Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category


July 23rd, 2012 No comments

There is more to Sardinia than La Madellena Islands and Costa Smeralda as we discovered enroute north from Tunisia along the West Coast of Sardinia.

In June, 2009, shortly after we arrived in the Med we crossed the Straits of Bonifacio that separate Corsica from Sardinia and spent some time in La Maddalena Islands, one of many nature preserves in Italy.  We also ventured south along the east coast along Costa Smeralda and spent a couple of days anchored in Porto Cervo before the mega-yachts had arrived for the season.

La Maddalena is flat sandy islands amind rocky outcroppings, while Costa Smeralda and Port Cervo with elegant, pastel houses on a tree covered coast with cascades of bougainvillea are reminiscent of mainland Italy. 

Isola Caprera Anchorage, La Maddalena, Sardinia--rocks and sand

. . .while Porto Cervo is elegant homes and mega-yachts.

In contrast, the southwest shore of Sardinia was more like the wild, rugged coastline of Corsica, its northern neighbor.

At 5:30 a.m. the sunrises after our overnight passage. . .

then "Land-ho" Sardinia. . .

and the first of many Roman towers that dot the coast.

We arrived at Cap Malfatano near Teluda, Sardinia after a 24 hour overnight sail from Cap Bon, Tunisia.  The anchorage was off a white sand beach, with turquoise water.

Our first anchorage in Sardinia. . .a small cove near Capo Malfantano.

After resting for the day and catching up on sleep the next morning, we headed north to the island of Carleforte.  There are numerous small islands on the west side of Sardinia as well, although apparently not as well known as the La Maddelena Islands.

The passage to Carleforte harbor is very shallow, and as a result other than ferries that shuttle vacationers between the mainland and the island, there are no mega-yachts to be seen. 

Most people arrive in Carloforte by ferry from the mainland. . .

and are greeted by pastel buildings and palm trees that line the main street.

Carleforte is a charming little village with ancient plane trees in the square.

Old men sit in the square and socialize. . .

while the younger set enjoy gelato.

There are festivals during  the summer months throughout Italy.  Flags were strung across the narrow streets of Carleforte in preparation.  

This flag display made us particularly proud.

Unfortunately, the passage north along the coast is against the prevailing summer NW wind, which meant lay days along the way waiting for the wind to be light enough that we could motor (Kent hates that word) into it.  We have accepted that in the Med there is either no wind, too much wind, or it is blowing from the direction we wish to go.

Kent is happy when he gets to set his sails.

We left Carleforte early in the day taking advantage of light winds to reach Capo San Marco about 45 NM north.  Another thing about the west coast of Sardinia is that the legs between ports tend to be long.

Capo San Marco was a delightful stop.  Not only were there free moorings in the nature preserve, but they were set just below the Punic-Roman ruins of Tharros.

Our view of the Tharros ruins from Destiny. . .

was as stunning as Destiny framed by the ruins.

 We landed the dinghy at Tharros and climbed over a small fence, but duly paid our admission of  7 euros each.

The ruins extend down a gently sloping peninsula to the sea. . .

but you could say that it has "gone to the dogs".

On the opposite of the Capo was a small beach village and beach with pounding surf.

Some people opted for the beach near the town. . .

while others took a tourist train. . .

to remote stretches of beach that couldn't be reached by car.

Another 47 NM passage took us to the small man-made harbor at Bosa Marina where we were treated to an afternoon kite boarding exhibition.  The wind typically blows strong in the late afternoon—and the kite boarders were taking advantage of the 20 kts. plus to zip through the harbor.

Kite boarders whizzed across the harbor. . .

performing nailbiting aerial jumps. . .

all the while avoiding collisions with several other kite boarders.

By evening, the wind and kite boarders were gone and Bosa Marina delighted us with a tranquil sunset behind an ancient tower that during the day was not nearly so magnificent.

A peaceful end to our day at Bosa Marina, Sardinia

Light wind kept us moving north, so early the next morning we were off on a 24 NM passage to Porto Conte, a large well protected bay inside Capo Caccia marine preserve.

Capo Caccia is at the entrance to Porto Conte. . .

which is part of a marine preserve.

On the outside of Capo Caccia is Neptune’s Grotto which can be reached by boat or a long stairway.

Neptune's Grotto is on the seaward facing side of the cape. . .

and can be gotten to by boat. . .

or a treacherous looking stairway that snakes down the face of the cape.

Landing by dinghy in heavy seas was not an option, so we did not enter the grotto.  The coastline was impressive and the dinghy ride about as much excitement as I needed for the day.

On the bay side of Porto Conte classic boats cruise by ancient towers on a flat azure sea.

After another lay day for strong winds we made a final push north to the Fornelli Passage and the small harbor at Stintino.  Going through the Fornelli Passage between the mainland and another island nature preserve saves about 20 NM enroute to Stintino, but the passage is narrow and very shallow on both sides requiring that you be lined up with two markers.

One of the black and white markers that guided us through Fornelli Passage. . .

to the calm, though shallow anchorage on the other side.

It was a very rough, wet passage but once through the passage, the calm turquoise water was welcome.

When we docked at the marina it was still blowing 18-20 kts. and we made a bow first landing.  By evening the wind had died and we had a welcome dinner ashore at a seaside pizza restaurant called Lu Fanali.

Stintino is a man made harbor with a little beach. . .

local fisherman. . .

and a great little seaside pizza restaurant--Lu Fanali.

All in all, the west coast of Sardinia has been a pleasant surprise.  Lovely towns, great food shopping, ancient ruins,  and NO mega-yachts.

The northwest corner of Sardinia leaves us only half way to the South of France, our next destination.  Since we have already seen the west coast of Corsica we decided to do an overnight passage from here.

Next stop France. . .more to follow.

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June 15th, 2012 No comments

Late spring weather in the Med can be unpredictable, and we have learned the hard way that anchoring in an unprotected spot can have unexpected consequences.  However, anchoring in new seemingly protected anchorages can also have unexpected consequences.  That was the case in late May at Castellammara del Golfo on a large bay on the northwest coast of Sicily.

Castellammare del Golfo sits at the base of a steep mountain. . .

with a high concrete breakwater and pier still under construction.

We arrived in the man-made harbor about 7:25 p.m. just before sunset and were greeted by a local boat directing us to a dock.   The weather was supposed to be benign overnight with strong winds forecast by mid-day the following day, so we begged off and said “tomorrow we will come to the dock”.  BIG mistake

There were several marina pontoons in the harbor. . .

but we opted to anchor out to enjoy the privacy and view of the town at night.

We anchored, had a nice dinner aboard and were very proud of having saved a few euros by delaying for a night heading to the dock. . .that is until we were awakened from a sound sleep at 11:25 p.m. by the roar and vibration of the wind.  The strong winds arrived about twelve hours early sounding like a freight train.  

The rest of the night we spun around on the anchor in gusty wind that averaged 35-40 kts., while Kent sat in the cockpit on “anchor watch” and I checked GPS coordinates at the nav station.  The steep mountain rising up from the town funneled the wind into the anchorage making the breakwater just one more threat to our safety.

At dawn our stern was about two boat lengths from some nasty looking metal pilings that were intended for a new quay.

At dawn we could see just how close the metal pilings were. . .time to move.

The wind died just enough for us to make a break to the dock–the one we could have been safely tied to all night. . .and slept.

Once the stormy weather arrived, it hung on for a couple of days, with sporadic pouring rain and occasional peeks of sun during which we explored the small fishing village. 

A fisherman mends his nets. . .

while tourists sit under palms in the park. . .

or enjoy the small beach near the marina.

Black clouds hung over the town, with a few sunny breaks, but eventually a rainbow arrived.

Finally a rainbow appeared that stretched from the harbor entrance. . .

to the town.

That evening a pink sky signaled the front had passed and we could head south.

Pink sky at night. . .sailors delight!

All in all May in Sicily was not our best month in the Med.  The weather systems come through frequently and last for days.  We were pinned down for several days in the Aeolian Islands due to strong winds, and spent days in Riposto trying to get through the Straits of Messina.

Tunisia here we come!

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June 6th, 2012 No comments

Kent has known Ann and Dudley Welch for almost the entire 40 years that they have been married as of April.  We were delighted that they decided to share their special anniversary trip by spending a week with us on Destiny in Sicily.

Ann & Dudley still smiling after 40 years!

We had a rather aggressive schedule planned that included Siracusa to the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily, but the unpredictable weather near the beginning of May kept us in port rather than cruising for several days.  Welcome to the Med, where there is “too little or too much wind” and it is always on your nose. 

Ann and Dudley met us in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily, and for the next week we were on “vacation” with friends doing all the stuff that tourists do.

We walked along the sea. . .

like tourists do. . .

visited cathedrals. . .

shopped in the outdoor market. . .

and ate gelato.

Siracusa is one our favorite towns in Sicily and it was fun to share it with friends.

Siracusa has ornate baroque buildings. . .

colorful flowers. . .

and parks with ancient trees.

Our next stop was Catania just 30 NM north of Siracusa.  We had a lovely motor sailing passage to Catania with Mt. Etna as our visual reference.

Mt. Etna is visible under the jib. . .

and off the bow.

As we approached the harbor, Mt. Etna dominates the landscape.

Mt. Etna is clearly visible as we approach Catania harbor.

Catania, like Siracusa, has more cathedrals and statuary than you can count.  Oh, and tourists.

The cathedral steps are a gathering place for locals. . .

under the watchful eye of saints. . .

while tourists tend to travel in packs.

You can’t visit Sicily for the first time without visiting both Mt. Etna and Taormina, and we were anxious for Ann and Dudley to see both. . .by car.  The nearest marina from which to land tour was located at Riposto. 

The marina at Riposto is first class. . .

but its proximity to Mt. Etna leaves boats and streets covered with volcanic ash.

Mt. Etna had erupted covering Riposto and the marina with gritty, black ash just a week before we arrived.  Piles of ash were swept up in various spots, but much remained on the streets and covered boats in the marina. They use leaf blowers to blow the ash off boats and into the water.

Unfortunately, we got lost getting to Mt. Etna, our sense of direction being better on water where we rely on the GPS.  Once there the lovely snow covered fields were blackened with volcanic ash.

Mt. Etna's snow covered sloops. . .

are covered with volcanic ash up close.

Taormina may be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Kent and I first visited it on our honeymoon and it was great fun to see it again through fresh eyes.  The last time we were here, Destiny was anchored below the town. This time of year the anchorage is too exposed and the weather too unpredictable to safely leave the boat on anchor.

Entering Taormina is stepping back into the past. . .

replete with gates. . .

and piazzas. . .

and the remnants of a Roman amphitheater which I explored with Ann & Dudley. . .

while Kent & Jolie hung out at a cafe.

Taormina also has expensive shops and restaurants with lush garden terraces and fabulous views.

Boun Apetito!

 The balance of the week was spent waiting for a weather window to head north through the Straits of Messina. 

Destiny kept coming back to the same slip at Riposto. . .

after aborted attempts to leave.

In fact, we left the marina at Riposto three times before we actually made that passage.  Once we barely cleared the breakwater before turning back and the next we made it all the way to Taormina before turning back.

Finally, on the third try we made the Straits of Messina. . .

and while it was good to be sailing. . .

the kite boarders were probably having more fun.

All in all it was a wonderful week made all the more enjoyable by sharing it with Ann and Dudley. 

Congratulations on 40 years, dear friends!

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June 6th, 2012 No comments
By late April Sicilians are drawn outdoors by the brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies, just as we are drawn to leave the security of our berth at Marina di Ragusa and continue our “Med Adventure”.

At our farewell dock party. . .

Kent proposed a toast to all the Marina di Ragusa cruisers.

And then we were off–leaving friends is bittersweet.

Arrivederci, old and new friends at Porto Turistico Marina di Ragusa!

Our route took us back north along the eastern Sicilian coast where we were scheduled to meet our friends Ann and Dudley Welch in Siracusa.  Along the way we had a chance to see how Sicilians enjoy spring’s arrival.
Boats of all sizes and shapes leave their winter homes.

Square-riggers set sail. . .

like "Star Clipper" from Malta.

 But there are other ways to enjoy the sea

Day excursion boats transport tourists to caves. . .

or students on school trips. . .

and families enjoy fun in the sun on small inflatables with BIG engines.

There are some more unusual outdoor sports this time of year as well.  Take for example the waterpolo competition we saw in Siracusa–using kayaks (called canoes locally)–I kid you not!

Siracusa Canoapolo is a big, well organized event.
The field is between two bridges with nets suspended from each.

As they scramble for the ball. . .

under the watchful eye of the official. . .

it is easy to see why they wear helmuts.

While “canoapolo” is a sport for the young, there is sport for the “young at heart”.  While sitting at an outdoor cafe we heard the roar of motorcycles–at least 50 by count that roared into the little square and proceeded through the gate into the Old Town of Siracusa.  These elegant bikes, ridden mostly by couples, appeared to be on excursion together–what a way to travel!

One by one. . .

all equally elegant. . .

they disappeared through the town gate the noise of their engines echoing off the walls.

But some fun in the sun is more sedate.

Little girls tool around on little pink trikes. . .

while fashionable young women chat on cells and promanade in treacherously high platform shoes.

 The local monuments are dramatic against the azure blue spring sky.

And there are plenty of cathedrals. . .

and forts to visit like this one at the entrance to Siracusa.

 Tourist season has begun in earnest.

Accordian music wafts through the air. . .

for the enjoyment of outdoor cafe patrons.

There is a universal appeal to spring and the anticipated arrival of summer that transcends culture and geography.  Sicilians are doing what Bostonians, and Croatians, and Turks are doing this time of year.  Awakening from their winter hibernation and soaking up the sun.

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May 11th, 2012 2 comments

With the weather remaining unsettled in April and our marina contract not due to expire until May 1st, we spent much of the month readying Destiny for the upcoming cruising season.  On one sunny Friday, however, we joined fellow cruisers Tina and Pete in renting a car and traveling to Agrigento site of the famous Valley of the Temples.

Since Tina and Pete have a sweet little girl dog named “Bella”, this was to be a people and dog outing.  We set out from Marina di Ragusa in our tiny rental car with a GPS loaned to us by another cruiser and promptly got lost before we could get the device programmed.

What we expected to be a 2 hour drive proved to be 3 hours going (which included getting lost) and about 2 ½ on the way back, leaving only a few hours to visit the Valley of the Temples.  As it turned out the trip was worth it.

Entering the Valley of the Temples is stepping back thousands of years to ancient Greece.

Spring is a magical time to visit ancient sites.  As far as the eye can see, a profusion of flowers carpet the ground–yellow daisies and lavender flowers of unknown name.  Yellow is the predominant color of the flowering trees as well.  The plants remind me of Scotch broom lining the by-ways of Nantucket in the spring. 

Purple flowers peek out from the ancient stones. . .

and yellow flowering trees frame the walkways.

The Valley of the Temples is said to rank among the most impressive Greek ruins outside of Greece, with several temples surprisingly in tact given earthquakes and destruction wrought by Christians who believed them to be pagan.

The Temple of Hephaistos left a lot to the imagination, but was one of the lesser monuments.

Remains of Temple of Olympian Zeus is little more than a pile of rocks. . .

while the Temple of Juno's columns rise skyward after thousands of years.

At least one of the temples, Temple of Concord was converted to a Christian church in the 6th Century and is extremely well preserved.

Construction on the Temple of Concord began in 430 B.C. . .

and it is prominently situated in the center of the ridge along which the temples are arranged.

We happened to arrive at the Valley of the Temples, a national historic site, at the tail end of a week when all Sicilian cultural venues were open to the public free of charge.  The usual admission is 10 euros per person.

Tourists flocked to the Temple of Concord during free entrance days.

Dogs are not allowed at some archeological sites, so we took no chances and sneaked Jolie and Bella past the guard at the entrance.  Once inside, it was clear that no one cared about the dogs and they enjoyed a romp when not being carried like the little princesses that they are.

Jolie is in her bag hidden by Kent's jacket as we pass the security guard. . .

but it proved to be unnecessary--here they are relaxing under an olive tree.

There are

Ancient olive trees are scattered throughout the temples. . .

along with one bronze sculpture (circa 2011) that is . . .

thought provoking to say the least. Fallen angel? Really?

I’m a little perplexed by the title “Valley” of the Temples when in fact the temples line a ridge that parallels the modern city of Agrigento inland from the ancient site.

From the ancient site you see modern Agrigento is the inland ridge. . .

while in the opposite direction you see the distant sea. . .

and valley below through the broken fortifications.

Trekking around ancient sites has become quite routine since we have been in the Med, but it never loses its appeal.  Especially when the experience is shared with friends.

Tina, Pete & Bella take a break. . .

as do we. . .under yet another flowering tree.

But there is one more stop. . .at Temple of Herakles 6th Century BC.

We named the GPS “Betty” and followed her directions all the way home in record time.  Kent says he needs one of these gadgets for the rare times we land travel—I’ll second that!

We’re out of the marina and cruising again.  More adventures to follow.