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.
A pizza snob’s top tips, with hilarious comments from guardian reading pizza eaters. Mr Naylor would be horrified if he saw some of the combinations not only available but frequently ordered around these parts. Oven chips and frankfurter sausages anyone?
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.
Source: Flickr / alison-louise
Spring is here. Since the drenching in Siracusa, it has mostly been lovely weather.
Etna errupting in the distance last weekend
Living beside the beach is finally starting to pay off. In less than two minutes from the front door, we can be at the water’s edge.
Sitting there, somehow the traffic noise from the road above and the ever present barking dogs become imperceptible and all you can hear is the lapping waves. Sometimes it’s so still there are almost no waves at all. Sometimes the sky and sea blend into one; hazy, shimmering and blue. It’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins.
Vulcano and Lipari in the distance
Sometimes it looks like someone has spilt milk, long stripes of pearly white on the surface of the water. Other times it looks like a holiday brochure for some exotic place, rings of colour getting gradually darker from turquoise green to inky blue. My photography skills aren’t up to the job of capturing the magic.
A storm in Siracusa
It’s 10pm on Friday night, and a storm is brewing over Siracusa. We’ve found the hotel that I booked and we’ve rung the bell. Twice, and then three times, with no answer. I dig out the booking confirmation, and dial the hotel’s number. No answer there either. Starting to wonder how long it’s going to be before it starts raining, I call booking.com’s customer service line and a cheery American informs me that as it’s after 8pm I can’t expect anyone to be at the hotel as their stated check-in hours end then. I’m a little confused by this, my understanding of the terms “24 hour front desk” and “hotel” to mean a place where in exchange for your money, you are permitted to come and go at whatever hour you please; but now that it’s apparent that we’ll have to find somewhere else to stay I have to save my anger at such ineptitude for later.
The American finds some alternative hotels, and says unhelpful things like “it looks like it’s four blocks north and six blocks east from where you are” - the whole world isn’t laid out on a grid system, medieval european cities certainly weren’t, and I wasn’t aware that a compass, as well as a plan B hotel reservation were necessary items for a weekend away. She tries to call them to enquire about availability, but given that she can’t speak Italian, I end up calling them myself. I ask a barman for directions to the new hotel, and the rest of the night passes without incident.
It’s approaching lunch time on Saturday, and the storm over Siracusa is now in full force. We are walking through Ortygia, looking for our couchsurfing host’s shop. Seeing how wet and dishevelled we are, she offers to take us straight to her home, which turns out to be a beautiful flat filled with lovely things they have made themselves on the top floor of an old palazzo. Helene and Dino discovered couchsurfing through their daughter, who has moved to Bologna for university. Helene has a workshop in Ortygia where she makes beautiful things from silk. Dino works at the archeological museum, restoring ancient things.
What incredible hosts. They let us practice our bad Italian, despite speaking good English themselves, cooked for us, included us in a big Sunday dinner at the home of a friend, put on films for us to watch while the rain poured down. Helene took us on a guided tour of Ortygia when the rain eventually stopped. Dino taught me what wild asparagus looks like, and explained how he had made some of the beautiful things around their home. Despite the worst weather since 1983, that being a year before I was born, I had a lovely weekend.
storm clouds over Ortygia
Couchsurfing: Meeting people on the internet, inviting them into your home, letting them stay for free. It’s the sort of thing it’s easy to be skepticle about…
Not the right time
Last week, I went to the supermarket twice. The first time - around 1 o’clock, just before closing time - I was surprised by how easy it was to navigate the narrow aisles, indeed even when I reached the cheese counter there wasn’t a single soul waiting. I had paid and left within 10 minutes of arriving. The second time - mid morning - was sadly a more typical experience. Middle aged ladies with bulging baskets pushing past and obstructing my way in equal measure, a scrum around the cheese counter and an epic queue for the one open checkout.
Anyone who’s ever read a book about Italy can tell you that Italians have strict rules about coffee. The big cliche - which is no less true for being called upon by every writer under the sun in attempt to show us how very far beneath the surface they have scratched - is that cappuccino is only for drinking at breakfast time and that this rule is only broken by idiot tourists from Germany or England who know no better. What often goes unmentioned is that “the right time” to do something extends far beyond drinking cappuccinos. 1pm is not the right time to go to the supermarket - the middle aged ladies are all at home by then, making lunch. And anyway, where would the fun be in going to the supermarket when no-one else is there? There’d be no-one to gossip with or about…