Summer 2022

The Heel of Italy

Otranto is another stunning little Italian seaside town with a mixture of old and new, set on a rocky spur on Italy’s most easterly coastline,

As we had been on board for a few days we felt the need to stretch our legs and explore. We walked through the historic centre with its well preserved medieval castle, cathedral, a maze of narrow alleyways and large parts of the city walls still standing.

Having previously visited (and written about last year) we decided to continue out of the town and along a gravel coastal path to explore the ‘beaches’.

The long rugged coastline between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca at the bottom tip of the heel is the Tricase Woods Protected National Park.

The path took us around small rocky coves alongside meadows of wild flowers, olive groves, pine trees and orchards, passing several WWII bunkers along the way.

Standing on one of the hills is a ruined semi-circular coastal tower which is believed to date back to the Roman period.

At some points we were walking through knee high vegetation that was alive with the sounds of countless different insects and an abundance of colourful butterflies. The track disappeared completely for a while (or we went the wrong way!) and we had to clamber over rocky hills.

The ‘beaches’ weren’t quite what I expected, there wasn’t any nice white sand but the locals were quite happy to sunbathe on a slab of limestone or jump from the top of high rocks into the crystal clear turquoise water below.

It was a very hot day and after walking for a few hours we were happy to stumble upon a small restaurant where we could stop for a cold drink and lunch.

Afterwards we walked slightly inland to the ‘Cava di Bauxite’. It is an old quarry which was used between 1940 and 1976 before being abandoned for nature to take over.

Dark red rocky walls caused by the minerals in the bauxite rock surround a small lake which is an emerald colour due to the vegetation below. There were a couple of rare terrapins enjoying the cool water. As you walk around the red rocks it is said to be like walking on Mars.

On our way back into town we passed an unusual sculpture of a ship called ‘The Landing, for Migrant Humanity’. It is the recovered vessel of the Albanian motor launch, Kater I Rades. In 1997 the ship was intercepted by the Italian Navy in the Straits of Otranto with 120 migrants on board, a collision occurred causing it to sink leaving only 34 survivors.

After a couple of days in Otranto, we lifted our anchor and sailed a further 40 nm north up the heel of Italy to Brindisi.

Brindisi has a large natural harbour, it is a thriving port for commercial and public shipping activities and has always been one of Italy’s most important ports. Several big ships were waiting to enter when we arrived.

Standing at the entrance to the harbour is Castello Alfonsino di Brindisi. This 16th century castle served as a defensive fortification and protection for the port of Brindisi.

We moored on the harbour wall called ‘Approdo delle Indie’ named in recognition of the historic land and sea line which connected London to Bombay. One of its primary cargos was the transport of Indian Pale Ale which was delivered by train from London and transferred to steamers which were then able to transit the new Suez Canal.

There was lots of activity along the busy waterfront. People were queuing to have a ride on the big wheel and visiting the local street food kiosks, small boats were buzzing around and large military ships were entering and leaving the naval base.

The harbour is lined with grand buildings from its commercial heyday, many of which are now being restored to service the leisure and tourist industry.

A huge flight of stone stairs climb from the waterfront to a small square with a Roman column at the top and the remains of a second.

The columns marked the end of the Via Appia, a massive Roman road that connected the capital to the port of Brindisi.

Located on the opposite side of the harbour is a monument to Italian Sailors. Created in 1933 it stands at 53m tall and is known as ‘The Rudder’.

While walking through the streets we encountered a religious parade where the locals were pushing a boat with a statue of their Saint along the promenade. Many followers all crowded into a small courtyard of what looked like a fisherman’s community centre.

As the sun went down, the harbour was lit up, the coastguard building looked very patriotic.

Directly overlooking our mooring was a monumental fountain built in 1940 and dedicated to the Italian politician Benito Mussolini. Made from local green marble with a commemorative inscription dedicated to their leader.

Brindisi is a port of entry/exit so the following day we prepared ourselves and ZigZag for another overnight passage, collected our paperwork together and went to visit the Border Police to check out of Italy.

4 replies on “The Heel of Italy”

Another fabulous town with stunning architecture, and the lack of beaches was more than compensated by the beauty of the quarry reclaimed by nature. Looking forward to next week’s instalment.

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Impressive stuff, though really weird they still have a monument to Mussolini!
As always, you supply the great pictures and travelogue.
Enjoy the next stage.

Liked by 1 person

Wonderful photos again. I bagsy you took the wrong route on your walk! 🤣 I know what you mean about the beaches, we always felt that when we were in that part of Italy. How much longer do you have in Italy before you head to Croatia? 😀😘 xx

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