We returned from our Wagner extravaganza in England (six operas in eight days – a serious indulgence) on the same flight as Sara Pennells and Ruth and Mick Donnelly. With them we had a splendid week.
One day for some sightseeing in Venice and then on Thursday July 7th. we set off to cross the Adriatic to Trieste, some 50nm.
For once we actually got some sailing, with a good strong breeze. True to form it was right from the direction we wished to go. Nonetheless we hauled in the sheets and beat to windward going at 8 knots with the lee rail under. We enjoyed this for about two hours until the wind died and so the motor was on again and we could point the boat directly at our destination.
Trieste is a very elegant, fascinating city with a colourful past. For long a mortal enemy of Venice, it was subsumed into the Austro-Hungarian empire and was the base of their fleet in the Mediterranean. After World War 1 it was annexed by Italy, who claimed it after World War 2 but it was only in 1954 that the Allies ceded the city to the Italians.
Over a couple of days, we explored Trieste thoroughly including a fascinating tram ride up the adjacent mountain which turns into a cable car half way up and reverts into a tram again at the top. There are said to be excellent views of the city but somehow we failed to get off at the panorama station.
We also did one of the world’s worst walking tours where the guide was supposed to do half Italian and half English, but somehow she forgot about the English and would give a twenty-minute history lesson in Italian and then tell us to look it up on the internet. She even answered one of Julie’s questions in Italian. Since it was by no means a free tour Julie marched into the tourist office and complained….sadly, was not offered a refund.
From Trieste we left Italy for a few days in Slovenia. The coastline of Slovenia is very short with only three harbours but pleasant inlets where we had one night at the most comfortable anchorage.
Our last night was in Piran, a small harbour and town where we tied up to the quay against a big old wooden yacht. After exploring the town and climbing the campanile we dined at a waterside restaurant and turned in before an early departure the following morning. Unfortunately, the yacht alongside was rented out to party people after the pubs closed, they played a radio, talked, smoked and drank on deck until 5.30 in the morning. As we were leaving the harbour Terry gave them a blast of invective but they were unrepentant. We again managed to sail a considerable distance on our passage back to Venice, it was a real thrill to actually sail into the Lagoon.
July 16th. in Venice is the feast of Redentore when Venetians celebrate the end of the plague in 1577. They build a massive bridge of barges across the Giudecca Canal across which people walk to the church for the religious services and there is much partying and merrymaking. In the evening there is a fireworks display and our marina laid on a special feast at the restaurant followed by a boat to take us to watch the fireworks over the city. Sadly, the meal was a disaster and the boat laid on for the yachties was not a smart launch but a rough barge with a trestle table and bench seats. Nonetheless we had a grand view of the fireworks on a chilly but clear, still night. Coming from Sydney we think we know something about boats in a harbour and fireworks but this was an amazing scene with more craft of every description than we have ever seen, 4000, we were told. The fireworks display was nearly an hour long and spectacular with the backdrop of Venetian domes.
The next day, Sunday, we set off to Tuscany for the Linari music festival at which our friend, Deborah Humble, was performing. This is a delightful chamber music festival held in amazing private houses and churches scattered through Tuscany and centred on the tiny village of Linari. We stayed in a rather strange B & B on the industrial outskirts of the weirdly named Poggibonsi and, having hired a car in Florence, were able to travel easily to the various venues, all in Chianti.
The first concert was held on a private estate. A vineyard and beautifully renovated stone house with a watch tower from the middle ages. The concert was held in the unroofed courtyard. Fortunately, it was a warm, clear night. Good news for the Steinway. The concert was Brahms and Beethoven with our diva singing the Wesendonk lieder for us Wagnerians.
This festival favours young musicians and we were delighted to meet renowned Australian pianist Jayson Gillham, who is performing with the Sydney Symphony in October.
On one day we drove to Siena. Here we visited the Duomo with it’s bizarre black and white marble decor and astonishing marble pictures on the floor. The inside of the Cathedral is said to be the inspiration for the Hall of the Grail in Acts One and Three of Parsifal.
The second concert we attended was in the small church of St Appiano, high on a hillside overlooking a Tuscan valley. The ancient church was packed, mainly with expatriot Dutch and British people currently living there. The theme of the evening was the violin and we were treated to some amazing virtuosity both on the violin and the piano.
The encore was a rendition of Morgen by Richard Strauss with all the performers on stage. Tremendous.
Terry’s favourite pastime in art galleries and churches is searching for depictions of St. Sebastian. In many years of seeking them out one of the best is to be found in the tiny church of St Appiano
Just as we were packing up to leave our B & B and return to the boat Julie received a call to say that her Aunt Muriel, to whom she is most attached, had fallen in a shopping centre in Sydney and sustained a serious head injury and was in hospital. Julie decided to return to Sydney and so our plans to leave Venice were put on hold. The only flight she could get at short notice was in First Class which got her to Sydney within a couple of days, and in considerable comfort!
Fortunately, her aunt is on the mend and has been discharged from Hospital and Julie expects to return to Exotica on August 5th. In the meantime Terry has had a very quiet time on his own in this pleasant, if somewhat remote marina.
When Julie returns we plan to leave Venice for another harbour further north where we will hire yet another car and join our German opera friends for a week of golf in Austria.