Having crossed the Gulf of Genoa we are leaving the Italian Riviera behind and are making seven-league strides down the boot of Italy. With a few decent days forecast we plan to move on each day, starting early. On the longer legs this will mean we arrive mid afternoon and can rest up a bit for the next push. On the shorter runs we will arrive before lunch, so will be able to have a look around. Once we reach Elba we plan to stay a couple of nights to explore the island, before off again down the shin to see Naples and rest.
Day one of the plan went splendidly. We were away by seven, out into a breezy morning with a calm sea state. Flat clouds lay scuffed across the sky and mist lay along the mountain feet ahead. Neither of us knew what this fortold of the weather to come, but the Internet forecast was good and we were out dodging fishing boats, which is usually a good omen. We had planned to go to Carrera, but had decided to try to start with a longer leg and are bound for Viareggio, which I managed to book yesterday. It was only after we were committed, on a second reading of the pilot book, that we realized what had put us off it at the original planning stage. To wit, the harbour mouth is prone to silting, due to an adjoining river and vessels drawing more than 2.5m are advised to radio for a pilot boat. Now we are 2.1 m and so fall in the tricky domain of not really meriting the fuss of a pilot, but are close enough to the 2.5 to worry about it. There is a full moon at the moment, meaning the highest high and the lowest low tide wise. The Med does not have tides worth worrying about, only a matter of centimeters, but when it’s your pride and joy at stake you give such stresses a miss. But as I said we were committed, so settled down to a long six hour motor and tried not to think about it too much. The scenery certainly helped. There were spectacular mountains ashore; steep sloped with serrated tops, appearing to rise straight from the sea. The mist confounded many of my attempts to photograph them properly, but the cloud formations above made dramatic pictures as we neared Viareggia.
John crept in following the pilot book instructions, both our eyes on the depth gauge. It reads the depth below the keel, the lowest point of the boat and was down as far as 1.8 m before it began climbing again as we entered harbour. At this point I relaxed and bustled about with the lines and fenders, though John noticed the harbour itself had worrying shallow patches. Weirdly along the very back harbour wall were tied some of the biggest Super-yachts we have seen outside Cannes. They must come in with the pilot and it would have been handy to see one do so and watch the line it took. Still, we were in and they answered the radio promptly and had us booked into a nice sheltered berth, right on the innermost pontoon, number one. This meant John having to turn and reverse in, but he made this look easy and there were a couple of marineras waiting to take the lines. I messed up throwing one, but he recovered quickly and caught the end, so we were soon ready to head out and explore.
Viareggia is a seaside town, a rather up market one. From the marina we walked along the river bank, which had been dredged and looked more like a canal, with small pleasure boats tied along one side. We walked along the towpath to an arched footbridge that spanned the river. On the opposite bank was a pink block of a boat with a big pink plastic octopus on its roof selling fried calamari and chips, a sort of floating fish and chip stall. A few similar bars and cafes lined that bank of the river the smell of hot chip fat assailed us as we crossed the bridge. We turned right and round the corner was a wide avenue, our side the pavement was wide enough for a pedestrian precinct even allowing for the grids of tables set out in front of every café and restaurant. The traffic seemed very far away. We walked along looking down the side streets, which all culminated with an entrance to the beach, which had been split up into a series of small funparks, with loungers and play areas and restaurant come bars. John came to a halt by a wood fired pizza oven. We have yet to try a pizza in Italy, largely because the traditional Ligurian ones do not have cheese, so we saved ourselves. No longer, for lunch we shared a Romana pizza ( pomodora, cheese, mozzarella and capers) and an Adam and Eve salad. The salad had lots of the usual suspects, olives, mozzerella balls, but no apple. The pizza was particularly yummy. After that we tried to walk back along the strand, but were unable to do so because of the way the beach was divided up into concessions. We went back the way we had come, John studying all the bars for TV sets, as England were due to play their final group match at nine. Pickings were decidedly slim on that score, but he decided we could eat first and then have a look.
Back on Lyra and the news from the England camp was dire. Roy was planning to snatch humiliation from the jaws of victory by resting most of the midfield. Not only were we risking our chance to lead the group, we faced the possibility of coming third. Doubting the credentials of the BBC, John checked other news sources but they were all singing from the same hymn sheet, Roy’s requiem if we lose to Slovakia. Disgusted of Sheffield decided he wanted no part in what promised to be a disaster, we might as well have a nice meal out as a late Father’s Day treat and then confront the result. So that is what we did later that evening. I thought his resolve might weaken as we took another turn along the avenue, scouting for TV’s. There were a few in bars showing the news and one with a couple of Russians parked in front of it, settling down to their unanticipated humiliation at the hands of Galles. Then John shook off the lure of the England match and we headed back to the American Bar, near the marina. It was styled on the deep south with green painted shutters, ceiling fans and music with a Mexican fiesta flavour, but there any reference to America ended. John started with caprese salad and I stuffed mussels, and yes they had managed to stuff several mussels I know not how. Then we both had sole, which came with a side salad and was lovely. We strolled back and consulted John’s phone. The news was not as bad as it could have been “We’re not doomed yet” said Roy, inspirational to the end.