Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Italy: Maratea and the End of the Mainland

A lido at Fiumicello, near Maratea. The beach was pebbly but not uncomfortable
for bare feet. We encountered no other Americans here and, indeed, almost
all the other tourists we saw appeared to be Italians. At the top of the mountain
in the distance is a colossal statue of Christ facing east with his arms raised.
In our trip to Italy, after six weeks in Rome, we spent a night in Naples, took the ferry to Capri, came back to the mainland to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, then crossed the peninsula to Trani. From there it was south along the Adriatic to Alberobello and eventually to Lecce, a detour into the heel of Italy's boot. We had to backtrack a bit north to reach Matera, the cave city, and then it was  south-southwest toward Maratea, a beach resort area on the Tyrrhenian Sea. We had two nights here and then a night at Villa San Giovanni on the Strait of Messina. After that, we'd put the car on a ferry for the short hop to Sicily.

It may sound rushed, but it wasn't. We had only two one-night stops; the others were three or four. We had planned our itinerary to give us short drives with plenty of time for breakfast before reaching our next destination in time for lunch. In many places, once we arrived, we didn't get back into the car until it was time to leave, so we got in a lot of steps, according to my Fit watch. A typical day might be breakfast, go out to museums, churches or other sightseeing, have lunch, sightsee some more, back to the room in the hottest part of the afternoon, then back out again for aperitivos and dinner, which in Italy is eaten around 9.

In the midst of this grueling schedule, we  saw Maratea as a chance to relax. It's actually several communities strung along Basilicata's very short Tyrrhenian coastline (between Campania to the north and Calabria to the south). First, the ancient town of Maratea, which is a bit inland and which we did not visit. Then there are the oceanfront communities of Marina de Maratea, Porto and Fiumicello. You could also toss in two Campania towns: the fishing village of Cersuta and the lidos of Acquafredda, both a bit north along the coast.  We stayed at Hotel Villa delle Meraviglie (House of Wonders) near Fiumicello. It has a nice large swimming pool as well as long and steep flights of steps down to a rocky and forbidding shore. When we arrived, we had a very late lunch at the pool's snack bar.  We enjoyed one of the nearby beaches, we liked the bars and restaurants of Porto, and basically we recharged after almost compulsive sight-seeing at our previous stops.

The shore at our hotel. The weather was overcast during much of time in Maratea.

The pool at Hotel Villa delle Meraviglie. The
white building is the hotel.
We saw trees shaped like this all over southern
Italy. I think this one at Porto is a
chinaberry tree.

Buildings step down the steep hillside
to the harbor at Porto.

Our rental car, a 2018 Citroën C3, had
its own view outside our lodgings, Blu
Infinito,  a tiny modernist inn high
above the town of Villa San Giovanni,
 about a three-hour drive from Maratea.
(The car, by the way, was fun to drive
and its incredibly tight turning radius
got me out of trouble a lot on narrow

The pool is the source for the inn's name,
Blu Infinito. It overlooks the Strait of Messina.
That land in the distance is the northeast
corner of Sicily. 

Sunset over the
Strait of Messina, which
connects the
Tyrrhenian and
Ionian Seas. That's
Sicily in the distance.

Trucks wait for the ferry to Sicily at
Villa San Giovanni on the tip of the
Italian mainland known as Punta Pezzo. 

One of the ferries that shuttle cars, trucks and people between Messina on
Siciliy and Villa San Giovanni on the mainland. The crossing takes about 30 minutes.

Aboard the ferry, passengers watch as the mainland
gets smaller and smaller. Next stop: Sicily.

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