Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage 2 July 2022: Saturday on BBC Four

Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage 2 July 2022: Saturday on BBC Four 11

Crete – Episode 9 of 12 – Francesco da Mosto continues his sea tour around the Mediterranean. The stormy seas of the Cyclades take a turn for the worse as Francesco approaches Crete, the biggest of the Greek islands. As the storm passes, his first stop is the beautiful but abandoned island of Spinalonga – just off the coast of Crete. It is an island haunted by sadness and tragedy.

Docking at Iraklion, capital of Crete, Francesco sets off for the deep underground caves where Zeus, king of the gods, is reputed to have been born. Just down the road lies the immense palace of Knossus – excavated by an Englishman – reputedly the home to King Minos and the legendary Minotaur. There, he tries his hand at the ancient Cretan art of pot-making.

At the beautiful monastery of Arkadhi he stands in the very spot Cretan independence fighters blew themselves up with gunpowder rather than be captured. Their skulls, together with the remains of their enemies, are stacked on shelves in the monastery.

Then a surprise for Francesco – an invitation to a Cretan wedding – but first he must help prepare the wedding feast. With 1,500 guests invited, the task is enormous: 150 sheep make up the main course alone. Francesco dances until dawn and the boat has left Crete before he even knows it.

The Dodecanese – Episode 10 of 12 – Francesco da Mosto has been at sea for two months now as he travels from Venice to Istanbul. He approaches the last group of the Greek islands – the Dodecanese.

Rhodes was home to the legendary crusader knights of St John. Over the centuries, it was repeatedly caught up in fighting between the Christian and Islamic worlds, and even today it has the feel of a fortress island.

Next stop is the exotic Turquoise Coast. The coast is too shallow for the Black Swan to explore, so Francesco swaps boats and heads for the extraordinary Dalyan Tombs – great classical burial temples carved out of the high clifftops. They were deliberately carved high in the mountains so the spirits of the dead had less far to travel to heaven. On the way he encounters the huge loggerhead turtles of the region, which enjoy nothing more than crunching their way through the shells of giant crabs.

One of the most unexpected islands of the area – and an uncomfortable reminder for Francesco of his country’s recent past – is the island of Leros. Mussolini redesigned Leros as a launch pad for his dreams of a Fascist empire that would dominate the Mediterranean. He rebuilt the main town as a military town with wide straight boulevards for army parades.

Next stop is Patmos, where St John the Divine is said to have experienced his revelations that make up the Book of Revelation in the Bible – foretelling the end of the world and the final struggle between God and Satan. The Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos is said to be the actual site, and Francesco sees the crack in the roof of the cave out of which apparently the voice of God emerged.

And, at last, a surprise for Francesco renders him speechless.

About Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage

Architect and historian Francesco da Mosto embarks on a journey to cross the Mediterranean sea

This show is broadcast on BBC Four, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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