Dovidjenja Croatia Buongiorno Italy

Fri 18 Sep 2015 16:17

We slipped away from Korčula just before 10.00 and quickly raised main and
genoa in the light easterly breeze and threaded our way between the wooded
islets at the southern end of the island. The beauty of the scene enhanced
by the smooth, sparkling azure blue sea and the back drop of the massive one
thousand metre plus high stone grey mountain range on the mainland. We had a
couple of hours of good sailing as our thirty odd tons of boat made 4.5
knots in 5.5 knots of breeze but this was not to last and by 14.oo we
resorted to motor sailing on a mercury smooth sea.
The wind returned around 19.00 from the east south east. We sailed on a
close reach but it put us several degrees off our rhumb line. As darkness
fell the wind and sea continued to build but with a small reef in the genoa
we were able to keep main and genoa aloft. The boat's angle made sleeping
for those off watch difficult but we ploughed on slicing our way through the
darkness. Lights on the Italian coast became visible around 04.30 as we
negotiated our way across the shipping lanes staying well clear of the
speeding leviathans moving northwards and southwards forty nautical miles
off the east coast. On a very close reach with apparent wind over 30 knots a
small wagtail managed to land on the after deck after several failed
chirping attempts. He stayed with us for a couple of hours his tiny claws
wrapped around a guard wire just a metre or so away from us before taking
his chance and flying landward, we hope he made it. Turning further
southward to regain our rhumb line we motor sailed the final ten miles or so
arriving at Cala Ponte Marina, Apulia at 12.15 after a voyage of 150 nm.
Once safely moored and boat jobs completed I visited the marina office to
gather information for our inland trips in the coming days. We ate aboard
and four weary sailors hit the sack at an early hour for a long and
blissfully still night's sleep.
Our taxi driver Fabrizio, short, slight, and swarthy, never without his dark
sunglasses, greeted us and in his thankfully air conditioned Mercedes we
headed inland towards Alberobello. Our route took us across the coastal
plain through thousands of acres of ancient gnarled and twisted olive trees.
Puglia has in total 74,000 acres of these antiquarian trees many well over a
thousand years old. The road climbed up the inland mountain range giving us
fantastic views across the vast olive grove. Isolated conical trullo began
to appear alongside stately farmhouses midst the rich reddish brown earth of
ploughed fields and neat white limestone walls. We reached the surprisingly
large town of Alberobello and were a first disappointed as we drove amongst
light industrial units and shabby apartment blocks but once through these
outskirts we drove into the trulli village and all gasped. The little stone
roofed conical dwellings piled together, grouped in two's and threes some a
little larger than others, some built close together creating multi pointed
terraces to produce a truly (even trulli) unique vista. We were fortunate as
there were few other visitors about and so were able to experience trullo
still lived in and others where artisan work such as spinning and weaving
continued in the same manner that doubtless it has done for centuries.
After lunch Fabrizio whisked us to Polignano a Mare just half a mile from
Cala Ponte where we are moored. An amazing old town perched atop precipitous
cliffs where caverns undermine the whole city. Next Sunday the Red Bull
cliff diving competition will be held here. An event where the divers hurl
themselves from the cliff top perform multiple twists, turns and somersaults
before plunging into the sea feet first, head first would kill them from
these heights. We had arranged to dine that evening at the very exclusive
Ristorante Grotta Palazzese an establishment cut into the cliffs affording
intrepid diners an amazing view of the surrounding sheer stone faces and the
buildings clinging to them whilst the surf pounds the rocks below and swirls
through to the caverns behind. The food and service excellent the setting
unique, the live music enchanting, altogether one of those experiences that
should not be missed and will be remembered by us for the rest of our lives.

Another cloudless morning greeted us as did the oven like southerly wind
promising temperature in the mid-thirties but undeterred our destination was
Matera - 'Italy's Shame'. For three hundred and fifty thousand years human
kind has dwelt in the caves natural and manmade above the river Gravina.
Over the last two thousand years the Sassi have lived in these caves in
abject poverty without running water, power or sanitation and yet have
created a remarkable troglodyte city that exist to this day largely thanks
to a group of enthusiasts, La Scaletta who wished to preserve this
incredible site (Despite the wish of most Italians during the fifties and
sixties who wanted the entire city demolished to rid them of their 'shame')
which thanks to them is now a world heritage site. Although there is still a
vast amount of restoration work to be done and the 'cave city' is largely
uninhabited Matera will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture. Hopefully
this will attract government funds to save this unique cradle of human
habitation. It is known as, Italy's Shame, because the Sassi (as the
inhabitants have been known for the last few hundred years) lived in these
conditions up until 1968.Between the mid-fifties and 1968 the Italian
government rehoused all the Sassi. The vast site is slowly changing and the
dwellings turned into upmarket, boutique hotels, residences, shops and
restaurants. We lunched in an excellent restaurant that was largely within a
cave on three floors, it was fitted out with very modern furniture and
lighting. The kitchen gleamed with polish stainless steel and the
ultra-modern bathroom facilities set into a separate cave were intriguingly
bizarre. There are churches cut into the rock some dating back to the 9th
century, their frescos still colourfully vibrant. It is difficult to
describe ones feelings about Matera so strong is the sensation of 'connect'
with the history of the place stretching back to the earliest European
settlements of mankind. Trying to locate today's taxi driver, Giovanni, we
asked directions from a group of six or so locals in the Plaza Saint
Agostini. There ensued an ultra-typical Italian scene as all six of them
still not understanding fully our request started talking, nay shouting and
gesticulating in six different directions! We kept smiling and saying "Si
grazie" whilst walking away, looking back as we turned the corner they were
still shouting at each other and pointing in every direction, arms flailing.

Once back in Cala Ponte and rested from our days exertions we decided on a
simple supper at pizzeria on the rocky beach adjacent to the marina.
Ordering beers for Rob and I and gin and tonics for the ladies it was only
after the opened bottles of tonic had been served that we were told they had
no gin! Despite this setback we chose our pizzas only to be told when we
came to order that they had no pizzas! However what they did have was lots
of shell fish and pasta and this along with a litre of the house white
proved an excellent meal for the thirty Euros we were charged.
We left Cala Ponte next morning in light airs, right on the nose and
although the wind and sea increases significantly during the day the wind
direction did not change. We motored, our Volvo engine pushing us through
the waves at a steady seven and a half knots whilst we read and chatted and
sun bathed and fished. Mid-afternoon the reel ratcheted its warning and
after a short battle the first of the day's two tuna was hauled in. Within
minutes the fish was relieved of its head and guts and whilst still slightly
twitching consigned to the fridge, to be joined an hour later by fish number
two. A boring day as far as the sailing was concerned but the best day's
fishing in three years. We docked in Brindisi Marina around 18.00 and once
settled dined with pride on our catch. We are here for a couple of days or
so to see yet more wonderful sights and to watch the weather for our
crossing back to Sicily sometime next week.