Tay on another steel bridge from the industrial revolution. We are now in oil-rig territory all the way to Aberdeen. Each town is doing its best to attract oil and gas dollars.

The Caledonian Hotel was a short walk from the train station, so I went in and left my luggage and headed out onto Union Street to familiarise myself with the City. The buildings are granite, hence Aberdeen’s nickname as the grey city, the weather also plays its part in that name. I wandered into the Tolbooth Museum which is a small multilevel space housed in the city’s first prison. Exhibits showed the brutal conditions people were kept in. Generally incarceration was not used as a punishment that was usually commensurate with the crime. Removal of the tongue for slander, a hand for theft etc. The exceptions to this were political prisoners, especially the Jacobite revolutionaries who were crammed in large numbers into small cells, and Quackers. One woman imprisoned for several years for simply lobbying to have her husband released. The other types of prisoners were members of the ruling classes who got into debt. They could go about their business by day but had to reside in the prison at night.

The very grand University has a statue of Robert the Bruce at the front, and many old buildings still remain.  As I passed a wedding party were entering the courtyard for photographs.

The formal commencement of the Whisky Trip was to meet in the Grill Bar on Union Street that evening. It may seem a contradiction, but the Grill Bar serves no food, so we dined at an Indian restaurant first and then commenced the Tour with a dram of Speyburn 10 YO at the Grill.  This is a lighter style Speyside malt, with evidence of being finished in sherry casks.  A taste of bigger things to come.

Posted in Whisky | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Melbourne Councils Initiate Climate Action

Local Government is again leading the way in Climate Action.

Three Councils in metropolitan Melbourne have declared a Climate Emergency; Darebin, Moreland and Yarra City Councils. Darebin and Moreland have also come out against the Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin and divested from Westpac as the only major Australian bank still considering funding the coal mine project.

In declaring a Climate Emergency these Councils have put Climate Change at the centre of each and every decision they make, and will choose the option that reduces their carbon emissions over any alternative. They fully understand the power of leadership in framing the national debate. For me that worked because yesterday I folded one Westpac account and set in train the closure of another.

Darebin is no stranger to the climate action. I first became aware of Darebin when they introduced a solar power scheme whereby the Council bulk bought rooftop solar and entered into an expression of interest with the community for its installation. They chose people who were unable to afford the up front cost themselves. The loan for the system was then amortised into a differential rate for the property, so it was the home that had the loan, not the owner. That way if someone moved on the differential rate stayed with the property. After 10 years the net cost to Council was zero, low-income households had significantly reduced power bills the city as a whole had a reduced carbon emission. Win-win-win.

Posted in Environment, sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manning’s Folly

The new Quest Apartments on the corner of Pakenham and Short Streets have been subject to more than their fair share of criticism from some quarters, primarily on the height of the finished building.  The facts are that the original application proposed significant demolition of much of the original 1929 warehouse, leaving little but the facade; done primarily to keep within the Planning Scheme as-of-right height limits.  After discussions with the City’s heritage department the applicant returned with a proposal that maintained the important heritage structure through adaptive reuse.  This was a far superior heritage outcome, and resulted in a higher building.  We cannot sacrifice good heritage outcomes on the alter of height.

The interesting artwork on the building was funded from the %-for-Art scheme; and is a direct reference to Manning Folly which preceded the Lysaght Warehouse on the site.  Manning was a keen astronomer and had a rooftop observatory.  Check out glass supplier Cooling Brothers blog for an interesting piece on the history with pics.

Posted in Architecture, Arts, Fremantle, Heritage, Planning in Freo | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Fremantle marked the end of Youth Week with a big event at EYP and the Ferris Wheel.  Attended by Minister for youth, Hon. Peter Tinley, Director General of Local Government and Communities Jennifer Matthews, Mayor Pettitt and Fremantle Councillors Fitzhardinge, Pemberton and myself.

The organisers had included a ferris wheel ride, with one political person sharing a gondola with some youth who had questions to ask.  It was a great way to have a one-on-one, or in this case one-on three conversation.

The results were recorded in either a pop-up lounge, or inside an old Valiant.

There was of course music, skate comps a silent disco and games.  The EYP was humming, great work Pascal, the Fremantle YAC and the team you created a great vibe.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Arts, Culture & Music, Fremantle, Fremantle Council, youth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment