After Lipari and Stromboli, we went back to Salina. The first time we didn’t have time to go to Lingua and the famous Da Alfredo, recommended by everyone from the Lonely Planet to cookbook authors and the Guardian for homemade granite and oversized open sandwiches. We sampled both, with a spot of jellyfish-hunting in between.
We never managed to visit all of the Aeolian Islands but in the end I didn’t need to see them all to know which one was my favourite.
Stromboli was the first one I ever went to and none of the others could match it for me. The little lanes too narrow for cars, replaced by three wheeled taxi trucks; the shimmering black sand; strombolicchio and its white lighthouse; the painted ceramics everywhere; the big bearded pirates and shoeless hippies; all under the smoking crater.
Only three hours from Milazzo on the aliscafo but as far away in spirit as it’s possible to be. Whilst on one hand it’s as absurd as someone from Brighton never having been to London, it’s actually no wonder that half the Milazzozzizis have never made the trip.
We’ve been back just over two months but unlike when we were in Sicily, where long days stretched out ahead of us here in Brighton things are usually busy.
This weekend I’ve had some time to sort out the last batch of photos. It feels like the closing chapter of a book that started off well then deteriorated quite severely into page upon page of boredom and frustration but nonetheless managed to end on a high note - that being a lovely week of island-hopping before returning home.
We spent a few days on Lipari, which must have been our fourth or fifth visit. Milazzo people like Lipari because they think it’s just like Milazzo. In reality it’s much much nicer, and it comes with lots of opportunities for photographing some of my favourite things: Little boats, shutters and balconies, rooftops, painted doors, blue seas and blue skies, pirates and good things to eat. Here are the best of the pictures.
We spent a weekend on Salina, which has the highest peak of all the Aeolian Islands. At 968m, it’s higher than England’s highest mountain, but admitedly on the small size for a mountain generally speaking.
We decided to climb it, despite not having the special boots or poles that all the other tourists on the bus to the starting point were wearing. They had special boots and poles - I had Toms and a sturdy branch that I picked up from the ground.
There are marked trails all over the island, winding through forests and over rocks. We followed a route from Valdichiesa to the peak of Monte Fossi delle Felci. I think the first official mountain that I’ve climbed to the top of. I think I’d like to go up some others. Maybe I should get some special boots.
Prima volta in barca a vela..
Last weekend my boss took us sailing, a little voyage out to the islands. We saw some lovely parts of Vulcano and Lipari that you can’t reach without your own boat. The swaying, even on calm waters, made me feel a little wobbly on the inside but fortunately I wasn’t called upon to assist with the pulling of ropes or tying of knots.
We visitied Lipari this weekend…
I had been once before, but with only enough time for a quick look around before going on to Stromboli, where I spent the rest of a fantastic weekend taking photographs of blue doors, reading Treasure Island and daydreaming about pirates.
skull and crossbones
Lipari has had it’s fair share of pirates it turns out, whose attacks eventually prompted the construction of the mighty citadel walls in 1556. The fact that I had to refer to Wikipedia to pass any kind of comment on this once again demonstrates my lamentable lack of knowledge when it comes to history.
I am making an effort to visit all seven islands this year. Having already returned to Stromboli, and spent the day on Vulcano climbing to the crater, that only leaves four to go: Panarea, alledgedly favoured by the rich and famous; Salina, unspoilt and traditional; Filicudi, population down to 250 souls following mass emigration in the 1950s; and Alicudi, end of the line, where mules replace motor vehicles and they’ve only had electricity for 15 years. Peversely, due to the poor state of Italian public transport and our living so close to the port, it is definitely easier and perhaps even quicker to reach this remote place that Palermo, the island’s capital.
from the climb to the crater on Vucano, Lipari in the distance
What am I going to do on an island like Alicudi? On which even the Rough Guide can only muster a paragraph’s description - although this can hardly be Alicudi’s fault, and is probably due to a lack of churches to fill up the page space. The answer is wander, take pictures of the boats, daydream.
little boat on the beach, Lipari
There is something about little boats and island life that attracts me. Maybe it’s all the books I read and loved when I was young: Enid Blyton’s The Secret Island - children runaway from cruel guardians and live self sufficiently by their own wits and talents. Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons - brave explorers, untrustworthy natives, the jolly roger, pemmican. Jostein Gaarder’s The Solitaire Mystery - shipwrecked sailor and a pack of cards. I want to bring all three back with me after Christmas and read them all over again.
When is one too old to read children’s literature? One of my favourite bloggers wrote a cook book about food from children’s literature - tuck boxes, midnight feasts and the like - the research for which necessitated reading and re-reading titles intended for pre-teenagers. I hope island hopping is as valid an excuse.
I Morti, or Day of the Dead, is a national holiday in Italy. Traditionally Italians go to the cemetaries, visit the graves of loved ones lost . It seems to be more of a day of good natured remembering and an excuse to eat a special kind of cake than anything sad or mournful. In anycase it means a day off less than a month after term starts, which can only be a good thing.
What with having no-one to visit in the cimeterio we used it to take a day trip to Vulcano, the nearest of the Aeolian islands, visible from the beach outside our flat, from which vulcanoes in general took their name.
Having hosted a few travellers since arriving in Milazzo, I decided it was time to try out the other side of couchsurfing. It seems about time that I get round to visiting the Aeolian Islands, which have been sitting invitingly on my doorstep since January, and a kind lady who lives on Stromboli accepts my request. She lives in whitewashed house built into the hillside, accessed via a secret path through the trees, with an unobstructed view of the summit.
There are no cars on the island. Only bicycles, scooters and the three wheeled trucks usually used for transporting vegetables, here sometimes kitted out with seats and an awning, golf-buggy style, to make a kind of taxi. It is maybe the most peaceful place I have been all year.
Monica, my host, has lived here for 25 years, and slowly over that time has renovated the originally roofless structure and filled it with beautiful things: treasure chests, storm lanterns, ceramics everywhere. The whole places reminds me of something I might see on pinterest.
Monica picks capers from her bush - apparently the largest in all Stromboli - and tells me about the other things that grow here. Lemons (in evidence on the tree), almonds, tangerines, rocket, wild fennel, basil, olives and an as yet unidentified fruit growing for the first time on a previously barren tree. She has had an interesting life, with jobs ranging from anthropologist, to cooking on a sailing boat and now teaching Italian to foreigners in Napoli. We share a dislike of washing up and Bogota and a love of sunshine and the sea.
I wander round the streets of Stromboli town and take photographs of the blue doors and painted ceramic name plates people here use instead of house numbers. I sit on the black beach amid the boats and read a few chapters of treasure island, feeling suitably piratical.
We eat pizza together, made by a real Neopolitan, who it turns out is also the highlight of the musical entertainment at the local bar. I meet some of Monica’s friends, who [unintentionally] make me feel bad about my lack of progress with Italian of late. I sleep in a mezzanine bedroom in the silent Strombolian night with nothing but the vulcanology observation room between me and the crater.