Friday 20 June 2014

Isla di Dino – An unexpected gem in Southern Italy

August 7-8, 2013

Alcheringa anchored off Isla di Dino in Southern Italy
Looking at the charts when planning our hops south down the Italian coast, we had spotted a small island that looked like it might be an interesting spot. The ‘Italian Waters Cruising Guide’ didn’t have a lot to say about Isla di Dino but did report that local fishing boats often used it as an anchorage ‘in settled weather.’ We envisaged a rocky, deserted island laying off the coast and could see ourselves resting nicely at anchor for a night with just a small fishing boat or two for company.

Another windless day as we leave Scario on the Italian south coast.
We got away from Scario fairly early and set our course motoring across the Gulf of Policastro in windless conditions. It was only about 20 nautical miles to Isla di Dino but we needed to leave ourselves time to continue on to a marina at Cetraro if the island proved to be an unsuitable anchorage. The passage across the bay was uneventful and would have been quite boring if not for the presence of Jesus Christ the Redeemer looking down upon us.

Christ the Redeemer overlooks Maratea and us as we sail south.
Known as Cristo Redentore di Maratea in Italian, this statue was made in white and blue-grey marble sourced from the famous quarry area near the city of Carrara in Northern Italy.  Unlike other statues, built by donations from the public, Cristo Redentore was erected using the funds of a single individual.  Stefano Rivetti was a Piedmontese entrepreneur who wanted to pay tribute both to his religion and the people of his town, Maratea.  The statue stands atop of the Monte San Biagio, the hill which overlooks the town. It is the second largest in the world and the only one in Europe. Standing 72 feet high and 62 feet in width it can be seen for miles on its mountain perch. Also located nearby is the basilica of Saint Blaise (San Biagio) which dates to the 7th century.

The basilica can just be seen at the extreme left

What a view. (Photo sourced from the web)
After marvelling at the size of the statue, we arrived at Isla di Dino in time for lunch. We didn’t exactly find the deserted island we had envisaged but rather a thriving tourist area with thousands of people lazing in the compulsory recliners stretching as far as the eye could see along the mainland beaches and hundreds of small boats anchored just offshore.
As usual, Karen and her mum, Joy, wasted no time getting in the water.

Trevor checking out the cliffs of Isla di Dino
Unlike the gently sloping beaches of the shoreline, wherever the island meets the sea is all vertical rockfaces other than a small stone wharf on one end that leads to a steep road to a solitary building on the top.  Although it wasn’t the quiet secluded spot we’d hoped for, it was far too beautiful  to go past so we decided to drop anchor on the island’s southern side about 100 metres off the beach.

Scario to Isla Di Dino – 19.4 Nautical Miles – 4 Hours 03 Minutes
Average Speed 4.8 Knots - Max 5.8 Knots.
We anchored close to the beach and enjoyed the scenery and people watching
You are always surrounded by history in Europe
Next came a very relaxing afternoon, swimming and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters before settling back in the cockpit with a cool drink for some serious people watching as humanity did its holiday mode thing all around us. All very peaceful really, until 11.00pm when a beachside disco fired up with blaring music which patrons attempted to scream over to communicate. As it ran right through to 5.00am, sleep was at a premium. Karen’s father, Trevor, was particularly unimpressed that when the music finally went silent and he thought a couple of hours of slumber may finally be possible, about twenty of the drunken revellers decided it was time for a very long and loud swim and set up camp on the beach directly behind our boat. It took great restraint on his part not to initiate a major international crisis of diplomacy there and then.

Considering the sleep deprived, grumpy state of the crew and wanting to avoid a possible mutiny by early afternoon, Captain Rob, decided to abandon the day’s planned passage south and we simply moved around to the northern side of the island and re-anchored to put some distance between Alcheringa and boom box alley.

Our first night's anchorage is at left before moving around the island next day.
It was another glorious day with clear blue skies, warm sunshine and glassy seas. Perfect conditions for sitting at anchor by a picturesque island. We’d noticed some sea caves dotted amongst the cliff faces and after a quick bit of research on Google discovered we may have stumbled on some unexpected gems. The inflatable was dropped into the water and off we went for some mid-morning exploring.

Seeing a tourist boat exploring the caves sparked our interest.
The first cave we encountered was near a rocky outcrop on which stands abandoned small, mushroom-shaped buildings which appeared to have been an ill-conceived resort. Here is the ‘cave lion’ so named for a rock surrounded by water in the form of a crouching lion. We were able to go far into the cave in our dingy and marvelled as the water colour changed through incredible shades of blue. With the engine off, we drifted gently in the eerie silence marvelling at this wonder of nature while trying to ignore that thousands of tons of limestone was overhead thankfully defying gravity at least for now.

Taking the dingy deep inside the caves was a stunning experience

Unquestionably the bluest water we've ever encountered
Moving further around the island we came to the entrance to the ‘Blue Grotto’ which is unquestionably the most beautiful of the caves. It is very reminiscent of the similarly named cave on Isla Capri, but it is different as the water colour ranges from green to blue green copper and contrast with the intense blues at the inner edges of the cave.

Continuing about fifty meters on we came to the "Cave of the falls" so called precisely for the continuous noise of the water dripping from the limestone ceiling. We could easily imagine these drops becoming streams after rain.  Around the western tip of the island, is the entrance to the ‘Cave of the pediment,’ but we gave it a wide berth as there were scuba divers exploring the sub-surface. After passing a small shrine to the Madonna wedged precariously in the sheer rock face, we explored a couple more lesser caves before heading ashore for some refreshing gelati from one of the beach venders.
Not quite as big as Maratea's statue

You'd be amazed at what you see pass by in Italy.
This was followed by another very lazy afternoon aboard with our day capped off by another amazing sunset providing a stunning backdrop for our suitably named G&T ‘Sundowners followed by some fine local vino and another of Karen’s excellent Italian meals. Even when tired, life is good on Alcheringa.


Since returning to Australia at the end of last European summer’s wanderings around the Med, we have been extremely busy, catching up with friends and family, finishing and publishing our first book, ‘Stuff it. Let’s go sailing anyway’, mounting a very successful exhibition of Karen’s artwork and buying a new boat to sail the western Pacific and South East Asia.  We’re now working at finalising the story of our adventures in the Med in this blog and getting it all back to current so keep checking back for new instalments.
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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.


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