II - Sicily, We eventually begin travelling.
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XI - Life in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, 2016.
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III - Sardinia.
Log Entry Monday 23rd May - We visit Isola Lipari by ferry, so close it is not worth lifting our anchor. (293)
We have a day or so to kill before we leave for Sardinia on Wednesday, a forecast of four days of easterly winds has been consistent now for a couple of days. A perfect wind for Sailaway and the 280 miles none stop across the Tyrrehenian Sea. Timing is important as following the easterlies are said to be coming very strong westerlies, we could end up in northern Sardinia, but Cagliari, to the south looks good, fingers crossed! The hydrofoil ferry to Lipari is just a walk on/off system you buy the tickets, €20 for two people return, available every hour. We had a couple of things to take care of before we leave Sailaway in the anchorage so our choice of travel was to catch the 1100 hours, returning on the 1800 hours, the last ferry of the day.
The ferry is fast obviously taking no more than 15 minutes or so, it is a shame the sea water spray is not washed from the windows each trip the view would have been much better? Joking obviously?
The port is sizable as Lipari is the largest and most heavily "permanently" inhabited island of the Aeolian. There are a number of floating pontoons/small marina's, we also passed a couple of boats anchored off the shore, but they were clearly restricted with regards to protection in their position.
We decided to head south into the town area towards the "Archaeological area" the streets were as expected, but as a large town, little needs for "living" as we call it, basic shops, hardware etc. There were, or appeared to be, lines and lines of cafes and gift shops, all selling the same. There was a couple of things we did need but they were not available in what we did find, still not an issue.
The layout was typical Italian, as we approached the old, former Citadel, more restaurants, small squares appeared even in the small narrow side streets, now they did look attractive!
We approached the Cathedral of St Bartolomeo, the Patron Saint of the Aeolian, the whole centre is very impressive I looked deeper into the character and was amazed at what I came across, and, how varied the information was. I took the below from good old Wikipeadia, the basic information is interesting but feel free to expand.
Bartolomeo the apostle, also called Nathaniel Bartalmai, a name with means "Gift of God, son of the field, who moves the water," was martyred in Asia. Legend has it that the pagans were enraged by the pious veneration which the Christians offered to the holy martyr, seized the corpse, locked it in a lead casket and cast it in the sea. The sarcophagus was recovered and transported secretly or miraculously to Lipari, where the first Aeolian Christians built a great church to house his body.
St Bartolomeo was one of the most venerated apostles, particularly because of his terrible flaying and martyrdom. On account of his name's meaning, he was especially fitting as a patron for the Liparians, skilled sailors whose livelihoods depended on the sea. After the Sack of Rome in 410, the spoils were taken to Maypherkat. In 507 Emperor Anastasius I transferred them to Darae in Mesopotamia. A Spanish merchant acquired brought them with him to Naples, whence they were voluntarily returned to Lipari. The body of St Bartolomeo reappeared at Lipari in 546 and remained their until the siege and sack of the island by the Arabs. St Bartolomeo had long been venerated on all the islands of the archipelago and when his body was recovered it was taken to Benevento for safekeeping. According to tradition, after the sack of the island, St Bartolomeo appeared to a surviving monk in a dream and called on him to recover his bones, revealing their hiding place between the two altars: they were the brightest among a confused mass of bones. They were then secretly transferred by the Lombard prince Sicardo who sent the body of the saint to Sorrento and then to Benevento. The cult was never destroyed, however, but it became ever more established in all the Aeolian Islands and along with Saint Lucy, Saint Bartolomeo is the protector and patron of the archdiocese of Messina. In Aeolian art, the saint is depicted half naked with his skin, the symbol of his martyrdom, on his right shoulder, a palm in his right hand, a knife in his left and a crown on his head. His motto is Per troppa Fedeltà porto Corona (For exceptional faith, I bear a crown).
The previous building as stated above laid covered for some time, uncovered in recent times.
A very impressive feature is the Cathedral's doors, embossed with his life's events. The Citadel houses all of the archeological finds of the Aeolian Islands, guess what, closed today so we could not visit fully, still perhaps next time?
From the Citadel the views of the island and the harbour below are great, some of the neighbouring islands are also visible.
We left by one of the two side entrances and made our way back towards the ferry terminal.
On the way through the streets this tee shirt shop caught Ann's attention, or certainly the options did!
Back at the terminal we had an hour to kill, how better to pass the time.
Log Entry Saturday 21st May - Ann climbs "Gran Cratere" and leaves her mark!
Ann's challenge today is to climb "Gran Cratere" it has remained in it's physical state since it's eruptions in 1888 & 1890. Anchored down in it's shadow it stirs your curiosity wondering what is going on up there as you watch the smoke rising, it's volume changing almost hourly Obviously the scenery if amazing with "Isola Lipari" and "Isola Salina" over to the north. Both islands initially created from active volcanoes, both now lying dormant.
As Ann makes her way up with others, she chats, every ones story is different, as is their nationality, the climb is steep and challenging.
High up the bells of the goat herd can be heard, rising out of the silence.
Sailaway, on the extreme left sits far below, the anchorage is filling up today, it has not been as busy as today since we arrived. The terrain begins to change to that of a very baron nature, all the colour disappears, now more of a lunar landscape.
As one climbs, Sailaway gets smaller and smaller, the view improves, "Isola Panarea" becomes visible to the north east. The Aeolian Islands are made up from seven islands in total, they take their name from "Aeolus", the god of wind. There are two active volcanoes, this one, "Gran Cratere", on Isola Volcano, the second "Stromboli" on the Isola Stromboli some a further 30 miles towards the northeast of us.
Finally once at the top of Gran Cratere the source of the smoke we see below is in front of Ann, the gas escaping through the rock, rolling down the hillside.
The sulphur deposits are every where, as are the signs, reference the poisonous nature of the gases.
Some one has put considerable effort into leaving their mark, individuals clearly proud of their achievement.
Ann continues her climb to the summit of Mt. Vulcanello, from there a much better view of the active crater is seen.
It is hard to believe how harsh the vegetation is up here, there are remnants of the daily burning of small bushes and shrubs by the hot gas escaping constantly. There are also many probes spread around, it appears all most every breath the volcano takes is recorded?
The lunar landscape is much more visible from the highest point.
Then, at the peak, as others have done, Ann makes her mark with a small pile of stones, then turns and makes her way back down to Sailaway and I!
Gran Cratere puts Etna to shame!
We are now beginning to plan our next trip, 300 miles none stop, west to Sardinia.
Log Entry Saturday 21st May - Our first step on land for 7 days and it happens to be an active volcano!
It seems strange sitting down below the active crater, smouldering away high above, the constant smell of sulphur is taking some of getting used to. The anchorage is emptying this morning, the two gullets and many others leave early. I did expect it being busier, being the weekend etc?
The water front is as one would expect, dominated by the baths and springs.
Local fisherman visit all the boats this morning, they appear to do quite a trade, not for us today, eating out tonight ashore!
It takes no time to lower the dinghy, put in the two large black sacks full of the weeks rubbish, the first job is to find out where we can dispose of it? Well almost the first, an ice-cream on the beach is the true first, not exactly summer temperatures yet only 20C. It is clearly early in the season as yet, the beach all deserted other than the mud bathers in the warm springs.
The town is small and compact, hotels, snack bars and restaurants, most still being worked on for the start of the season.
The entrance to the mud baths was some what interesting, what was more interesting was the fact that the whole area was secured. The charges to get in, 3 euros to bathe, 2.8 euros for a towel, to bath in the sea, free (I was surprised at that) a fresh water shower 1 euro! It looked like a private enterprise with "labelled samples" for sale, but I would prefer to think the cash was going back into the town - my age I guess?
The town centre is just a mass of the usual stores you find, car/scooter hire, trinkets, shells and stuff!
We walk down to the busy commercial quay, similar there but a lot of the stalls were closing down, it was 1700 hours and few people?
The quay had little for us at this stage we did not walk the full length but we did buy some postcards.
We looked for some where for dinner, we stopped for a drink or two but, with the sun going down the temperatures began to fall. All of the restaurants we had seen up till now were out side - too cold! Perhaps another day, we left for the supermarket, we needed fresh produce, fruit etc and returned to Sailaway for dinner, perhaps tomorrow if we can find an internal dinning option!
Log Entry Wednesday 18th May - Out of Syracuse towards the Messina Straights.
Our plan today, as was yesterday, was to head towards the Messina Straights, make the tide and out to "Isola Vulcano" in the Aeolian Islands. This morning was the first time we had felt some warmth in the morning, perhaps summer is coming? The winds were forecast to be extremely light today, we had two tides to aim for, 0226 hours Thursday morning at the Straights, some 70 miles off, or, 1450 hours Thursday afternoon. Reaching the 0226 hours was a possibility but not with light winds, at sail anyway. Today was to be, if anything a motoring day, clearly depending on what winds, if any developed?
As we sat in the cockpit with our breakfast we noticed that we had a visitor, a pigeon, fitted with two tags it was clearly looked after. It settled quickly, it was clearly used to humans, we fed it bread, it was clearly hungry, we supplied fresh water, it was clearly thirsty - probably just tired, lost, or both?
As Ann went forward to raise the anchor our refreshed friend flew off towards Ortiga. We raised our anchor and left the harbour, this time looking forward to the next time we visited, just in case we had to come back?
It was now just a case of timing the next 70 miles, we wanted to hit the early Thursday morning tide at 0440 hours. To make the tidal gate we had to arrive at around 0030 Thursday morning, a couple of hours late is not an issue so there is some leeway. The real challenge is that the winds are forecast to be between 5 - 10 knots, we have seen nothing like that so far. We need to average about 4 knots, that cannot be guaranteed with those winds, so there will be a great dependance on our engine. There are other factors, come Saturday at the moment northerlies are forecast come Friday, and the Spring (strong) Tide Sunday, they will make the trip through the Messina Straights difficult, those northerlies are said to last 3-4 days? So missing the early, Thursday morning gate leaves us one more gate before the northerlies on Friday, miss that and we will be stuck "some where" for 3-4 days. So our plan is clear, pass through the Messina Straights around 0200 hours tomorrow morning!
A real interesting point was Etna, it's summit piecing through the top of the low cloud is emitting grey smoke, difficult to get clear pictures because of the cloud and mist. Etna will stay in view for as long as the cloud allows it as we travel north up the Sicilian coastline, something to watch and occupy the mind?
Off the east coast the tanker/commercial traffic is very busy as they arrive and leave Augusta and Catania terminals, Ann was convinced at first the above tanker would run us down, I was able to convince her, worse case, he may clip our dinghy hanging off our stern, clearly neither happened!
We made best of the wind, certainly no more than 5 - 10 knots, with our sails, but more as assistance to the engine, together we were able to average 4.5 knots without too much effort from our dear 30 year old diesel engine. Plenty of time to read, plan, stretch your legs, drink too much coffee and chat. We, twice were joined by dolphins, appear, swim with us and then disappear, all too fast to get pictures.
The sunset came, we had seen little sun at all today, rain is inevitable, just a case of when? We prepared for the evening, wrapped up, put on our life jackets and switched on our navigation lights and motor sailed through the night. The Italian mainland began to appear on out starboard (right) side and the Sicilian coast reappeared on our port (left) the Straights was now not too far head, it will become very interesting soon. The dolphins, appeared a few time during the night, just visible periodically in the darkness.
We approach the channel as planned, as tides are not an exact science, where they start and finish is down to local terrain, depth of water, seabed ect. We arrive clearly a little early to "ideal conditions" as described in the Pilot Book, with a couple of knots of tide against us, that changed to a couple of knots working with us in time as expected. Steering was a little difficult at time due to the turbulence in the water, also as described in the Pilot, all manageable however. As we approached in darkness, as usual the lights, drowned in a amongst the buildings, took some concentration, as did identifying the vessels navigation lights. What we were surprised about was the high volume of crossing traffic, ferries, large flatbeds carrying vehicles and the passenger ferries too. We seemed to spend the vast majority of our time managing the crossing traffic, the commercial traffic using the Straights to travel north/south were not an issue. The periodic rain only created annoyance, hoods up, hoods down, but interesting to sense the Italian mainland on our right and Sicily on our left! As we crossed the traffic separation system and turned north west towards the Aeoilan Islands we were hit by the local winds accelerating down the numerous valleys running down the mountain sides. We exited the Straights with 12 knots of wind on our stern, turning the wind change turned to our beam, our headsail came out and the engine back off. The influence from the local terrain was amazing, the wind varied in strength from 15 - 30 knots, we set a heavily reefed headsail and left her to handle the winds, hence our speed varied significantly, the acceleration, in response, at times quite impressive.
With the Straights now behind us time was no longer and issue, the wind settle down within 2 - 3 hours to 10 knots of less, all of our canvas now required as we slowly moved towards the islands. The commercial traffic still heavy enough to demand attention, we now had about 25 miles to "Isola Volcano" and plenty of time to get there before dark, hopefully!
Isola Volcano eventually became visible through the mist and low cloud, the wind changed, so did our sails to suit.
With about 8 miles left to do, wind went almost, completely, our estimated arrival time shot out to Friday with barely 1 knot of speed achievable. It was an easy decision, we worked out we had not been off Sailaway at all to go ashore for 6 days, that was supported by the two large black bin bags of garbage tied to our stern, back to our dear old engine! As we motored on, stretching my legs I realised we were again, not alone as a dolphin disappeared under the water just off our bow.
This time I had enough time to get the camera and join them on the bow (front) as they cruised back and forth below our keel, two of them (a dolphin couple) stayed with us for some time.
As Isola Volcano became clearer so did the traffic, many ferries of all sizes, both from Sicily and Isola Lipari just to the north, trip boats too from Sicily. We made our way into "Porto di Levente" on the northeast tip of Isola Volcano. Yes, the commercial quay was busy, we entered around a hydrofoil ferry, off to where ever. The anchorage is small, but in the southwest corner of the harbour they have installed two floating pontoon for visiting vessels. There were three vessels already on the pontoon, two more passed us making for it as we came in. We joined the three sailboats within the anchorage, the anchorage is basically a shelf, flat to about 8 meters to about 150 meters off the beach, it then rapidly drops to 35 - 40 meters in depth. We dropped anchor inside the other vessels in about 4 meters, the smell of sulphur from the bubbling springs took some getting used too.
We had no sooner dropped anchor and the closest vessel to us, began to raise theirs, I looked over to enquire if the was some sort of a problem with our proximity, he pointed behind, a unoccupied chartered sailboat had broke free and was drifting off. We watch as the kind couple, set off, the lady was transferred to the free vessel with a line. As they were towing it back a dinghy appeared with the owners, a kind act done impressively with so much ease.
As we sat reminiscing on the efforts it had taken to get here, a group of canoeists passed us, they had been able to enjoy a heavy rain shower as they did as well as their site seeing too as the rain fell around us. We retired for a few hours sleep, well over due and greatly needed.
We woke 3 hours later, looked out, there was now 11 boats in the anchorage and about 20 tied to the pontoons, I did not expect it to be so busy at this time of year? There we two gullet type vessels behind us, at first I thought we were back in Turkey?
Isola Volcano is created from a series of extinct craters, originally raised from the sea around 183BC, there is still one active crater, "Gran Cratere" which is a major attraction to the island, we now sit under it!
As a result of the ongoing activity, the shoreline is lined with hot bubbling springs, the area dominated with the smell of sulphur from the springs.
The island's landscape is dramatic, the tip of Gran Cratere looks almost scorched as the hot gases weep from it, visitors can be seen enjoying the sights high above us.
There is also good news for "Plant", she appears to be recovering well from her decapitation, remember, Ann tore off one of her limbs in the yard! Things are still not good between Ann and her, Ann believes she will still be heavily scared, it will suit her prickly nature she says? I wish they could be closer, Plant means so much to me?
Log Entry Tuesday 17th May - We leave Porto Palo after three days of strong winds.
We had been sitting on Sailaway since we had arrived late Friday afternoon, the winds had kept us at bay, generally 20 knots plus gusts, sometimes continuing through most of the night. Yesterday it remained constant at 25 knots, gust up to 38 knots was the witnessed high, however it did begin to drop off in the early evening. Sailaway and a second sailboat had sat steady throughout, movement from the quayside had been relatively quiet too, with little movement of the fishing vessels also. We checked the forecast last night, it looked good to move on up the east coast in the morning, that was confirmed by a further check of the forecast this morning.
This morning I stuck my head out into the outside world well aware of the "missing" howling from the winds, there was much activity from the fishing boats, fishermen could be heard calling to each other as they passed on their vessels. We raised our anchor and left about 0800 hours to round the point, Pta Porto Palo, the very southeast tip of Sicily and turn north up the east coast, through the Messina Straights and out to the Aeolian Islands. We had an open mind as to where we would stop ahead all depended on the winds and weather?
Within 30 minutes of leaving the port we raised our canvas and switched off our engine, our batteries were good even after the night, the wind had gave us some benefits in the form of "watts/power" via our wind generator. As we turned the point and passed the island of "Capo Passero" the wind came dead to stern and remained that way for most of the day.
Once through the local fishing boats there was little traffic, a few of the larger trawler type vessels, a large sail boat "gibed" to our stern, we saw him do the same a few times as he made his way north too. We did see a classic motor vessel to landward of us, she steamed happily passed us, because of distance I could not even make out the flag let alone the vessels name?
The weather, we find still quite chilly, we had soup for lunch! We kept ourselves busy chatting, drinking coffee and Ann dusted the louvre doors we have fitted on Sailaway down below. The louvres are great for ventilation, look pretty but do collect a lot of dust, or so Ann tells me?
We have this "thing" about Syracuse, we have been there twice, firstly in 2011 and then last September where we met our friend Peter. It is a beautiful city, we both love it but the growth on the hull from the state of the water is unbelievable. Last year we anchored for three weeks and when we were due to leave I used two air tanks to clean off the 10cm of what appears to be a white coral worm like growth - remarkable. We will do everything in our power not to expose Sailaway's hull to such growth this year, our intension is to sail straight past!
As we approached "Capo Murro di Porco" just to the south of Syracuse, you could just make out the entrance to the large natural harbour of Syracuse. I called out "Not this time!" as we went past at about 5-6 knots! As I climbed back into the cockpit, I said to Ann, "You should never say never - imagine how I would feel if for some reason we ended up back here?" At that point I did not realise how accurate that statement was!
An hour or so later the winds began to turn to the north and increase up to 15 - 18 knots. The wind not an issue, but with the resulting building sea our progress slowed to around 3 knots, we still had about 40 miles to the next documented anchorage "Taormina". That was looking very unlikely until morning, any of the marina's ahead would want 70-80 euros per night!
We debated and the preferred option was to turn back and spend the evening in Syracuse - how bad did I feel? We turned and put the wind behind us and made for Syracuse, the wind strong enough to take us just on the mainsail alone!
We made the 5 mile trip back in good time, we sailed back into the harbour, passed Ortiga, the old town, started our engine, dropped our mainsail and then dropped our anchor. Ann had cunningly put a few beers into the fridge to drown our sorrows so we both did! After dinner and a shower we turned in for the night.
Log Entry Sunday 15th May - We leave Marina di Ragusa to sit out the next series of strong winds at Porto Palo.
We are looking for the perfect winds with two objectives, primarily to take us east around the south east corner of Sicily and up the east coast without being stuck in Syracuse and watch the weed grow on our lovely clean hull! It is just not going to happen, so we leave Marina di Ragusa in a good westerly for Portopalo on the south east tip of Sicily, we will await good winds there for the trip up the east coast. What a day to pick to leave - Friday 13th! There are a further few boats leaving for the same destination, they are leaving early, so they say, 0600 - 0700, we will leave a little later and give the winds more time to develop, less motoring, more sailing - that is what it's all about. We said our goodbyes on the pontoon, Bob & Lizzy, our winter neighbours and Samantha popped along with home made biscuits for the trip. We called for assistance to leave our berth about 0800 and made our way over to the fuel pontoon. We secure another 100 litres of diesel, the guys from the yard come down and wished us well, and a good summer. We left the fuel pontoon about 0830, we now had a good 8 knots of wind. We left the marina, canvas up and engine off within 30 minutes, we could just make out three boats ahead of us on the horizon.
We were able to make 4-5 knots initially, the wind stiffened as forecast, we reefed as it did, until we ended up with the main down completely and a heavily reefed headsail more than enough to take us to Porto Palo at 7-8 knots. As one would expect as the wind stiffened, the sea grew, too boisterous for the camera, a little too cold for our liking too!
The last pictures showed the commercial traffic offshore and the many beaches and coastal towns we passed earlier.
We arrived quickly under sail in Porto Palo, we dropped anchor, plenty of chain for the winds coming, we settled instantly. There was only two other boats from the marina, not sure where the others went?
As we woke, Saturday morning, plenty to occupy the mind going on around, one of the two vessels from the marina had again left very early before the winds developed, we sat the day out in twenty knots plus, gusting to twenty five or more.
We had a couple of jobs to keep us busy, a leaking toilet and a none return valve had failed on our starboard water tank. A couple of the cupboard door latches require tightening, no big issue, the fast boisterous sail puts everything to test, Sailaway and her crew did great! The none return valve, unfortunately blocked with debris from the tank repairs, it's failure deposits about 50 litres of fresh water into our bilge. The valve is serviceable, cleaned and repaired, the port tank is checked but is still good, we empty the fresh water from our bilge.
We wake Sunday morning to more winds, in fact a forecast of 30 knots plus, the remaining boat from the marina had left us early before the winds began. After breakfast we sit, chat and watch the world go by. To our starboard (right) side we watch a boat arrive with a delivery for the boat yard, on our port (left) we have a diver scouring the seabed for lobsters or whatever?
The delivery was an interesting one, a guy from the vessel climbs into the rib and takes the items ashore to the beach, a mechanical digger arrives from the yard, the items are loaded into it's "bucket".
In time the rib has delivered all, and leaves the shore, the digger repairs the disruption it's tracks have made to the beach as it makes it's way back to the yard.
Once the rib is back to the vessel, the guy uses the small jib crane to pull in a buoy on deck, with it comes what appears to be a large black, probably plastic pipe. The vessel secures the pipe and tows it out to sea, another job done I guess?
As I report my findings around, Ann lifts the floor panel in the saloon and checks out the bilge for more water, all good, the fresh water tank leaks no more we are dry again.
Well we may not be travelling but a fleet of fourteen sailboats are the only please craft to pass by? I wondered if it was a local race as we were seeing now a steady 25 knots and only one vessel had reduced sail? We saw later gust of 30 - 35 knots, in winds such as these ahead of us is only two safe options,Syracuse or one of the many marinas, we will wait here. Tomorrow (Monday) looks a possible day to move, lets see what the forecast says this evening and in the morning?
Log Entry Saturday 7th May - Held at bay by the spring (strong) tides at Messina Straights we hit the road.
Our destination is the Aeolian (Volcanic) Islands of the north east coast of Sicily, to get there we have to travel through the Messina Straights. This weekend the weather was reasonable to travel but "spring tides" (most strong in strength and speed) in the Straights puts us off the idea. We could leave the marina but refuse to sit in Siracuse and what the weed grow on our hull until the tide strength eases off. The only real other option is to sit in another marina, elsewhere and pay at least twice to what we have agreed here? We decide to stay in Marina di Ragusa, pick up a car and head east by road, Licata our first destination, meet up with Brian & Rose (S/Y Alixora).
The historical centre of Licata, near the coastal castle of Lympiados, dates from the period of Byzantine domination. In 827 the Arabs conquered Licata, and their rule lasted for more than two centuries, ending when the town was captured by the Normans on July 25, 1086. In 1270 Licata (then having some 7,000 inhabitants) rebelled against the Norman rule as part of the uprising known as the "Sicilian Vespers". Thereafter the town came under the control of the Aragones, who in 1447 granted it the title of fidelissima ("Most Faithful"). Licata began to flourish once more in the 16th century, thanks in part to the presence of a community of Maltese immigrants, and this period of prosperity continued well into the 17th century, when the first settlements appeared outside the wall, housing the growing Maltese community, and numerous buildings were constructed or rebuilt in the Baroque style. The port also enjoyed a period of prosperity, largely resulting from the export of grain. The 1870s saw the construction of two bridges connecting to the sulphur mines inland, and five refineries (including the then largest in Europe) were built. This brought a considerable economic expansion, leading to the creation of several elegant residences in Licata. Licata served as an Allied landing, Operation "HUSKY" allied invasion of Sicily during 1943, war damage and the decline in competitiveness in the sulphur industry caused economic decline, forcing many people to emigrate to northern Italy or abroad.
The castle of Lympiados still hold a very strong position over seeing the town and port.
Licata is only about 50 miles by road, but due to the type and quality of road it takes a good 2 hours to get there. The marina is easy to find, it is massive in size, hard to imagine it ever full? The few what we would classify as "Super Yachts" are quite impressive, the catamaran above was more like a floating villa! The doors were open inside one could make out the navigation area, leather char and all!
Today, 5th May is "Saint Angelo" (Saint Angelus) Day, the patron saint of Licata (1185–1220) he was a saint and martyr originally from the Holy Land. Angelus was born in Jerusalem to a Jewish family. His mother, however, converted to Christianity, and Angelus, along with his twin brother, John, was baptised, his parents died while he was young, and he and his twin continued in the religious sector. Around his twenty-sixth year, Angelus was ordained in Jerusalem, and he travelled through Palestine. Various miraculous cures were attributed to him. It is said that he sought to avoid fame, and when he was becoming known for his miracles, he withdrew from society to a hermitage. He remained a hermit on Mt Carmel until he was instructed to leave for Italy to preach the word of God. He went to Sicily where his fame as a miracle-worker caused crowds to follow him. He wanted to convert a Cathar knight named Berenger (Berengarius). Catholic tradition states that Berenger was living in incest and that Angelus convinced the knight's companion to leave him. Berenger became enraged and killed or had him killed in front of the Church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo in Licata. He died of his wounds four days after the attack, and according to Catholic tradition, asked for his assassin to be pardoned. He was buried at SS. Filippo e Giacomo.
Today we witnessed the processions of horses and horsemen take the path through the port and marina, they disappeared into town, we had lunch and followed in an hour or so later.
The town, as stated has tremendous history and character, that is clear from the architecture.
The procession was now at rest until this evening, all at rest or doing lunch?
The market is a feature of the town's special day, it dwarfs the local market at Marina di Ragusa.
Rose, Ann & I head into the square where The Church of St Angelo sits proud, the square is cleared for this evenings celebrations. We sit having a coffee and chatting, as we do the cafe is clearing their section of the square for the evening. With large flower beds, and furniture being moved around us we are told that our position was OK by the staff but in time it just seemed safer to move, we disappear down one of the small lanes back towards the marina and car.
We said our farewells to Rose and Brian, they are looking to winter (2016/17) back in Kas, Turkey, we may well see them back there, we head across to Modica.
Modica is an attractive historic town in south-eastern Sicily, one of the area's UNESCO-listed Baroque towns. Modica is particularly famous for its chocolate, and it is an appealing destination for food-lovers, making a good holiday base or day-trip destination. Modica is situated in the dramatic landscape of the Monti Iblei, a range of high ground divided up by deep valleys and surprisingly populous towns. Important in Medieval times, Modica was rebuilt after the great earthquake of 1693 and now boasts fine late-Baroque architecture as well as a medieval old town. Modica is built in three sections around a junction of steep valleys, with the oldest part of town, Modica Alta ('Upper Modica') on a ridge in between. Modica Bassa ('Lower Modica') is the more recent (though still historic) district along the valley bottoms. Modica Sorda is a modern suburb detached from the historic area. Rivers once ran down Modica's valleys, lined with buildings, but after a terrible flood in 1902, when they burst their banks, they were covered over. The town's main street, Corso Umberto I, follows the course of one of these rivers, in the valley to the west of Modica Alta. Nowadays the busiest part of the town centre is at the junction of two valleys where Corso Umberto opens into Piazza Municipio, overlooked by an eighteenth-century hilltop clock tower. Modica is said to be famous for chocolate manufacturing, it has a museum of which we did not visit.
Modica has a remarkable number of impressive churches, including two grand Baroque cathedrals, up a what seemed like a mountain of steps, the Duomo di San Pietro. The cathedral was originally built in the fourteenth century, but destroyed by earthquakes in 1613 and again in 1693 before being rebuilt as it stands today in the Baroque style in the eighteenth century. The church dominates this stretch of Corso Umberto, and its steps are ornamented with large statues of apostles and saints. The views of the surrounding old town are very impressive from the top of it's steps.
The inside of the cathedral is beautiful and extremely well preserved from the aging of time, the impressive ceilings with vivid colour and design.
This lower part of Modica ( Modica Bassa) is busy, heavily-trafficked and thriving, as Ann visited the cathedral I witnessed a true act of "fairness" in the busy street. It appears that if you park illegally I have noticed that the cars are always left with the hazard lights on? I watch two police officers approach two cars parked on disabled parking spaces. Obviously they should not have been there as they both had their hazard lights flashing. The officers looked around then the female officer made three loud blasts on her whistle! This must be the way things are done here, one lady approached one of the cars, the male officer was clearly chastising her with his pointed finger - after which she got in the car and drove off! No one returned to the second car, the officer wrote out a ticket and placed it on the windscreen, the owner should have been listening, unless he/she had forgot they had parked illegally?
When Ann returned from the cathedral, we sort a coffee in one of the many cafes, we then returned to the car and drove off now to Ragusa Ibla, the ancient quarter of Ragusa.
Ragusa is on Monti Iblei, a large area of high ground, divided up by dry stone walls and incised with ravines. The town was originally built on a small steep-sided hill with deep valleys on three sides separating it from the high plateau. After the earthquake of 1693, which destroyed many of south-eastern Sicily's buildings, it was decided to rebuild the new Ragusa on higher, more level, stable ground nearby. This new planned town was built, with straight streets and a rational layout, but local aristocrats didn't want to move, and instead built themselves new palazzi on the ruins of the old town. So nowadays Ragusa has two parts: Ibla (or Ragusa Ibla), the older nucleus on its hilltop, and Ragusa Superiore, the more modern upper town which spreads from the post-earthquake streets into more recent developments. Like all Sicilian towns, Ragusa has its share of ugly modern sprawl, but this is well away from the historic centre, which is remarkably unspoilt. Ragusa Ibla is said to be a must to see. The bus and railway stations, the town's archaeological museum and its everyday shops and businesses are in Ragusa Superiore as well as most of the hotels. Ibla is the more charming base with picturesque lanes, cafes, restaurants and gastronomic shops aimed at tourists. The best activity in Ragusa is said to be wandering, meandering along the character-filled lanes of Ragusa Ibla or clambering up the steps towards the upper town and enjoying the great, classic view over Ibla.
It appears impossible to get a "visiting vehicle" into Ibla, we are able to park down on the lower level Ann disappears up the flights of stairs to investigate the old town.
Ann was gone for almost an hour, I was a little concerned she was unable to find her way back to the car. I called her mobile, that was pointless as she had left it in her jacket on the read seat? When she did return she was so excited about what she had seen, the character, the buildings, she had not even stopped for a coffee. Ann described it a "A perfect place, to sit, relax and watch the world go by!"
An unusual, derelict church exists, "S.Maria di Gesu" built originally in 1652, and became a convent in 1884. I say unusual because they are usually always well maintained no matter what?
Ibla is certainly equipped for the tourists, train and trams pass by continuously utilising the narrow lanes.
The grandest building in Ibla is the cathedral, the Duomo di San Giorgio, set in the large square. It's build began in 1738 and designed by the architect Rosario Gagliardi. Up a flight of steps and segregated from the streets by ornate railings, this is the heart of the old town and contains some of its best, and most prized artworks. These include a statue of St. George which is carried around town in devout processions. Alongside the church is the small Museo del Duomo, a museum containing stone statues and reliefs from the original pre-earthquake San Giorgio and other churches. The square is lined with cafes and restaurants as you can imagine, the perfect place to spend the day.
Ann was so impressed with Ibla, her findings took some time to digest. We then headed around Ibla, to the more modern Ragusa, where else would you find Lidl? Due to the lane/terrain layout we had to cover 11 miles to cover a 5 mile direct "as the crow flies" route, but the drive was interesting and colourful.