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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
The old man of Nisportino
24/09/2009, Elba

On Thursday morning, Liz was on her way. She had organised a clever itinerary to get to Narbonne. Unfortunately the Italian trains did not run to time, and she missed her flight from Pisa. In the end, she had an exciting trip by train, with a short overnight stop in Nice, and was only 24 hours late to Bages. Where, we gather, there was some more sailing, but also major gastronomic explorations of the nearby restaurants.
Meanwhile, we set off towards Rome. Our first stop was due to be Porto Azzuro, only 4 miles away by land but 16 by sea. As you sail north to round the Capo Vita, you pass a series of little bays which would be nice anchorages in the right weather. Also this splendid coppery rock formation, in which lurks the bulbous nose and round eye of an old man waiting impatiently for his next glass.
The colour reminds you that Elba was mined for a very long time (the last one only closing in the 1980's), giving mineral wealth to its rulers from the Romans to Napoleon.

Places and people
Shades of grey
22/09/2009, Elba

Ever-steepening hills fold together. Sailing west into the setting sun, slopes overlap and caress each other, subtly changing colour and line.
It is easy to believe that the island is uninhabited, and project romances onto the slopes and forest. Romans, pirates, Napoleon, dinosaurs: anything could be waiting up there.

Places and people
A shag? Or great crested grebes
19/09/2009, San Giovanni

The rocks here are much beloved by the local water birds. We paddled Bridget up close to a flock of them sunning themselves and watching the world go by. We're not quite sure if they're immature grebes or young shags - or even a mixture of both: bird-identification has never been one of our strong points.
They dive all over the Rade , popping up inquisitively if you come by quietly swimming, sailing or paddling.
Beyond this lovely lady is the opening to the Rade , with the southern Tuscan mainland in the background.

Places and people
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
Goats
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
Lizards
16/09/2009

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
Ravens
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

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