Thursday, June 25, 2015

Train trip: Salerno to Rome

Obviously...the Colosseum.  Can you spot Elisabeth?  Flashing the peace sign.
Her deal this summer is to send peace to the world from each location visited.

The Wedding Cake.  Memorial for
Vittorio Emanuele II, the man who united Italy.
It simply made no sense to be this close to Rome and not introduce our granddaughter to this great city.  On the second day there she declared that she could live in Rome; a city to love. Train service in Italy is easy and, in my opinion, at bargain pricing.  Both the Trenitalia and the Italo train lines service this route; we opted for the Italo express trains.  Websites for both lines would not work to book or purchase tickets (possibly this was an issue because I was using Chrome as a browser rather than Internet Explorer); so we went to the train station in Salerno and purchased tickets in person.  This is a decent walk from the marina inside the commercial port.  The station is located very near the Porto Turistico Masuccio Salernitano marina but our boat is too big to dock in that marina; the maximum size boat allowed there is 15 meters and only a few at that.  Walking at a normal pace it takes about 45-50 minutes from Porto Nuovo in the commercial port to the train station.  We have gotten more exercise than desired while docked here!

Back side of Colosseum & Arch

Another Twizy!
Strange opening doors.
Saw these all over Rome.
The 06:57 express train from Salerno to Rome arrived in the newer Roma Tiburtina station at 08:53.  It traveled at 300 kph for almost the entire distance with only a single short stop in Naples central station.  For our American friends, that is 180 mph!  Much more comfortable than any airplane and goes from center of one city to the center of the destination city.  The only way to travel if you ask us.  Much more convenient than airlines.  And less expensive.  As 2 seniors and 1 child our total round-trip train fares for all 3 persons was only $143.81. Guess I was glad that the website did not work after all, because if I had purchased these same tickets online the fare would have been $42.56 each way for each person.  We saved almost $112 by going to the station and having an attendant assist us in the purchase.  She knew the tricks to finding us the cheapest fares; we would never have figured that out in Italian.

That sand in background is the Circus Maximus.
Photo taken at top of Imperial Palace.

Villa where the Vestal Virgins lived.
Palatine Hill homes in background.

Only hiccup was that we arrived at the newer Triburtini station and our return train departed the older Termini station.  This was not a problem for us because our hotel was distant from both train stations.  One was as good logistically as another from our hotel.  We took a taxi from Triburtini to the hotel and then used buses for the remainder of transportation needs.

Trajan's Column and Forum
Wearing her new jacket in the 90F heat!!
We enjoyed Rome for 2 full days.  The first day we managed to see the Colosseum and the Forums, Palatine Hill and the Imperial Palace, looking down on the Circus Maximus.  We enjoyed an over-priced mediocre lunch and then walked to the Pantheon.  Figured out a bus back to the hotel for a nap after all that walking on such a hot day.  

Entry door to Temple of Romulus and
Remus.  Lock still works and door
is on original hinges.  Amazing.

We stayed at the Hotel Sant'Angelo this time. 
The apartment where we had stayed last December has a 3-night minimum but this trip required only a single night in a hotel.  We were familiar with the area and knew this hotel was situated in a desirable location for the sites we wished to visit.  It was a good choice.  Our room rate included hors d'oeuvres and wine (juice and chips for Elisabeth) before dinnertime and a very nice full breakfast buffet.  We were able to book a room for 3 persons which included queen-sized bed in one room with a shower bath and a twin bed in the other bedroom with another shower bath.  For only $138, plus the mandatory city tax of $19.  I thought that was a real bargain.  There was a tabacchi down one block where one can purchase bus/metro tickets and a bus stop a short block behind the hotel.  Perfect!  By the way, Elisabeth still has the American frame of mind.  She found it hilarious that one goes to a smoke shop to purchase bus tickets.  And only to a smoke bus tickets are not sold elsewhere, except for an occasional tourist information kiosk. 

Inside Temple to Romulus and Remus.

Inside Temple to Romulus and Remus.  This
passage went somewhere beneath it.

Dinner was at a small family-owned restaurant a block or so from the hotel.  VERY reasonably priced and the pasta was superb -- not the sauce, which also was delicious, but the actual noodle itself was the best I have ever eaten.  Some Italian mama in that kitchen knows how to cook!      Dinner with wine cost much less than the over-priced mediocre lunch near the old Roman Forums and Colosseum.  

Pope's escape wall to run to Castel Sant'Angelo.
 One pope did run on top length of this wall seeking safety.
Do not remember the name of this wall.
I had purchased Vatican museum tickets online.   If you are not doing a VIP tour (heartily recommend The Roman Guy for excellent VIP small group tours -- -- but if you are on a budget then definitely buy Vatican tickets online.  I purchased our tickets two days prior to our visit to the Vatican, but would recommend purchasing earlier if possible in order to be assured of getting the time that you want.  We wanted the first 'tour' of the day and luckily managed to get 3 tickets.  The absolute worst way to see the Vatican is to arrive without tickets and stand in that queue.  At 09:30 that queue was almost 2 blocks long.  By 14:00 that queue was about 6 blocks long.  Buy the tickets online (only costs 4 euro per ticket more than the standing-in-line price) and skip that queue.  Go straight to the security clearance area to the right of the entrance and then go straight in.  After clearing the metal detectors, take your printed voucher to the ticket window on the left side and exchange the voucher for actual tickets.  Then...follow the crowds.

Shall we have gold on our ceilings?
And Oh.My.God!! were there ever crowds.  When we visited last December Bill's brother, John, thought the crowds were bad.  The summer crowds are at least 10 times what we experienced in December.  I would recommend visiting Rome during winter, fall or spring and avoiding summer if at all possible.  The crowds are horrendous and it gets quite hot.  Winter is much better for both reasons.  It rained a lot in December but that was better than experiencing such crowds and such heat.

That famous pine cone in Vatican.
Pigna (Rione of Rome)

Face in the fountain
beneath the Pigna.
The Vatican museum had changed some of the displays since December, removing some and adding others.  Some rooms were open this day that had been closed last time, and vice versa.  I'm glad we had the opportunity to make this second trip.  One thing that I found striking was the difference in the displays as one walks from the ticket entrance up a winding walkway to the museum entrance level.  This day there were lots of displays of indigenous peoples in jungles and Chinese.  It reminded me of this pope's focus on the poor people and less-fortunate people in our world.

Crowded stairway leading into Sistine Chapel.

Elisabeth wanted to see the pope mobiles and we eventually found that display.  Did not see any signs but I remembered how to get down there.  

We had a very simple and light lunch in the pizzeria and then returned through the Sistine Chapel to get to St. Peter's Basilica.  The crowds bottleneck getting down to the Sistine Chapel going through the various narrow doorways and increasingly narrow stairways.  We had gone straight to the Sistine Chapel when we first arrived so we could miss the worst of the crowds and that had worked well.  Then we backtracked though the museums.  

Memorial for Pope Gregory XIII.
Very ornate.
There really is just too much to see to absorb even a tenth of it.  While in the Sistine Chapel a 20-something aged young man attempted to violate the ban on photos inside the Sistime Chapel.  All photography is forbidden inside the chapel.  The Japanese paid a pretty penny to renovate the artwork inside this chapel and they own all video rights for the next 20 years.  Absolutely no photos are allowed, even without flash, and that includes iPhone photos.  This smart-aleck held his phone down low and took photos of his face with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the background.  And the guards (along with the surveillance video cameras) noticed that this guy was taking the photos. This young man was part of a group tour and the tour guide was standing right next to him and did nothing to stop him.  Within seconds 2 guards were with this young man and escorted him outside, forcing him to hand over his phone.  A short time later he returned to the chapel and continued on with his tour.  I assume with his phone after the offending photos had been deleted.  Seems like someone always wants to break the rules...whatever those rules might be.

Memorial for Pope Gregory XIIII
So plain.  Was this pope not popular?

After skipping through the Sistine Chapel as fast as we could maneuver through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, we slowly shuffled along with even more crowds to soon spill outdoors on the side of St. Peter's.  Ahhh...we could breathe again.  It was so hot with all the people crowded against one another in that building with no air-conditioning or fans.  I pointed out the papal apartment to Elisabeth.  She liked that it was the least pretentious building within view.

Memorial for Pope Gregory XVI.
The most ornate.
Surprisingly, inside St. Peter's was not all that crowded.  Outside there was a line a couple blocks long awaiting admission.  Not sure why that line moved so slowly when it really was not all that crowded inside.  It was nice to look at the beauty inside this basilica at our leisure.  This time we walked down to the papal burial area beneath St. Peter's.  No photos are allowed down there.  The required path had us exit St. Peter's at the queue to take the elevator up to the dome.  I tried to talk Elisabeth into going up there but she refused.  I would not have done the steps to the top but it would have made for a lovely scenic view of Rome if we had taken the elevator to the mid-level of the dome.  Guess I will never know that view because this will be our final trip to the Vatican.

Selfie with a dead pope.
Do not remember which one.
If the priests can do this, she can too.
Very distasteful, IMO.
We were a bit shocked at the behavior of half-dozen young priests.  They were taking selfies inside St. Peter's.  That seemed distasteful to me.  Not sure exactly what that bothered me but it just seemed seamy in some way to be grinning and taking photos of oneself in front of sarcophagi and statuary honoring deceased leaders of their church.  The worst was when they were taking selfies in front of the dead popes on display inside glass cases.  There are only a few popes on display in such a manner and this group of young priests did selfies with each one.  Elisabeth said if they could do it then she could do it too.  So, distasteful as it was, she took a selfie with one of the dead popes.  I'm sure her parents will be so proud when they see that photo.  Yeah, we are terrible grandparents for letting her do this.  How does one explain how wrong this is when a half-dozen priests are doing it?

In St. Peter's Square with St. Peter's Basilica in background.
Pope's apartment on right on the 3rd floor of the plain building.

Even though our day at the Vatican was spent in as leisurely manner as possible, we finished earlier than I thought we would.  This left us with nothing to do for 6 hours before our scheduled train back to Salerno.  It was a hot walk to the nearest bus stop for the number bus that we needed to get back to the hotel so we could retrieve the luggage.  Took us several blocks to find a tabacchi so we could buy bus tickets.  And a long wait for the right bus.  Why is it that every time we wanted a particular number bus that it was pulling away from the bus stop just as we arrived?  Every single time.  Then we would have to wait anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes for the next bus.  This time was one of those 25 minutes waits.  We stopped at a restaurant for cold drinks and air-conditioning; then retrieved the luggage from the hotel and took another bus to the Termini station with hopes that we might be able to change our tickets for the 20:25 express train to Salerno to the earlier 18:15 express train.  As long as it was a 2-hour express train, we wanted the first one available.  

HAH!  Not when we learned the price to change tickets for the earlier train!  It was not worth 101 Euro just to return 2 hours earlier.   Thanks; but, no thanks.  We opted to eat a very leisurely dinner and chat for 4 hours rather than pay that penalty and rate change.

In researching this trip I had run across warning after warning by travelers to be extra careful around the Termini station; crime rate in that area of Rome is very high.  No one posted about one of the reasons why the crime rate there is so high.  I assumed it was because of gypsies.  But, while there were some gypsies in that area, there were far more Africans.  These refugees have arrived in Italy with nothing except the clothes on their backs.  It is truly a sad, sad situation.  Below is a re-posting of what I posted on Facebook today about an experience at the Termini train station in Rome:

Earlier today on Facebook I posted a story about some African refugees being brought to Salerno by a Norwegian military ship a few days ago. This has happened several times yet there are very few Africans in Salerno. I *think* most of these refugees are finding their way to Rome since it is the largest city and might offer the best chances of carving out a living. Last evening while we sat in the dining areas of the Termini train station in Rome for 4 hours waiting for our train departure, we shared one dinner plate consisting of roasted potatoes and a roasted pig shin. Pig shin is really good and this one had a generous amount of meat, enough for all 3 of us. After we had finished eating and the plates had been moved aside as we chatted, an African man walked up to the table and quickly grabbed the shin bone off the plate; turned it up inside his hand so it did not show beneath his shirt sleeve; and quickly walked away.

This was a first! Never had anyone take bones from a plate in a restaurant! I explained to Elisabeth that this man is desperate and hungry. THIS is the person to give money to or for whom to buy a meal; not the folks begging on the street corners. She asked what he could do with that bone and we explained that if nothing else he could suck on the bone and he might get a few bites of meat off it; but most likely he would take it back to where he is living and boil it to get the most out of it.

We looked for this man but never found him inside the terminal. If we had found him we would have bought him a meal. The African refugees have a hard life in their new land. Even with that, they are better off here than in Libya.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Oh, my!  What to write about Pompeii?  

Everyone knows about Pompeii so it hardly seems necessary to write any details about this famous archaeological site.  This was our day visiting Pompeii.

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from train
BeBe is docked at Porto Nuovo inside the commercial port of Salerno.  I had been unable to book tickets online for either the Pompeii trip or for the upcoming trip to Rome, so we had found the main terminal the previous day and purchased those tickets in person.  The first train from Salerno to Pompeii is on the Trenitalia line and departs Salerno at 08:24, arriving Pompeii approximately 09:13.  The train was right on schedule.

Temple of Apollo  (yet another one)

Alighting in Pompeii we found a snack shop to fortify ourselves for a day of walking; then found a taxi.  It is only about a 20-25 minute walk to the main entrance but we figured there would be plenty of walking inside the site and should save our energy for that.  Taxi was 15 Euro -- a bit on the expensive side for such a short ride; but we enjoyed 'chatting' with the driver, Boccia Angelo, who spoke only a few words of English.  I do not understand the name because he preferred to be called Angelo.  He pantomimed that he had 8 sons and no daughters.  8 sons!  
Cathedral is today's Pompeii
Surprisingly, he was not happy about that; claiming that he ended up with 8 sons because they kept trying for a daughter.  That surprised us as we assumed that Italian men usually wanted sons rather than daughters.  Angelo gave Elisabeth and me little bracelets made from lava rocks as souvenirs.  He was so jovial that we did not mind the slightly expensive price for such a short ride.  He also gave us a map of the site and showed us which exit to take to have the shortest walk back to the train station.

The small theater for political speeches

There are 2 main entrances for old Pompeii, Porta Marina and Piazza Anfiteatro.  We entered main entrance gate situated beneath the Porta Marina 'gate' and exited from the Piazza Anfiteatro 'gate' which was a 5-minute walk to the train station.  The other 'gates' at Pompeii are Porta Stabia, Porta Sarna, Porta Nola, Porta Vesuvio and Porta Ercolano. During our day of walking around we saw all the 'gates' except for Porta Ercolano at the far northeast.  It was hot and we got tired of walking, deciding that the necropoli and 2 villas situated out past Porta Ercolano were not worth the effort.

One of the rooms in the house owned
by the character in Elisabeth's book

Granddaughter Elisabeth is taking Latin in school.  She just completed the first year (7th grade) and will have another 5 years of Latin by the time she graduates high school.  In the Latin class last school year they read a semi-historic novel about Pompei.  The characters in this novel were based on actual people who lived in Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.  These people were identified by name through papers and documents found during the excavation of Pompeii.  These documents were found mostly within the actual homes of the various people, as well as in what served as a bank back then.  These papers survived because there was no lava flow through Pompeii; some small lava rocks bombarded the city during the eruption but it was the pyroclastic blast that killed everyone, unbelievably hot gases that instantly killed all life.

Another room in the house of the guy
in Elisabeth's book

One of the characters in the book was called Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and Elisabeth knew exactly where on the map his house was located.  However, our little map indicated that particular house was the home of Caccia Antica.  Elisabeth said that this same map was illustrated in the book and she was certain that Casa della Caccia Antica (#37 on our little map) was the home of the fictional Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, so nothing would do except that we find that house.  Eventually we succeeded.

The main visitors entrance leads to an entrance into old Pompeii itself at the Quadriportico dei Teatri, which leads directly to the Teatro Grande (large theater) and the adjacent Teatro Piccolo (small theater or Odeion).  The Odeion is where politicians would give speeches.

From there we headed up Via Stabiana for blocks, passing the home of Cornelia.  Then we, and hundreds of other tourists, entered single-file through a doorway of a small home which had some rather interesting wall paintings.  Was this a tiny brothel?  Or someone's home?

Phallic symbol indicating a brothel
Meandered a bit and then south down a street where we found another drinking water fountain.  Another block farther south I noticed a phallic symbol carved into the stone near the corner of a building.  As I paused to take a photo, I overheard a guide explaining to his group of tourists that there are thousands of phallic symbols all over Pompeii.  This particular one was there to identify a brothel.  There are phallic symbols depicted as both circumcised and non-circumcised; these were to identify which brothels were for Jews and which were for those men who were not Jewish.  But phallic symbols were considered the good luck symbol of Pompeii and are found all over the city, not just marking brothels.  Who knew!  Never read of that before.  I'll give that guide the benefit of doubt but am aware that not everything a guides tells tourists is always truthful.

Typical street.  These raised sections served as a
way to cross the street when it was filled with water
or mud.  The ruts were for cart wheels.  The cart
bottoms were raised high enough to clear the barriers.

We then turned right onto Via dell'Abbondanza and followed the crowds to the Foro or forum, the main gathering area in any Roman town.  Elisabeth pointed out the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Giove (the Roman god Jupiter); again, things she had learned from Latin class.  She also pointed out the Sanctuary of the Public Lares which was most interesting architecturally with all its niches and columns.  

Head of Jupiter has survived intact.  Amazing.

She also drew our attention to the white carving of the head of Jupiter inside the Temple of Giove.  It has survived intact through the volcano eruption and multiple earthquakes.

There is a snack shop just behind the Temple of Giove and we stopped for a rest.  To cool off in the air-conditioning and rehydrate before continuing onward.  

Enjoying the streets of Pompeii
Next was the men's baths.  Not nearly as impressive as the Terme Stabiane several blocks distant.

The Terme Stabiane was most impressive.  And it featured something we had never heard of -- baths for both men and for women situated within the same structure!  None of the other Roman sites we have visited anywhere have had areas for men and for women within the same building.  Not even close to one another.  

Wall painting in a home.  Unusual taste?
Or typical for the time period?
This is the city's oldest spa building, dating to the second century B.C.; and was built on a previous system with successive restorations.  On the eastern side are two main divisions, totally separated; divided into a section for women and a section for men.  

Each section had a frigidarium (room with cold bath); an apodyterium (dressing room); a tepidarium (warm room); a caldarium (room with hot bath); and furnaces beneath to heat both the room and the water.  On the north side was a large latrine; we could not tell if there were a section for women there or not; normally a latrine would be just for the men.  On the west side was a natatio (pool).  

Carving on outside of hall at baths
I was most impressed with the carvings in the stucco on the outside of the hall and gym. Never seen anything like that.  The details were amazing.  

Ceiling in part of men's bath
was especially ornate

Her hand shows how thick is the
wall plaster

Helping her grandfather with a phone call.

Basically, this is a restaurant.  The people of Pompeii
did not eat the mid-day meal at home.  They usually
would eat at an establishment such as this.  Each
well held different foods.  This particular place had
several dining rooms where people ate laying down.

One of the dining rooms.  The recessed area on left
is where a bed was fitted for eating.

Another of the dining rooms with recessed
area for dining bed.

Restoring a room.  They color-match with existing
plaster and never paint darker than original colors.

Table base.  Interesting story.
On top of each lion's head is inscribed
name of P.Casca Longus, identifying
the table belonging to him.  He was the
first to strike Caesar in 44 B.C.
Later, he was killed along with Brutus
at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia
in 42 B.C.  His property was
confiscated and sold at 'public sale.'
  Apparently the owner of this home in
Pompeii purchased the table.

Plaque in lower entry into amphitheater
I am having computer issues and need to wrap this up before it crashes again. I think my new hard drive is defective.  

Amphitheater to seat 20,000

We saw way more than I can write about today.  The final thing near the exit was the Anfiteatre or amphitheater.  It was not all that large as compared to the one at Ephesus. This one in Pompeii was built around 70 B.C. and seated around 20,000 spectators.

Casts of the lovers

We happened to visit Pompeii while the amphitheater was hosting The Great Pyramid designed by Frencesco Venezia.  Inside the wooden pyramid were casts of 20 of the victims of Pompeii who died when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.  This exhibit was quite moving.  One can see the facial expressions of the people as they died, some while asleep.  

Photograph of the actual lovers

One cast in particular is most evocative.  It is of a man lying down with a child lying next to him...while a smaller child (toddler size) is rising up from his father's mid-section and looking away with what looks like a startled body position. 

It is as if the small child had just heard the loud boom of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and twisted his body and turned his head in that direction.  

And instantly died.  

Frozen forever in position in that instant of time. 

Children and father, frozen in moment of death

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Viba Valentia; Cetrara; Scario and Salerno

 This will be a brief posting.  It is late and we have an early day tomorrow.

After Scilla we motored up to Vibo Valentia and stayed at the the Marina Stella del Sud for a few days.  What a gem!  Why have we not heard about this place from any other cruisers!

Coastal sailing along west coast of Italy
This is a small family owned marina situated right in a nice little town.  I think it would be a perfect place to winter as long as one does not require a lot of other cruisers for companionship.  The young man who assisted with our docking lines invited us to share in a lunch of freshly caught tuna.  What an experience!  It was so much fun!  Father, uncle, grandfather, sons, cousins, even babies -- a true family experience.  With typical Italian animated hand movements and loud voices while smiling the entire time.   Grilled fresh tuna and grilled peppers with nice wine and Prosecco and homemade Lemoncelo (I now have the recipe!).  It was a blast!  

Our main nav computer failed while motoring north from Scilla.  Bill pulled out one of our back-up computers and we continued onward.  Bill then took apart the broken computer and did trouble-shooting as far as he could diagnose with the limitations of being on a boat. Then he packed it up and shipped it back to the manufacturer in the states in hopes that it can be repaired.  We continued onward.

Scario, Italy
Next stop was Cetraro.  We had planned to anchor a bit farther up the coast but the swell was awful and anchoring would have been miserable rolling all night long.  So we tucked into the marina at Cetraro.  Nothing special there; just a place to tie up behind the secure walls of a marina and we moved onward the following morning.

By then the swell was dying down and we opted to anchor outside the tiny harbor at Scario, a picture postcard little village.  It was lovely.  The first night anchored there was calm and wonderful.  The second night was so rolly that neither of us slept well.  No strong winds up in the huge bay but lots of swell caused by the 30-knot winds offshore outside the capes on either end of that huge bay.  Funny how the large bays on the western coast of Italy can remain low wind when it is howling offshore of the capes.

After  a sleepless night we had the anchor up and were underway by 0530; destination Salerno.   Swell outside the capes was still pretty large and as we rounded the last cape south of Salerno a squall slammed us hard.  Actually, a cell moved in over the mountains on our right and another cell moved in from the sea on our left and when the 2 cells converged winds kicked up to 40-knots and rain poured for a couple of hours.  Just as it started to get bad, Bill looked at me and played the little game that we sometimes play.  I was the one at the helm so I got the questions.

Him:  "Look at me.  What would you do if navigation computer failed now?"

Me:  "Steer 350 magnetic."

Him:  "Okay; and what if engine failed also?"

Me:  "Turn hard to port and furl out the genoa and head out to sea."

Got those right so he did not ask me any more questions.  Sailing requires that one be prepared for the 'what ifs' at all times.

Cloud formations
The rain and wind diminished and we continued to the new Marina D'Arechi about 3 miles south of Salerno.  We would have preferred to go to Porto Nuovo but there was no way to contact that marina.  And no way to contact the Porto Turistico at Salerno.  So we went to the expensive new marina and were sadly disappointed when they assigned us berthing docked stern-to against a very high concrete dock.  This was not appropriate docking for our sized boat; it was meant for a larger and higher motor yacht.  Plus, this marina is very isolated.  There was nothing nearby.  It was not completed yet but did not have pre-completion pricing.  It was the most expensive marina we have stayed at in Italy thus far.

We caught a taxi and went to check out Porto Nuovo.  I found the ormeggio who had a section of dock that could handle our sized boat.  There are 8 ormeggio concessions within Porto Nuovo.  There are no contact phone numbers published in the sailing guide books for the various ormeggio concessions.  I have no idea how a boat is supposed to come in here and find out where to go to dock.  Using the taxi was the only way we could figure out how to get in there and where to go.  I walked around talking to anyone found on the main dock and soon found a guy who called a woman who spoke English.  She said their dock could accommodate our 16-meter sailboat and gave us a discount on a week's stay for 500 Euro.
If anyone is coming here, you can call Madiarosa Autuori at +39 339 843 2719 and arrange berthing.  If one speaks Italian, you can hail VHF channel 8 for Ormeggio Autuori and request berthing.  See?  Is that really so difficult?  Why couldn't the sailing guide book provide that information!!!  (Instead, we paid 47 Euro for a taxi to find that out.)

Finally baked Bill a birthday cake.
Only 10 days after his birthday.

This morning we motored over (in large swell and 38-kt winds!) and docked at Ormeggio Autuori in Porto Nuovo.  This is a corner of the large commercial port has wonderful long breakwater.  We like it here on this floating dock much better than the far-nicer more isolated marina with their too-high concrete dock.  

We immediately went to the central train station and bought tickets for the train to Pompeii tomorrow morning.

Time for a little sight-seeing!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Taormina Roads--Mt. Etna; through Strait of Messina; and Scilla

Mt. Etna viewed from the mooring

We finally (mentally kicking and screaming) dragged ourselves away from the lovely old city of Siracusa and what is arguably the most protected anchorage in Italy and motored about 55 miles northward to Taormina Roads.  Taormina is just another roadstead anchorage, like so many other Italian anchorages, and provides no real protection, completely open to the east and south.  We had met a man who wintered in Marina di Ragusa at the same time we were there and he had mentioned that he had established a mooring field at Taormina Roads.  

Mt. Etna viewed as we sailed away.  Note
the 2 vents rather than only 1.

As we approached, we phoned George and inquired if a mooring would be available for a couple of nights.  George can be reached at phone number +39 335 822 4656.  He has a website at:  The moorings are structurally safe and not overly expensive.  It also is possible to anchor nearby the mooring field but the moorings offer better protection under the tip of the land jutting eastward than does the more exposed anchorage area.  George offers a full concierge service for boats on his moorings.

Taormina city on the ridge with ancient Saracen castle
towering above the town.  The castle wraps from the uppermost left
mountaintop around to the right past visual range.

The next day we had hoped to visit the town of Taormina high on the hillside ridge but yacht BeBe had other plans.  Bill noticed that the fresh water pump was cycling on too frequently, which could mean a leak somewhere.  Nope; all the interior of the boat was dry as usual, thus indicating the possibility that the one-way valve on the pump was failing.  

He took it apart and found a tiny bit of trash caught inside the one-way valve.  Problem solved.  Except that when he re-assembled the pump he tightened something too much and broke a fitting.  He searched through our spares but that part was not in inventory.  
Ah-hah!  That concierge service that George had mentioned!  
Why yes, we do have a small job for you.

Leaving Taormina.  The city is on the opposite
side of that point.  The Saracen castle is on the top
of the 'hill' on the far right.  It was quite large.
Within 20 minutes George returned with the needed plumbing part.  The threads even matched!  Cannot beat that service!  Bill finished reassembling the plumbing and all was good again.  But the day was shot as far as land exploration went.  Neither of us felt like going into Taormina in the heat of the afternoon.  Besides, Bill and Janet on S/V Airstream had described the city to us as a shopping haven for stylish items such as $10,000 watches. thanks.  That is so not us.  We opted to laze around the boat and appreciate the views of Mt. Etna to our left and the Saracen castle perched high above Taormina town on our right.  Absolutely gorgeous views!  And did not require even leaving our cockpit.

Here is a link to info about Mt. Etna:

Another town on eastern side of Sicily with a
castle or keep towering above the modern city. It is
the squarish structure middle right on top of hill.

A train encircles this huge volcano and that would have been more interesting to us than shopping in upscale stores in Taormina, but by the time the water pump was fixed it was too late in the day to consider this train excursion.  

We were sorry to miss seeing the ancient Saracen Castle, which we were told is well over 1,000 years old.  Later, I read online that the castle is closed now.  That makes me feel better about not making the effort to get up there.  
Royal Clipper
exiting strait south

Scilla beach looking west at northern
end of Messina Strait

Next on our itinerary was the somewhat dreaded Messina Strait, that strip of sea that separates Sicily from mainland Italy.  The dangers of this narrow passage of water have been known since The Odyssey was penned by Homer.  It is plagued by tidal streams and whirlpools, some of which have been known to cause even a 74-gun ship to be whirled around on the water's surface.  A major earthquake in 1783 altered the sea bottom and to some extent tamed Scilla (the Render) and Charybdis (the Sucker-down) from the severity supposedly encountered by Odysseus so very long ago.  
  1. Being between Scylla and Charybdis is an idiom deriving from Greek mythology, meaning "having to choose between two evils". Several other idioms, such as "on the horns of a dilemma", "between the devil and the deep blue sea", and "between a rock and a hard place" express the same meaning.

First glimpse of Scilla high on the hill.  With castle
 on top of hill at the point.  Tiny harbor is behind it.
The pilot book states to check the times for high tide at Gibraltar and then time your passage of the strait accordingly.  The Messina Strait connects the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily to the Ionian Sea south of mainland Italy and east of Sicily.  Because these 2 seas experience high tides at different times, this causes the strong tidal streams through the strait.  A large volume of water basically 'falls' through to the other side causing the strong tidal streams flowing either northbound or southbound.  One hour and 45 minutes after high tide in Gibraltar causes a north-setting tidal stream through the Messina Straits.  We did not bother to check the Gibraltar tides and instead used the Total Tides program.  It worked perfectly for us!  We arrived at Reggio di Calabria on the eastern side of the strait approximately 30 minutes after Total Tides showed the tidal stream to begin flowing northbound.  This allowed us to ride the current or tidal stream completely through the strait.  We exited the northern entrance approximately 10 minutes before the current should have ceased.  It would soon begin to flow southward.  Worked like a charm!

Ruffo Castello as viewed from our mooring
This slightly dreaded passage turned out to be nothing to worry about.  Timing the tidal stream makes all the difference in the world.  There were many eddies and small whirlpools which caused our bow to veer starboard and then to port, but the autopilot corrected smartly each time and we never veered off course.  Thirty minutes before arriving at the separated traffic scheme, we had hailed the Messina VTS as required on VHF Channel 10 numerous times but never received a response.  Finally Bill called them on the phone and that sufficed.  After taking all our information they instructed us to monitor Ch 13 instead of Ch 10 and that worked fine.  Also, as stated in the pilot book, the wind went from almost nothing to 27 knots in the narrowest part of the strait for a brief time, then back to almost nothing.  This wind anomaly is caused by the high land mass on either side of the narrow water passageway.  

One thing we did note while in the strait.  A small sailboat decided to transit the strait southbound under sail.  I think this was foolhardy (going against the tidal stream and under sail); but what was really foolhardy was when that sailboat, under full sail, crossed in front of a cargo ship which was traveling at over 20-knots.  From our viewpoint it was a close call and the sailboat was rocked violently by the bow wake of the cargo ship.  That was foolish!  Size, and especially size combined with speed, always trumps sails!  Sure, I know the cargo ship is the 'give-way' vessel but that is plain foolish.  That huge cargo ship going over 20-knots does have limited maneuverability; not the mariner's definition of that term but the logical definition of that term.  I think that woman sailing that little boat should count herself lucky that the cargo ship altered course to port to avoid collision and that the ship responded fast enough that all she got was a violent rocking.

Our destination was Scilla (pronounced Sheila by the locals) which is just eastward of the northern exit/entrance of the Messina Strait.  As we exited the strait and headed toward Scilla, there were 4 swordfish boats working the area.

One of the unique swordfish fishing boats
Swordfish and tunny regularly migrate through the Messina Strait and peculiar boats have evolved to catch them.  The swordfish swim southwards in the spring and northwards in June.  The swordfish boat favored today is about 50-ft long with a single very tall lattice steel mast which has a chair on top of it for the captain who can steer the boat from his perch.  An electric winch hoists him up and down.  The bowsprit is a catwalk that extends 50-ft out in front of the hull.  These boats operate only during daylight and only during calm weather.  Swordfish like to 'sleep' on the surface during the day, or move sluggishly.  The fishing boat can creep up and harpoon the 'sleeping' or sluggish fish.  This method is effective, as evidenced by the large swordfish we have seen both in the open-air markets in Siracusa and here in Scilla.

BeBe on mooring in tiny Scilla harbor with a
swordfish fishing boat in background.

Another view of BeBe on mooring in tiny Scilla harbor
with swordfish fishing boat out in the large bay.

Today we walked all over Scilla and my legs and hips are screaming at me as a result.  Seemed like it was straight up, up and up; as this old town is perched at the top of a steep rocky point.  An old castle sits atop the very tip of this point.  
One of dozens of water
fountains all over town.
Each different.
And a tiny harbor is sheltered on the eastern side far below.  This harbor looked too small for a boat our size, but friends Bob and Suzanne Rossi on a sister-ship Amel were here recently.  If they could fit; we could fit.  A guy came out in a small rib and assisted us in tying off to a small mooring and a stern laid line.  A bit scary when looking down at the rocks and boulders on the seabed below!  Water is crystal clear and this tiny port seems very protected from winds from any direction.  It costs 30 Euro per night for the mooring.  There is nowhere to land a dinghy but that is not a problem as a free water taxi is provided to boats moored here.

Castello Ruffo on the point at Scilla.
Beautiful white beach below.
Castello Ruffo behind the
obligatory church

We also visited the Castello Ruffo (old castle).  It was originally built for military purposes and was later converted into a residential property in 1532 by Count Paolo Ruffo.  Count Ruffo took over Scilla in 1532 and spent the next few years residing in this castle.  After first walking all over the uppermost level of Scilla we were too tired to have much interest in traipsing through this old castle.  But it was not far from our route on the way down from the city, so we stopped for a few photos if not for a tour.

BeBe and Bill overlooking northern end of Messina Strait
with beautiful white sand beach below.
Someone is building a boat.

Rather than write about Scilla, here are a couple of links that tell all:

Entrance to
Castello Ruffo
Looking back towards Scilla from the
castle, church bell tower on left, drop-off
to beach on the right.
The butcher in one of the supermarkets at the very tip-top highest elevation of Scilla (oh, be still my pounding heart!!) had a few interesting foods with which we were not familiar.  For dinner tonight we are having some small triangles of pounded and ultra-lightly breaded beef filled with thin slices of ham, cheese and a few leaves of spinach.  And a few bite-size wraps of thinly-sliced zucchini wrapped around cubed cheese and small bit of a seasoned bread crumb mixture.  Along with fresh ravioli and a commercially prepared sauce that all 3 of us love.  We love the Italian foods!  And I do enjoy the prepared items that are available at some of the butcher shops for convenience.  It has been a long time since we have had access to convenience prepped foods in supermarkets.  No idea what any of it is called but it has all been good.

Typical street in Scilla.  Only a few streets
are wide enough for cars.  Bill and
BeBe at end of this street.

One of many picturesque buildings near harbor

Sculpture in piazza at Scilla

Sign on back identifies this as a
Tuk-Tuk!  Has 3 wheels just like
the tuk-tuks in SE Asia.
In Italy?

Tomorrow we move on.  Had planned to visit the Aoelian Islands and Elisabeth was looking forward to stopping at Vulcano.  I think because she is a Star Trek fan and wanted to be able to tell her friends that she had been to Vulcan.  But weather forecast is not good for sailing out there and then north unless we wait on the western side of Vulcano for 3 or 4 days and we do not want to waste time doing that.  So, we will skip the Aoelian Islands and miss Vulcano and Stromboli.  Cannot see it all.

Bebe is moored off to the left of this photo.  This is the large bay or indention just north of Messina Strait on
the mainland side.  Tomorrow we move to a marina on the opposite side of the point in the background,
about 35 NM distant.