05 July 2016 | Cala Canelle
05 July 2016 | Cala Galera
05 July 2016 | Riva di Triano
30 June 2016 | Porto Touristico di Roma
18 June 2016 | Casamicciola
13 June 2016 | Marina di Stabia, Castellammare
28 August 2015 | Marina di Stabia, Castellammare
11 July 2015 | Marina di Stabia, Castellammare
10 July 2015 | Isla di Procida
04 July 2015 | Porto Touristico Roma
Grand Harbour, Malta
20 June 2018 | Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta
19th June Marzamemi to Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta
After 6 days we were ready to leave. The winds had died down and although the sea state in the Malta Channel was still likely to be on the rough side we decided to risk the crossing. We left at 05.30, first light, to make the most of daylight hours. The sea had a heavy swell, on the beam, so we rolled about a bit particularly as we left the shelter of Sicily. The wind was also beam on, at between 6 and 10 knots which was enabled us to motor sail at between 5 and 6 knots for most of the way. We covered the 65 miles in 11.5 hours which was good going.
The crossing was trouble free apart from ship dodging and we arrived in the magnificent Grand Harbour at 4pm. A complete contrast with Italy, things work and the Maltese seem to be able to finish what they start. Italy is a wonderful country but after a while the frustrations grow. A small but telling detail, in Marzamemi we looked for a tourist office and followed a number of signs to no avail. There isn't one and the main street has two signs for the info office pointing in different directions. That should have warned us!
Malta is different and we are really looking forward to exploring Valletta and the rest.
Marzamemi or bust
14 June 2018 | Marzamemi
13th June: Syracuse to Marzamemi
Syracuse held us for almost 2 weeks. We attempted to leave on 9th June but a 25 knot headwind and rough sea conditions, progress was slow and uncomfortable. We made it only half way to Marzamemi before deciding to return to Syracuse. We then found significant amount of water in the engine sump and needed an engineer to replace a leaking water pump. Originally he quoted a 15 day wait for replacement which somewhat dismayed us so we made arrangements to leave the boat and fly home. Miraculously we then learned that a replacement had been located and would arrive the next day! Sudden change of plan. It took a morning to replace together with much sweat and Italian sucking of teeth but it did get done.
We set off for Marzamemi early the next day to beat forecast heavy weather, arriving around noon. Marzamemi is a small former fishing village close to the southern tip of Sicily, a jumping off point for the 60 mile trip to Malta.
Thankfully the marina here is very sheltered, as we are currently experiencing 25-35 knot winds. The 60 mile open-sea crossing would be unwise in these conditions which are forecast to last for the next week or so. Marzamemi is very small and charming in a frontier sort of way, but a week is a long time in a place like this so we will hire a car and explore some of the interior of Sicily, whilst waiting for better conditions.
The village has a charming unspoilt square at the centre and relies on tourism and an offshore fish farm for it's livelihood. Everyone we met were friendly and helpful and our 6 days there were enjoyable.
We drove to Noto and Ragusa, towns re-built after the 1693 earthquake with entirely different characters.
The original site of Noto was abandoned and rebuilt on a hilltop a few miles away. The centre was laid out on a grid system and remains intact. It has some outstandingly beautiful examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture including the usual quota of the sacred but also a theatre and town hall. All the buildings are built of sandstone and the uniform honey-colour which seems to glow in the sun, enhances the sense of unity given by the architectural style. A true gem although to get to the centre, the modern suburbs with their unplanned opportunistic layout and utilitarian buildings have to be endured.
Ragusa is completely different. It was re-built in situ after the earthquake on a limestone plateau high up in the Hyblaean Mountains. The plateau is scored by deep gorges and the long drive up has some wonderful views over the gorges and high fields of agricultural land separated by dry stone walls reminiscent of Yorkshire or Cumbria. The oldest part Ragusa, Ragusa Ibla, is built clinging to limestone cliffs with steep cobbled, narrow streets leading to the summit with yet another magnificent Duomo with attendant square. Well worth the climb. The narrow streets lead to alleyways and charming courtyards that it would take an age to fully explore. The town is the setting for the Italian detective series Inspector Montalbano and has benefitted from the resultant influx of visitors and restoration work.
Ragusa Superiore was built in the 18th Century to provide a more rationally modern city and competition between the two persisted over many years. The whole town is a World Heritage Site.
How much history can you take?
03 June 2018 | Syracuse
Geoff/hot and sunny
31st May: Catania to Syracuse
Syracuse is some 35 miles south of Catania. The weather was warm and sunny with little wind and we had a pleasant lunch stop at Brucoli approximately halfway. In Catania we saw a number of visiting warships from the UK, Spain, France and as well as Italy. On passage we saw more at anchor in the bay south of Catania and assumed they were part of the Libyan refugee rescue effort, using Catania as a supply base.
The initial approach to Syracuse is unpromising with modern identikit tower blocks completely disfiguring the low cliffs of the northern approach. As we got closer the old town came into view, gateway to the large natural harbour that has made Syracuse a target for would-be conquerors over the centuries. The old town occupies the island of Ortigia joined to the mainland by three bridges over a narrow canal. The buildings are primarily constructed of honey coloured sandstone or light grey granite (no more black lava). It is largely traffic free and is a pleasure to walk around. It has the obligatory fortress dominating the harbour entrance, narrow streets and many historic buildings.
The Duomo, dedicated to Saint Lucy of Syracuse (martyred in 304), is a magnificent building with a fine Baroque facade. It is built on the site of the the Greek temple of Athena, dating from about 480 BC and incorporates the substantial remains of the original temple. The building has been adapted over the centuries and today 26 of the huge Doric columns of the original temple provide structural support for the roof and side walls. The interior has been largely stripped of decoration exposing much of the original internal structure of the temple, making it very easy to admire the engineering skills of Ancient Greece. The columns are over 2500 years old and remain in every day use.
In the Piazza Duomo among other fine Renaissance buildings ,is a small church containing Caravaggio's masterpiece, the 'Burial of St Lucy' painted in 1608. He was fleeing from Malta at the time and sought refuge in Syracuse, maybe this was the price of sanctuary.
It is inevitable that the wealth of architectural treasures of Syracuse ranging from Greek, Roman to Byzantine, Norman and Renaissance attract tourists but at present it is relatively uncrowded making walking around a real pleasure. We have only scratched the surface of the history of Syracuse, the city where Archimedes died in 212 BC at the hands of Roman conquerers. It will repay a return visit and I could happily spend a month exploring it's treasures.
We were able to obtain tickets for a performance of 'Hercules' by Euripides, staged in the remains of the Greek Theatre. It was quite a privilege to see a Greek play in an original Greek Theatre even though it was in Italian. We checked out the plot beforehand so could follow the action without problem. Surprisingly the audience contained large numbers of Italian teenagers and having seen little evidence of their interest in classic Greek drama, surmised that Euripides is on the exam syllabus.
A real pleasure for me was to read, in translation, Thucydides detailed account of the siege of Syracuse by the Athenians in 415-413 BC. The siege ended in a vast sea battle in the Grand Harbour and total destruction of both the Athenian fleet and army. It was written contemporaneously from eyewitness accounts and I could identify the scenes of action from our mooring in the Grand Harbour. Apologies if I seem like a pretentious nerd!
We are now planning our trip to Malta but strong winds are forecast for the Malta Strait so we are waiting for a weather window before moving further south and attempting the 60 mile crossing.
A New Year Begins
17 May 2018 | Catania - Circolo Nautico
Geoff /Sunny with a cooling breeze
15th May 2018
French detour then Marina di Riposto to Catania
In planning this year's return to the Med., Linda broke with tradition forsaking Marseille in favour of Bordeaux for her annual French language course. Arriving in Bordeaux on 22nd April, we spent an enjoyable week in the city. Linda found a pleasant apartment near the banks of the River Garonne, close to the centre and we were able to enjoy most of what the city had to offer.
We visited the picturesque village of St Emilion some 40 minutes away by train. The medieval village contained some impressive fortifications as well as the usual ecclesiastical buildings including a monolithic church carved out of a limestone cliff surmounted by a huge bell-tower. Once you had recovered from the 196 step climb, the commanding view over the rolling countryside and the famous vineyards made it worthwhile. Disappointingly we were too late for the last of the day's guided tours of the underground church, billed as a 'must see'. We reached the heights but were unable to plumb the depths!
A good late lunch was sufficient consolation and I am reliably informed that the wine was very acceptable!
Bordeaux is well worth a return visit, particularly as Linda found the language school an improvement on Marseille.
We flew to Riposto, via Catania Airport, on 30th April and booked into accommodation for a week to enable us to get the boat ready. We had hired a car in anticipation of some sightseeing but only managed to find time to drive to nearby Taormina, built atop a limestone outcrop. The original settlement predates both Greek and then Roman settlements, providing a safe retreat from sea borne invaders and pirates. The limestone base and its height preserved the town from eruption and earthquake. There are extant remains of both Greek and Roman buildings including an impressively large amphitheatre built by the Romans on the remains of the previous Greek one. The narrow streets contain many fine Renaissance buildings. Lots of history!
Taormina became a winter retreat for the rich and famous in the 20th century resulting in many luxury hotels and houses built on the lower slopes.
The summit commands fine views of Etna and the adjacent coastline. It is well worth a visit but beware, we visited in May, out of the main season, but due to the 'cruise ship curse' (there were two anchored in the bay below) and local tourists the streets were jammed and the road approaches narrow and congested. Still worth it!
Back to the more mundane, our departure from Riposto was delayed by necessary repairs to the boat from winter damage, nothing major but requiring a frustrating wait for carpenters and electricians to find time for our rather minor requirements. That said everyone went out of their way to assist us.
Riposto is a working town bereft of tourists and completely unprepossessing. There are some fine buildings but has the air of neglect and underinvestment, common to much of southern Italy. Nevertheless it grew on us through the cheerful help of local people and we got to know a few of them.
Nothing in Italy is quite what it seems. We found that the local garage doubles as a wine shop. Hidden behind the petrol pumps, the proprietor dispensed his home produced wine, both red and white at Euro1.5 per litre (bring your own bottle), which Linda pronounced highly drinkable. That's why our fridge is full.
We eventually left Riposto in the pouring rain on 15th May heading for Catania. We got very wet and cold (would you believe it?) but the trip was only 3 hours so we braved it. We are now in Catania, Sicily's second largest city, accurately described by a fellow English sailor as 'gritty'.
We expect to be here for a few days as there is plenty to explore, very busy during the day and lively at night when the main street is closed to traffic for the usual evening promenade by the locals and tourists alike.
We made an unscheduled return to the UK and arriving back in Catania on 30th May.
Catania divides opinion among the crew of Summertime. As a city it has a certain 'Marmite' aspect. It is easy to hate but there is redemption if you look beyond the obvious.
The city was devastated by an eruption of Etna in 1669 inundating the city with lava, in 1693 an earthquake destroyed what was left. The city was rebuilt in the 18th century on the same spot, in the words of Dr Johnson, a triumph of hope over experience?
Extensive use of black solidified lava as a building material has resulted in a very dark and sombre look to the city, offset by lighter coloured marble employed in the facades of a number of important buildings. The city was rebuilt in the baroque style and has many fine churches and palaces as well as a medieval fortress.
There is a daily market just behind the Duomo square which sells all kinds of produce. It is quite an assault on the senses to experience the chaos, noise, smells and sheer variety of produce on open sale. No sign of health regulations here!
15 November 2017 | Marina dell'Etna, Riposta
We found the marina at Riposto to be relatively new with good facilities and close to the town. The cost for overwintering is reasonable and we are close to Catania airport, so we decided to leave Summertime there for the winter. We will have to hope Etna stays quiet for the next 6 months as Riposto sits right under the volcano. The day after we arrived snow appeared on the top of Etna, a sign of winter's approach.
23 September 2017 | Porto Dell'Etna, Riposto
Geoff/warm and sunny
23rd Sept: Messina to Riposto
Messina is the island's third largest city, situated just south of the narrowest part of the Strait. It is the closest port to the mainland so there is heavy ferry traffic. The marina is situated just at the mouth of the port so suffers from constant ferry wash which makes all the boats rock and roll. This is not only uncomfortable and dangerous for occupants but risks damage to the boat. The city is busy and noisy with a dearth of shops and eateries close to the marina. Unsurprisingly we left early the morning after we arrived.
We travelled 35 miles south to Riposto, where we are considering wintering the boat. The town and marina are situated immediately under the impressive Mount Etna. Today the peak of the volcano is wreathed in cloud rather than smoke. Let's hope it stays that way.