Log #33l Up the Tyrrhenian Coast

October 8, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Series 33 Turkey - Greece to Rome, The Logs

Isola Ventotene, Italy

Oct. 8, 2004

Hi Folks,

We are making our way up to Rome, and should be there in about 4 or 5 days. The weather has been calm and hot for the past week as we have been going from island to island off the Bay of Naples and up the coast towards Anzio. We have seen many castles which protected the local towns, some as described in this log as derelict but others used as prisons, condominiums or tourist historical sites. We have met a couple of cruisers we knew, including Meg whom we met in Greece and Turkey a couple of years ago, and Solara, a Canadian boat that we met (the boat, not the owners as they were away at the time) in Kusadasi, Turkey, then we were anchored in the same bay in Isola Procida a few nights ago.

All is well with us and Veleda.

All the best,


Log #33l Up the Tyrrhenian Coast

En route to Isola Ventotene

Oct. 7, 2004

We left Cetraro Oct. 27, the day after Doug left for Rome, glad to leave that uncomfortable harbor, and motorsailed the 40 miles along the coast up to Marina di Camerota (39˚ 60.0’N, 015˚ 22.6’E). The marina had tailed lines making mooring much easier, and was at the port of the pleasant town of Camerota. We did some shopping for groceries, refilled two of our jerry cans with diesel from the 24 hour a day fuel station on the quay, changed the oil, oil filter and transmission oil, and had a comfortable night’s sleep.

For me the interesting part of my exploration of town was snooping through the abandoned Castello Marchelase a few hundred meters up from the marina. This stately rectangular castle, its yellow stonework structure and castellated roof top conspicuous when entering the harbour,  is situated on a curving hillside, the low stone walls overgrown with foliage and the few clearings with olive trees and desiccated vine-covered trellises that at one time were elegant gardens. I saw a cluttered path opening through the rock walls and wandered in, wondering how far I would be able to get into the property, fully prepared to turn around if the path was barred, or at the sign of any inhabitants. The clutter cleared as I stepped through the foliage, the path opening onto a flat terrace with a few olive trees and some overgrown cacti. At the far side I saw a white piece of statuary hidden in the overgrowth. It was the tall white slender neck and head of a deer, peering through the overhanging shrubbery.

Following the remains of a pathway I emerged into what at one time would have been an elegant courtyard, with the ruins of a well or fountain in the middle, encircled by a cobblestone drive leading to wide concrete steps, chipped and worn, with weeds crawling from the cracks in the stone wall. The steps led up to the right side upper entrance, the opening which once had been a double door gaping mutely and defenselessly, leaving the entire mansion open to the elements. I noted yawning holes where the louvered windows once protected the long gone inhabitants from the harshness of the Mediterranean sun. A lower wall on the left of the courtyard was partly demolished, and some old rusty construction equipment, a small cement mixer, some corrugated iron sheets, showed signs that at one time an effort was unsuccessfully started to refurbish this landmark. At the roof top was a small rusting gantry used to hoist material, the beam sticking over the wall like a hangman’s gibbet.

I went up the steps, covered with broken mosaic tiles, cracked plaster, the dried wooden remains of louvers and window framing, all strewn in dusty disarray. Inside were large open rooms with concrete floors and white plastered walls, but no door or window frames left. There was no furniture, except in a few rooms where dingy mattresses, empty bottles and graffiti marred walls showing that people had camped for their nefarious parties or orgies. It was obvious that at some time in the past 50 years or so an agency tried to remake the castle for a hotel or condominiums, but never got past the foundation work before going bust, and leaving this gracious castle to the elements.

The castello is a long rectangular building, three and four stories high, the white plastered rooms meandering through frameless openings from one to another, with concrete stairs zigzagging from one level to the next. The architecture was most interesting as there was no single or repetitive pattern to the layout of the rooms. The gaping holes for the windows had some new framing that was never completed. Some of the concrete floor was eroded, revealing the rebar strengthening material used, but otherwise was quite solid. I wandered up and up, finally emerging onto the wide flat roof with waist-high crenellated sides overlooking a 360 degree panorama of the town, the harbour, up the coast, and over the hills behind. Veleda lay below me in the marina. Looking down I could see the original cobblestone road that wound around the castle from the lower town roadway, around through the overgrown park to the courtyard where it circled the abandoned well at the main entrance.

I sauntered over to the derelict gantry, to not unexpectedly see the rusted motor, blocks, the wires, long unused and the gibbet beam obscenely protruding beyond the roof. This wide expanse of roof could have hosted many rooftop patio parties enhanced by the fantastic panorama around the castle. I felt a touch of sadness for the lost beauty of this castle, that now is an empty shell on prime real estate, unlikely to be rehabilitated in its present structure. As an investment, it would probably be cheaper to tear it down and build a new complex from the ground up than to refurbish it to modern standards of comfort and safety. The passing of an era?

Next day was another 37 mile motorsail up to Agropoli (40˚ 21.1’N, 014˚ 58.9’E). This was a pleasant town uphill from the marina with boutiques and other upscale shops as well as supermercados for groceries. I liked the ambiance of the main pedestrian mall, with people out enjoying the warm late September weather. It was a crowded marina, and we hoped we might get away without paying as we could find no marina office. However when we returned to Veleda about 2130 a security guard followed us onto the pontoon and indicated the mooring charge of 20 Euros.

Another 25 miles next day took us to an anchorage just off Amalfi (40˚ 38.0’N, 014˚ 14.8’E), a very touristy town nestled in a valley of the coastal mountains. We wanted to see the Arsenale, a former shipbuilding centre, as Amalfi was one of the four medieval naval powers, along with Genoa, Pisa, and Venice. However, it was closed for the season. We strolled the narrow streets and passageways, and up the sweeping stairs of Sant’ Andrea Cathedral, dating back to the 10th century, with its baroque interior, statuary, and mosaics from the 12th and 13th centuries. The “marina” looked very inadequate and from what we heard also very expensive, and so we did not have any desire to enter (although we have heard from another boat that they stayed there off season and were not charged). Our anchorage off the main town had a dramatic backdrop of town and mountains, but as the wind shifted and started blowing on shore we decided to leave. We headed 5 miles east to Cetara, a well protected harbor where we went alongside on the outer mole, astern of a large fishing trawler. No one came to collect any fee, but we were asked to move ahead a bit in case another large ship came in to this dock area. The inner sides of the harbor were filled with local fishing boats and a couple of pontoons filled with local boats. It was a nice enclosure with a promenade walkway on the top of the breakwater, with spiral staircases coming down to dock level, along which were located many attractive arched but barred enclosures for local fishing boats to use. Unfortunately most of them were unused, but the potential was there.

This town too, as Amalfi, was located in a valley coming down from the coastal mountains, giving rise to a main street going up the gorge, with narrow passageways and alleys going off at interesting angles creating an intimate compact community, not touristy. We liked very much the ambiance of the town with its busy main street crammed with local pedestrians and small cars and motorized tricycles going up and down the valley, and seaward guarded by a medieval Martello tower overlooking the harbor.

We had a quiet night, but awoke at 0630 with footsteps on our foredeck! Judy was quite concerned and shouted for the intruder to get off the boat. However upon poking my head out of the cockpit hatch I saw it was just a local fisherman who had to get across to his punt moored outboard of Veleda. As we were up already, we had a leisurely breakfast, and set off before 0900 to go another 19 miles around the Gulf of Salerno, over to the tip of the romantic Sorrento Peninsula to anchor in the dramatic mountain encircled bay of Senno di Ieranto (40˚ 34.5’N, 014˚ 42.1’E), the most impressive anchorage since Loch Scavaig on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in 2000.

More about this anchorage, Capri, and the islands of the Bay of Naples in my next log.