Old Calabria By Norman Douglas




This short plunge into the jungle was a relief, after the all-too-human
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This short plunge into the jungle was a relief, after the all-too-human experiences of Taranto.

The forest of Policoro skirts the Ionian; the railway line cleaves it into two unequal portions, the seaward tract being the smaller. It is bounded on the west by the river Sinnc, and I imagine the place has not changed much since the days when Keppel Craven explored its recesses.

Twilight reigns in this maze of tall deciduous trees. There is thick undergrowth, too; and I measured an old lentiscus - a shrub, in Italy - which was three metres in circumference. But the exotic feature of the grove is its wealth of creeping vines that clamber up the trunks, swinging from one tree-top to another, and allowing the merest threads of sunlight to filter through their matted canopy. Policoro has the tangled beauty of a tropical swamp. Rank odours arise from the decaying leaves and moist earth; and once within that verdant labyrinth, you might well fancy yourself in some primeval region of the globe, where the foot of man has never penetrated.

Yet long ago it resounded with the din of battle and the trumpeting of elephants - in that furious first battle between Pyrrhus and the Romans. And here, under the very soil on which you stand, lies buried, they say, the ancient city of Siris.

They have dug canals to drain off the moisture as much as possible, but the ground is marshy in many places and often quite impassable, especially in winter.

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