Sunday, August 31, 2008

The challenges of Italy

August 14th, 2008
Isole di Ponza
coordinates 40 54.265N,012 57.832E

The challenge is that, surprisingly, this is the first country where relatively few people speak English. Or if they do, they choose not too. When they realize we don't speak enough Italian, I swear they speak faster waiting for us to kick into gear and all of a sudden comprehension will roll over our faces. The boys think it is hilarious to watch their mothers face as comprehension never quite appears. It is easy enough to point and use our limited Italian when ordering food, but it is another
story when trying to find places to anchor. The second factor of the great challenge.

After leaving Stromboli a couple weeks ago we made our way up the coast line looking for decent places to anchor and explore the mainland. The potential anchorages are few and far between up this side of the coast. Our plans and their back ups not always working. We were often finding ourselves still desperately searching as the sun set. Not a position you want to be in when sailing around a foreign country. Sometimes this equation ends up costing a lot of money as when our back up plan included
what was to be a tiny run down fishing marina but turned out to be a brand new fancy, Marina di Stabia, costing us 130 Euros a night. OUCH!

We eventually find spots suitable but have had some very rolly nights, such as anchored off the lovely town of Positano. From the water it has amazing charm, with all the buildings tucked into a rocky valley. Climbing up the mountainside and utilizing every inch, it is covered in colorful homes and verandas over looking the sea. From the shore it is an equally amazing tourist spot. Every one of the charming buildings lining those charming winding roads was actually an expensive boutique just
waiting to separate you from your Euro. We are quickly learning a few tricks to hold on to our Euro's a little longer. Number one, order all your food for take out. There is a little fee they tack on to your meal and it seems to be arbitrary as to the percentage of the take out fee. One day we spent as much to sit and eat the pizza as the pizza itself cost.

While we were in that spendy marina we decided to make a quick run into Pompeii and it was fascinating. As a kid I think we always pictured it as a few people and homes partially uncovered but it is a full standing, sprawling city. Entire mosaic floors, giant stone grinders for making flour at the bakery, public baths, and beautiful frescos still intact. They had raised cross walks out of giant stones so the locals didn't have to step down into the street with the donkeys and the equivalent of
water fountains at nearly each corner in town to refresh yourself. Entire neighborhoods, a local theater and stadium where the gladiators honed their talents still stands tall. We did later see on CNN that they are concerned with the state of the ruins and if not cared for better will disintegrate rapidly in the future. We think it would be fun to see it come back to life like Old Colonial Williamsburg. Quickly, we made haste through the ruins since we couldn't afford to spend another night in
that marina. Again, we struggled with the local metro system since no seemed to be able to tell us if or where the closest stop was to our marina. Though we started only 3-4 miles away from the marina we now found ourselves 2 miles in the opposite direction. Nothing a brisk walk won't do for you.

Along with all the water loving Italians who are on vacation this month, we really enjoyed the islands off the coast of Naples. Isola di Ischia, Ventitene and Ponza were delightful anchorages despite the throngs of people flocking to their favorite get-away's. The only down moment would come when Lisa jumped off the dinghy one day onto a boat ramp, missed her footing, falling flat on her right cheek and knocking herself out cold momentarily. A blazing headache, a beautiful black eye and a mumps
like profile were all she had to show for it. Luckily, no broken bones sustained nor stitches needed. It is quite a conversation starter though, with the locals always giving Bruce the questioning glance. Poor guy.

From here, our weather faxes indicated that the winds were really going to be picking up so we wanted to get somewhere comfortable before they arrived in a few days. We set out for Rome the next day. Next time I'll let you know what happens when the gale arrives early.

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