We hadn't planned to spend more than one night in Bari, which our Lonely Planet describes as "an exasperating city", and "completely un-touristy". I kind of like the sound of "un-touristy", but Rick doesn't like the look of the teenage punks that are hanging around the dock in the Porto Vecchio, where we are tied side-to. A couple of them even try to board the boat, but fortunately Wally spots them and chases them away. Thinking we should at least get a glimpse of the historic centre, Martha and I take a walk into nearby Bari Vecchia. I am grateful for Martha's unerring sense of direction as we wander through the maze of narrow streets and dead-end alleys. After a quick cappuccino in a little café crammed with university students, we make our way back to the boat for barbecued pork chops, roasted vegetables and a rubber of bridge. After dark, we are surprised when a display of fireworks lights up the sky above the art-deco tower on the opposite shore.
We are all up early the next morning, hoping to set sail for Vieste. The Italian weather site has not been updated since midnight, but diminishing winds that will begin more or less on the nose and gradually back to a broad reach with speeds in the 15-20 knot range are predicted. Rick walks up the hill to get a better look at the conditions outside the harbour, and decides we should give it a try. At 9 a.m., we pull away from the dock, raise the sails and head toward the Gargano. Within minutes, Aisling is heeled sharply and bucking like a broncho in the steep seas. Below decks, the coffee pot goes flying. It is not an auspicious start. I make my opinion known, and we return to the dock. At least now we will have a chance to see the church of St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century bishop whose kindness to children and penchant for gift-giving formed the basis of the modern-day Santa Claus legend. In the 11th century, his body was stolen from its former resting place in Myra by fishermen from Bari. (This theft was later justified by claiming that St. Nicholas "chose" Bari as his resting spot.) A basilica was built to house the remains, and today, it is an important site of pilgrimage.
As we enter the basilica, we hear wonderful music drifting up from the crypt below. A choir of Russian Orthodox pilgrims, complete with a director, is singing beside the tomb. The sound of their magnificent voices soaring in the small space is almost other-worldly. When their song ends, each of them kneels and reaches through the grate to touch the altar over the tomb that holds the remains of St. Nicholas, which are said to have miraculous powers.
Outside in the courtyard, a small figure presents the more secular side of St. Nick! Wally snaps this photo with his Iphone.
We continue through the streets of Bari Vecchia, checking out a few ceramic shops and peeking into alleyways along the way.
Then onward to a café with a view of the Norman Castello Svevo, where Wally introduces us to his new favourite, the Aperol spritz.
By then, the guys are ready for a small siesta and some time with their books, while Martha and I do a little shopping in Bari's upscale shopping district. The day ends perfectly with an onboard meal cooked and served by Wally and Martha: a platter of delicious bruschetta, asparagus and pine nut pasta and an arugula salad, accompanied by a wonderful bottle of Brunello that Wally has brought with him from Tuscany. It's a sad moment when Wally realizes that the last of the Brunello is gone!
But later, there are more fireworks to cheer him up. Does this happen every night?
The next day, the wind is still against us. Let's take the train to Trani for the day! Martha and I gather our belongings and walk to the train station, passing through the beautiful Piazza Umberto and Piazza Aldo Moro (named for the Italian Prime Minister who died at the hands of the Red Brigade in 1978). Rick is uneasy about leaving the boat unattended, so he and Wally opt to stay in Bari for the day.
Our train is leaving from platform 3 at 12.39. When we arrive at the platform at 12.30, there is a train on the tracks, but we are not sure whether it is ours. Intending to ask one of the passengers where the train is headed, I climb to the first step of the train, think better of it and step back down. A few seconds later, the door closes and the train pulls away. Yikes, that was close! I wonder where I would have ended up?
Leaving the train station at Trani, we walk down a beautiful oleander-lined street, following signs to the "centro storico'. We have a cappuccino near the waterfront before beginning our sightseeing in earnest. We initially think that this beautiful church is the cathedral, but it isn't.
When we eventually find the cathedral, it is closed for the lunch break and there is hardly a soul in sight.
Two newlyweds are having their photos taken by the sea though. In Italy, weddings seem to take place any day of the week and at any time of the day.
We wander over to the 13th century castle built by Frederick II , but the young woman at the information desk suggests that it may not be a good time to visit, since they are preparing for a cultural event. Time for lunch, then. We head for a nearby restaurant, the Pietra Bianca, and share a delicious selection of antipasti (the mussel soup is especially memorable) and a shrimp pasta (served very "al dente"). By then the cathedral has opened.
This Norman style cathedral, built between the 11th and 14th centuries, is dedicated to another St. Nicholas, "St. Nicholas the Pilgrim". Oddly, we enter through a crypt on the lower level, and a small flight of stairs takes us into the beautiful but simple cathedral.
The original 12th century cast bronze doors are on display inside and an interesting fragment of mosaic, similar to the ones in Otranto is set into the floor near the altar (sorry, my photos were a bust). We take a few quiet moments to enjoy the peace of our surroundings, then climb up up up, high into the campanile, where I am able to overcome my vertigo long enough to take this photo of the town and the marina below by poking my camera through a hole in the grate.
Now it's down, down, down...Martha takes this photo- I can't bear to look!
We're not sure when the train leaves, so we hustle back through the town. Thanks to Martha's expert navigation, we arrive at the station with just 10 minutes to spare. In the main station, I briefly lose sight of Martha, and an Italian man points toward an archway. He is gazing at Martha admiringly, then smiles at me and says "belle signore!" (beautiful ladies!). A few minutes later, we stop to buy water and I realize that he is still staring at Martha. He smiles sheepishly, shrugs and says "ancora bella!" (still beautiful!). But it begins to get a bit creepy when he is still staring at her from the other side of the platform as we wait for the train. When the train finally arrives, we are happy to depart.
We've just bought two large cones of gelato near the Piazza Umberto when my cellphone rings. "Can you pick up a couple of pizzas for supper?" Rick asks. But it is still too early; no one has their ovens on yet, so we return to the boat empty handed. Later that evening, we walk over to Bari Vecchio and eat in a small pizzeria near the piazza. In every bar and restaurant, the televisions are tuned in to the Euro 2012 football game between Italy and Croatia. The game ends in a 1-1 tie.
There'll be no wine to accompany our pizza tonight. With the weather forecast finally in our favour and lots of able crew to share in the watches, we have decided to do an overnight passage to Vieste.
As we walk back through the piazza, a local symphony is striking up the opening bars of a Strauss waltz. We'd love to stay and listen, but it is time to leave. Arrivederci Bari, I hope to see you again!
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
We tied along side in Porto Vecchio on molo Sant Antonio and there was no fee. It is well protected from all directions. We stayed 3 days and were concerned the first day when some young kids (hooligans) were throwing rocks at some poor old fisherman on the wharf and at our boat. They also tried another time to climb aboard the boat when they thought no one was aboard. After that we had no problems. There is a marina (Sail club) opposite the molo Sant Antonio where friends of ours stayed. They hit one of the mooring anchors on the way in when circling around back. Otherwise they said it was a good stop. Small grocery stores nearby and a larger one near the train station. A fish market on the wharf. Fuel available further in the old port. It looked shallow but we did see a large fishing dragger go in there. There is a busy airport which is convenient for crew changes.
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
We always enjoy seeing wildlife during passages. Shearwaters often accompany us as we sail, and porpoises at the bow never fail to delight. But being accompanied by droves of giant bumblebees on the way from Brindisi to Bari wasn't exactly the kind of nature experience we'd hoped for! We really don't know why Aisling suddenly became irresistible to dozens of bees. Perhaps we unknowingly had a queen on board, or perhaps we simply sailed through a swarm and they decided to "draft" along with us. For whatever reason, shortly after crossing the 41st parallel, we suddenly started noticing bees on board. Lots of them. Really big ones. Some were over an inch long. I'm not making this up.
There were bees on the lines, bees on the binnacle, bees on the shrouds and bees on top of the dodger. When we shooed them away, they just tucked in at our stern, drafted in the breeze for a while, then landed again. Normally, I prefer not to kill bees, but what choice did we have? We got out the fly swatters and swatted away. Rick launched an attack on the foredeck and Martha hummed "Flight of the Bumblebee" as she whacked away with a rolled up copy of "Psychology Today". By the end of the massacre, we'd thrown the corpses of dozens of bees (and nearly as many nasty biting houseflies) overboard. Thankfully, no one got stung in the process.
And you thought we were having fun!
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
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||