Through the month of May we have sailed down the coast of Puglia and crossed from Otranto to Corfu and started exploring the Ionian Sea. The contrast with Italy is considerable. English is spoken everywhere. British sailors are everywhere. The sea is full of charter boats and ad hoc town quay moorings are the order of the day. Greek officialdom has benn less awful than expected. It only took half a day to get a Dekpa and a cross town trip to the tax office ( most Greeks I asked didn't know of it's location!). Officials were friendly though and laughed at their own convoluted procedures. The Ionian deserves its reputation for beauty and it's easy to see why it is such a popular destination. Lots to explore.
Back on board and getting LYRA ready for her next journey. My crew of three arrive later in the week and we will be sailing down the coast of Puglia and across the Gulf of Otranto to Corfu, in readiness for our first season in Greece.
Polignano a Mare
This is a postcard pretty town perched on the cliffs and reminds me of Amalfi and is obviously popular with both Italian and foreign tourists. We are staying in the nearby (3km walk) Marina which is brand new, has a capacity of 350 berths and has about seventy boats moored here. We've used the Marina as a base to explore the town and avoid some bad weather going by train to Lecce and, when friends arrive tomorrow, to explore by car the white hilltop villages that make Puglia famous.
Bari gets poor reviews online and in guide books. I think that's because you have to drive through endless suburbs to get to the centre. Arriving by boat is different and the old town is well worth a visit and we enjoyed our stay here, far and away the largest city we have been to with Lyra. We stayed at Ranieri's Marina, in truth more of a boat yard than marina, but easy access and relatively cheap so all good. Before we left Trani we had a great festival firework show that we were almost in the middle of. So that was a spectacular send off.
Chef Georgio Locatelli describes Puglia as "all baroque or breezeblock, with nothing in between". Well we've arrived in Trani, just 33 miles down the coast from Manfredonia and it's a baroque delight; aport town with a harbour enclosed on three sides, the biggest 11th century cathedral in the Adriatic and a real buzz to it that makes you believe that Puglia might just be the next undiscovered location in the Med rather than a down-at-heel cousin with a dirty secret to hide. The old town is made of white limestone and has had some serious money spent upon it to restore former glories.
when we finally got out to sail last week it quickly became obvious there was something wrong with the engine and we diagnosed a rope around the prop- despite the rope cutter. We couldn't sort it so the marina pointed us in the direction of a local diver and on Saturday we motored out to a mooring buoy and he spent half an hour and €100 sawing and working only to tell us it was 'no good' his only words of English. He indicated problems with the sail drive and the keel and we spent the weekend anticipating major problems when the boat was lifted this morning by the very helpful local yard. Luckily there are no serious issues and a little repair work will sort everything out. We have however broken another bow thruster propellor and face a two day delay in that arriving so we've checked ourselves into rather a smart hotel in the town for a couple of nights whilst we wait on DHL.
So we are enjoying shore time, with a sense of having dodged a bullet and some anger at bloody fishermen the world over who discard unwanted ropes and nets and treat the sea as a dustbin.
Yet more rain
And so the rain continues. For five days now we have endured rain and thunderstorms that have kept us mostly inside and certainly on our mooring. It's lucky that we are in no real hurry to go anywhere in the next little while although we had thought we would explore the eastern coast of the Gargano with some long day sails and some lunchtime anchorages by the cliffs, maybe a with little paddle boarding and swimming thrown in. Instead we have been reading and rapidly consuming our store of DVD box sets. There seems to be a reasonable possibility that the new week will bring new weather systems and some badly needed sunshine to Puglia so with luck we can actually sail Lyra rather than just live on her. Hopefully Tuesday. And yes, the local plonk was a step too far. Locals very friendly but we now feel we have explored Manfredonia to its limits.
we are back in Puglia and a mixture of strong sunshine, no wind, laziness and now strong winds and thunderstorms have kept us happily in the marina for a week. We are chilling out and trying to live like locals as we check out the byways of Manfredonia and dodge the rainstorms. Yesterday we had floods of biblical proportions and more rain is forecast for this evening and tomorrow. Shopping daily and visiting the markets is keeping us vaguely busy and there are always small jobs to do on the boat.
We we have today taken the plunge and bought local wine in bulk (admittedly from a rather smart wine shop) but this may be a bridge too far, even at €2 a litre...
Nearly six weeks after arriving in Croatia we have left Lyra in Puglia whilst we return to the UK for work. It's always difficult to tear oneself away but with so much Italian food and wine to explore it has been even harder this year. Not too long until we are back...
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.