Italian ports open again - and very sparsely populated!

From 10 to 24 June I sailed my Alan Buchanan sloop Libertine of Leith with my son and a friend from Marina di Grosseto, a little north of Rome, to Santa Maria de Leuca on the heel of Italy. We were blessed with warm weather, fair winds and sparsely populated anchorages or moorings. We island-hopped down the Tyrrhenian coast - Giglio, Ponza, Ventotene, Ischia, Capri, Stromboli and Vulcano - then long-legged it up the underside of the boot.

We noted a surprising absence of commercial shipping, a depressing dearth of marine wildlife (caused partly by years of over-fishing) and easy access to ports, bars and restaurants pleased to have custom.

The friendliest place was Ventotene, where we overnighted in the old port: the most picturesque probably Ponza, where we moored to the public quay at no charge; the most ruggedly beautiful undoubtedly Vulcano, where we hired electric bikes and toured the island.

Places to beware of include Giglio, where the local yellow-shirted mafia-type operation will try to charge you €20 for tying up for 30 minutes to provision; and places to drop anchor rather than enter port include Casamicciola on Ischia and the port in Capri, where charges are astronomical.

After dodging the swordfish boats in the north of the Straits of Messina we spent a night in a rather run down Reggio di Calabria and then braced ourselves for the strong northerly winds funnelled by the Straits as we headed south and then east. The voyage to Roccella Ionica provided some challenging sailing in katabatic winds which reach some way offshore; and the confused seas in the Gulf of Taranto made for a wet and lively sixteen hours across the 80nm-wide bay.

Santa Maria di Leuca is a good hopping-off point for Greece, my next destination.

Fair winds to all those who manage to escape the COVID restrictions!