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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Walking inland
19/09/2009, San Giovanni

This would be a place to start a hike inland. We just went a short way, getting a view of the pine-covered hillsides and steep slopes.

Places and people
Church of the Crucifixion
16/09/2009, Capraia

Above the port lies the old penal colony. The prison lasted for 100 years, and only closed down in the mid-1980's. Lots of the old buildings remain. The prisoners undertook a lot of terracing, greatly extending the cultivated area that had been left by the Romans.
After the Romans the island hosted a number of monasteries and hermits, and this rather sweet ruin presumably dates from that period. Beneath it lies a cemetery which looks as if it is still in use.
After the monks came, depending on which guide book you read, the pirates or Saracens. Many identify them completely. We still have some research to do on the Saracen history of Italy; unlike the Moors in Spain, there are no great buildings left, no visible mark on the landscape. Either they didn't build them, or they have been overwritten by the luminous work of the Renaissance. It will be interesting to learn more as we travel south.

Places and people
16/09/2009, Capraia

We didn't see any of the island's fabled mouflon, perhaps not getting far enough into the hills for that. Above the old anchorage of Portovecchio, we found this herd of goats sheltering around a horrible derelict barn. Completely uninterested in us, but generating a huge amount of flies. We hastened onwards.

Places and people

The little gecko-like lizards are everywhere. They seem to have some chameleon characteristics, as we saw reddish ones and greeny ones, and some speckled like the island stone. Always appropriate to their surroundings.

Places and people
16/09/2009, Capraia

Nearly as hard to capture in pictures as dolphins, there are many of these huge black birds, which nest in the cliffs. Capraia is famous for its varied and energetic bird life, particularly the migrants in spring.
These three were fooling around on the top of the telegraph pole, knocking each other off and then coming round for another challenge.

Places and people
A simple ancient church
13/09/2009, Porto Capraia

On the path coming back to the port is the ancient church of the Annunciation, built in the 11th century by the citizens of Pisa. There is a plaque inside celebrating the Papal Mass held here in 1244. It was later abandoned, during the many years when firstly the Saracens and then a variety of pirate bands controlled the island. Now it houses this large statue of the Madonna, which is taken once a year in procession to the large parish church of St Nicola in the town. That must be a steep, hot walk, even on the December day dedicated to the saint!
Tomorrow, we are heading for Elba, but this has been a good opportunity to catch up on this blog. Over the last day or so we've heard from four different people who follow our wanderings, whom we didn't know about. Don't be shy: we love comments.

Places and people
It's not a water tower
13/09/2009, Porto Capraia

Overlooking the harbour, and visible from a long way if you are coming south, is this Torre del Porto. It's a restored historic monument, but of surpassing ugliness. We imagined it was a water tower when we came in, and thought was a pity it was in such a spot.
Of course, as one of the myriad fortifications of this contested islet, it makes perfect sense.
That is the birthday girl in the foreground. We didn't actually walk up the hill, but took the regular '1 bus ride. In the teeny town we found a useful little foodstore (as we were completely out of coffee), and number of extremely expensive arty-crafty boutiques. Everything here is costly; even the tourist map is '3! We did find a reasonable cup of coffee, and then wandered down the hill again, following an old Roman path which wound down the valley side through pine trees and oleander, with geckos scuttling around our feet, and ravens doing synchronised flying around us. It is a very lovely spot.

Places and people
View from the Hill
11/09/2009, Florence

We wandered across the river again and into the Boboli Gardens, as much to see the classic view of the Duomo as anything else. The gardens themselves, formal, serene, dusty, are always a pleasure to visit again.
We had a rather different cultural experience from the original plan. Shopping, of course! The Accademia too. But Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were a very welcome surprise. We decided that we will allow ourselves a mid-week trip to Florence sometime (probably from Rome), which we will plan ahead to get into the Uffizi and some of the other places. During the winter!

Places and people
Ghiberti's doors
11/09/2009, Florence

The lack of crowds meant we could really look at the east doors of the Baptistry, which normally you can't get near. Even though these are replicas, they are stunning in the perspective and the naturalistic detail, with whole stories packed into each panel.
Of course, our photos don't really do such work justice!

Places and people
The great Duomo of Florence
11/09/2009, Florence

The next morning we got up really early (to Pip's disgust) to see the Duomo in lovely early morning Tuscan light, without the crowds. The building itself is not open till later, but we walked all round it taking photos.
The hotel we found was the Hotel Scoti, in a very central position and good value (by Florentine standards). It is on the second floor of a palazzo, and the lounge contains a wonderful, newly restored set of frescos. The owner is an Australian-Italian and good English is spoken. (This was an unanticipated but welcome advantage.) Contact via

Places and people
Passion and rage
10/09/2009, Florence

Patti Smith played in Florence exactly 30 years ago, and is quoted on-line as saying it was the most passionate concert of her career. It was certainly a hot one this time.
The crowd loved her and she loved everyone right back. She had a very funny new song about her return, in which she described the mayor stopping his car and getting out to say 'Ciao, Patti', and she gave a wonderful recitation of Ginsberg's Footnote to Howl, which includes the lines

'Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an

Which seemed particularly appropriate outside the beautiful façade of Santa Croce. She also, of course, played old faves such as Gloria and Power to the People, to which the whole crowd sung along.
A great night. We wouldn't have felt as comfortable staying in Florence on the spur of the moment if Roaring Girl had been at anchor, so the gig alone made it worth the cost of the berth.

Places and people
The ever-beautiful
10/09/2009, Florence

The next day we got up early, with the vague intention of beating the queues. Bus to Pisa, a rather slow train to Florence, and then into the tourist information at the station to pick up a better map.
No map, as the queue was horrible, but a stunning realisation. Patti Smith was playing live that night, in Piazza Santa Croce. Wow! That required a radical rethink. We set off via the central market for breakfast, and got waylaid by scads of beautiful leather objects. But eventually we discovered that yes, she was playing, yes there were tickets, and yes we could find a reasonable hotel room. So we got all that sorted - the two tickets costing us less than '30! The hotel room (plus clean knickers and toothbrushes) cost rather more, but hey! It saved on train fares and was a one-off opportunity.
We wandered around the lovely streets for a while, including taking this pic of the classic down-river view from the Ponte Vecchio. We also discovered that in the summer months, the Accademia opens for free for two hours on Thursday evenings, from 1900. That was a major bonus. We reacquainted ourselves with the immortal David and the heroic, unfinished Slaves.
The Accademia was also hosting a retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe, the American photographer who was so controversial. When you see his (less sexually explicit work) alongside Michelangelo, you can see how he was occupied with many of the same challenges, about form and shape and movement.
His famous picture of Patti Smith was there, together with a very odd film of her. It was ingenious and long-range planning to bring them together in Florence at the same time, or sheer luck. Certainly Smith knew about it because she referenced Mapplethorpe on stage that night.

Places and people

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Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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