October was quickly approaching, time to take Berkeley East into her winter marina. One more week afloat, what should we do? We have been known to cross oceans in just a weeks' time, and from our position in Procida, Italy, we could easily sail to many places in seven days, and seven nights. Sardinia, Corsica, Ponza, Greece and back, even Turkey, the possibilities were endless; our heads were spinning. We decided to go eight miles to the Italian island of Ischia and make a plan.
Ischia is yet another volcanic island at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands, roughly six miles by four miles. The island is almost entirely mountainous (the highest peak is Mount Epomeo, at 2,585 feet) and well known for its thermal spas with hot springs and volcanic mud. Just another Italian island.
We had thought that summer was over, but when we awoke in Ischia, there were local Italian boats everywhere. We heard loud, enthusiastic calls of "A -MER-I-CA!" Upon poking our heads out of the cabin, cameras were snapping, people were smiling. It was wonderful, just another Italian island. We were quickly becoming enamored with Ischia, and its residents. Soon we felt we could spend the entire week there.
A few days later, we had explored the north side of Ischia on foot. All along the seaside promenade, through the heart of the island's center, into the back roads to the main port. The island is lush and green, with 21 miles of beautiful coastline. The day ended with an impressive 20,000 steps according to Fitbit.
Built between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Aragonese Castle is the most impressive historical monument in Ischia. It rises out of the sea atop a rock, detached from the rest of the island, but for a footbridge. Most of the events and battles on the island took place there. Two towers watched the movements of enemy fleets; fortified walls were added to defend the inhabitants against the raids of pirates.
After hearing about the recent earthquake in Ischia, the nearly 400-foot ascent through the castle's tunnel was a bit eerie. But being Californians we are used to shaking ground and falling brick, and the tunnel looked indestructible, we hoped it was.
Upon exiting the castle, our attention was captured by a large gathering of scooters, Vespas to be exact. It was the XXX International Vespa Historical Recording Meeting (rally).
Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter first manufactured in 1946. It is often thought as more of a lifestyle due to the passion a Vespa owner has for their ride. Many people spend years modifying their scooters, travel around the world to display them, and dress for the occasion. One of Vespa's first marketing slogans was "La Dolce Vita"-"The Sweet Life."
Lacco Ameno, the town which we were anchored near, sits at the foot of Mount Epomeo, facing the sea. There was something about this town that just spoke to us. Perhaps it was the Fungo, a mushroom-shaped rock standing in the waters of the bay. Or maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere. Or the happy people.
On day four, when we reconvened about what to do with the remaining days of our last week, we decided to stay in Ischia, anchored off Lacco Ameno. But as quickly as we had made our decision, the weather changed so reluctantly, we began a circumnavigation of Ischia to find shelter.
The south side of Ischia in Sant' Angelo was completely different. The dry, brown landscape was reminiscent of Mexico. The town was a small fishing village cum tourist town. We watched buses arrive and people walk down the hill. Unimpressed, we waited for the weather to give us an opportunity to go back to the north side, but that never happened, and our final days of the season were spent in Sant' Angelo.
We were disappointed for a few hours, until we saw the sun set. It was absolutely stunning. And each day, as Berkeley East swung differently with the wind, dusk became more and more amazing.
On our final morning, we were annoyed to be awoken by the boom of fireworks. The Italians love fireworks like we have never seen before, they even set them off during the day. They were celebrating the patron saint San Michele Arcancelo with two days of events. And while the morning launch was simply noise and smoke, in the evening the sky lit up with no less than 20 different fabulous fireworks displays.
The next day we lifted the anchor one last time for 2017 and sailed to Gaeta, Italy, BE's winter home. Last year, Berkeley East wintered in Fano Italy, just 94 miles and a 2-1/2 hour drive from Gaeta. In contrast, we sailed BE about 2,000 miles over six months with the same start and end points; a much slower path, but certainly a more interesting one.