||Home, for our
visit to Napoli, was Castellammare de Stabia a commercial & active ship
building harbour listed in the pilot as not suitable for yachts, but with
a thriving, crowded marina underneath the abandoned grain warehouse in the
corner. Castellammare is certainly not touristy. It's a working
town with the bustling narrow streets and lines and lines of washing
hanging between the buildings like Christmas decorations. It's a bit
like being on the set of a Sophia Loren film. The only thing
missing unfortunately are the subtitles - the accent here is the Italian
equivalent of Geordie.
Oh, and as you will see, they go to endless lengths for that
special wedding photo - very Italian.
|One of the nicest of
many nice things about Castellammare di Stabia are the waterfront restaurant stalls. There are 16, all leased from the
local authority, and all offering exactly the same menu - "what do you
have?" we asked the first time, before we knew the
ropes, "we have everything" seemed a less than helpful reply, and
eventually a dog-eared menu was found somewhere behind the counter.
And, well, they had everything really, as long as it included pasta, fresh fish
or especially if it included mussels - the bay is lined with mussel
beds. Slightly fizzy water is brought by the jug and is
free. A bottle of wine or a bottle of beer are the same price,
making the wine slightly better value as there's a bit more in the bottle.
We discover later that the water (Aqua della Madonna) gushes out of a spring in
the harbour wall where anyone can take as much as they can carry -
there is a constant procession of people with containers on shopping
|We took the train into Napoli, a
bit of a culture shock (it is hard to remember when we were last on a
metro or in a City)
and of course made the almost obligatory trip to Pompeii and the National
And then we had one of those strange coincidences, that
are so unlikely that they normally only occur in bad detective novels so
as to allow the author to attempt to tie the plot together. In front
of us in the queue for Pompeii were Steph & John, friends from the UK
that we hadn't seen since we left.
"Hi Steph", I said putting my hand on her arm
- I was greeted by a look of horror and she looked to be getting ready to
slap my face. Strange - had I been very drunk at the last dinner
party? Had I deeply offended her? No, none of these
things. What I had been doing was carrying around a large bottle of partially
frozen water, in the hand that I now had on her arm! Steph had presumably
read, or heard about, the habits of hot-blooded Italian macho men so an
icy hand on her arm was the last thing she expected.
||We spent the day together and they came to
visit us the following day at Castellammare, where we could show off our
recently acquired knowledge of Neapolitan dining habits. And
then it was time for us to fill up with Aqua della Madonna and head off
again following in the steps of Odysseus. First Capri, which is just
as pretty as the guide books say, and then working our way down the west
coast of Italy with some tricky goose wing sailing from Lindy on the
Once south of Napoli it's a different, poorer world,
that tourism has hardly touched. Small towns, a mountainous
landscape and very few decent
harbour, though we were lucky with the weather and were able to anchor off
the beaches. Where we did take the time to go ashore, it was always
a pleasant experience. The pace of life is slower here, and as it's
not often visited by yachts we were something of an oddity. The
people were friendly and happy to spend time talking to us in our broken
Italian. Finally though we had to rejoin a more well-trodden path.
|We deliberately set off for
Isola Stromboli so as to arrive before dawn. Stromboli has been described
as the biggest and oldest lighthouse in the Med and at night you're able
to see the glow for 50 miles and we wanted to see it in all its
glory. Well, it must have been switched off for the holidays, not a
glimmer. Not only was the biggest and oldest lighthouse in the Med
off, but the light on the neighbouring small island of Strobolicchio
seemed to be on holiday as well!
|We spent a few days in the
Aeolian islands. Stromboli did manage a few puffs of smelly gas
every so often and the sea around us was full of floating pumice,
indicating that at some point there had been a bit more activity. In
actuality there was to be a major eruption on Stromboli requiring people
to be evacuated from their homes by helicopter, just a couple of weeks
after our visit.
Next was Lipari, where we finally worked out how to fit
the dingy wheels that we'd found on board in 2001. We ran the
dinghy up on the beach, Lindy jumped ashore, I flipped the wheels down,
locked them in place and jumped out to help her. The wheels promptly
sank in the sand anchoring the dingy firmly to the spot. It was only
with the help of a couple of Italian sunbathers that we were able to wrestle
the dingy up the beach. Not exactly a raging success!
The last of the Aeolians that we visited was Vulcano,
slightly more active than Stromboli and emitting a constant stream of
sulphorous gas that made us feel slightly sick. A little highlight
was watching fat tourists immersing themselves in the hot mud baths and waddling
off like strange alien creatures.
But amusing though all this was, it was impossible to
disregard the smell. So next day, it was off to Sicilia for