A drive around Puglia, Italy

A short drive from Gallipoli marina is Nardo, a small town with baroque churches that is faithful to the siesta tradition. We arrived just after midday, and had the town to ourselves for a short walking tour.

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Lecce is a mid-sized town, known for its baroque churches and roman ruins.
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It is also a university town, so there is an energetic vibe, with lots of young people hanging out in the cafés at night and excellent choices of well-priced “street-food,” or that is the current marketing tool to sell good dishes with their famous burrata cheese, salads, frisella, cured meats and the like.

We ate well here and stayed over a night at a wonderful apartment just 5 minutes’ walk from the piazza del Duomo. Staying inside a walled city always offers an exciting drive through medieval streets, narrow and packed with people, a rosary clutching kind of drive. Photographing these streets empty only requires walking in the heat of the day while everyone in Europe is asleep.

Alberobello is the town known for the Trulli, these small dome shaped houses built from stone. The history is that houses built for the workers exacted a tax on the landowner, so these houses were built to be assembled and disassembled quickly from the rather flat rocks dug up to cultivate the land. This town was made a UNESCO site and these houses preserved, though only 4 families still live in them. The rest are now tourist holiday rentals or shops. We stayied in a hotel that was originally a Trullo but added to to make a nice hotel. Our room was a trullo with modern wifi, bathroom, and an interesting sleeping area. The bed was on a floor of plexiglass a few feet above a white rock bottom. I suspect moisture management was the reason for this, but with lights under the bed, it made a unique and pretty “bedroom.” The manager was a nice guy, and took us on a 1 hour walk around town to give us an overview, to explain why such a small town had such a huge church (because churches were often more about the person whose money built it that the Diety it honors), and to show us a shop where a man makes tiny handmade Trulli houses as souvenirs!! Surprise!! Perhaps it was his father or uncle’s shop, but it was very interesting.

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Foods of Puglia

FOOD in Puglia

In Santa Maria di Leuca, our crew member Serena had a craving for puccia, a specialty she remembered from visiting Puglia in her youth. To American eyes, puccia is a sandwich. It is served on a specific Puglinese bread, let’s call it something like a thick, dry pita, filled with something like meat, or cheese, or vegetables. We walked about 2 miles in search of one, but we found one in a food truck near the pineapple bar (which is also a food truck, just shaped like a pineapple.)

Both fine dining establishments have plastic tables set up in a parking lot with the best sunset views in town.
This gets my recommendation, but I might get a sausage next time instead of a meatball puccia, as mine was a bit dry.

Gallipoli is known for the its seafood. The gambiere, or red shrimp from here are sold in Cafe du Paris, according to our Captain (who also owns a restaurant, a multi-talented guy).

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Find the restaurant and pescerie La Lampara. We perused their seafood- still alive- and chose our oysters, clams and cockles and in 10 minutes they were presented for eating. We ate them all raw, and they were incredible! La Lampara also has a fish market like I have seldom seen, and you can choose your fish and have it cooked for you.


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This is under the bridge to the old town, where the fishing boats unload, so it smells bad, you eat with plastic forks on paper plates, but you will not find fresher seafood, or better just-caught fish in Puglia, perhaps in the whole of the Med. Stunning!

The rest of the Salento (most southern section of Puglia) also boasts non-seafood dishes, burrata cheese being the highlight. It is the soft, creamier version of mozzarella, also made from buffala, or female water buffalo, ideally, but cow’s milk will do in a pinch. Serena and Pietro found this one enormous cheese for us in a market.

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The common name for a burrata this size is zizona, or big boob.
The Frisella is a hard rusk of bread soaked in water or tomato juice, covered with tomatoes and salad, or cheese, ham, what not. It is similar to Cretan salad when served in the bottom of a salad, or like bruschetta, when standing alone. The cured meats, like prosciutto, and Copa are also exquisite. The olive oil is delicious. And the harder cheeses.

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The most famous wines are from the red negra amaro and primitivo grapes, both distinct and heavy wines. The primitivo seems most like a zinfandel, the alcohol content 15-16% due to the heat of this region. I found a rosé made from the negro amaro grape that I like, and it is splendid with a few ice cubes on these hot days, though my Italian captain must turn his head at the sight of ice cubes in wine. We ate very well in Puglia.

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Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy

Santa Maria Di Leuca is the city on the southernmost point of the heel of Italy. It is Italy’s Ushuaia, Land’s End. This is the actual point. Rather a jagged little edge.

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Santa Maria di Leuca is an beautiful town to visit and the marina is deep enough for 2.8 meters in selected berths. It was not previously a port of entry that we knew of, but we were able to check in. By visiting the Ufficio maritime, next to the travel lift, shown here,
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the officer was able to call the border police who brought a portable laptop and passport scanner and checked us in. They also gave us a constituto, which is not the current protocol, but we now have one. They were very friendly, but we had to wait a while until the guy showed up with the laptop.

Looking to the shore from the anchorage, just in front of the town promenade, we all scratched our heads at the architecture. Such an array of styles- Ottoman, Baroque, whimsical fairy princess, modern beach bungalow, all interspersed with the famous Villas of SMdL (I would call it the Newport Mansions section of Puglia).

These are homes built in the 1800s that are part restored, part in the original state of decay, all impressive if all a bit odd.

The town seemed abandoned. Many many holiday condos are built next to the mansions and are apparently awaiting August, when Italy is on vacation. This are is where Italy goes on holiday, where the Ionian Sea brings clear, warm waters unlike the murky mess of the Adriatic side. The coast here is rocky and full of caves, so the Italian solution to a rocky beach is either lay down wooden “beach” decks, or just lie on the rocks!

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The coast line of near SMdL is jagged, featuring many navigable caverns, grotte, and caves that you can reach in land by walking. In fact, in the Salento region are many Grotte that show evidence of human occupation from 20,000 years ago! Cave art, made of Ochre and guano have been dated to this time period, and there is at least one Christian church still operating inside a cave. The cavemen of this region had very well decorated homes.
The waters are clear, warm and very swimmable.

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How about dinghy- spelunking?

The sections of coastline that are not interesting caves and rocks are pebble or sand beaches. The section near Urgento is called “the Maldives of Italy” because the shallow, turquoise waters bring the Maldives to mind. We could only anchor so far away, we had to miss it. Motoring along about 2 miles out we had to stop and pick our way out of sudden 4 meter water, to a more comfortable 10 meters.

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Zachynthos

We had visited Zante Island before but never the town of Zante.

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The town was destroyed by an earthquake but the rebuilt city retains some charm and architecture that make it very pretty indeed.

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Of course, the real show stopper is the beach. Marathonisi island is a small beach on a remote island in the national park. Everyone flocks here to hopefully swim with the turtles. We saw none here, but we did enjoy people watching at the beach- couples, families, pizza boats, etc.

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Of course, Zachynthos is most known for the most photographed beach in Greece, Shipwreck cove. A few repeat favorites, and perhaps when we get it edited, some drone shots.
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Collision at Sea- Not Amante’s

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Docked along the waterfront in Argostoli, Cephalonia, where tourists gather to watch turtles surface or to buy fresh fish from the local fisherman, sits a lovely sailing yacht, the romantic home at sea for “living the dream”. Upon closer inspection, this sailing yacht is missing fundamental pieces of equipment, namely the mast, boom and sails.

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The sailing yacht Columbo, a Bavaria 50 was hit underway at night by an unlit boat 80 miles from Cephalonia on a direct line from Malta on approximately June 2, 2017. The unlit boat appeared to have many people below decks. No one was above decks on the unlit boat. The boat remained unlit and hurried away as the couple struggled frantically to cut away their rig. The collision dismasted the sailboat and the attached mast threatened to hole the boat. The collision itself split the boat vertically from the starboard midships toe rail to a porthole beneath it.

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After watching their mast, boom, all their sails and rigging sink to the bottom of the sea, and patching the hole to not take on seawater, the couple made their way under power to Argostoli harbor in Cephalonia.

They asked me to help share their story to make others aware of the dangers of this patch of sea, as it still seems to be in use for stealth human transport. The couple are willing to share any information that may help others avoid such a tragedy. Many lives in two boats could have been lost.

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Ithaka 2017

Ithaka, May 27-29, 2017

Back to Ithaka and the lovely harbor of Vathy.
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We have never been here before when there was room on the town wall, so we stayed a few days.
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The weather was perfect, not humid, warm with cooling nights. We ran and walked quite a bit and watched some tennis at the bar immediately behind the boat. Perachori sits up a steep hill from Vathy, called Ithaka’s balcony, where we Walked for a lunch of Greek salad with a view of Vathi, then continued on for about a 7 mile walk all overlooking Vathy harbor. We had pleasant weather, the flowers still fragrant, the air still cool, the water unbelievable blue. Perfect.

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Many beautiful beaches ring Ithaca and a few crumbled “ruins” of ancient buildings (mostly piles of rocks) but absolutely nothing that would suggest real evidence of Odysseus or his kingdom here. In fact, Ithaca has NOTHING to suggest any former civilization was here. This fabled route Odysseus took on his way home from the Trojan war is mostly likely Homer’s attempt to make learning interesting by creating a story to link history and geography. Sort of.

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The town if Frise has a nice, new dock that is free with no water or electricity and at least 3 meters all the way in, but there is a rock ledge that must be approached carefully. Perhaps use the dinghy as a Pasarelle, because with that ledge and the swell that comes in the harbor, you would not want to be in too close. Friske has 3-4 cafes or tavernas and a handful of houses, but little else. A small ferry docks there from somewhere. Kioni bay is also a nice stopping point with a beach, tavernas and a small marina or docking area.

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The Tremeti Islands

Tremeti Islands. May 15, 2017

We left Fano in nasty waters into 20 knot winds, I suppose so we could be at the Tremeti islands for the nice weather on the following day. It worked! After about 22 hours of slogging to weather bashing into 4-6 foot seas, everything calmed down and by the time we anchored, the sun was shining, the waters calm and clear blue enough to jump in.
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The Tremeti islands are trio of small islands with sheer limestone and tuf cliffs and sparse dark green scrub vegetation. Atop San Nicola there is a town and a fort with a large church from which the views over the islands are payment for the climb.
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We walked to the harbormaster’s office, which is up the substantial hill to town, then ran for a while before walking up to the fort. There are walking trails all over San Nichola island, including a perimeter trail with overlooks the beautiful waters.

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