Italy mainland - Pisa, Viaraggio, Porto venero, Ligurian coast

26th. June 2009
Italy Mainland - Pisa
There is no wind as we set off for 50n.miles north to Pisa. Later the wind comes up and we can motor sail with both sails up. then the wind changes again to just west of south and so we motor again. It is tempting to fly the spinnaker but the wind is so variable Ross is waiting to see if it settles, but it doesn´t.

Fishing nets along the river

We come into the entrance of the Arno river. It is fascinating to see all their large fishing nets set up along the banks. We plan to tie up at the yacht club but this is very small and apparently full. We find a space to tie up stern -to further up the river but when Ross goes in to inquire we discover it is a permanent mooring so have to move 3 spaces along.
The young man Ross is dealing with is not very helpful and is charging exorbitant fees to stay here. I guess this is coming into the height of the season and there is supply and demand happening. We are surprised the river is so dirty.
It amazes us that we can change, catch a bus outside this marina - along a lovely tree-lined road, with the river on one side and farmland on the other - just 11ks. into the centre of Pisa and walk up to the leaning tower of pisa and the Duomo, in less than an hour. The leaning tower is now leaning in excess of 5 metres. It really looks as though it could topple over at any time.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
There is a carnival on here tonight , something to do with it being the month of Pisa.There are lively scenes of costumed men and women on horseback coming towards the main bridge of the town, and groups of more costumed people accompanied by loud drums, marching through the streets too. The activity centres near the bridge with thousands of people milling around to watch. We feel lucky to find a small outdoor cafe see some of this wonderful parade and activity. (called" the Bridge Game"). The horses were all going on to some activity at the palace.

The carnival

27th. June 2009
We have a long walk this morning up to the entrance to the R. Arno and a cup of coffee on the way back at the yacht club.
Then we motor- sail just 10n.miles to Viaraggio. It is Sunday and just beautiful out on the sea with yachts out everywhere, many with spinnakers up. Viaraggio is the home of many amazing super yachts.
We are pleased to be on schedule to meet Russell and Lee and are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.

28th.June 2009
This morning Ross is pleased to fuel the boat easily in our mooring.
Then we set off to provision. When we checked out the supermarket last night the fruit and veges looked very tired, so we set off for a 2 ks. walk with a large marina trolley. We found the fresh fish shop, the well stocked green grocer and alimentari as recommended. This was an experience in itself, with lovely people and excellent produce. Also a young Italian man who spoke good english helped us out with some queries. He has been crewing on a yacht and has to have 2 months off, at the height of the season because he injured his back. It makes us more aware of how important it is to try to keep fit.

Leaving Pisa

We motor 20 n.miles north, with a large swell, to Porto Venero.
We are very excited now to be underway to meet Russell and Lee. We can see them walking out the harbour quay as we come in to tie up stern-to.
We have a very relaxed and delicious dinner at a restaurant Russell booked by the the harbour.
Porto Venero is a most beautiful harbour and small town. From the sea none of the houses look straight vertically, with their ochres, vermillions and yellow hues , and all with the same green shutters.

Porto Venero

29th. June 2009

View from the ferry of the church and fort at Porto Venero

Ross, Russell and I take a ferry to Riomaggiore, the southern most town of the Cinque Terre.


Walking up out of Riomaggiore

Russell and Ross walking in the forest

Views across the cliffs

We walk back along the most scenic route over the cliffs and through some forests to Porto Venero.. This takes us about 5 hours as parts of it are very steep and at one stage Ross and Russell have to help me over a particularly tricky part where we took the wrong turn looking for the most scenic path. Walking back into Porto Venero

Lee has done this walk before so chooses to have a lovely relaxing day reading on the boat and exploring the town
Tonight we anchor off and have dinner on board. It is very calm and just a slight swell. It is a lovely setting especially as the town lights start coming on as darkness begins to settle.

30th. June 2009
We motorsail past Riomaggiora, then past Manarola, the next town along the Cinque Terra and then Contiglia (Ross and I have stayed here some years ago so it is fun to see it from the sea). The scenery and coastline along this Ligurian coast must be some of the most spectacular in the world. We are so fortunate to have this calm and perfect weather here.

Russell and Ross swimming at Vernazza

We are able to anchor off the next town, Vernazza., and have a magnificent late afternoon and evening swimming and relaxing. Russell swims into town and books a restaurant for dinner. Later I swim in with him to have a look around. I don´t feel I can walk around in my bathers so Russell swims in with my sarong done up in plastic bags and it gets there dry!


Anchored off Vernazza

The dinner is sensational and in such a stunning setting looking over the ocean. Also the building itself is very old and attractive, set up high and built into the rocks.
We have quite a heavy swell tonight but we are so happy to be here it doesn´t worry us much.Actually it is a dive-bombing mosquito that keeps Lee awake more.

1st. July 2009
This morning we motor sail past Monterosso, the 5th. Cinque Terra town, and track up the coast to anchor off Santa Margurita, in more of the same wonderful weather.
We take a dinghy trip from here across to Rapello. This is a very attractive town with wide streets lined with palm trees. We stumble upon a large market just a few blocks back from the sea front. Lee and I find some elegant Italian clothes in some of the shops.
We have dinner on board and are later treated to some fireworks.

2nd. July 2009
We go into Santa Marguerita this morning to find their bustling Friday market we have read about. We all like Santa Marguerita. It seems as though people really enjoy living here compared to a mostly tourist orientated town.
Laden with fresh produce and delicious cheeses we take the dinghy back to Impulsive, and soon set sail for Portofino. There is no space for us in this very small and crowded harbour , but we are pleased to be able to anchor on the edge of the town, stern-to tied up to the rocks below a wonderful home with terraces and a beautiful garden.

Our brief anchorage at Portofino

The skipper of the large private cruiser on our port side helps us in but warns us that we´ll be lucky to stay here. They booked in a long time ago, and it is very expensive. So we make the most of it, having a refreshing swim and prepare lunch. We have lunch set out (including the vase of long stemmed roses) when the ormeggiatore comes by. He announces we are unable to stay here not even to have lunch. We are in a private mooring. Fortunately we haven´t started yet. He suggests if the main officer comes by he could give us a fine of €1,000-. So we up anchor and motor to a nearby cove. This takes sometime because of the depths here.
Later we take the dinghy into the beach so we can walk into Portofino. This time we are politely told that it is a private beach and they pack up the chairs and umbrellas and lock the gates at 7.30pm. Russell, Lee and I walk into Portofino and Ross takes the dinghy .

Walking into Portofino

Everywhere we look the scenery is magnicent - the stunning houses cut into the cliffs and high rocks, manicured gardens, the clear, turquoise waters , cliffs down to the water and amazing boats.
Even though we have seen photos of this wonderful place it seems like being on a film set to actually be here, sitting having a drink , taking it all in, and people watching as crews come in off the different boats. Looking around there doesn´t seem to be a thing out of place.
Dinner here is over-the-top expensive so we just have one course which is very delicious.

3rd. July 2009

Portofino view from the church

Early this morning we take the dinghy back into Portofino. It is a lovely walk up to the church with magnificent views back over Portofino. People are walking up the hill carrying heavy loads in preparation for a 5pm. wedding here. On the way back down Ross and Russell help a french women cut back some vines. I think we were all hoping she might ask us in for a cup of tea, but it doesn´t happen. We have a cup of coffee and pastries in the town square.

Ross and Russell gardening

Typical shutters here

We set off on a 3 hour motorsail to Genoa, just with the headsail up. this is wonderful as we can track right along the coast. We pass by San Fruttosa where there is a sunken statue of Christ trying to rise up out of the water.
Later we stop the boat and have a swim in the 80m. deep ocean, where it is sparkling and clean.