07/12/2012, Elba, Italy
Prior to exiting Golfo di La Spezia, Trilogy anchored near Portovenere for a couple of nights. Portovenere was on the western headland of the Gulf and had various inlets and bays which extend into the sea, which created 3 little islands, Plamaria, Tino and Tinetto. The landscape was both picturesque and enchanting and was a perfect location for the11th century village of Portovenere. It also happened to be to the cover picture on the, 'Italian Waters Pilot' book that we refer to on a daily basis.
It was both pleasing to the eye and very interesting. In front of the Portovenere were mussel farms and along the waters edge was a fortified village consisting of rows of tall, narrow buildings, serving a double military and housing function. Above the village dominated a 1277 Gothic-Genoese style church, and perched above church, a castle that had 1160 walls that came down the hill to join the tall fortified village along the waters edge. It was at this anchorage that Katherine Brice and her friend Genna Kulesza join Trilogy for a few weeks.
In the vicinity of this anchorage we saw a car afloat in the water, driver was at the wheel heading out to sea. Rick tells me it was a converted Land Cruiser . It may have been seaworthy but it certainly was a weird sight and gave us a few laughs. Garth made the comment, 'He should have bought a boat!',
We continued sailing along the Ligurian Coast having a night in the marina at Viareggio and a night anchored off Pisa in the light of a full moon. Along this coastline we entered Tuscany and we were able to experience many Tuscan delights when we anchored in the bay at Baratti.
While anchoring at Baratti, we were surprise at how untouched and rural the landscape appeared and were mystified by circular mounds on the landscape. After a trip ashore to find a local restaurant we discovered the remains of an Etruscan necropolis (burial ground) than dated back to the 7th - 4th centuries BC and extended over 80 hectares. The archaeological park was presented as an open-air museum that glittered with the remains of slag from a very impressive industrial Etruscan village (silver, copper and lead ore). Needless to say, the following morning we spent most of the day walking around the various Etruscan tombs. Some were carved into a limestone cliff face, other burial sites were in tunnels approached by steep steps into a hilland another type were circular in shape with a dome roof that was covered with earth.
The Tuscan Archipelago was within site of Barratti and it was with some regret we pulled up anchor and sailed towards Portoferraio, on Elba Island, the largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago. It was was a harbour that was densely packed with 18th century buildings in shades of cream and ochre tucked under the craggy 16th century citadel.
Around sunset we took the dinghy ashore to find a very buzzing Saturday night in Portoferraio with many yachts having sit down dinner parties on board. Our return trip to the yacht around midnight, was a touch scary as we encountered numerous water craft (plus their wake) in the dark. The following day we found a sweet beach restaurant (Le Viste) for the traditional Sunday Trilogy lunch. This restaurant was at the base of a cliff and perched above was the home of Napoleon, were he lived in exile for 2 years around 1814.
Our ability to find many anchorages in protected coves with lovely beaches on Elba, caused us to return to the island of Elba after a brief visit to Piombino. In Piombino we said farewell to Genna and welcome John and Myra back on board.
07/06/2012, Vernazza, Cinqueterre, Italy
Regardless of how good a harbour or marina might be it is always refreshing to sail out to sea heading towards new experiences. Leaving Genoa on 28 June was no exception as we motored south-east towards Portofino. The sea was smooth and we were treated to the sight of two pods of dolphins casually circling around schools of bait fish and feeding. Portofino dates back to Roman times and allegedly derives its name from Portus Delphini (port of dolphins).
As we motor sailed towards the Cinque Terre we were able to moor at the delightful cove of San Fruttuoso where the water was crystal clear and swimming off the stern of Trilogy was essential. We took the dinghy ashore to explore the tiny cove, the Abbey of Abbazia and to enjoy a cold beer watching the last of the day trippers heading home by small water taxis and ferries.
We learned that there is a 5m statue named the Christ of the Abyss, sculptured by Guido Galletti in 1954, which stands with arms towards the surface in 17m of water to protect boats and fishermen; so we swam and dived to get a glimpse the following morning.
Then on to Portofino, playground of the rich and infamous since the beginning of the 19th century, this small but breathtaking harbour is almost too picturesque to be real. We motored in to see it from the water and then anchored off the adjacent Seno Di Peruggi before taking the dinghy ashore for a beer and pizza meal on the waterfront.
After returning to Trilogy the scene we were treated to after dark was incredible as several thousand candles in paper cups were set adrift on the shores of this tiny bay and the sea was sparkling with so many tiny lights that it seemed quite surreal. We have no idea what the occasion was but the image was truly memorable.
Departing from Portofino on 30 June we headed into the Cinque Terre to anchor near to Monterosso at Vernazza. These five charming villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) are set in steep valleys that fall to the edge of the Ligurian Sea and were connected by a delightful cliff edge walkway that ran between La Spezia and Monterosso. That is until October 2011 when a serious storm flooded several towns and caused massive landslides at Vernazza and Monterosso cutting the walkway and seriously damaging those towns. Eight months later the towns are still cleaning up and restoring the damaged infrastructure. The water in the tiny fishing boat harbour in Vernazza was still very murky from the silt that was washed down from the valley.
On 1 July we headed off to La Spezia and were welcomed into the very new marina at Porto Venere These mega marinas seem to have been built when money was cheap and plentiful but are suffering severely from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis and the consequential downturn in demand for luxury apartments with marina berths. Nevertheless the facilities were quite impressive and the Officio di Porto was especially helpful. Unsurprisingly the marina charges were the highest we have experienced so far at EUR 150 per night.
06/30/2012, Vernazza, Cinqueterre, Italy
Genova is the pivotal centre of the Ligurian Sea (and by far the largest city in the Italian riviera). It is an ancient town and a very large commercial port, but we entered it without a lot of confidence that Trilogy would be there for long. Continuing our lucky streak we were allocated a berth in Porto Antico right in the heart of the old town - any closer and we would have been berthed on the road which separated the port from the town.
The city was part of the Roman empire (when its was sacked during the Carthaginain wars) but really started to hit its straps from about 1000AD. By the 1500s the Republic of Genova reached its peak with rich traders, bankers who financed the Spanish empire and navigators and explorers such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus who extended Genovese influence beyond the the Med.
Genova was at the forefront of the Renaissance and the result can still be seen today in the art works, palazzos, churches and piazzas in the city. Genova turned out to be a suprising gem. Big, grimy in parts like all commercial ports, but fabulous in others.
While we didn't have all that much time to explore the whole city a concerted effort (in the heat) saw us collectively visit the maritime museum and walk through the old town (now inhabited largely by north Africans), and the next day individually visit different parts of the city. The maritime museum gave a wonderful account especially through artwork of the huge ship building heritage of the ancient port and the mighty battles that were staged in the Genova waters using canons.
Individual highlights were the Rolli palaces (a whole street of palazzos which Rubens drew and mapped and took back to Antwerp as an example of the best town planning in Europe in the 16 and 17 century); Piazza de Ferrari; the oriental markets; the redevelopment of the old harbour by Renzo Piano; the Cathedral San Annuziata del Vastatao (with its Rennaissance paintings, including a Rubens altar decoratation) , Christopher Columbus' family home and the Palazzo Spinoli (with its extraordinary living quarters and art works including Rubens and Van Dyke).
We also managed to find some excellent restaurants at fair prices serving Genovese dishes, including a restauranter who had served the Popes. A pleasant change from the tourist oriented menus (and prices) we had started to encounter on the Italian Riviera.
Genova isn't usually on the Med cruisers list of "must do's" but were surprised at the rich exploration possibilities. We left Genova with only a little of it explored, and lots left for another time.
06/27/2012, Varazze, Italy
At the end of a wonderful night of Italian hospitality at the Beneteau regatta party, our host Alessio made a special parting gift to us Aussie imports. Alessio spoke good English and advised us that he had spent some 9 months in Brisbane. We immediately felt understood!
Alessio said earlier in the evening that we were not to leave without a special gift. At this stage we thought the presentations were to be made that night and had imagined that we might be in the running for a prize. The trophies, glassware and ceramic plates were all on display to admire. We noticed basil adorning the walls of the venue, donated by one of the sponsors, and couldn't help but notice the high quality of the basil and with some envy, we reflected on the difficulties we have in Canberra to produce such lush green fragrant sweet basil.
True to his word, Alessio approached us as we were departing and presented not one, but two, pots of basil for Trilogy. Alessio was absolutely passionate about the regional quality of the basil, and that it was THE best basil in the world, due to the particular climatic conditions in Varazze. He advised the plants would love salt water spray and so long as there was sufficient light, the plants would flourish.
So... Trilogy had two new companions, nicknamed Basil and Sybil. Having got them home safely, there was deep discussion about where these new companions were to sleep, after all the cabins were all occupied, except for a spare berth while Myra is absent. Ultimately it was agreed that Basil and Sybil were to stay in the cockpit under the dodger while in port and travel in the shower recess when at sea. I have to report Basil and Sybil have found sneaky ways of getting below at other times, away from the heat.
The upshot is that we have flourishing basil in many of our home prepared meals. It is truly delicious, aromatic and comforting to eat. I am inclined to believe Alessio's claim.
06/25/2012, Varazze, Italy
Over the 23rd and 24th of June, Trilogy competed in the Beneteau Cup Banks Sails Regatta in the Mediterranean waters off Varazze on the Italian Riviera. Under the banner of the Canberra Ocean Racing Club, Trilogy won the Beneteau Cup defeating all the Beneteau yachts in the race and also took out third place over all the boats in the race.
This was a remarkable achievement given that Trilogy was heavily weighed down with fuel, water, dinghy on the foredeck, outboard on the transom and 150 metres of chain. We also kept the bimini and dodger up to keep the cruising appearance and protect us from the blazing sun. Despite the winds being very light and variable, Trilogy managed to sail away from her own division and sail through half of the division that had started 10 minutes earlier.
This was Trilogy's first race since its launch in March this year. When we tested a Beneteau Oceanis 54 on Sydney harbour last year we were all amazed at how well she sailed even in light winds. However you never know how good a boat is until you race against a very competitive fleet. We were all ecstatic to confirm that Trilogy is a magnificent sailing boat that will carry us swiftly and safely back to Australia when we set off in three years time.
We would like to thank our hosts from Beneteau, in particular Marco and Alessio for their generosity and hospitality. The friendship offered by all the competitors was greatly appreciated.
06/21/2012, Alassio, Porto Luca Ferrari
We departed San Remo in full sunshine for a motor sail that followed the Italian coast passing green mountainous terrain that met the Mediterranean. It was a very pleasant sail as after the maintenance work done in Antibes, Trilogy is now performing well and the scenery very interesting. Scattered along the coast were small towns (all with a towering steeples) and terracotta tinted hilltop medieval villages, towering viaducts for road transport, a train line that followed the contour of the waters edge and on many terraced cliffs there are large hot houses. We have read that this area produces most of the flowers for Italy.
Trilogy was set on a course for Imperia which is relatively a new town, resulting from the 1923 unification of Port Maurizio and Oneglia. Maurizio was very stylish with beaches, excellent restaurants and complete with an old town and cathedral. Oneglia, on the other hand, had a industrial feel and was known for pasta and olive oil production. The marina and was located between the two towns.
As we approached the headland of Imperia, the old town looked inviting with pastel coloured houses clustered on the promontory. The cathedral towering above old town with beach umbrellas and bathers on the beaches.
The marina at Imperia was new and had many areas unfinished, however, the work that had been completed was impressive, although, a recording of an osprey feeding her chicks bellowing out of a loudspeaker every 15 minutes was slightly annoying. We imagined its purpose was to keep the seagulls away. The marina staff were very helpful and maybe trying to justify the highest marina fees we had paid to date.
During our journey we have noted that Sundays are a day for families to have lunch in a restaurant, trattorias or pizzerias. So the crew has adopted this European ritual, and when possible, we do lunch out on a Sunday too. We worked up an appetite by first exploring the old town before deciding on where we would dine. The old town was built with a maze of ancient houses, alleys, covered passageways, silent little squares, flights of steps and arches. It was interesting watching the women hang out their washing (from their windows or balcony) to dry above the pedestrians below.
The Basilica di San Maurizio dominated the old town, however it was only one of 5 impressive churches to be seen during the day. On the waterfront was a very sweet church with fluted marble columns with intricate vaulted arches. Late in the afternoon members of the congregation dressed in various maritime uniforms accompanied a wreath out to sea, to offer it to St Anthony, the saint of the church.
Overlooking the cliff face in the old town was the Convent of Santa Chiara. It was founded in 15th century as a convent for the daughters of the local aristocracy. Later it was opened to the Order of St Francis, and from then on the nuns of the Order of St. Clare have been been living there in strict enclosure. During the day, I attended a service in this church, which was conducted by the nuns and the singing was magnificent.
The church of San Leonardo was founded in the14th century. Under the church there is a small room in which one of the first hospitals for women in Italy was opened in the 16th century.
While descending the many flights of stairs to get to the beach, I came across a small fortified door inserted into the old city wall. This doorway (circa 1560) was apparently for use in case of emergency to reach the harbour below.
As an Aussie it is hard to accept that bathers are asked to pay a fee to enter most beaches. If you wanted to sit near the water you paid 11euros for a cabin, 2.70 euros for an umbrella and 15.40 euros for two reclining chairs. That is approx $45 for a couple to have a day at the beach! The fee was reduced the further away from the water your reclining chair was located. However, despite the fee, the way the beach was set up, complete with garden furniture, coffee table, full length mirrors and pot plants, made it look like a comfortable way to enjoy a day at the beach.
On Monday, we sailed on to Alassio, but before we entered the marina we visited the Isolotto Gallinara for a swim off the back of Trilogy. This small private island is about 3 kilometres from Alassio and has a church, a castle and a tiny harbour. It is now a nature park and the swim in the sapphire blue water, along with the sea birds, made us feel as if we were in a remote part of the Italian Riviera.
Alassio is the location we plan to meet up with Garth and Ros and we are are looking forward to their company for the next 5 weeks.