We recently took a short drive to the nearby picturesque seaside resort of Gaeta, during the Yacht Med Festival which was being held between 20th and 29th April.
Gaeta has ancient maritime traditions as it has long been an important port of trade, a key export being “Itrana” Olives, which are more commonly known as “Gaeta Olives” . The Gulf of Gaeta has a spectacular backdrop as the Aurunci Mountains tumble down to meet the sea.
This Mediterranean festival was to focus on the economy of the sea, sailing, fishing, the environment, culture and tourism. Along the long seafront boulevard there were numerous exhibition stands promoting an array of products and services related to these themes.
On show were of course many boats of all shapes, sizes and prices.
The Guardia di Finanza had opened one of their training ships to the public.
For the first time we were also to enter the premises of the Guardia di Finanza’s Scuola Nautica at the end of the peninsular known as Punta Stendardo. It was most interesting to see the beautiful old town and its cathedral from new vantage points, which gave the vistas an entirely new perspective.
Here on show were martime exhibits including a model of the John Cabot’s (or Giovanni Cabot0’s) ship the “Matthew”. It is believed that he was born in Gaeta, although other sources give his birthplace as Genoa. He became an English navigator and explorer, having settled in Bristol in the 1490’s. He set sail from Bristol in May 1497, and landed in June on what is now called Cape Breton Island. Then he sailed along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and New England, believing that he had reached north-western Asia.
Across the bay echoed the sound of strong rhythmical drumming. As we wandered back through the old town it became apparent that the reverberations were emanating from a troop of drummers and flag throwers, dressed in colourful medieval costumes.
We looked on as the sbandieratori seemingly effortlessly waved, twirled and tossed their heraldic standards into the air.
Traditionally, in times gone by, such bands of brave men would have lead their troops into battle.
Returning to matters nautical – Gaeta is the home port of the 6th Fleet Flagship USS Mount Whitney.
On the 20th May Gaeta will be in the forefront of the sailing news, as it is to be the starting point of the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race. From Gaeta the crews will race past the Pontine Islands and reach Capri to complete the first leg of the event. After the stop-over on the Isola Azzurra, the boats then race across the Tyrrhenian Sea and towards the Aeolian Islands which include Stromboli, Vulcano and Alicudi, a volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily. The long distance race of more than 400 nautical miles will finish at the beautiful Island of Capri.
We wish all the contestants fair winds and God speed.
By the way – I have recently updated my webpages about the beautiful and interesting town of Gaeta – Please do take a minute or two to take a look:
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott