After a couple of days in Siracusa we planned our route and set off on an overnight passage to mainland Italy, our first port of call would be Roccella Ionica on the toe of the boot. The weather forecast was for light winds, with a flat sea and sunshine.
Once we had motored out of the bay, the sails went up, wind was only force 2-3 but we were doing 4.5 kts (slightly off course!).
This continued for a few hours until the wind dropped, the engine went on to give us a bit of a push and we motorsailed through the afternoon.
Unfortunately the wind disappeared completely in the evening so we continued under power. It was a beautiful evening and as the day came to an end and the sun started to go down, we watched it setting behind Mount Etna which gave us a perfect ending to our time in Sicily.
The moon was a late riser and didn’t show its face until midnight, it was a beautiful, almost full moon which lit the dark sky.
In the early hours, a light wind returned, sails went up and we were sailing again (slowly). The morning gave us another beautiful sun rise to match the previous nights sunset!
The wind eventually disappeared again and we motored for the last couple of hours arriving at Roccella Ionica at 9.30am.
Again a port that we visited last year, it was Sunday morning when we arrived and it appeared that it’s a day of rest for the marinaras. As we approached we called on the VHF radio and were told just to go in and find the first available space. Luckily it was fairly empty and we managed to get safely tied up minutes before the wind picked up.
The passage was a total 99 nm and we were underway for 22 hours, it was a little frustrating with the wind changes and we ended up with the engine on for longer than we would like, but it was a very pleasant journey, with flat seas and sunshine as per the forecast.
With water and shore power available, we gave the boat (and ourselves) a good wash down, then had a little siesta to catch up on some sleep. Feeling refreshed, we went to the marina pizza bar for ‘pizza by the metre’ but unfortunately the ovens were still switched off so it was celebratory drinks only for us!
Our next port of call was Crotone which is on the ball of the foot, approximately 70 nm along the coast. We sailed slowly and dolphins swam alongside us for a while.
By mid afternoon we put the engine on and motorsailed to increase our speed so that we arrived before dark. We approached Porto Vecchio as the sun went down and anchored just outside of the harbour.
We left early in the morning as the sun was rising and lighting up the shoreline.
Continuing along the bottom of the boot, we headed to Santa Maria di Leuca on the tip of the stiletto heel. Another passage of approximately 70 nm, for most of the time we had only light winds so it was again a day of sailing and motor sailing, but the wind did pick up for a few hours, we had one reef in and were sailing along at over 7 kts!
When we arrived it was 19.30 and there was already a few boats anchored outside the harbour. The seabed in the bay is rocky with sandy patches so we had to search for sand. Luckily the water was really clear and the sun hadn’t yet gone down so this was not too difficult, we found a lovely big patch of sand and dropped our anchor. We dug the anchor in to be certain that we were holding tight as we were quite close to the harbour entrance, other boats and to the shore.
Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for its iconic lighthouse. With its height of 48 meters (159 ft) and position at 102 metres (335 ft) above sea level between the Ionian and the Adriatic Sea, it is considered the second most important lighthouse in Italy, after Genova. Even in these days of GPS navigation, we still find the metronomic light from a prominent lighthouse to be a comfort during our night passages.
Originally used for sighting and defence purposes, 171 watchtowers once dotted the coast of the Salento region of Puglia. Situated on promontories or rocky hills, these structures communicated with signals of smoke and fire (as well as bells, horns and cannons) to warn inland villages of impending attacks. Many of these now stand in disrepair
An engineer called Giuseppe Ruggieri was influential in the development of Santa Maria di Leuca. He was fascinated by the untamed coast in the 19th century and decided to buy some fallow fields with the aim to build a seaside resort. He built his first villa in 1874 for his family and is the designer for the majority of the Villa’s constructed at this time.
The town became the summer residence of many artistocratic Pugliesi who also built splendid villas, decorating the seafront with their varying styles and fancies. Now the streets are full of these large Art Nouveau villas (sometimes with additional Moorish designs).
Some also have private stone ‘beach huts’ sitting on the rocks which were originally located at the bottom of their front garden (before the public promenade was built). These contain steps down into the rock pools below for their own private bathing.
The town was very quiet and tranquil as we walked around (it was siesta time) but had an affluent feel. I suspect that crowds arrive at the weekends and during the traditional summer exodus in July and August.