Italia di continuo Brindisi to Lavagna

Southern Princess
John & Irene Hunt
Mon 30 Jul 2007 15:43

Italia di continuo                                          Porto Lavagna 44:18.25N 09:20.55E

Toad didn’t want Rat & Mole to have all the fun!


Last missive saw us tied up at the town wall at Brindisi. No water or electricity but every evening the Africans and other traders arrived, set up their tables and merchandise and the passeggiata (The Italian custom of taking a stroll with family and friends, courting couples, guys and girls on the make all parading by) commenced around dusk and continued until about 23:00 hours. We were right in the middle of it and it made interesting watching.


Funny when we checked out of Brindisi for Montenegro, I received a lecture from the Harbour Master that I hadn’t been checked into Italy correctly when we arrived in Syracusa in April and he diligently filled out all the forms for arrival and departure. This time when I went to check in again they didn’t want to know. It took some effort to have the immigration people stamp our passports.


Interestingly, communication was easier in Croatia than Italia. We had G3 or GPRS email and internet on the yacht in Croatia in a pre paid card but it was too hard for the Italians so I have had to rely on the Iridium satellite phone which is ok for simple emails but way too slow at 9600bps for anything else.


The position reports are so the pins go in the map in the correct places so that our journey is plotted around the coast line. Hope it wasn’t too confusing?


The Brindisi Film Festival and this boat were full of musos who belted out jazz all over the

harbour. That’s the big screen in the back ground, part of the festival.


After two days in Brindisi we departed on July 6th for the long trek to the Tyrrhenian Sea and the west coast of Italy. The weather was calm at dawn so we fuelled up at 07:45 and set sail on a broad reach with Beaufort Force 5-6 winds. The weather was as clear as a bell and during most of the day we could see Albania which was 48 nautical miles away, that’s about 100 kilometres! Anchored out in Maria Santa Del Luca and had to put up with an electronic haranguing from the shore. Either it was a sermon with lots of fire and brimstone, a political rally (shades of Il Ducé or Hitler) or just the town mayor not happy with his constituents.  All in all a great day and it is terrific to be heading west once again, cause that’s the way to the Pacific!


From here it was a succession of days, with over night stops. First was Capo Rizzuto then to the nearly abandoned marina at Ionica Roccella. I think it was built to use lots of European money and even more mafia concrete. The water only worked after I had done some running repairs, no electricity, 1 in 4 of the dock lights worked, grass and weeds forcing the way up through the very sub-standard concrete and no charges. No one to collect any. Did get a reasonable pizza though, it was about a foot wide and three feet long!



The weeds have taken over!                                              Just liked the name!


Kept heading west and refuelled at Reggio Calabria before pushing on through the Straits of Messina and over night anchorage at Marina Grande di Scilla. No marina that is the town’s name. Lots of restaurants on rickety wharfs and docks and we dinghy ashore for a fish meal. Lovely!


This is a sword fishing boat. Apparently the fish sleep on the surface and the guy on the top

 of the tower spots the slumbering fish and they sneak up with a harpooner

 at the end of the extremely long bowsprit who plunges a harpoon

 into the poor unsuspecting fish!


The 10th of July saw us motor sail again all day and once again tie up at a mafia type marina, no charges again, at Cetraro. A very helpful Franco helped us tie up and then put his hand out for a tip. Was upset I only gave him €25. However he did own the local restaurant and with the aid of an Italian off the yacht, Casse Noisette II, docked beside us (Valerio and his girlfriend Wendy) we managed to have a good meal at a reasonable price. I hate to think what it might have cost if we had been on our own! We had a bugger of a night here, with a heavy sea running outside, a nasty swell was rolling into the harbour and Southern Princess worried the dock all night. Thought we would pull out a cleat and I woke at 02:00, stayed on deck semi-awake until 05:00 and we departed. It was too rough outside to go anywhere so we anchored under the lee of the groin and rolled all day. Irene and I slept and pottered around while the yacht rolled her scuppers under. Doesn’t look good for tomorrow!


12th July the wind had moderated a little so we decided to go for it. Motored all day with the staysail up as a steadying sail and at one stage we had 27 knots over the deck. On arrival at Porto di Agropoli we managed to fluke a berth at one of the yacht club pontoons and with the assistance of a very helpful Pedro made tight to the dock and plugged into water and electricity. At Pedro’s recommendation we made a booking at il Cormorano restaurant and had the best meal of 2007.


Antipasto; consisted of 10 small individual plates one of savoury beans, & chickpeas, then one each of soused sardines, eggplant & aubergines, octopus, sautéed potatoes, tuna & peppers, grilled peppers & tomatoes, grilled peeled prawns and finally stuffed mussels on the half shell.


Prima Patti; Langoustine, small local crayfish cut in half and grilled with butter & garlic.


Secondi Patti; Irene had Trigoli, 3 small red mullet grilled with the scales on and the guts in, I had oven baked local fish with clean white meat, boned at the table and surrounded by roasted cherry tomatoes.


The wine was a Greco di Tufo, by Fratelli Urciuilo a fine dry white with honey and fruit overtones.


We weren’t surprised that it had two Michelin crossed “fork & knife” classification. What ever that means but they were proud of it! Don’t know how they made money though, they had a maître’d, two waiters, a chef and kitchen staff and a cash register girl: we arrived at 21:00 and departed at 22:30 and apart from one other couple that was it unless they expected some late arrivals.


The next day we had the Yanmar main motor serviced, shopped in town and went back to il Cormorano for some more of the same. Great food.


From there we headed to Amalfi but without a reservation couldn’t stay so we overnighted in a small bay called Marina de Nerano. Then it was the Isola di Ponzo where we anchored out in a bay close by the town and dinghy'd ashore. Ponzo is a delightful town painted onto the hillside in delicate pastels. The inner harbour was a school of fishing boats all huddled together for protection behind a small stone wall.


On the 16th we departed at 05:00 for Santa Marinella and the whole day the sea was glassy calm with nary a whisper of breeze. The Fiumicino River oozed out into the blue Mediterranean Sea and was a shock to see the water colour. Also off Fiumicino are two oil platforms with a huge tanker tied alongside discharging its cargo for the shore two or three kilometres away. We wandered over to have a look to find out later that there is a 1 nautical mile (2 kilometres) safety zone around everything and there we were right in the middle of it!


July 17th was a red letter day. We arrived at Isola del Giglio and a planned meeting with Terry & Christine Moran off Sedna. We were at their wedding in Whale Beach Sydney last March. Great to see them again. Chrissie & I climbed up to the Castle on the hill. It was 6 klms by road and we reckoned about 2 or 3ks straight up the hill so we took the short route. Bloody hell trying to keep up with a 40 year old and I had sore legs for a couple of days!


We have been travelling with them now for 12 days and during that time we have been to Porto Azzuro on Elba where Terry & I pulled the starboard davit apart as it was leaking hydraulic oil and maybe we fixed and maybe we didn’t. Bob Culbert had bought me some fancy fittings for the fish filleting board which we also fitted, spent the evening ashore with dinner in a quaint restaurant which was detailed to look like a boat thrusting out from the land into the sea, walked around town where the buildings are painted in high gloss paints of many colours, we had a late night ice-cream and appreciated all the beautiful girls. Continuing the next day we motored around to Porto Ferraio also on Elba and enjoyed the town and the people.



Napoleon’s House in Elba & the Maltese Falcon, one of the biggest yachts in the world.

Both these pics by Ian Massam as I forgot to take my camera ashore on Elba!


Then on to Capraia the last island in this group apart from one other which is used as a prison farm and has a 3 nm safety zone around it, read about this one before hand! Harbour was full so anchored out and had BBQ pork on board.


Viareggio now there is a place! Lots of marinas but no room, since the pilot was written, most of it has been privatised and little or no space for transients so we ended up against the town wall which was free (see later comments about cost!). Taught the Moran’s to play Rumikub! The town wall was a great place, the night stalkers and the endless chatterers went on until 04:00 in the morning and then they went home but the early morning people arrived at 04:45 to start fishing and talking and talking and talking. I was disturbed from my sleep at around 05:00 to find a bloke on the dock and a diver in the water talking at the top of their voices about the mussels he was pulling off the wharf piles! I remonstrated with them to no avail. They whispered for a moment or two and then their Italianesse got in the way and they started talking again at the top of their voices!!!


Viareggio is the home of Perini Navi Yachts, Bernini Power Yachts and Azimut Power Yachts to name a few. The harbour area is a series of canals, inner harbours and water ways all linked together. Easy place to get around in a dinghy, yachting supplies abound and a great place to get supplies. I managed to buy 2 years supply of filters for the water maker and the water supply. That night we found a degustation restaurant right opposite the Perini Navi yard so our view was luxury yachts in for refits. Around 22:00 the cops arrived and sounded their claxon and diners naturally got up and went outside to move their cars from the area in front of the yard gates. Fork lift started clearing potted trees out of the way and street signs were pulled from sockets in the ground as a huge truck arrived with what looked like an 85’ power yacht. It negotiated into the area the cars and signs had been removed from, backed into the entry of Perini Navi yard with out the trees in the way and then took off down the side street for launching somewhere else. All that effort so the truck could turn the corner! As soon as it has gone, the process was reversed.


Got back to the boat to find that the storm at sea was pushing a huge swell into the harbour and Southern Princess was grinding against the wall. I spent the rest of the night on deck trying to keep the fenders in place but in the end the covers were ripped off the fenders and the grit from the town wall transferred to the hull and we now have some relatively expensive cutting and polishing to do. So the town wall was not free after all.


As soon as we could in the morning we got off the wall and headed for La Spezia. There was a big swell running across the entrance bar so Sedna with only 1.4m draft lead the way so that we had enough water under our keel not to touch. On arrival we anchored in Le Grazie Bay. Next morning ashore for coffee and croissants and surprised to find the town had a boutique industry of restoring older yachts. Just complete was ‘Candida’ built in 1929 and beautifully restored with highly varnished cedar mast and spars. There was a good supermarket and a lovely old lady with not a word of English with what could be described as an ‘odds & sods’ store and after the girls had bought some items, Terry drew a sketch of a hand fishing reel and to our delight she went up stairs and returned with two, all covered in dust, been there for years and then she gifted them to us.


Around 11:00 up anchor and motored slowly north along the Cinque Terra and arrived at Marina Lavagna with 1600 berths. It is so large that we don’t walk the docks, we dinghy across to the office. The marinara who tied us up (not much English) recommended the restaurant on the marina which he insisted was called the Aussie Restaurant and he made a reservation for 21:00. Had a bit of trouble finding it until we realised that he meant the Oasis! Main course was black and white spaghetti. Half the spaghetti was died with squid ink and the other not. This was mixed together and then had mussels, clams, prawns and fish piled on top. Beautiful presentation and great tastes.


Lavagna is a superb town. In its infancy there were a number of exquisite walled town homes built, with detailed ornate fenestration, however most of the population could not afford this and the houses were just plastered, however they are now beautifully painted in a manner, similar to tromp l'oiel, which mimics the houses with the detailed fenestration. The effect is so good that it took quite a while before we understood what we were looking at.


Apart from the balconies, all the other fenestration is paint!

Met Roberto & his son Stephano of Di-Tech Sails and they altered the MPS and the light weight genoa so that they could be used effectively on roller furling.


It is now Sunday July 29th and we sadly leave Christine and Terry. They are off to Florence and Pisa for a few days and we head to Portofino and our journey west. We want to be in Valencia in the next 10 days so we must go.


That's all for this instalment,




John & Irene