Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ciao - We've made it to Brindisi - Italy ..... Sept 2009


01 - 09 September 2009
One of the many stone buildings at Lecce

After our very easy and straightforward check out from Croatia, we left Cavtatwith calm winds, flat seas and a weather forecast indicating no more than 10knots from the north, sounds just perfect for an overnight passage southwest to Italy. After an hour or so we had enough breeze to sail at 5 knots, it was a lovely day so all was good with the world. But we have learnt that good things never last and although the winds didn't exceed 20knots the sea state increased and we must have been getting the leftover slop from the strong winds that had been blasting the Northern Adriatic for several days. Bumpier and bumpier it got but while we were still able to sail it wasn't too bad. Around 10pm the wind dropped out completely, the boom was banging backwards and forwards so we did a nighttime sail drop - never a favourite in sloppy seas but necessary. We reefed down to the 3rd reefing line, hoping that some sail sheeted hard in would give us more stability than none at all. The motor went on and we wobbled about in the direction of Brindisi. We had a full moon, normally such a delight on an overnighter as you lie back and watch it glistening above, not this time though, it kept moving so much that just looking at it was making me feel seasick! The wind picked up again at dawn but we kept with the 3rd reef and motorsailed the rest of the way, as we neared the 1 1/2 mile breakwater at Brindisi the seas were very confused but we eventually turned the corner of the breakwater into flat water at last, oh how nice! We dropped sail and motored the last miles up into the inner harbour and dropped anchor in a space really not quite big enough and went to sleep.
Fireworks in Brindisi

We were awoken a couple of hours later by a local fisherman who was trying to explain to us that the navy would move us on and we should move closer to the moored fishing boats. There really wasn't enough room for us so we decided to tie up to the town quay, we had been told it was free as long as you weren't tied up next to the potted plants! So with all our fenders and mooring lines at the ready, we successfully nudged ourselves into a "no charge - plant free" area, home for a few nights,Welcome to Italy.Brindisi doesn't have the best of reputations, it's a main port town for those entering and exiting Italy on the many ferries that ply the waters between here, Greece and Albania. Few tourists seem to stay and explore but we really enjoyed it. By day the quay area is a little shabby - well we didn't have potted plants - we were worried about security so emptied the cockpit and stowed most things below. By night it is completey different, it's a pedestrian area, alive with hundreds of locals out for their evening promenade and catchup with family and neighbours, just lovely. Local men sit all hours of the day and night on the quay fishing between the boats, never catching anything, but seemingly content with their lot. After our initial concerns we felt as safe and secure as anywhere else we have tied up to on a town wall.

The Trulli houses of Puglia at UNESCO site Alberobello
There were strong winds forecast in a couple of day plus it was carnival time, Brindisi's Patron Saints Day over the weekend and we wanted to stay for the festivities. We went for an excursion by train to the nearby town of Lecce. It boasts more than 40 churches and palazzi, most in 16th and 17th century baroque architecture, built out of a local cream and gold stone. There is also the 12th century catherdral in the Piazza del Duoma, and an unearthed 2nd century AD amphitheatre, discovered in the early 1900's when underground vaults were being dug for a nearby bank. The whole town all glimmers in the sunlight and when the thunderstorms pass overhead and the heavens open there are some very cute trattorias to while away a couple of hours over a tasty lunch!

We were joined next day by friends Phil and Margaret off Argos from Sydney, along withJohn and Eva off Destiny of London, as they are both motor trawlers with very little sail area they do the opposite to us sailors and sit waiting for forecasts of calms, they had motored across from Montenegro in glassy seas, oh what a difference a day or two makes! We squeezed them both on the wall, careful not to impede on the plant boxes at one end and the small ferry dock at the other. Unfortunately our time on the wall was coming to an end, we had been asked to move off while the festivities were on over the weekend, and we thought we would have great spots for seeing everything. With 35knots forecast for the next couple of days the 3 of us moved over to the Brindisi Marina, fortunately it was now shoulder season so it was almost affordable, unfortunately it is quite a distance by bus from town.

More cute little stone houses
We shared the hire a small car for a day with Phil and Margaret and headed inland into the heart of Puglia. I had read about the Trulli stone houses unique to this area, so we headed northwest through scenic country lanes towards Alberobello. Enroute we discovered Locorotondo and what a find it was, set high on a hill top it's a tiny town built from ivory coloured sandstone, it houses a maze of alleys with cute tidy houses, hanging vines and flowers complete the postcard picture and it made a great stopover for an excellent pasta lunch. This town is rated as a borghi piu belli d'Italia, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and it was just lovely, strangely there was hardly anyone else there. We moved on after lunch toAlberobello, much more touristy but a great spot, the little round white stone houses look like they were built for goblins and pixies, all straight out of a fairytale. There are over 1500 of these pointy shaped old houses in the area and they were well worth the visit.

Saturday evening was the climax of carnival weeked, the small inner harbour and dockside where we had been tied was jampacked with local craft all taking part in the festivities. There were thousands of people out on the streets, the rains and winds abated for a few hours and the city certainly came alive. An excellent fireworks display had many oohhs and aahhs from the onlookers and a large procession formed to follow the statue of the patron saint to her resting place. As we headed back to the marina and Balvenie the winds increased again and howled for the next 36 hours.

Cruising Info for Brindisi - Italy:
Anchorages -
Upper Harbour Anchorage... 40 38.571N 17.56.564E 8m mud, only stayed a couple of hours, there is not really enough room. Might be better off up past the small marina on the right and naval yard on the left
Town Quay ... 40 38.513N 17 56.698E 5.1m sidetied for free. As you approach the wall the free spots are towards the right hand end but behind the area cordened off for the small ferry. Very little wash from the ferry. In a strong north easterly you get pinned on the wall and quite a chop, so if there is room go past the ferry area, past the fuel dock and there is room for a couple of boats it has more shelter in NE winds. There is also a big long quay on the northern shore, not many cleats but we heard of boats having tied there in northerlies. No power and water unless you go to the "potted plants" end where you have to pay.
Brindisi Marina ... 40 39.618N 17 57.827E Bow or stern to, mooring lines provided, call first and dinghy will assist. Quite exposed to the wind but safe enough. €32 a night shoulder season (september).
Other options ... The Lega Nevale Marina is much closer to town and very protected, however it is tiny and had no space available. A couple of yachts anchored outside the Brindisi Marina close to the breakwater while we had the strong NE winds. In the cruising guide this area is marked as proposed berths but is currently empty.
Internet - no unlocked internet in Italy, could find no wifi cafes despite Lonely Planet saying there are plenty on the main street. Ended up buying a USB Sim and have spent 10 days trying to get it to work, more on that later!
Money - ATM's in town and one at the marina
Provisions - Small supermarket close to port on Corso Garibaldi, morning fruit and veg stalls and a couple of bakeries in behind the post office on Via Ferrante Fornari. Marina very remote with only a restaurant there.
Sightseeing -
Helpful Tourist Office right on the Town Quay

Day trip to Lecce €4.60 return per person 2nd class train, very regular about every 1/2hour. Takes about 30 minutes
Day trip to Alberobello €50 for a Fiat Panda plus €15 petrol. We walked to the airport from the marina (quite a long way!!) and got the car from Auto Europa
Formalities -
Leaving Croatia, no charges very quick in Cavtat but must tie to Customs Dock. Arriving Italy, haven't done any

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