We have been in Manfredonia, Puglia for the best part of a week and I thought it was about time to note down some initial thoughts on this little- known part of the Italian coast. Marina del Gargano, our new home for the year is a brand new 600 berth marina with the luxury of side-to mooring, good security and good value for money. It's about one quarter full at the moment and is the smartest place in Manfredonia. It is obviously a major part of a plan to put the town in the tourist map and the rest of the waterfront is also starting to get a facelift, but there's a way to go as yet and Manfredonia is very much a southern Italian working town, more shabby than chic and unused to tourists. The marina is very much part of the evening passeggiata, which is just as well as otherwise it would be just us and the seagulls during the week.
Yesterday we drove over much of the Gargano, a massive limestone outcrop that creates the spur to Italy's heel and marvelled at the caves and stacks of the east coast, the ancient forests of the Umbra and the endless camping villages that cover the north coast between Vieste and Peschici. Today we explored the coast down to Barletta and saw widespread rural depopulation and unplanned urban sprawl that has somewhat disfigured ancient port towns along the coast. I think they will be better experienced by boat. So, it's scruffy, slightly down at heel and busier than anything we have been exposed to on our journey to date. On the plus side the people are friendly (patiently waiting for my Italian to make sense) and the food and wine are fantastic. We've eaten great meals in restaurants everywhere we've been and the wine- lets just say the Croatian wine we imported by neglect will not be coming out of the wine store any time soon. It's chaotic, loud, untidy and completely unlike anywhere else.
We crossed from Lastovo in Croatia to Manfredonia in Itsly earlier this week. We had a good fast passage with 15knots of wind on the beam but the limited opening hours of the port police in Lastovo (and the requirement to immediately exit the country) meant a night arrival in our new marina in Manfredonia,not the best choice in what we knew would be a confusing entrance. At around midnight, just off the Italian coast near Mattinata, we were stopped by an Italian 'Garda di Finanza' gunboat and papers inspected and passports checked and validated. They had us pinned under a searchlight and instructed us to stop and then had us take their lines. The crew were friendly enough and whilst rafted up to them we chatted in broken English and Italian. It certainly woke us all up. We then motored our way to Marina del Gargano in Manfredonia and having picked our lights, very slowly entered the deserted marina.
We decided to moor up on the empty super yacht dock at the entrance and sort out the correct pontoon in the morning. No sooner had we tied up than a Caribinieri patrol boat came in, searchlights on, us asking what we were doing. They had obviouly been following us on radar and wanted to know what we were up to. Once they realised we were harmless yachties they were happy enough to be on their way. I can confirm border security in this part of Italy is very much on the money. Safely in the marina we could look back on a successful night crossing and exhausted we all crashed out for what little of the night that remained, only to be woken by the security guard demanding to know what we were doing in the superyacht dock! Everything was sorted out the next morning and with helpful staff, we moved gratefully onto our permanent berth.
We have had a good few weeks sailing the Croatian islands, firstly with Cate & Steve and latterly with Sarah & Simon. The weather has been very mixed with cold northerly winds but we have sailed almost every day so far and that's probably a record for the Adriatic. We are back in Dubrovnik now for yet another crew change (Tim and Helen) and a final visit to the old town before setting sail again towards Lastovo (our favourite island in the southern islands) with Italy as our eventual destination. We have managed to explore Vis for the first time and revisited our islands we have enjoyed such as Mljet, Korcula, Sipan and Lastovo.