Ionian Sea, en route to Greece

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Fri 17 Apr 2009 13:47

We left Syracuse on Wednesday afternoon and made a twenty-four hour passage, mostly motoring or motor sailing, to Le Castella in Calabria, on the toe of Italy’s boot.  Le Castella turned out to be a one-horse town, the horse being a magnificent Spanish castle but the town itself was poor and deserted, so this morning we set off again and should be in Corfu after another twenty-four hour passage. 

I began to appreciate Sicily during the week in Syracuse, more than when we were there last year when I was too obsessed with the Mafia, and thought I could see a Mafioso lurking on every street corner.  The greatest embarrassment was not being able to speak Italian in a country where hardly anybody speaks English, and we had to endure the looks of pity and contempt on Sicilian faces as we tried to make ourselves understood in a mixture of French and Spanish.  I once took an Italian course, but the only words I could remember were Buena sera, Arriverderci, and, bizarrely, ‘dodici’, twelve.  I had a proud moment when Ian needed to buy twelve screws in an ironmonger’s shop, and I could confidently trot out my Italian word.

We were looking forward to experiencing Easter in a Roman Catholic country, and in the old city of Ortygia, which is full of baroque churches.  We came across a procession winding its way through the main street quite late on Good Friday, attracted by the sounds of drums and trumpets.  The procession was led by a group of smiling ecclesiastics, wearing red robes, embroidered with gold thread, and red and gold mitres.  Next came a phalanx of handsome young men, clean shaven and wearing smart black suits, white shirts, bow ties and an order in the shape of a white ribbon around their necks.  They carried on their shoulders a glass casket containing a life-size effigy of the dead Christ.  The corners of the casket were embellished by small, weeping angels, and the whole thing must have been extremely heavy as  the casket was set down every few paces.  Then to the sound of a loud rattle, the casket was lifted again and the procession moved on, followed by a marching  band.

We didn’t see any more of the Easter ceremonies because on Saturday the fierce storm which had been expected arrived.  I hurried back to the boat with provisions from the market to find the ormeggiatori  (the men who take care of visiting yachts) tying extra lines to secure the boat, and walking down the fifty yards of rickety, heaving metal pontoon, I felt more sea sick than at any time on the trip so far.  After that we were boat bound until Monday morning, but it was not too unbearable as were attached to shore power and could work on our computers, watch DVDs, play music and eat and drink, perhaps a bit too much.