Italy

Bella Italia

deli

One thing’s for certain... we’re not going to go hungry this winter. Ever since arriving in Italy we have been enjoying incredibly fresh and delicious food.

On the left is a typical “deli.” This one was in the city of Bologna, known for its good eats. Last month’s update told how we met the Lombardi family while cruising through Sardinia. We recently visited them at their home in Bologna. One of the wonderful things about getting to know the locals is finding out how they eat. Bologna is famous for two things in particular: tortellini and lasagne. Mamma mia! The Lombardi’s treated us to hand-

rolled tortellini filled with two kinds of meat. We almost fell over when we saw what it cost: 25 euros for one kilo -- that’s about $32 for 2.2 pounds of pasta! Ouch. The lasagne was equally pricey at $25 for a small

tray, but oh boy was it good. The food was accompanied by fresh baked parmesan bread and yummy goodies for dessert.

Don’t worry, we’re enjoying plenty more than just the food... including Michelangelo’s David in Florence. Seeing the famous sculpture up close and personal was quite a thrill, as was the impressive Duomo (cathedral).  A drive through the nearby mountains revealed other treasures, like the small town in the photo on the right.

From the mountains we traveled back to the sea where we sailed  the length of the Italian Riviera. The pastel colored buildings come right down to the water and narrow, winding streets make for enchanted strolls ashore. A highlight was an all-day tour of the “Cinque Terre” -- five towns that

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A small town in the Appuan Alps of Italy

pizza

used to be only accessible by water. Today you can get there by train, which is how we traveled to the towns after getting a slip in La Spezia. Our chart showed that there’d be no protected anchorages from which to get ashore. Once there, it was obvious we’d made the right choice, as the shoreline was rocky and steep.

In keeping with the culinary theme, to the left you see the difficult choices that faced us when it came time for lunch. Decisions, decisions... Having hiked from one town to another, we simply ordered one of each! (Well, almost...)

Below is a photo of Portofino - playground of the rich and famous.

Decisions, Decisions

family Pisa03
portofino

Typical Italian Riviera scene

We had a great time sharing our adventures with Suzanne’s sister Janice and brother-in-law Allan. They met us in Florence, and we visited Pisa (as you can tell from that leaning tower in the photo on the left), Lucca, and those mountain villages we told you about. We especially enjoyed helping Janice with her search for “the perfect tiramisu.”

After saying arriverderci to our family, we headed back south for our 1 October reservation at the Porto Turistico di Roma.

Con la famiglia

The sail south along Italy’s coast was beautiful. The coast was was more mountainous than we expected and less populated. The biggest surprise was seeing the snowcapped peaks as we traveled past the port of Carrara. But wait! That wasn’t snow at all. It was the exposed white marble in the famous Carrara marble quarries.

Sculptors have been harvesting blocks of marble from these famous quarries for hundreds of years. Michelangelo often frequented the area in search of “the perfect piece of meat.” Today, large ships sit at anchor waiting to be loaded with the latest harvest to be shipped all over the world.

marble mts

That’s not snow in them thar hills... it’s marble!!!

Bella Roma!

Very few cruisers in the Mediterranean continue sailing through the winter thanks to the frequency of gales. It wasn’t just the impending bad weather that made us want to settle down for a while... After sailing 5000 miles since June 4th, we were ready for a break. There are certain marinas throughout the Med that lend themselves to “wintering over.” For our first winter in Europe we chose Rome. There were three reasons for this:

  • A fairly large cruising community
  • It’s Rome, for goodness sake!
  • The chance to learn and speak Italian

We arrived at the marina one day early but they were ready for us. When they

marina02

Romans love to come to our marina on Sunday afternoons to see and be seen.

showed us our assigned berth, Ty said, she’s not going to fit. “Come, come!” the guy said, “It fit fine,Signore.” Ty insisted the space was too narrow. You see, there are no finger piers or pilings between slips in the Med. You simply drive your boat’s bow or stern right up to the pier and wedge yourself between other boats.Well, Ty decided to go for it and with four fenders on each side, simply nudged the other boats and slipped Liberty between them like a shoe horn. What a way to dock a boat! We’re now med-moored bow-to and have to climb over the bow roller to get on and off . It’s not the optimum situation, but our dinghy davits prevent going stern-to. Ty and a neighbor built a small passerelle (read: plank) to make the step across a little less hairy (See the new photo at the bottom of “Modifications” for Cruising Europe). All we can say is, “When in Rome...” :-)

wine tasting

Cruisers and wine mix well!

When not touring the city, we’re getting to know our fellow cruisers quite well through weekly get-togethers, pot luck suppers, Italian lessons, art gatherings, shopping excursions, and the morning cruisers’ net on the VHF. It’s a nice change of pace. We recently held a wine-tasting (see the photo on the left) where each boat was asked to bring one bottle of wine costing no more than 3 euros. All labels were covered, and we connoisseurs commenced ranking the selection. There was only one bottle among them that was so bad no one would even use it for cooking. Another was a clear winner. We’ve decided this should be a recurring activity!

Turn-out at all activities has been great. There are currently 23 cruising boats here for the winter. All are couples like us who have been

cruising for anywhere from one year to twenty years. While we come from seven different countries, the one thing we all have in common is a love of adventure, travel, and boats.

The breakdown of cruising boats wintering over at Porto de Roma marina is as follows:

British: 10

American:  5

Dutch: 3

Swedish: 2

French:  1

Irish: 1

Australian:  1

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The Aussies bought their boat in France, so the Americans are the ones who’ve come the longest distance to get here.

Meanwhile, we’ve joined the Rome Yacht Club (lah dee dah!), a five-month-new facility that offers great opportunities to meet Italians and enjoy social events. Future trips to Venice, Naples, and lesser known Italian villages will keep us busy in spite of colder weather than we experienced during the past two winters in the Bahamas. With the Colosseum at our doorstep, good food and great new friends, we figured we could tolerate long pants and  sweaters for a few months!

We feel truly blessed to live this lifestyle, and now it’s official. . . we recently had the thrill of receiving the Pope’s blessing while visiting St. Peter’s square and the magnificent basilica.

st peters square

St. Peter’s Square (above) and a Papal blessing (right)

Pope1
Susan and Warren02

We recently  left Liberty in Rome for three weeks to return to the US. Ty’s daughter, Susan, and her fiance, Warren Babich, were married in North Carolina the day after Thanksgiving (See the Photo of the Month). It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful time with family.

We enjoyed being in the United States again where everything seems to be a lot easier.  We ate a lot of ethnic food (no Italian food, though!) and visited every book store we passed.

Mr. & Mrs. Warren Babich

Trevi Fountain
Swiss Guard

Trevi Fountain and one of the Vatican City’s Swiss Guards

Now back in Rome, we’re settling back into the “wintering-over” routine. We spend our days relaxing, sight-seeing, working out, and getting together with other cruisers. Suzanne teaches Italian to the other cruisers at the Rome Yacht Club.

The weather has been cooler than we expected, with more rain than we care for. The occasional gale-force winds make things rather exciting in the marina.  The boats bounce around and huge rollers break across the entrance between the jetties, reminding us why we chose to stay put for the winter months.

Italian Lessons

Suzanne Teaches Italian to her Fellow Cruisers

Ty and Rudy

Ty & Rudy relax in the cabin.

Christmas turkey 30
Rome

Bella Roma

Christmas in Italy turned out to be a wonderful day. All of the foreign cruisers who hadn’t gone back to their home countries for the holidays celebrated together. After meeting on one of the bigger boats for a celebratory drink, the fifteen of us walked to a restaurant near the marina for a five-course dinner and gift exchange.  In the photo on the left you can see how accommodating the restaurant owner was.  Italians don’t usually eat roast turkey, but they cooked up a great feast for us that made the day extra special.

Our Christmas Chef

We rang in the new year with a trip to northern Italy and Switzerland.  Here’s Lake Lugano, in the town that goes by the same name. It was mighty cold, but pretty, just the same.

Lugano 30
Milan cathedral 30

The cathedral in Milan was strikingly different from others we’d seen in Italy. The European influence was evident with a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles.

We weren’t the only ones who decided to visit Milan for the new year! 

Milan piazza 30

Winter’s Almost Over!

Subiaco

A convent in the town of Subiaco, Italy

It’s been a long winter. We really don’t like sitting in one place for so long.  It’s time to move on! March has lived up to its reputation for wind, and the Port of Rome is no different than any other place.  The wind has howled for days on end, making us glad we’re not at anchor somewhere.  But here’s hoping it lets up soon, because on April 1st... we’re outta here!  Ty has been busy putting together our cruising plan for the upcoming months. (Suzanne is busy writing.)  He’s plotting a course south to Sicily and around the boot of Italy.  From there we hope to head to the Greek Islands and on to Croatia. It’s going to feel good to be underway.

We’ve made a few more trips around the local area.  The town of Subiaco, an hour or so east of Rome, boasts an awesome Benedictine monastery that’s built against the side of a mountain.  The photo above shows the view from the monastery. In the general vicinity are the ruins of emperor Hadrian’s villa. The great thing about being here in the winter is having places like this all to ourselves.  We wandered around what remained of the expansive emperor’s retreat, trying to visualize Romans in togas wandering the streets and soaking in the baths (guess they would have taken their togas off for the baths...)

Hadrians Villa

Hadrian Was Here

Boat Show

Suzanne with her Mom and Dad at the Chicago Boat Show

Suzanne flew back to Chicago for the big Strictly Sail boat show there in February.  She was sponsored by Beneteau Yachts and gave a speech on Women in Boating at their owners’ reception. She also gave five presentations to the general public which were well attended and well received.  When not speaking, she was selling copies of Living a Dream at the Author’s Corner where she sold out of all 125 copies she’d taken.  The highlight of the event for Suzanne was having her parents there for the whole show.  They flew in from Tucson, Arizona for their first visit since Ty and Suzanne crossed the Atlantic 10 months earlier.  Suzanne’s Mom discovered her new calling as a saleswoman and hopes to join Suzanne at future boat shows.  Any time, Mom!

Underway!

Gaeta02

Gaeta Harbor

Our winter slip lease at the Port of Rome was up on April 1st. On March 31st, we were outta there!  We’d been ready to go for weeks, but the winter winds and seas were still acting up. (Plus it was a bit chilly to disconnect the heaters).

It feels so good to be underway. The best part is spending nights at anchor again. We love being our own little island.  Unfortunately, the sailing, or lack thereof, has been pretty typical for the Med. In the first week we had one great day of all-day sailing on a perfect beam reach.  Other than that it was wind on the nose. 

We are definitely pushing the season, as we have been the first cruising boat in every harbor we’ve visited so far.

Our first stop was Anzio, where we spent a very rolly night of non-sleep.  (Yes, anchoring out does have its occasional drawbacks). We headed next for Gaeta, where we were much more protected in the lee of the US Navy’s 6th Fleet Flagship, the USS MOUNT WHITNEY, which is forward deployed to Gaeta year round. (See the photo of the month).

The next day we were treated to one of the most idyllic anchorages we’ve ever dropped our hook in. The photo on the right shows Liberty’s spot for the night at the foot of the Castello Aragonese on the beautiful island of Ischia. Tourists ride ferries from Naples to see this castle.  We woke up to it! You’ll notice that once again we had the cove all to ourselves. We know the place will be packed with boats later in the season.

One of the best parts of cruising Italy is shopping almost daily in the small food stores.  Everything is super fresh, and we’ve been enjoying mozzarella di buffala, various types of salami, breads, and of course, all the local wines while sitting in the cockpit.  Sure beats being cooped up inside for the winter!

Ischia anchorage

Ischia Anchorage

Ty Pompeii

Ty in Pompeii

We’ve been warned that crime can be a problem in southern Italy, especially the area around Naples. One of our fellow cruisers had a camera ripped off his arm by a thief on a scooter while waiting for a bus. We’ve heard of boats being robbed, as well.  Our cruising guide said that the best way to see Pompeii (which is just outside seedy Naples) was to leave the boat on the relatively safe island of Procida, next to Ischia, take the ferry to Naples, and the train to Pompeii. So that’s what we did. It wasn’t as much hassle as it sounds, and we had much better peace of mind knowing the boat was safely tucked in a marina in Procida.

Pompeii was amazing. The volcanic eruption in 79 AD preserved the town better than any other in Italy, giving us a glimpse of what life was like 2000 years ago.

Next stop: the Isle of Capri... only problem was there was no protected place to anchor, and the marina wanted 160 euros ($200) for a one night stay.  Ouch. We originally planned to stay in Procida and take ferries to Capri, but when we added up the costs, it was almost a wash. So, we resigned ourselves to paying the big bucks and headed for Capri.  When we got there, Suzanne smiled at the manager and told him it was Culture Week in Italy, and since the entrance fee to Pompeii was free, the marina should be, too. (Sounded logical to us!).  The marina manager didn’t buy it, but he DID cut the rate to 100 euros.  We were quite happy, even though the price was still double most other places.  Luckily, Capri was beautiful, as you can see in the photo below.

1 Rudy kiss

Rudy Thanks Suzanne For Taking Him to Capri

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Beautiful Rock Formations on Capri

In the photo on the left you see our great American flag flying from Liberty’s backstay.  You bet we fly our flag while in Europe, and we haven’t had any problems because of it. Every person we have met, no matter what country they’re from, has been friendly to us and interested in our travels. We’re always proud to look at our boat in a foreign harbor and see our flag flapping in the wind.

After leaving Capri we motored with the wind on the nose (of course) to Amalfi. The Amalfi Coast is world-renowned for its beauty.  The mountains are much higher than elsewhere on the Italian coast, and they come right down to the water with houses built precariously all along the slopes.  There are few protected anchorages, so once again we were forced to go to a marina.

When we first entered the Mediterranean, we were wondering how we’d like Med-mooring -- that is, mooring to a pier without finger piers or pilings.  So far all the marinas we’ve been to have pre-laid mooring lines in the water. It’s actually far simpler to med-moor than to steer between fixed pilings. We simply pull the bow up to the pier, pick up the mooring line from the water with a boat hook and run it back to the aft cleat.  We go in bow first because our dinghy and davits prevent going stern first. Then we put over bow lines to the pier, and we’re secured.  The thing that’s hard to get used to is having boats only a foot away on either side, but everyone puts plenty of fenders out (we use four on each side), so it’s not really a problem. 

The dockmaster in Amalfi (in the photo on the right) was especially helpful. When he had finished helping us get settled, Ty tried

1 amalfi tie up

Aniello Esposito, the Dockmaster in Amalfi, helps Ty Secure the Mooring Line

to give him a tip. He wouldn’t accept it. So, we asked him to stop by later for a glass of wine. Instead, he asked if we had an empty bottle. He ended up filling our 2 quart container with homemade red wine!  It was far better

1 Amalfi berth

Liberty Moored in Amalfi

than some of the more expensive wines we’ve bought in wine stores.

After exploring the town of Amalfi, we returned to the boat and sat on Liberty’s aft deck.  There we enjoyed the wine and the view in the photo on the left. It was definitely one of those it-doesn’t-get-much-better-than-this moments... until we went out for gelato (Italian ice cream) after dinner, that is.

Ahhh. 

RHIP

We motored 8 hours (no wind) from Amalfi to a little town called Palinuro.  From there to Sicily there are few protected anchorages, so we counted on having to

pay to moor. Then we noticed that the little chart in our cruising guide showed an anchor just outside the mooring balls in Palinuro's harbor.  Great!  A free night.  

So we motored in and found a good spot in a big open area.  It was very protected and we weren’t in anyone's way -- not that that was a problem in Palinuro.  It’s a very sleepy ville.  Not a single boat was coming or going.

So we decided to go explore the town, a one mile walk up the road.  We were very pleased to see a Coast Guard building right by a good place to tie up the dinghy.  Looked nice and safe.  So we pulled up to the dock in our dinghy, and here comes a Coast Guardsman in dress blues with a very stern look on his face.  Note that in Italy, the Coast Guard is part of their Navy.

We gave a cheery "Buona sera," to the coastguardsman, a Chief Petty Officer, and he replied (the rest is all in Italian) without smiling, "How come you're in my harbor?"  We did a double take and asked, "How come?"  He repeated the question, and Suzanne said, "To spend the night."  He gave her a "look", so she added, "For protection."  Then he asked sternly, "Why didn't you ask permission to enter my harbor and put your anchor down?"  We looked at each other.  This was the first we'd ever heard of such a procedure... anywhere!  You call on a radio and ask the harbormaster if you may dock, but if there's a charted anchorage, you just come in and drop the hook, right?  Suzanne said, "I'm sorry, but our guide book showed an anchor on the chart, so we put our anchor there."  He looked very angry and went on to ask how long we were staying, what time we were leaving in the morning, if we had a radio, and so forth.  We hoped to go for a run in the morning, so we told him we planned on leaving around noon. He looked shocked and said, “Noon?”  He asked if we had a cell phone in case he needed to contact us, then told us to come into his office after we got the dinghy tied up and give him the number.  We were very polite, obedient, and apologized for not understanding their rules.

So we went in the lobby of the building, where a young sailor at a desk had a piece of paper in front of him with handwritten notes saying "American boat" and a few other things we couldn't read.  He just looked at us, and the Chief was nowhere in sight, so Suzanne asked if he wanted our phone number.  He said yes. As she was giving it to him, Ty placed his military ID card on the desk in front of the sailor. We use our military ID’s any time when people want ID, instead of carrying around our passports. Suzanne was wishing she could remember how to say Ty's rank in Italian.  They have several levels of Captain, and if she didn't get it right, she would demote Ty. Then Ty motioned for her to check out the poster above the sailor's head.  It was your standard photo board of who's who in the zoo of the local Navy hierarchy.  Every one of the officers was standing with crossed arms in a classic Mussolini pose with a very stern face.  It was hilarious in its severity. 

But the best thing about the poster was that it had the rank of senior captain written under the officers’ photos.   It was perfect timing, because after the sailor had copied down Ty's name and SSN from his ID card, he held it up and asked, "What is this?"  Suzanne said, "It's the ID card of a retired Capitano di Vascello (senior captain).  The sailor nodded, stood, and disappeared into a back room.  We both thought he was going to photocopy the ID card.  Instead, seconds later, the Chief appeared, and he looked like he'd gotten an instant sunburn.  He was red in the face and wore what can best be described as a very uncomfortable smile.  He held out his hand and shook both of our hands and welcomed us to his port. :)

It was one of those really great moments when you want to laugh but you don't dare.  So Ty got his ID card back and we walked into town, knowing that our dinghy and boat would be well looked after in Palinuro.

Turns out Palinuro’s harbor got even with us in its own way.  When we went to leave, the anchor windlass was straining. Take a look at the photo on the right and you’ll understand why.  That’s not OUR anchor you see there. Our chain was wrapped three times around one fluke of this hundred pound anchor we lifted off the bottom.  After trying to unsnag it the “easy” way by looping a line around the stray anchor, then using a boat hook to disentangle our chain, Ty finally put the dinghy in the water. Much easier. Total delay: 30 minutes, and if you think we were going to ask the Coast Guard in Palinuro for assistance... THINK AGAIN!!! :-)

fouled anchor

Palinuro’s Revenge

And now for an update...

Tropea

Beautiful Tropea

Follow our track” will show you the route we’ve taken since leaving Rome.  The photo on the left shows one of our favorite spots, the beautiful town of Tropea. It was well worth the climb up 197 steps to reach the old part of town. The view of the island of Stromboli as the sun set over the volcano was spectacular from Tropea’s many lookouts.

From Tropea we headed south through the Strait of Messina between mainland Italy and Sicily.  There was lots of ship traffic, including a US Navy Aegis cruiser. Ty enjoyed chatting with the ship’s commanding officer on the VHF and finding out what assignments and friends they had in common.

ready to dive

Ready to unfoul the prop

These cuts called for a tetanus shot when we got to the US Navy base in Sicily -->

With very few anchorages on the southwest coast of Italy, we had no choice but to stay in marinas.  We tied up to a wall in Reggio di Calabria, touted as a major recruiting ground for the Cosa Nostra, aka the Mafia.  We chose to stay on the boat that night.

The next morning, while backing away from the wall, we heard a whump, whump, whump just before the engine died. Yup - we’d tangled one of the marina’s lines in our prop. The dockmaster was amazed that Ty handled the problem completely by himself insteading of hiring a diver.  On the left is Ty suiting up for a swim in the 57 degree water. His bloody hands, shown below, are the result of tangling with barnacles on the propeller.  After sitting all winter in port in Rome, we’re looking forward to a power wash and scraping the prop at the earliest opportunity.  Lesson learned:  wear gloves!

Bloody hands
Ty and tuna steaks

Cruising self-sufficiency is more than just untangling fouled props, it also means putting food on the table for free.  Here’s Ty proudly showing off the 8 beautiful tuna steaks from the fish he caught after leaving Sicily.  They tasted as good as they looked!

One of the highlights of stopping in Sicily was visiting the US Navy base in Sigonella.  We were able to take care of all kinds of chores far easier than usual... and cheaper, too.  We did five loads of laundry for $5.50.  If we’d done them at the local Italian marina, it would have cost $42!  We also stocked up at the commissary.  Yes, cruising is about discovering other cultures, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods.  Below you can see that you can take the man out of America, but you can’t take the Moon Pie out of the man. Suzanne shows that she has adapted to eating Italian sweets, while Ty’s southern roots are showing!

Suzanne and sweets Ty and sweets

Ty says, “Hold the cannoli, give me the Moon Pie!”