It's probably fairly obvious that we're still having trouble staying on top of our blog postings. I'm determined to capture the details of Katherine and Leah's visit, since this was a very special time for us. So for the next little while, we'll gradually intersperse postings from our current locations with catch-up postings.
We've been in Brindisi marina for the past three nights. On Sunday, Fred and Nancy Voegeli and their friend Bill sailed in on "Frisco" and tied up next to us. We've been trying to arrange this rendezvous for over three years and had finally managed it! Unfortunately, our time together was too short. We had dinner onboard Aisling that evening, but by early yesterday morning Frisco's bow was pointed toward Otranto. We watched with great envy as Fred turned on the bow thruster and reversed smoothly out of their slip. We should be so lucky!
Well actually, we are very lucky. Wally and Martha arrived yesterday, a day earlier than we'd initially expected; how lucky is that? After getting caught up on the each other's news over sundowners in the cockpit, we had a lovely evening exploring Brindisi. Standing at the foot of a flight of steep marble stairs, staring up at one of the pillars that marked the end of ancient Rome's Appian Way, was a special moment. After visiting the beautiful cathedral, we had a delicious but far too abundant dinner at "La Locanda del Porto", then turned in early in anticipation of a 6 a.m. wake-up call from the skipper.
At the moment, we're underway to Bari. For about an hour, we were actually sailing, but then the wind died, as usual. Rick and Wally are on deck together, happily discussing the pros and cons of various items of boat gear. As usual, I know exactly what Rick is thinking. Life is good.
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
We stayed in the Marina Di Bridisi for 29 euros per night including water and electric for our 12.4 meter boat. The staff speak little English and it may be difficult to reach them on the VHF but they did respond to a phone call. There was a bread store and small grocery within a 10 minute walk. The bus to take you into the city comes every 30 minutes and the stop is at the marina gate. We wanted to anchor downtown or tie along side but were unable to when we were there because the Brindisi to Corfu sailing regatta was on and all spots were reserved. The fishing fleet was also in town so all the spaces below the monument were taken. There is a great chandlery called Limongelli on Via San Francesco and I was able to buy inexpensive electrical connectors for shore power at the Electrical shop called Lomax(?) on Via Christoforo Columbo and near Corso Umberto, by the train station. We enjoyed our meal at a restaurant called La Locanda Del Porto on Via Montenegro just up the hill and near the gas dock, downtown. On one excursion Bonnie and I took the ferry from the the gas dock over to the other side of the harbour near the monument and walked from the monument to the marina in about 30 minutes. Another time we took the bus to Via Cagni ( and Via 15 November 1918) and then walked down the steps to the Ferry stop and crossed over to the old city for supper at the restaurant and an evening stroll through town. The taxi back to the marina cost 20 euros. The bus stops running to the marina at 10:00pm.
06/12/2012, On the way to Bari
We could happily have hung at anchor in Otranto for a week or more. The water in the anchorage was crystal-clear and turquoise. The town was pleasant, interesting and large enough to provide all the amenities. As an added bonus, a quiet country lane on the outskirts of the town was a perfect place for a morning run. Otranto is definitely on our list for a return visit.
This time, we could only stay for two nights. Deciding to make the most of our time there, we headed for shore immediately after we got the anchor set. In the square, a wedding party was having photographs taken and releasing small hot-air balloons that hovered over the town in an array of colours. As we surreptitiously snapped a few photos, the official photographer spotted us and called our bluff. Pulling us toward the wedding party, he instructed us to act like paparazzi. I must admit, the bride seemed a bit unimpressed with this charade, but the groom and guests seemed to have a good laugh at our expense!
After a leisurely lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water, we headed back to the boat to catch up on some work.
When we set off in our running gear early the next morning, I did not have high expectations. Finding good running routes in this part of the world can be a real challenge. The tripping hazards inherent in the old, cobblestoned streets make it difficult to work up a decent speed, and the traffic coupled with the frenetic Italian driving style can be daunting. By pure fluke, we ended up on a seaside road that passed by two "agriturismi" (hotels that are located in farms and typically have restaurants that allow the guest to sample the freshest produce possible). We ran at a fast pace for over six kilometers, stopping occasionally to take photos of the olive groves, wheat fields and newly-planted vegetables. What a great feeling!
After a quick trip to the grocery store and a cappuccino break at a bar beside the town square, we returned to the dinghy, headed for the town dock and filled up four five-gallon jugs with water. With those four jugs dumped into our tanks, and not knowing where we would next find water, we decided to go back and fill up six more jugs. That's when we noticed the bits of algae floating in the water. Oh oh. With a bit of maneuvering, we managed to filter the algae out of that batch, but what about the water that was already in our tanks? We felt pretty dumb, especially since we generally have a firm policy of filtering any water that goes into our tanks. At that point, there was nothing much we could do, other than add a bit of chlorine bleach to the tank. At least we use a Seagull filter for our drinking and cooking water, so we are reasonably confident that we aren't endangering our lives.
Later that afternoon, as we are preparing to go ashore to see the cathedral, we hear the theme from "Rocky" blasting from the piazza above us. Curious, we pick up the pace and go ashore to see what is happening. It is a mini-Olympic event, with the cutest mini-athletes you could ever imagine. We join the crowd of cheering spectators and laugh with delight as the tiny competitors make their way along the course. The "bianco" team wins by a mile. The poor yellow team is doomed from the beginning, with a slow start and a sad ending where the final competitor falls off the low balance beam and trips on one of the obstacles. In spite of that, everyone seems to retain their good humour.
We delay so long at the mini-olympics that we almost miss seeing Otranto's main attraction, the 11th century cathedral with its amazing mosaic floor depicting the tree of life.
A chapel inside the cathedral holds the bones of the martyrs of Otranto, 800 Christians who were beheaded by the Turks in 1480 when they refused to convert to Islam. Sad, and also gruesome.
It is time for a more cheerful activity. We head for a bar beside the town square, sampling a cup of panna cotta gelato as we walk. (Wait a minute, maybe this is the best gelato in the world!) As we sit sipping wine in the bar, we watch a young couple sitting patiently on a bench with a falcon, beside a sign that says 2 euros/photo. The street dogs are unimpressed, and two of them position themselves across from the falcon and bark repeatedly. A man behind us loses his patience. "Basta!"" he yells. (Enough!). Rick is delighted, and basta becomes his Italian "word of the week". We toy with the idea of a second glass of wine, but good sense prevails. The next day, we will set sail for Brindisi at 6 a.m. There, good things await!
Crotone (last stop before Otranto)
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
Not much to add here as we did not go ashore. However we were able to anchor in the new harbour for free. As you motor in you will see the 2 Cement plant silos and the wrecks in the shallow water. Anchor just before these wrecks opposite the tall grass lined beach in about 13'. The holding is excellent in mud. Well protected from all points except perhaps the North where some swell may make it in.
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
A lovely town and a beautiful setting. We anchored off the small fishing harbour mole and off the swim beach, in about 14' over hard packed sand. There was a bit of a roll one night from swell entering the harbour from the NE. No protection from the NE or North. Tie your dinghy up in the fisherman's harbour. Water is available off the quays in the SE of the harbour. We filled water jugs here, though when we got back to the boat we discovered there had been algae growing in the water pipe and this made it was into our jugs and our tanks.We killed it with bleach. Large grocery (Maxi Siddis) store up the hill to the North of the anchorage. There is a lovely road along the coast North of the grocery store where we went for a run through a beautiful pastoral scene of market gardens and orchards.
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
We've turned the corner. How many corners is this? How many seas is this?
At 7:00am, twelve hours into our passage, Bonnie, all alone on watch, turned the corner, rounded the heel of Italy's boot and entered the Adriatic sea. I was asleep below, off watch. We timed the arrival to round this cape (Capo S. Maria di Luca) in early morning when we hoped the seas would be friendly. I woke up an hour later and when I came up top........
The sea is a deep blue, almost like home, and calm. The air is cool. The wind is on the nose and running from 3 to 10 knots. There is a current out of the North of about 1 knot. There is no traffic; we are all alone. The bright blue sky is full of contrails from every direction and there is even an asterisk in the sky where 5 contrails have crossed all on one point. What's that all about? Albania has always been a bit mysterious to me and for the first time, there it is off the starboard bow, huge mountains shrouded in mist, declaring itself, still mysterious.
Ashore, to port, the Italian coast is rocky and has steep cliffs pockmarked with caves. The hillside, covered in scrub, rises a few hundred feet to what almost appears to be a plain at the top.There are little white villages along the shore every few miles and some nestled in small valleys near the top. Those round Genovese forts similar to our Martello Tower appear again. It's been a while since we have seen signs of the Genovese.
Capo Otranto is dead ahead and after we round it the town should appear nestled in a small harbour on the port side. This will be our first landfall on this coast. There is always a little trepidation as we approach a new port. Will there be room to anchor? Hopefully it is sand or mud. How sheltered is it really? How crowded will it be? Might there be room at the dock to go alongside or med moor? How tight will it be? How easy will it be to depart if we opt to tie up? Will there be lazy lines at the dock or will we have to drop our stern anchor as we pull in? ( I hate that part). Are the Port Police going to be friendly and helpful or will they feel like we are intruding and act accordingly? If all goes to hell in a handbasket, what is the back up plan? All of these things run through my mind in rapid fire sequence and keep repeating themselves like a movie in an endless loop.
I have tried to do my research in advance, of course, but there is only so much information in the pilot. Google maps are a great help and so are these new on-line pilot sites where individuals, like us, enter our knowledge of particular ports. Still, my mind is always whirring with these questions........ as we approach. Six miles to go on the chartplotter so I'll find out many of these answers in a little over an hour.
The flat sea is full of white caps as we round Capo Otranto. Our timing is good, with only three miles to go. The waves will start building soon with this breeze.
Otranto was a delight, with its castle and grand cathedral whose ancient floor is covered in an incredible mosaic of the tree of life. There was no room at the town dock, such as it was, but the holding was great in hard packed sand and there was no need to dive on the anchor and check it because the water was crystal clear and I could see the anchor clearly from the bow.
All worked out well for Otranto. Not as well for Brindisi two days later. All the same trepidations and this time there was no place to tie up (the Brindisi-Corfu regatta had taken all the spaces) and no place to anchor, at least close to town. So we opted for Marina di Brindisi, which is in the outer reaches of the harbour and a 20-30 minute bus ride from downtown. A bit of a disappointment but at 29 euros a night , not too bad and hey, there is unlimited potable water included! We're washing everything in sight to prepare for Wally and Martha's visit as well as Fred and Nancy's arrival on Frisco. Ciao, ciao, ciao!
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
It's unusual for a boatyard to finish a job more quickly than they've predicted, but that's exactly what happened in Pozzallo. With the forecast looking ominous for the following week, we decide to sail the boat to Marina di Ragusa on Saturday afternoon, while Katherine and Leah spend the day exploring Modica. It is disappointing that we can't go with them, but at least we'd already had a glimpse of Modica the previous week.
Like Ragusa and Noto, Modica was reconstructed in flamboyant baroque style after the 1693 earthquake, and is a World Heritage site. But Modica is perhaps best known for its chocolate. The methods used to prepare Modica chocolate date back to the 16th century, when Sicily was under Spanish rule and the conquistadors brought back chocolate, and the methods of preparing it, from the New World. Prepared using very low heat, the chocolate is grainy and crunchy and strong. It is an acquired taste, but the pepper-flavoured variety is a taste explosion! When Katherine and Leah return to the apartment in late afternoon, they are laden with bags filled with several flavours, but best of all they have brought back some "cannoli siciliani" from the Antico Dulceria Bonajuto. I have to admit I've become a bit obsessed with finding the best cannoli in Sicily, if for no other reason than that it gives me an excuse to eat it at every opportunity. I had despaired of ever again tasting cannoli as good as the ones we'd eaten in Erice with Roy and Joanne, but Bonajuto's is definitely a contender! Creamy, sweet ricotta wrapped inside a flaky crusty wrapping... (Joanne, are you ready for another trip to Sicily?)
The pre-dinner snack does not spoil our appetites. That evening, we dress up and walk down to the other end of Pozzallo for dinner at the restaurant "Il Tonno Rosso", which had been highly recommended by our landlord Saro (of Casa Sicule). The seafood antipasti platters are a gourmet delight, but the "piece de resistance" (if there an equivalent Italian term I do not know it) is the fish baked in salt that Rick and I share. It is served with a flourish and consumed with enthusiasm; the flavor delicate and not at all salty.
As we walk home along the main street of Pozzallo, the entire town seems to be out walking in the "passeggiata" ritual that is so common here. On Saturday evenings, the full length of the main street is pedestrianized, and old and young walk arm in arm, dressed in their finest, greeting friends and neighbours. Joining the crowds, we have the feeling of being in the midst of a large street party.
There is no need to debate what we will do the following day. Our calendars had been marked for weeks, thanks to Katherine's careful research. "May 20th, Noto Flower Festival! " (Infiorata) . When Maria drove us back from Marina di Ragusa, she had warned us that wind was forecast for the afternoon, which could damage the displays, so for once we are ready early. Arriving at the car, we find a parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper. Darn! It takes us a while to figure out that the pedestrianization of the street on Saturday night must have an associated parking ban. The carbon copy is very faint. I squint, trying to decipher the figures. Is that 39 euros or 239 euros? Surely it is not 239 euros? "I refuse to worry about it" said Rick, "Let's just get going". All the way to Noto, Katherine and I take turns trying to decipher it. Finally, we decide to forget about it. "Maybe it's just a warning", I say hopefully.
We've already described Noto in a previous posting, but today this lovely baroque town is decked out in full regalia, the entire length of Via Nicolaci filled with flower displays that are, quite literally, works of art. Created with flower petals, seeds, peppercorns, grasses and other natural materials, the "paintings" represent various religious and cultural themes.
The crowds filing along the edges are surprisingly orderly, but Katherine and I quickly lose sight of Rick and Leah. Rick calls to us from a palazzo balcony above the street, and Katherine and I follow, paying 4 euros each to see the Palazzo Villadorata and the view of the street below.
Reconnecting with Leah on the street, we join the crowds to watch a procession....
...... then decide that it is time for a gelato break. We are certainly in the right place, since our Lonely Planet makes the bold claim that the best gelato in the world can be found in Noto. Rick buys a preliminary taster at a random shop on the main street. Not bad! But Katherine leads us to one of the two recommended shops, the Caffe Sicilia. Miraculously, we find a seat inside, which also means we can use the toilet (sweet relief!). Leah insists on treating us. The flavours are unusual...basil (delicious!) mandola (almond, my personal favourite) Montezuma (dark chocolate and orange). While we are there, the "maestro" (the creator of all these delicious concoctions) appears and horses around with his friends is typical Sicilian style.
It's not difficult to accept that this is the best gelato in the world, but Katherine is not willing to take it on faith. "We have to go to the other place" she says firmly. Leah is incredulous; surely we are not planning to eat more gelato? Let's do a bit more exploring first.
We tour the Teatro Vittorio Emanuale, where a guide is providing a tour to a couple of rather demanding English-speaking tourists, who can't understand why she will not open the curtain and let them see the stage. "A performers' group is meeting" she tells them, "It would disrupt the artistic process". She tells us that the theatre was built in 1842 and modeled on La Scala (although on a much smaller scale). It was named for the first king of the new united Italy, but there is a proposal to remove the name of Vittorio Emanuele ("He never came here") and rename it for a famous Noto actress, Tina Lorenzo. Since there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of streets and landmarks in Italy that bear the name of Vittorio Emanuele, one less probably will not matter. (In fact, the main street of Noto also bears his name.)
The guide recommends that we also visit the "Hall of Mirrors" in the municipal building (Palazzo Ducezio) . We have already turned down the opportunity to purchase a reduced-price combined entry ticket, but decide to go anyway. The Hall of Mirrors is a palatial, oval-shaped room with, you guessed it, a lot of mirrors on the walls. The main attraction is not the mirrors, but the trompe l'oeil ceiling, which gives the illusion of being decorated with three-dimensional frescoes. As we leave the palazzo, we look over the shoulders of some Italian patriots and get a great view of the cathedral across the street.
That's us on the staircase behind the guys in the costumes.
The girls don't feel particularly compelled to go inside the cathedral, having toured one too many Italian churches in the past week. In any case, Rick and I already know that its interior is simple, perhaps because it has recently undergone restoration following the collapse of its dome in 1996. Apparently, an earthquake had caused structural damage in 1990. The moral of the story: think twice before entering run-down churches in earthquake zones!
Now, what about that other gelato? Just a small copetta....we find our way to the counter at Corrado Costanzo. Fragoli (strawberry)and limone (lemon) are delicious, but the winner is the ricotta, positively heavenly. Maybe this is the best gelato in the world! Even Leah has a taste. Rick goes back for one more, but he only gets to eat about half of it, since we all dive in with our own spoons.
A small enoteca seems like a promising place for lunch, but it is expensive and we all have tummies full of gelato. We browse the shelves of the shop, where the selection of wines is extensive. Rick has to duck his head entering the cellar, Leah, not so much!
I flip through a book, all in Italian, with a title that seems to say something like "101 wines to try before you die, without going bankrupt in the process". All the suggested wines are from Italy (which will come as no surprise to my friend Kathy and her sister Susan, but really, what would you expect from a book written in Italian?). I scan the section on Sicily, and observe that all but one of the suggested wines are from the Etna region. Later, I regret not buying the book.
We get on the road and drive through Avola, the home of Nero d'Avola wine and also famous for its almond orchards. We are hoping to find a winery, or perhaps a restaurant, but it is mid-afternoon on a Sunday and the town is almost deserted. Time for a break. We return to our apartment in Pozzallo and snack on bread, prosciutto, cheese and tomatoes.
The question of the parking ticket is still unanswered. Rick convinces me to go out on the main street and talk to a policeman. "People are always nicer to women" he says, which any woman will tell you is not true, but I agree to give it a try. Eventually, I find a policewoman on the street, show her the ticket, and tell her that I don't understand. She confirms that it is for parking in a "zona pedonale" , that we owe 39 euros, and that I can pay it at the police station "domani matina" (tomorrow morning). What a relief! I smile broadly and thank her profusely. She looks a bit puzzled- why would someone seem so delighted to be told they owe 39 euros? But in my mind, I am 200 euros richer. Now we can go out and have pizza for dinner!
We have delicious pizzas at the Pizzeria Cabrera (also recommended by Saro). For about 10 euros each we have a good local wine, and more pizza than we can ever dream of eating. We take away a large box of the leftovers when we leave.
The next day, Katherine and Leah catch the bus to Siracusa for the night. Rick and I pack up the apartment, pay our parking ticket (another linguistic adventure!) and drive back to Marina di Ragusa, where we prepare Aisling for guests. Next up, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento!