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E + 10 : Oggi Chiuso

We stayed at Roccelle Jonica for the night and woke up to this spectacular view

Another beautiful day on Calabria’s East Coast. At seven, the sea is flat like a mirror – it will change in a few hours when thermal winds kick in. But for now, it is quiet, the beaches are empty, a few muffled sounds come across from Roccella Jonica, which is just waking up. One of the prominent parts of the town is Roccella’s Carafa castle. Some call it elegant – I’d call it formidable. It definitely left an impression on Dragut, Corsair and future Commander in Chief of the Ottoman fleet, who tried but failed taking it. The defenders must have given him a bloody nose.

The Octagonal Castel del Monte in Puglia - probably the best-know Swabian Castle

Carafa castle dates back to the 13th century when the German Emperor Friedrich I or Federico Barbarossa tried to conquer Southern Italy and Sicily for the Holy Roman Empire. The Norman Knights did not approve and fought back. The German Emperors had to build a few castles to fortify their position. The most beautiful is the octagonal Castel del Monte in Puglia. Roccella Castle was another one, strategically placed to secure the lines of communication to Sicily. The plans to conquer Sicily came to naught though but the Swabian Castle is still here. It was later enlarged by the Carafa Family, a prominent local dynasty of Cardinals, one Pope, many dukes and close allies to the Spanish Crown.

View taken by our Drone - the AFAET is to the left of CARAFA Castle

Intrigued by its history and towering position over Roccella, we got our tender ready for the first amphibious expedition today. With the drone at hand, we climbed up the castle hill. Took only 2’700 steps. The castle was closed though. “Oggi Chiuso” – “Closed today” read the note on the iron gate. The castle is open to the public Saturday and Sunday. Now that it is refurbished with EU money, it does not need paying visitors any longer. They are anyway a nuisance. Would it not be a far better idea to close it forever and offer Zoom visits instead? This would also be more equitable. Nobody would have to travel. “Oggi Chiuso” may be a visionary idea. It was time to start the drone and “fly” over the fence. The castle was as spectacular as expected. “Oggi Chiuso” did not apply to our drone. Ha!

The Ruins of the Greek Theatre in Scylletium ...

Being ahead of schedule, we sailed north to visit the mystery town of Scylletium. Its origin are lost. There are some sources claiming it was an Athenian colony. But there are no written records. Not even Hannibal who spent many years in the area mentions its name. It has a Greek theatre though and is located in a rich, agricultural area. Definitely worth a visit. We started our second amphibious expedition and landed on the beach closest to Scylletium. It was a 15 min walk to the site which is now an “Museo e Parco Archeologico Nazionale”. Sounded impressive. “Oggi Chiuso” said a sign at the ticket office. We marveled about the efficient coordination of Italian State Agencies, unpacked the drone, did a fly-by visit and headed back to the tender which waited on the beach.

... and the remains of the Roman Basilica as seen from our Drone

We continued our journey north and set sail to reach Le Castella where we would stop for the night. The place was fortified in ancient times and apparently used by Hannibal as winter quarter from 216 – 203 BC when he fought the Romans in Southern Italy. The new Marina in Le Castella was too shallow though for the AFAET. She had to anchor at a safe distance whilst we embarked on our third amphibious expedition. We wanted to visit Hannibal’s castle in the sea. It was modernized by the Spanish in the 16th century to better defend Le Castella against Turkish Corsair attacks. The now well-known sign “Oggi Chiuso” greeted us at the castle’s entrance as well - amazing! It was thus drone time again. Does Brussels audited how the funds to develop tourism are actually used? We wondered.

The Castle in Le Castella as seen from the Ground ...

... and as seen from the air. We should learn how to fly the Drone inside :-)

After taking our usual fly-by photos, we happily returned to the AFAET and were delighted that our chef did not apply “Oggi Chiuso” to his kitchen. The beautiful moon was our companion for dinner - he had no "Oggi Chiuso" sign either.

NB: Walking back to the marina we came across a memorial dedicated to Kilic Ali-Occhialli in Le Castella’s town square. Kilic was born in Le Castella and taken prisoner as a young boy. He converted to Islam and had a stunning career as a freelance corsair, raiding and pillaging the coast of Southern Italy and enslaving its innocent people. Later he became Dragut’s key lieutenant and actively participated in his boss’ atrocities. After Dragut was killed during the siege of Malta in 1565, Kilic succeeded him. With his galleys Kilic also fought on the Ottoman side in the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Wonder how anybody can honor such an “infamous” son with a memorial – we should not forget about bad people but they do not deserve a bust.

The crazy Memorial for Le Castella's infamous son

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