Brindisi – Italy Saturday June 20th.
Today is our James’ birthday, Happy Birthday James!
The next stage from Crotone was a longish day across the Gulf of Taranto. This was one of our best sails so far with a steady breeze from the north-west which meant that the engine was off for over five hours, calm seas and hardly another boat nor land in sight.
Our destination was the seaport of Gallipoli, yes, there is one in Italy as well. As with nearly all the ports we enter there is a fine walled old town, this one on an island, with multiple baroque churches and a Duomo full of religious sculptures and paintings. This appears to be a popular tourist resort as the narrow streets were thronged with people and lined with souvenir shops selling fridge magnets.
It does not appear to be too popular with yachtsmen however as we were the only transit yacht in the rather sterile marina in the main port.
This may also be explained by the rather surly attitude of the local marina staff and the price of a night which was over double anywhere else in the region. We had planned to stay two nights but left the next day, after visiting the local fish market for our favorite fish, Orata (Sea Bass), for Santa Maria di Leuca on the southernmost tip of the heel of Italy.
Santa Maria is a charming seaside resort with a pleasant and safe harbour for yachts. We spent a couple of nights there alongside a number of other boats nearly all of whom are heading for Greece. With the current financial crisis looming there, I think we are wise to be going to Montenegro and Croatia.
From Santa Maria we had another long day to Brindisi. This is a major sea-port in the south-east of Italy, a large and not very charming town, famous for their very colourful Appian Steps, the end of the Appian Way.
After our first night in the main town harbour we moved to Marina Brindisi a safe, and reasonable, marina and we were happy to be here as quite a severe storm came through during the week and we were grateful for the extra strong lines which held us securely.
Since we were here for a week we hired a car and took a trip into the hinterland of Apulia, visiting towns such as Polignano on the coast.
Then the fascinating town of Alberobello, famous for its Trulli – small circular houses with domed stone roofs – which they coalesce to construct larger dwellings. This is another very popular place for tourists and so no shortage of fridge magnets.
Thence to Lecce passing through acres of olive plantations, by the narled enormity of some of the trunks these trees must be very old indeed . A “town of churches” has a central area of historic interest and a massive Duomo, bell tower and square.
Like all these towns it has its history of earthquake, conquest, massacre, plague and competitive building and decoration by local bishops and other lordlings.
Our last stop was the town of Otranto, which we thankfully didn’t overnight in en route to Brindisi. A town of very ancient origins, first Messapian, then Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Norman, Angevin and Aragonese before being sacked by the Turks in 1480, when they slaughtered the entire population. The guide book says they have never recovered but are rich in memories and monuments! The weather turned very grim on our drive back to the boat and remained that way for 48 hours!
Somewhat inconveniently on our return to Brindisi Julie broke a tooth, which has given us some insight into the local dental services here. Dr Borsetti’s English was as good as our Italian so we had to communicate through the secretary at the marina by phone. Luckily, he can do a two stage temporary repair before we leave Italy for Montenegro on Monday.
Since leaving Sicily the two of us have travelled 296 nautical miles, 45.75 hours at sea. From now we will have crew to help with long hauls!