Winter in Monfalcone
11th September 2018
The drive back from Imperia was great. We really didn’t need to rush so we stayed off the toll roads preferring to wind our way through the mountainous wine regions of Northern Italy before getting back onto the motorway near Lake Garda to Monfalcone.
Red Rooster was looking good, even after such a wonderful week it was still great to be back home.
We quickly slipped back into our normal way of life, cycling to the shops, working on the boat, going for a swim every afternoon in the pool before enjoying drinks in the cockpit watching the sun go down.
The weather was still very warm so we made sure we took advantage of it.
We visited Trieste using the reliable, cheap bus service.
The town was great with many bars and restaurants. We felt lucky that it was only 15 minutes on the bus and we will definitely be returning.
The castle there had a very good armoury museum, there was also a live medieval exhibition going on with people dressed in period clothing etc.
Marco and Olga surprised us when they turned up on the pontoon. They were Italian friends of Ruggerio and Stefania that we first met in Licata. They were instrumental in helping us secure our berth here in Nautec Marina.
We spent an enjoyable hour on board catching up with these two very nice people. They offered to take us for a drive into Slovenia the border of which was only a few minutes drive from the marina.
We drove up into the countryside to a tower perched on the very top of a hill. The tower was built in remembrance of all the Slovenian soldiers killed in the area during the first and second world wars.
On Sunday Marco and Olga took us once more into Slovenia. We stopped at a memorial to the soldiers killed in the second WW fashioned from hundreds of guns found in the area.
Marco and Olga wanted us to experience Osmica which I think means ‘Open doors’ a Slovenian tradition where farm houses open their doors to serve people simple food and wine grown on their land.
They can do this for eight days, twice a year. Marco told us that it's a very old tradition which entitled the farmers to keep all of the money earned during this period without having to pay any tax on their profits.
We found a lovely farm called Faganeli in the town of Miren.
Tables complete with benches were set out under a covered area in the farm yard. It was very busy but a couple made space for us all on their table.
Marco ordered for us. The food and wine arrived quickly and it was delicious.
The atmosphere was wonderful. What a lovely way to spend a day. Thank you Marco and Olga.
Kriska and Hubert our friends from Licata arrived in the marina on Tuesday. It was great to see them again. They intended to leave their yacht here while the returned back home for the winter.
We enjoyed a Sunday BBQ with them, it was nice but odd in that there was only 4 of us!
Hubert told us that he was going to pick up his car in the morning. His car was still in the marina back in Licata, Sicily!!
He flew back to Sicily, then drove the car back via a ferry to mainland Italy. He was gone for two days!
We have met a few people that do this. It seems crazy to us but I suppose it's nice to have a car for the winter stopover.
It was good for us when he returned as we went out for a drive with them a couple times to local towns getting some heavier shopping items at the same time.
My daughter Joy and her fiancé Ed arrived to stay with us for a few days. It was really great to see them both again.
They both wanted to visit Venice, so the following morning Hubert offered to drop us at the station in Monfalcone.
The tickets were about 20 Euros return each for the hour and a half journey. The train ride gave us time to catch up with all their news.
I love walking out of the Santa Lucia train station onto the steps overlooking the Grand Canal which is always busy with boats of all shapes and sizes.
You can see Ponto de Scalzi to the left which is the first of many bridges to be crossed as you move deeper into the maze of narrow streets and canals.
The bridge was already crowded with tourists eager to explore this fantastic city. It gives me such a buzz to be here.
We had no plan, which is often the best plan to have when visiting Venice, we just wandered the streets, stopping for coffee and Pizza looking into and at interesting buildings and churches as we made our way inevitably towards St Marks Square.
We stopped for a while at the famous Ponte de Rialto looking and laughing at the people trying to take the best selfie or pose for the best picture.
Ed and I tried to copy some American girls but I think they were slightly more flexible than me!!
When we finally reached one of the most famous squares in the world, we found it to be very, very busy which is understandable I suppose.
We made our way across to the Grand Canal. It was good for me and Claire to look out over this famous, congested piece of water remembering that we were here a few weeks ago motoring around in Red Rooster looking at all the people in St Marks Sq.
One of Joy’s request’s was to drink a Billini or more accurately many Billini while she was here. The place to drink them was a very famous venue called ‘Harry’s Bar’.
Unfortunately it was quite a walk from where we were so we decided to have a couple of drinks in a bar nearby before heading over to Harry’s bar.
After walking out of the square we found ourselves in Calle del Pestrin, which is a very fashionable street with expensive shops like Giorgio Armarni and Chanel.
Joy found a lovely little bar called Caravellino’s tucked in beside an old hotel.
The bar was dark and cosy. A framed sign on the wall informed us that Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to frequent this hostelry back in the 1930’s
Although there were tables free, we decided to sit at the bar.
We were all quite thirsty so ordered a bottle of Rose for the girls while Ed and I had a bottle of larger each. The staff had good English and were very friendly.
It was during the second bottle of Rose that Joy broached the subject of Billini’s with the bar staff.
The waitress advised us not to go to Harry’s Bar as it was a bit of a tourist trap charging 22 euros for a billini that was half the size of the ones they served here which cost only 8 euros!!
Well, that was it. We had to try a billini. Joy and Claire had one each while Ed and I had another beer.
Billini’s in case you were wondering are made from Pureed Peaches, poured into a wine glass which is topped off with Prosecco. In Carravellino’s the wine glasses were huge!!
We were having a brilliant time, as we were sitting up at the bar we talked to many of the other guests. Joy and Claire ordered more billini while Ed was drinking two beers to my one. I don’t really like larger!
Around 5.30 ish in the afternoon the bar started to empty out leaving just us and the staff. They turned the music up a bit louder, someone found a couple of trilby hats for us to wear.
We assumed that this was a regular occurrence, a quiet time between the busy lunch session and the evening crowds where the staff could relax a bit.
One of the waitresses burst out of the kitchen doors with a tea towel around her head pretending to punch and kick karate style. She was followed by a waiter holding up a seat cushion as a punch bag.
It was madness. But very funny.
With very little encouragement Joy soon had the tea towel around her head and was punching the stuffing out of the cushion……..amazing.
I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to be sick.
We were all starting to feel hungry by now deciding to finish our drinks before heading out to find a restaurant with very good reviews that Joy had found on the internet.
We said our goodbyes to the staff who had been absolutely brilliant throughout.
We were all pretty drunk and I was in a very good mood.
For some reason the song from the wizard of Oz, ‘we’re off to see the wizard’ came into my head so I grabbed Joys arm and we skipped across St Marks Sq, singing as we went scattering tourists left, right and centre.
We found the restaurant, managing to get a table straight away which was very lucky as the place was packed.
It was only now that I realised just how drunk everyone was. I still felt fine as I hadn’t drunk that much.
We ordered the food, we were in a pizza, pasta kind of place so that was easy.
When the food came, Claire just looked at her plate. After a minute or two I asked her if she was OK?
She said that she didn’t think she could eat it, that she was too drunk!! I have never seen Claire like this…..Claire not touching her food was completely unheard of.
As we were finishing our meal we started to worry about our return train. It was getting late now, we had quite a long walk back to the station and we definitely didn’t want to miss the last train home.
We came up with a cunning plan, as the streets were so busy Ed would lead, Joy would be behind him providing directions from Google maps on her phone while Claire and I would follow as best we could.
The walk back to the train station was very funny. Ed was on point, holding one arm up in the air like a tour guide shouting ‘follow me’ every now and then.
We made it but not by much. Once on the train we all collapsed.
Back onboard RR we had a coffee complete with a nightcap before going to bed exhausted.
Joy and Ed flew back to England the following day, I don’t know how they did it? I was knackered for days afterwards.
The first two weeks of the month just flew by. We were very busy doing jobs which included washing, drying and removing the main and genoa. I winterized the engine using plenty of anti-freeze in the cooling system as it’s going to get cold here. And, I spliced a new stainless-steel chain onto our kedge anchor rode.
The Barcolana 50, one of the largest yacht races in the world takes place in the waters off Trieste every second Sunday in October. Claire and I had been trying to find a place crewing on one of the 2689 yachts registered to take part in the race but to no avail.
We could of entered ourselves on Red Rooster, it was about 120 Euro’s for us but we had been advised not to as with 2,689 yachts on a single start line the risk of damage was very high with many yachts racing with their fenders out!
So the next best thing for us was to catch the bus to Trieste to watch the race from the shore as well as enjoying the fantastic atmosphere.
As the bus wound it's way along the coast we could see yachts of all shapes and sizes heading into the area of the start.
Trieste was heaving, we walked along the sea front to look at the Italian square-rigged Tall ship ‘Amerigo Vespucci’. I raced against her in the 1976 tall ships race. She looked fantastic.
Having been up to the castle on a previous trip we knew that we could get a good view of the sea from there so we made our way over to the best vantage point along with many others.
I have never seen so many boats on the water at the same time. Literally thousands of yachts were moving towards the start line. We couldn’t see the start line of course but you could imagine
where it must have been as the leading yachts slowly moved forwards.
Suddenly there was a huge roar as 9 jets tore overhead, red, white and green smoke pouring from their engines as they headed out over the water pulling up into a huge loop over the mass of yachts below them, fantastic.
We heard the gun for the start sound and they were off. It was an incredible sight.
The 4 sided course is really quite small being only 13 miles, the fleet go out to sea for a few miles before heading back towards Trieste with the finish line only a few hundred yards off shore so you can see the whole race.
We made our way back down into the city, heading towards the sea front which was packed with hospitality tents and happy people.
It was brilliant.
We wandered along the seafront, looking at all of the produce for sale, everything from cheese to cars were available here.
Soon the two lead boats came into view, neck and neck racing towards the line. The local racing yacht ‘Spirit of Portopiccolo’ took the line honours in a time of 57.02 minutes a new record for the Barocolana.
We stayed in Trieste for hours after the finish enjoying the event with everyone else.
On Monday our next task was to sort out flights and accommodation for our parents who were coming to visit.
The last time they all paid us a visit at the same time was in Almerimar, Spain.
Claire’s parents, Alan and Wendy arrived from Stanstead on the 16th flying into Trieste airport which is only 10 minutes by car from the marina.
We hired a 9 seater van whisking them first to the very large supermarket nearby to stock up with food and drink for the next 8 days.
We then drove onto Sistiana, a small town on the coast between Monfalcone and Trieste where we had rented a large house for both sets of parents to stay.
We met the owners who were very friendly.
The house was perfect, it had 4 bedrooms all with en-suite, a nice kitchen / diner and a lovely covered patio with table and chairs.
Claire cooked us a meal before we made our way back to RR.
Claire and I drove for nearly 2 hours to Venice airport to pick up my parents. It's a shame we couldn’t get a flight for them into Trieste but London, Gatwick only flew into Venice.
It was great to see them. We had a good chat as we made our way back to the house.
After my parents had a chance to have a look around, have a cup of tea and unpack we went out to an Italian restaurant in Sistiana for diner. Perfect.
We had a very good meal with excellent house wine. It was great to see our parents again and we talked about what they wanted to do while they were here. Obviously, Venice was on the list but not much else, so Claire and I would sort out some interesting places to visit.
Claire and I were staying on RR so we drove the 10 minutes or so to the house to pick up our parents.
As we approached the house, we could see them all sitting outside relaxing in the sun.
Once we managed to get them into the van, we headed off to one of our favourite towns, Grado.
Grado was once the first port for ships leaving the Adriatic before making their way up river to the large Roman city of Aquileia.
It has a wonderful mixture of old and new complimented by water on three sides. It's very clean and well kept.
We parked the van before walking through the old town out to the promenade overlooking the Adriatic.
The weather was great, sunny and warm.
By the time we were ready for something to eat everywhere was shutting so we ended up having a sandwich with crisps in a nice little bar in the old town.
On the way back we stopped at our marina in Monfalcone to let them see RR. We’ve discovered that it helps our parents to see where we are staying so when we speak on the phone they can visualise where we are.
We had a drink in the restaurant before heading back to the house where Claire cooked us another lovely meal.
Venice here we come. We had a slow start though catching the 12.40 train from Monfalcone which got us there by 14.20.
The parents preferred to travel by train rather than spend two hours each way in the van.
I dropped them off at the station before finding a free parking space for the van.
The train was packed so we ended up sitting where we could, slowly moving next to each other as people got off.
As we drew closer to Santa Lucia station, I was looking forward to that buzz I get from standing on the steps looking at the Grand canal with gondolas moored up waiting for their fair paying passengers.
I was a little nervous as we crossed that first bridge. My dad is 89, my mum 85, Alan is 78 with Wendy 75.
As Jimmy Cliff once sang, ‘We had many rivers to cross’ and Alan was already looking for somewhere to rest because his back was playing him up.
I new the way reasonably well through the labyrinth of narrow streets and bridges to Marks Sq now and the signs above the main junctions helped.
We stopped for a very good meal before making our way slowly towards the Sq.
By the time we reached the square everyone was looking for a place to sit down to rest. We stopped at a bar actually in the square but the prices were really extortionate, so we got up from the table making our way towards the grand canal.
After taking in the atmosphere for a while we started talking about getting back to the station. The general feeling was that walking back would be a bit of a struggle for most so we talked about a water taxi.
Then someone saw the queue for the vaporetto which is the bus service in Venice. It was a couple of euro each for the trip back to the station. But because we were in Venice the bus was a boat!!
After a bit of a wait queuing we all managed to get on the same ‘bus’. It was a really good experience. The passengers, locals and tourists alike were friendly and considerate.
After 5-6 stops we got off at the station making our way via the ticket machine onto the train.
Everyone was tired by the time we got back to the house.
We had a drink or two with some cheese and biscuits before we left them to drive back to RR.
Claire and I thought it a good idea to have an active day followed by a relaxing day so in the
morning we picked up some food from the supermarket before driving to the house.
The sun was out, it was warm with a nice breeze. The house had a gas BBQ, we had wine, beer and peanuts.
Wendy and my mum made some salads, cut and buttered bread while the meat and veggie stuff cooked.
We had a great afternoon.
Slovenia here we come.
We had enjoyed our trips into Slovenia with our friends Marco and Olga and thought it would be a good thing to do with the parents.
We had paid 7 Euros extra on the car hire to allow us to drive there so we headed off in the general direction of a town called ‘Bovec’.
The drive lasted a couple of hours but the route took us through Gorizia then along the banks of the wonderful Socha river.
The scenery really was fantastic with high mountains all around us. We passed a huge waterfall called Boka Slap!!
We stopped for lunch in a restaurant along the way where we found the food and wine to be excellent as well as very cheap.
I wanted to stretch my legs so stopped at the Ravelnik open-air museum which has preserved 1st world war trenches and bunkers. After a short walk we found a small bunk house which led underground into a cave system expanded by the soldiers. It was cold and damp but I couldn’t imagine how miserable it must have been here during the depths of winter.
We were soon back on the road again retracing our steps back into Italy.
Sistiana, the village where the house is has a very nice castle overlooking the sea so we decided that after the long drive yesterday a shorter trip would be in order.
Work on Castello de Duino commenced in 1389 for the Wallsee family.
In the 19th century it became the home of the Thurn and Taxis family whose descendants still live there to this day. They have opened 18 rooms of their magnificent house to the public.
Throughout their ownership the family have supported artists and writers one of which was the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke who produced some of his best work while residing at the castle.
There is a fantastic Palladio staircase that winds up through the house leading you into rooms with fantastic views along the coast towards Trieste.
These rooms contained many interesting artefacts including famous musical instruments one of which was a forte-piano made in 1810 which was played by Franz List when he stayed at the house as a guest of the family.
In the grounds of the castle is a German second world war bunker cut deep into the hillside and accessed by a steep, rough stone staircase.
When we left the castle we drove along the coast road to Trieste for lunch before heading back to the house for a well earned cup of tea and a bickie.
It was to be our last evening together as Alan and Wendy were flying back to England the following day so we enjoyed a very nice meal later that evening in Gran Osteria Tre Noci which is a very good restaurant in the hotel in Sistiana.
We had a great evening and it was a nice way to end a very good week with our parents.
Alan and Wendy’s flight wasn’t until late afternoon so we put their bags in the van before driving to the famous fortified town of Palmanova.
Work began in 1593 on a revolutionary type of fortified town comprising of outer defensive walls in the shape of a 9 pointed star.
The idea was that the soldiers along the points of the star could help defend each other.
A moat surrounds the town with only 3 gates crossing the water providing access and egress.
The centre of town is taken up with a huge flat area, like a parade ground called the Piazza Grande.
The town and it's surrounding area has been fought over many times by the Venetian, Napoleonic, Austrian and finally the Italian armies.
All of the buildings within the walls are only two or three stories high so that they can’t be seen from someone outside of the walls. Even the new ones!!
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to see in the town apart from the defensive walls and it was a bit of a walk so the parents contented themselves with a coffee in the sun while Claire and I went to stand and marvel at the extent of the fortifications.
On the way to Trieste airport we drove through Aquileia, at one time one of the largest cities in the world during Roman times.
We didn’t really have time to stop but we will return.
Wendy and Alan caught their flight and we returned to the house with my mum and dad for their last night in Italy.
We went out for a pizza at the bowling alley in Sistiana which was surprisingly nice.
The following morning we checked out of the house before driving my parents back to Venice airport along the B roads which took us through the wonderful scenery of Northern Italy.
We got to the airport on time, walking with my parents to the departure’s barrier before saying our goodbye’s. As with Alan and Wendy we were sad to see them leave but we’ve all had a wonderful week.