Any cruiser contemplating visiting this area has thought about Med mooring: coming in bows or stern-to and either picking up laid lines or using your own anchor to hold you off the dock. But once you've done that, how do you get off the boat?
The answer is - walk the plank!
These gangplanks are called passarelles in the fancy jargon, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The picture is of Roaring Girl in Ostia. (Note our fancy new netting and tightened guard rails while we're at it!) Our passarelle was made with help of Dave from Englander in Barcelona, who whisked Pip off for a plank and ladder, and helped the development of this sturdy tool. In Ostia we have also improved the system for raising the passarelle up - by the two lines leading up to a metal yoke which in turn is attached to the spinnaker halyard. We experimented with bits of wood and what have you, but in the end got the purpose made bit of kit, which has worked much better.
It is equally important to stop it waving from side to side, and that's where the red lines back to the pulpit come in. Lots of boats have pulley systems to help with this job, but we haven't achieved that refinement yet.
A key challenge for us is how the passarelle is attached to the boat. We have made a hole in the plank and that fits over the fitting to which we attach the foot of the cruising chute, a raised wedge of steel with a hole in attached to the bow roller. (One disadvantage of the Rocna anchor is that it has to be dropped as the shank is too big for the plank to sit smoothly over it.) This provides, essentially, a pivot point. Flashier boats, like Roysterer in the gallery) often have a purpose built fitting which attaches to their passarelle by a hinge arrangement. Other boats, particularly those with sugar scoop sterns, can just have a plank, like Morgana) which sits on the steps and across to the dock.
We found in Ostia that the water level rose and fell more than anywhere else we have been in the Med. We're not sure why but southerly and westerly winds depressed the water level significantly, even if they brought rain with them. This means that being able to adjust the passarelle is more important than usual. For some, like Aquila, the American flagged boat in the gallery, there's the added frisson of making sure the end will actually sit on the dock if the wind is blowing the boat away!
The most scary, we think, is Malaika's, the steep one which goes across their dinghy and has few hand holds, but Benji and Heather (who took their pic) are happy with it. Motorboats often have nifty electric extenders, and some classic boats have beautiful gridded teak passarelles that fully deserve the name. We like ours for being light, practical and cheap, but it needs care to cross, just the same.
|Life on Roaring Girl||
Ostia itself is a funny little town. Administratively it is part of Rome, and, with 90,000 residents, is the largest non-independent Commune in Italy. The townspeople are defiantly not Roman: if you ask a local whether they are Roman, the vehement denial will claim Ostia alone as home. In the picture are the lovely Stephan and Mauro of the chandlery in the Lido; Mauro is a great practical joker, and Stephan speaks wonderful English.
Ostia Antica, the port of ancient Rome about a mile up the Tiber, was abandoned by the fourth century AD, the river silt making it unusable, and unable to compete with larger ports up the coast. For hundreds of years not much happened around here, unless you're an Anapholes mosquito. Napoleon built the watchtower, shown in the main picture, at the first bend in the river, but that was about it.
The new Ostia was built in the late nineteenth century, largely on malarial swampland that was dug and reclaimed by fishermen brought in from Ravenna. A small part of the marshes is still left, kept as a nature reserve and home to seabirds and, we were told, otters. It's almost always deserted except for the volunteers who scythe paths through the reeds.
Ostia became an unsavoury hinterland to Rome, a place of violence and secrecy, with an appalling reputation. In the fifties, as part of the Italian film movement that worked to understand and define the post-war, Republican Italy, Ostia was a frequent film venue, used as a place to understand dislocation and distance while within easy distance of the centre of Rome. In 1975 the famous director and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in the marshes, and not long afterwards, a lot of money and effort was pumped into the place.
The porto turistico is the main result of this, with space for a lot of boats, a wildly expensive boat yard, and various shops. It is a major leisure site in the town, judging by the hundreds of people who take their passegata along the front. For festivals they mount small fairs and markets, but a lot more needs to be done to make Ostia distinct from the enormous competition it faces.
You can get most of the things you need in Ostia. The unremarkable crossroads in the gallery is key for cruisers: it is home to the covered market (one of two in the town), the nearest hardware store, several big supermarkets, and a chemist. The bus to the hypermarkets at Fiumicino stops along here too.
For us, Ostia is reminiscent of the backyard to London, those parts of the Thames Gateway creating an identity that doesn't only rely on commuting to the big, congested city half an hour up the tracks. But it needs more oomph, and more inclusiveness. And most of all, it seems, it needs ways to deliver well-paid work to residents so that the local economy really benefits.
|Places and people||
This extraordinary monument was erected by the Senate to commemorate Augustus' victories in Gaul and Spain, which, according to them, brough the peace of Augustus to the Empire. We know the Gauls (at least) didn't think so - look at the evidence of Asterix
The monument itself is like a huge, castled throne, with ornately carved marble all around it. The throne itself places the emperor higher than all those around him, and the carvings are heavy with symbolism. The figures carved into several faces depict the imperial family in great detail, together with other senior figures from the senate. These marble processions are interspersed with key legends in the Roman narrative: the killing of the sow by Aeneas, the suckling of Romulus and Remus and other indications of the god-blessed imperium. The carving is exquisite and the faces resonate today.
The building originally sat at the other end of the Campus Martius from the enormous pile of the imperial mausoleum. A huge column, now on the north side of St Giovanni Lateran stood between them and the suggestion is now that it acted as a sun-dial, pointing at midsummer directly at this statement of successful ambition. A table top display gives the approximate positions, and also illustrates the scale of this massive training and parade ground.
The building suffered from the flooding and high water table then endemic in the area, and eventually was excavated and moved to the present site under Mussolini. The building in which it stands, a stark grey box with many windows, is very unlovely from the outside. From the inside it works absolutely brilliantly to showcase this extraordinary monument.
The exhibition hall also brings together copies of the many heads of the family, including those of Augustus and his long-serving and much beloved third wife, Livia. The head of Augustus, of which the original is the in the Capitolini, is a sensitive, pensive face for a man who made such a difference to history.
The mausoleum, long denuded of its illustrious ashes, is the big, green-covered circle outside the polished glass. It is closed to visitors and stands as a mournful block in the streets, too big and clumsy to renew, and to potent to destroy.
|Places and people||
This is written in Portoferraio but harks back to our time in Rome.
At the top of the Capital Hill are the most stunning views of Rome. From the top of the hill, on the balcony beside the (hideous) Vittorio Emannuel Monument, you look towards St Peters, across mediaeval and Renaissance Rome. The domes loft above the palazzi and piazzas, with the green of secret gardens and the hills beyond.
Looking the other way, the vista is of ancient Rome. The view sweeps away towards the Colosseum. On one side there is Trajan's market, now overlooked by a mediaeval watchtower of the one of the feuding baronies who controlled Rome in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. To the right is the Palatine Hill, now a romantic site of pines and ruins of the Roman millennia. And directly beneath the Tabularium, the ancient archives of the Emperors which lies within the Hill, spread out the Forums, with the pillars and temples flanking the Sacred Way, centre of the European world for centuries.
|Places and people||
After anchoring deeper in the Rade of Porto Azzuro about which we wrote last yearzzuro, , including some pilotage notes we dinghied ashore. The little town is as sweet as ever, but fairly closed up still as the season doesn't really begin till the end of May. After lunch back aboard, the easterly breeze was picking up and the sun was shining, so we headed round to Portoferraio.
it was a very pleasant, if gentle sail, and made up for the rigours of the long day before. We arrived in the Rade of Portoferraio to find Aquila had got here before us. The forecast for the rest of the week is dire with rain and today, Tuesday, high winds. So far the forecast is accurate and we are glad our rocna appears to be very well dug in. We've not got a lot of power though, as the skies are overcast. Our main wind generator is still awaiting its new blades (they're here: we just have to install them), and it's been too windy to put up our additional wind genny that hovers over the foredeck when we're at anchor. So we're conserving electricity which restricts computer time. Hence no pix and not a complete update from Rome and leaving Ostia.
Although it's a very quiet day it's lovely to relax and be on board at anchor, playing cards, reading and doing a few small jobs.
|Life on Roaring Girl||
A long and unpleasant first trip of the season. Rain, swell, thunder, cold - oh and did we mention the swell? Our first stop was planned to be Anse Campese on the west coast of Giglio, but when we got there it was raining so hard that we couldn't see the shore - let alone avoid the shallow patches and the reef. We hung about for 20 minutes but then gave up and turned our bows for Elba. we're now on the edge of Porto Azzuro, and plan to move in there today and visit the sweet little town before swinging round to Portoferraio tomorrow.
We've updated the map to show where we are too.
|Life on Roaring Girl||
From St Florent we headed for Calvi. Leaving the Golfe St Florent we saw a tall ship under sail approaching, which then did some exercises. What fun! They are so big you can imagine how extraordinary they must have seemed to the expert navigators of the Pacific, who could sail anywhere but whose resources constrained them to relatively small craft.
We had hoped to enjoy an anchorage on the west coast of the Desert but as we came round the corner the breeze got up to a south-westerly F4 with a nasty choppy sea. And cold! So we reshaped our plans to spend the night in the shelter of the islet at Ile Rousse. This little town was built by Pasquale Paoli when the citizens of Calvi refused to cooperate with his plans for independent Corsica. So he made Ile Rousse as competition. All our guide books are sniffy about it, so we didn't bother to sort out Bridget and go ashore.
The pilot book is wary about rocks, and the bay looks quite different from you expect from the chart . You go further west than you anticipate and the main reef off the beach is very visible. The smaller reef on the west side is not as clear but there are lots of moorings there. The gap between the two is large enough for several anchored boats. Between the beach and the western rocks is a large, high quay, but we saw no signs of it being used. The marina is then straight ahead, and to the north is the ferry terminal, which is surprisingly busy with some very large vessels and a hyperactive pilot.
The pilot kept us amused for quite a while. The little blue boat swarmed around the big ferry for a bit. Then it went out into the open sea about half a mile off and twisted round in small circles like an angry hornet for no obvious reason. For several minutes! Then it came back and meandered around the ferry again. Eventually, an orange lifejacket was passed up to a waiting crewman. What a to-do!
The wind did calm down in the evening but we stayed put, quite comfortable and enjoyed a lovely sunset. We have made a small album with some pictures for pilotage value.
|Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)||
These splendid museums house astonish statuary from ancient Rome. The most magnificent is the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, of which a copy now stands in the Piazza. An excellent hall has been built over the old gardens of the Museum, in which this statue and other precious relics are beautifully displayed.
The statue had survived for so long because it was believed to be of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was venerated in its own right, and thus it is one of the few surviving complete bronze statues of that period. In its heyday it was magnificent indeed, covered in gold, larger than life, with Aurelius' hand outstretched above the flaring nostrils and impatient hooves of his charger.
Its placement in the Piazza was an important step in reclaiming Roman dignity from the mire and savagery of the Middle Ages, when the city was a patchwork of feuding fiefdoms and the palaces were fortresses surrounded by disputed and depopulated marsh. It was again a nationally important decision to copy it, and protect the original here.
There's a lot more to say abut our visit to Rome, but it is now Saturday afternoon, and we are planning a long sail tomorrow to Giglio or Elba, leaving at some silly o'clock. So the rest will have to wait a little while!
|Places and people||
n ancient times, the temple of Juno Menta stood here, which gave us the modern word Mint, the source of money. It was also the home of the famous Roman geese, that raised the alarm and saved Rome on the night the Gauls attacked.
Juno was asked for help with all sorts of feminine trouble: cradle to grave goddessing. The function hasn't changed that much, with the active worship of the Virgin consistently entreated for all sorts of favours. The marble steps used to be climbed by women on their knees seeking intercession. The day we were visited we were lucky to see a forces wedding - Navy we think. The groom wore a light blue sash over his uniform, and many of the guests sported swords in exquisitely shiny scabbards, alongside their gold braid and peaked caps.
The church itself is rather like a market place, with its huge marble-floored nave and elegant columns and balconies rising around you. There is a very ornate altar, and this day it was decorated with lots of flowers. There are (at least) two other important sites in this church. One is unknown, but this is the church in which Gibbon sat as he resolved to write the history of the Rome: the books became The Decline and Fall. The other is the little statue known at Il Bambino, a jewel encrusted copy of a small olivewood carving of the Christ-child. The original, burnt in 1994, was said to have been carved by an angel from the wood of a tree from Gethsemane, and was credited with miraculous powers of healing. It was regularly taken out to visit people who were terminally ill. We couldn't discover if the new copy is believed to have the same effect.
|Places and people||
Michelangelo's piazza had a profound political purpose. In ancient times, the temple of Jupiter stood on this hill. It looked along the ridge that became the Palatine Hill, and down over the valley that became the Forum. Its final incarnation, built by Tarquinus Superbus in the sixth century BC, was enormous.
Under the Republic and then the Empire it remained a temple, sacred to Jove. It stood a the head of the Via Sacra, the most important road of classical Rome, overseeing the white-robed Vestal Virgins, the slaves in victory processions, the sacrifices and prayers of millions. For thousands of years, the axis of the hill was south east.
The anxious Popes of the renaissance both relied on that history and turned away from it. For them, St Peter's was the centre of power, no longer the Forum. Paul III had the Piazza reoriented to face west north west. Toward the basilica.
The southern edge of the square, shown here, is Rome's Town Hall, its stairs also deigned by Michelangelo. The Palazzo dei Conservatori (to the right) was already in place, but Michelangelo created a new façade, and had the Palazzo Nuovo built opposite to match. These are both angled slightly to focus on the Town Hall.
Michelangelo was old when he designed this, and the square wasn't actually finished until the seventeenth century. One thing he did was to bring to this square the magnificent equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which had stood oustside San Giovanni Lateran for years. More of that in a moment.
The two Palazzi are now home to the magnificent Capitolini musueums. Before we visited them, we strolled around the hill, looking at the views, and visited S Maria in Aracoeli, the church behind the unprepossessing red brick facade at the top of the ancient steps.
|Places and people||
Rome is full of steps. There's the broad flight leading up the Palatine hill, the flower-filled Spanish Steps so familiar from films, the multiple flights in palazzi. Even the boarded sacred steps St Helen brough to Rome from Pilate's house in Jerusalem.
The ancients liked steep stairs, no chllenge o muscular leg strengthened by endless marches. The Renaissance introduced the shallow, broader step, ideal for sweeping up in gorgeous fabrics, making an entrance.
The two strategies sit side by side at the slope of the Capitoline Hill. In ancient times, the steps on the left were on the Quirinal Hill, leading to the temple of the Sun God built by Aurelian. In the fourteenth century they were moved here, paid for by offerings made to the Virgin during the Black Death. We did climb them, to visit the church of S Maria in Aracoeli at the top.
Two centuries later, the piazza at the top of the hill was redesigned by Michelangelo. New steps were needed. The gentle sweep of the second flight, called the Cordonata, is like a polite bow to the muscularity of classical Rome, while retaining the grace of the Renaissance leading to the perfect piazza above.
|Places and people||
On Saturday, we'd had enough of our rock and rolling boat. The appalling weather meant no work could be done outside, which precluded more repairs to Bridgit. We upped sticks for Rome again.
This is the bus-stop for the number 15 bus, which runs down the back of the marina to the run-down shanty town on the banks of the river, called Idroscalo. Sarah is holding up her two most trusty guidebooks to Rome. The Rough Guide is invaluable for snippets, and for helping to prioritise in this most overwhelming of cities. The other, recommended by our friend Mike, is H V Morton's 'A Traveller in Rome'. Written in 1957, it is a mine of erudite information, though some of it has been overtaken by later research. For example, he imagines the gory deaths of Christians in the Colosseum, but current wisdom says that none were killed there.
Morton assumes a good classical education, so at times we are floundering in his wake. But exploring Rome while holding his hand is to gain new insights at every corner. Many of the best stories in the blog come from him, and we'd recommend his book to any visitor here.
|Places and people||