Dubrovnik- Walking the Bastion


The city walls of Dubrovnik deliver many exciting panoramas, you walk the perimeter of the city at varying heights and look inward into the resilient city or out to the busy sea.  The walls are 1940 meters in length and up to 25 meters high. Dubrovnik Card also tells us that there are three forts, 16 towers and 6 bastions.

View out to see from the Bastion
View out to sea from the Bastion

Today was forecast to be cloudy, possibly rainy and windy.  We stowed everything down below on the boat and took the bus into town.

The merits of walking the bastion mean that you climb many stairs; the pay off is that the view is enhanced. You get a look at life not from street level but from a loftier perspective. We are view junkies, so we take the stairs.

We walk for a kilometer around the top of the wall from Pile Gate towards the Bokar fort and then on to the Fort of St John. The sky was grey but looking over the Ploce Gate and mountains behind the city, dark storm clouds were threatening.  We thought this might be the right time for a lunch break.

Big, black clouds rolling over Mt Srd.
Big, black clouds rolling over Mt Srd.

We walked down into a labyrinth of tiny streets and looked for an indoor restaurant.  We could see that awnings were not going to keep us dry.   We passed a few cafes, but a few large raindrops focussed the mind. We found a table free and ducked in for a dry lunch in a nice little Italian.

Not just rain, but hail
Not just rain, but hail. Awnings didn’t offer much protection.

After lunch we decide some indoor activities were in order and we went to the Rector’s Palace followed by the Maritime Museum.

Open courtyard at the Rector's Palace
Open courtyard at the Rector’s Palace

Three hours after those early raindrops, the skies cleared and we resumed the walk of the bastions with some lovely vistas.

Washed clean, Dubrovnik is  beautiful
Washed clean, Dubrovnik is beautiful

Congratulations to  Ben and Jacqueline for making my cousins, Lorraine and Fred, Grandparents. Welcome to the world, Aiden.  Happy Birthday to cousin Sonya, & pals Kim and Charlene. Hope you are all spoiled.  It was Lorraine and Ben’s birthday recently but they were just waiting for another happy event. Auguri, to you all.

The Bay of Kotor

On Monday, we motored over to Kotorski Zaljev, first arriving at the Islands off Perast via narrow straits, with steep green hills on either side of the water way.  Think of it as motoring from the RPA in Pittwater up to Cottage Point.  Just past half way, we come to the Islands off Perast.  We went to the northern end and put down the anchor and had a swim.  It was like swimming in the ‘Sound of Music’ with a remarkably alpine look.

Islands off Perast
Islands off Perast

We were swimming in an ancient ‘fjord’ created as the result of a drowned river valley, but the steep sided mountains made us feel like we were in northern Europe.  We admired both small islands both with churches and their spires.

Otok Gospa id Skrpjela or Our Lady of the Rocks has distinctive blue domes and is a manmade island.  According to the Thompsons, the island was created by sinking captured pirate ships with stones and sinking them on the reef.  In 1452, they found an icon of the Virgin Mary on a stone and in 1630 built a church to her.  Every year on 22 July, the townspeople of Perast go out and drop a stone on the reef.

Our Lady of the Rocks
Our Lady of the Rocks

Right next store the island of Sveti Djordje, the site of a very rich Benedictine Abbey.  The cypress trees surrounding the Church are striking.

Perast was on the way to Kotor, Mercier is too big to tie up on the quay, but we motored slowly by the UNESCO protected former Venetian maritime center. A city  of Venetian style palazzos line the foreshore and go up into the hills.

Perast, incredible Venetian heritage
Perast, incredible Venetian heritage

One afternoon, we passed some very well dressed people in front of a lovely stone building and I wondered if they were going to a wedding.  As we came nearer we could see they were at the elegant entrance to the fruit and vegetable store.

At the greengrocers
At the greengrocers

 

Approaching Kotor, you see striking mountains, a long fortress wall, used to protect the city and possibly a cruise ship. At the top of the mountain is the Fortress of St John with only 1350 stairs to reach the top.  On Monday night, we sat on a rooftop having dinner, listening to music and decided we would start the climb at 8AM on the next morning.

Just some of the stairs up to the fort
Just some of the stairs up to the fortress- the old town in the triangle below

Louise raced up the mountain, so she would have time to sketch with Frosty right behind her.  James stayed with me, while I scheduled strategic stops to take early morning photos of Kotor and the bay.

View from the Fortress
View from the Fortress
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

It was a great start to the day.

Volcanoes, Lipari and Stromboli

We are in the Aeolian Islands, aka Lipari Islands.  I have been under the misapprehension that these were two separate groups of islands.  Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands and people use the names interchangeably. These islands are all volcanic with two active volcanoes.

The Citadel at Lipari
The Citadel at Lipari

We met a very nice lady from Manly, who inherited a house on Lipari from her grandparents. She was born and raised in Sydney, but now spends her Australian winter here in Lipari.  After WWll, 23,000 people left the Aeolian Islands, mainly for Australia and a lesser amount went to Argentina. Many of those people still live today in Five Dock.  In fact the owner of the marina we stayed in, the excellent Eol Mare in Pignataro, has family in Five Dock.  On the beach in Canneto, we saw an Aussie flag waving proudly.

Eol Mare, Pignataro  is about 2 kms out of the center of town, with plenty of bus services and taxis. We thought a hotel van was the bus on our first day, we waved him down and he gave us a lift into Lipari.

The marina’s in town played a breathtaking game of Duelling Masts, in fact, the advice is if you stay there sandwich yourself in between two motor boats, so you don’t have to worry about your mast being dealt a death blow from a larger yacht. We were watching two masts one afternoon and we couldn’t look away. Lipari has every type of sailing vessel known to man and the effect of the wash was terrible to behold.

We took a walk up to the Cathedrale di San Bartholmeo with more of the steep flat stairs to negotiate.  We had heard the paintings were of a high standard, but what was fascinating was the door to the old Norman Church, circa 1053, which became a Benedictine Monastery.  It was very rustic and the old columns were re-used Roman Columns. There were also tiled floors in a partial reclamation like those we had seen in Ostia Antica.

The Norman Church annexe of San Bartolomeo
The Norman Church annexe of San Bartolomeo

Yesterday, we went on an excursion to Panarea and Stromboli, stopping for a swim off the coast of Isola Panarea and then going to the village of Panarea, which is very stylish and trendy.  If I were coming to the Aeolian Islands, I would be quite happy to spend it on Panarea, the islands was beautiful.

at Panarea
at Panarea
Swimmers at Isola Panarea
Swimmers at Isola Panarea

Off we went to Stromboli, which Heikell says is the original lighthouse. You would be able to chart your course through the Messina Straits by charting. Stromboli guided the Big O ‘towards the twin perils of Scylla and Charybdis’.

Strombolicchio, a volcanic plug just NE of Stromboli
Strombolicchio, a volcanic plug just NE of Stromboli

On the island, you see quite a bit of posted material on meetings points for earthquakes, tsunamis and a big blow.  The sand beaches are obsidian black, shiny and belie the fact, that while Stromboli seems tame, it may only be temporary.

Some action at Stromboli
Some action at Stromboli

Capo San Marco, Carloforte and Porto Teulada

We have had a few days to miss the Swannos & our very fun travel with them on Mercier. We had excellent weather and saw some wonderful ports. As soon as they left the sky went gray, so we took ourselves for a walk on the Bastione or sea wall of Alghero.  That night we went to a wonderful restaurant, Ristorante O with Irish Masterchef E. O’Neill. There are so many great restaurants in Alghero, nice clothing shops too.

Roman ruins at Capo San Marco
Roman ruins at Capo San Marco

Monday, we anchored in Capo San Marco, an incredible mooring right in front of Roman ruins.The moorings were large and when we pulled one up, there were mussels under the mooring.   There are no restaurants or shops only ruins and new excavations, but we had a lovely dinner on the boat and chatted about who was having a birthday this month:

Happy Birthday ( a bit late) to Richard and to my baby sister Linda, who had a wonderful 50th birthday on the 6th. Gai is on the 11th, Colin is going to have a wonderful birthday on June 12th, Happy birthday! Susan B is the 16th, Rowena is the 17th – know you two will be spoiled by your sweet husbands. Our nephew Mike too, Happy Birthday. We wish you all a very happy birthday.

We also spent a few hours trying to work with “Follow me” until we found our blog is not set for follow me,sorry it isn’t working and we will try again.

Early the next day, we woke up and found it was an early departure because the  breeze freshens in the afternoon. Next port of call is Carloforte which is quite a nice town, with a salt marsh and flamingos.  It seems there are several reserves for flamingos in South Western Sardinia. We found a gelaterie and we walked all around the town.  In our marina, there was a very nice little cafe, and they had lovely couches, great music and Aperol spritzers.

Sardinian Flamingos in the salt pans near the marina
Sardinian Flamingos in the salt pans near the marina
Nice buildings in Carloforte
Nice buildings in Carloforte
Wall built by Victor Emmanuel to protect the town from Tunisian pirates (this is on the far side of town away from the port)
Wall built by Victor Emmanuel to protect the town from Tunisian pirates (this is on the far side of town away from the port)
An interesting sight in Carloforte
An interesting sight in Carloforte

We left early again this morning and arrived in a mistral at Porto Teulada, there is a town about 8 kilometres away and we were very happy to get to the marina before the wind, possibly a mistral came by. With any luck, we will leave early to be in Cagliari, because Teulada is perfectly quiet for one day but two days wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

Ischia sings a song

James and I have taken Italian 101 about 9 times and one of our teachers in Sydney was Giacomo, who came from Ishcia.  He told us while breaking into song in class that in Ischia everyone sings.

Ischia

Approaching Ischia from Ventotene, we sailed past the northern part of the island.  From a distance, you could be looking at a Hawaiian Island, the same vision of lush green tropical foliage.  It is easy to pick out the Volcanic crater that created the island, you can see where, hundreds of years ago, part of the rim has been blown off. Approaching from sea, it is spectacular, because you see not only fertile Ischia, but Procida and in the distance the Italian mainland.

Porto Ischia is full, so we proceed to Casamicciola, moor the boat and head off to explore.

Casamicciola

Casamicciola is fairly quiet in the afternoon, just a few shops open and this is partly due to the heat.  Italy has been having a heat wave and everyone is inside escaping the heat. Casamicciola is vibrant in the evening, with everyone out for their passeggiaata, buying gelato and wandering up and down the waterfront. But now we jump on a bus and head to Ischia the town.  This is a much busier but very touristy part of Ischia. Lots of shops and restaurants with photo menus and masses of day trippers who come over from Naples on the ferry. After trying on a few pairs of shoes, we headed over to the Castello Aragonese.

Castello Aragonese

Wikipedia tells us Castello Aragonese, the fortress initially built by the  Hiero of Syracuse in 474 BC on an islet rock near Ischia. In 1441 Alfonso V of Aragon connected the rock to the island with a stone bridge. We were particularly taken with the sight of Mount Vesuvius from the bridge.

We wander around laneways and waterfront, saving hills and stairs for Sunday. We had a wonderful dinner at Ristorante da Ciccio with the venerable Mr da Ciccio and the lovely Carlo bringing us wonderful food, with beautiful music and a peaceful ambience in busy Ischia.

Sunday morning, we headed off to Giardini La Mortella (Place of the Mrytles), this stunning garden was started in 1956 by English composer, William Walton and his wife Susana.  They purchased this land in a disused rock quarry and they collected specimens from all over the world to grow in this rich volcanic soil.

 

View from the Gardens

Our Day Began in Ruins…

Let me apologise, a man about 6ft 4 inches tall made me write that.  Accurate though it may be it is also corny; still a glass of wine and a very relaxed attitude and that is what you get.

We have been in Ostia, a suburb of Rome for two days now, but Monday was taken with James visiting boat yards to see where we could leave Mercier for the winter. Sadly our time in the Med is coming to an end this year at the end of the month. Not to say there have not been entertaining moments, at the local bar (where we get our WiFi) they had a Salsa dancing class last night with 7 women and 4 men being coached (in separate groups – the womens work ups were much different to the men’s). Rene,you would have enjoyed joining in.

Tuesday morning, though we hopped into our little Fiat 500 and took the ring road to Hadrian’s Villa, near Tivoli. Hadrian, a Roman emperor ( 76 AD -138AD) , created it as a summer retreat circa 120 AD  and it took up more than 120 hectares.  It is about the same size as Pompei.

 

Model of villa Adriana - how they think it was

We will say there are beautiful mosaics, statuary and ponds at Hadrian’s Villa.

This part of Villa Adriana was featured on Kevin McLeod's Grand Tour series

We know Ed will be interested in the fact that they used a Lamborghini tractor.  We think it would look lovely at Noorong.  Did you know that Lamborghini actually started as a tractor manufacturer after WWII?

Genuine Lamborghini tractor

We had a hair raising ride around the ‘vincino” or vincinity of Tivoli.  Between Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este, the Tomtom was trying to get us to take a dirt road.  James found disused tunnels, back roads and squeaked by with the millimeters to spare on one lane cobbled alleys and streets.  The 500 came out of the darkened tunnel; just in time to swerve out of the way of an open manhole.  I don’t think the car hire company would have believed we had been swallowed whole.

Finally a road sign, and we went up to find the car park on the other side of the hill and we were at Villa D’este and Tivoli. We had a wonderful lunch in a nearby Piazza, James had shoulder of lamb, slow cooked to perfection.  Order was restored to the universe.

Villa D’Este is amazing, think it is a very hot 30+ day and very still, but you find yourself at the top of the hill and zephyr breezes come through and then fountains everywhere, in a verdant garden with 20 shades of green, rushing, gurgling water and beautiful stone work . It really is Fountains R US with so many different fountains and has been featured on many TV shows – Burke’s Backyard springs to mind, but many others as well. Behind the main fountain there are small alcoves with fountains in the back, acting as early air conditioners, with the temperature much below the outside.

Villa D'Este's major fountain
16th Century air conditioned alcove

Originally built as a summer retreat for one of the popes, it has a grand residence with each room containing wall and ceiling murals,

One of the Ceiling Murals

then there are the gardens and fountains.

A Wall of Fountains
Quirky
Water Everywhere

Sorry, but lots of photos here