Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferragosto 2014

Ferragosto Friday dawned quietly and gorgeously in Santa Domenica Talao
My life partner and intrepid blog writer/editor thinks it's funny that someone who avoids crowds of people wanted to go report on crowds! In Italy, like France, August is when much of the population takes its annual holiday. Our neighboring town of Scalea (where we do much of our business and shopping) has a permanent population of about 10,000 inhabitants. In August, another 20,000 people arrive from Napoli and Roma to use their holiday apartments that sit vacant for 11 months.
Coming down the hill into Scalea ..great view of the Beaches in full summer 

I went out Friday morning to record some beach scenes. Many people actually reserve spots at their favorite lido a year in advance and space can be limited.  The beach was not as busy as I anticipated, but it was only 28 degrees and the sea had big swells breaking. I believe that many Italians are afraid of the sea, so when it gets choppy or with swells, they shy away instead of playing in the water. 

Only a few souls were playing this day. We would have enjoyed it had we gone to swim Friday. You can get an idea how the free public beaches look as well as the many commercial lidi.

I was going to comment on the variety of male and female bathing costumes, but for once, I kept my mouth closed.

Beach vendors are found everywhere we have been in Italy. They normally are from Pakistan, India or Africa. Some have been in our language class briefly. Walking up and down the long black sand beaches all day has to be a very hot, tough job. 

Over the years, we have never been to Scalea on Ferragosto when many people are out playing until the wee hours, so we decided to try it...the most important summer day in Italy. All August nights in Scalea are busy say some people we’ve heard from. Because we are morning people, the question was how to stay up late to see Scalea nightlife? We finish dinner about 20:00 and most entertainment begins at 22:30.

We decided to try going to bed, then wake up for the peak of the evening. 23:30 was probably a bit late because as soon as we awoke, the big fireworks display in Scalea began, followed by about 7 others done by other communities or beach lidi. Great to view from our terrace, but we didn’t get close-up photos.

The piazza 58 steps from our house in Santa Domenica as we walked to the car. We missed what probably was a nice mellow concert there judging by the number of older folks leaving as we headed out!

The Beach Scene in Scalea at Midnight

There is plenty of nightlife in Scalea and every other town on the Calabrian coastline in the summer. Small towns like our’s also put together a range of entertainment for citizens and visitors in August. It truly is a time for enjoying the outdoor evenings.  At my age however, staying closer to home - in walking distance of the bed - is piĆ¹ oculato (more prudent). Di had to remind me that we were looking for the crowds, so she pointed me to the most crowded streets on the way to the beach area from the downtown pedestrian mall. I intuitively started for the roundabout route. I'm normally very good at avoiding crowds.

These are scenes from the pedonale near Piazza Calobrese. Folks were relaxing at bars, gelateria, looking at the stuff for sale on the street, walking children in strollers, etc.

The more active and youthful restaurants and bars are on the beach. This kidee carnival remains in place most of the year, but is used only at nights  in the summer. It’s a good training ground to teach kids how to stay up late! Virtually every party, dinner or event that we have been to includes kids even if they are still up after midnight.

Ahhh, such a nice wholesome gathering of teenagers on the beach. I don’t know if they could see their phone screens in the dark! The point here is that they were not drinking anything other than water. I’ve been told that the drinking age for beer and wine is 16, and for spirits it is 18. 

Occasionally we see kids sipping beer, but not often. I won’t tell you how bad I was at that age with a group of my peers.  

The same minimal drinking thing can be said about the adults. I didn’t push anyone’s privacy with the camera, but the majority of folks at tables were enjoying gelato or drinking caffe’. A few had empty beer bottles or wine glasses. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Palazzi of Santa Domenica Talao

When we first moved to the area, to say we were ignorant of its history is a bit of an understatement. As we began to study it in our Italian language class, we were confused and astonished at its complexity. Pre-historic peoples lived and died here, the ancient Greeks used this land for pasture, close-by in Papasidero, there is a Byzantine Church (Byzantium was the ancient Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire headquartered in Byzantium, New Rome, Constantinople, or Istanbul--to name most of its names). 

Some of the history is human behavior we can readily understand, here in Santa Domenica Talao, rich people built large homes (palazzi) to take advantage of the clean air and views to the sea just as we are today. The oldest of these were built during the period of the Enlightenment (1650-1800) which dawned following the Italian Renaissance and died with the violence of the French Revolution. 

We are living here at a time of rebuilding. It's wonderful to see some of these being restored while others have been split into separate apartments for a long time. Learning more of the history made these places more meaningful to us. Hope you can find them someday yourselves! This tour begins in the Piazza Popolo just behind the Church, goes through Centro Storico to the road to the cemetary, then back through Centro to the main piazza, Italia, or back to the main parking lot if you prefer:

1) Palazzo Lamboglia
This home was built around 1700. Its front door is called a Portone which is a very tall decorated arched entry usually with an iron grill covering the glass at the top. Our house (and many others around town) have copied this handsome style to lesser or greater levels of grandeur. Nothing says home better than a Portone.

Lamboglia houses at least two apartments, a butcher's shop (macelleria), and a bar/tabacco shop. A kind signora (who used to live in our neighborhood) showed me her apartment. Quite lovely and livable with a balcony overlooking the main piazza. Never a dull moment living there, I presume.

2) Perrone
This is the biggest and contains many apartments nowadays. The old Portone shown to the left was built with the building in about 1600. It is located behind the Church along the main road through town. The building is hard to miss but knowing its history can be missed for a long time...

3) Trifiglio
Near Perrone is Trifiglio--the name alludes to the fact that it was built by three brothers (tri-son...) around the end of the 1600's.

When you walk mindlessly through town, you may not be aware that this building has two main entrances, one in the back (shown to the left) and one in the front near the Church.

4) Palazzo Schiffino
The plaque on this huge Palazzo right next to the Church speaks of an illustrious family starting with Saverio Schiffino who apparently was a justice on the supreme court of the Bourbon king Ferdinand (Spain). We have seen restortation activities here. We hope we'll be here when it's done. It's a great place that goes forever (see below) around the corner from the main Portone.

Palazzo Campagna is being restored right now, it is partly empty and partly inhabited

This interesting plaque on 5) Palazzo Campagna says that Pasquale Campagna, a doctor and pharmacist lived in the 19th century and participated in the expedition of Garibaldi. However, the building was built in the 17th century (which it looks more like) in the baroque style (the gargoyles and mermaids on the loggiato shown to the left). Does this mean some missing history?? We'll have to ask our town's architect some day. He promised us a Palazzo tour but we never bothered him about it.

6) Nardi
Many of the older Palazzi are in need of restoration. This one doesn't show signs of any action in that direction. We love to see the restorations but also enjoy the feeling of passing time that the old ruins exude.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Return to Sicilia--le isole Eolie

Small boat port at Vulcano with Isola di Filicudi in background

Since visiting Sicily a couple of years ago, we have done some studying in Italian language class about this part of Italy which has strong ties to Greece--and if you know your Homer, very romantic poems written about it.

According to a Brief History of the Aeolian Islands written by some Eoliani (people of the islands) these islands were named after Aeolus, the Greek God of the Winds and the island Vulcano after the God of the Fire. It's fun to experience places like this that you have heard about all your life--though you never gave much thought to the fact that it's a REAL place (even if Ulysses never really met Polyphemus there).

Nevertheless, this was not one of our better-planned trips. We could have done better. We agreed to return to Sicilia--this time to the Aeolian Islands, but our planning did not go too much further! As a start, Guido  made an expensive mistake with the online purchase of ferry tickets from Milazzo to the Isola di Lipari, one of the islands of the Aeolian group.  He didn't notice that the destination and the departure locations were switched, so our tickets were no good. Good start, huh? By the way, the company refused us a refund because the trip "was in the past". We told them that using their website was also in the past and won't be in our future. Read on and perhaps you can learn from our trip, the good and the not so great. 

Leaving Calabria at Villa San Giovanni on the way to Messina

Port of Milazzo

The island of Lipari (LEE-par-ee) is just 162km from our home and we can sometimes see it along with Stromboli and Salina when the air is very clear. Getting there by car using two ferries took 12 hours going, including a 1-hour detour on the A3 autostrada. It was slightly better coming home with 9 hours of travel. Still, a lot of travel for two days.

By taking a car, we limited ourselves to much slower ferries to Lipari. It was about 2-1/2 hours including a stop at the first island of Vulcano. A hydrofoil ferry does it in an hour or so.

Arriving in Vulcano in the early evening gave us nice views of boats, volcanoes etc. Many boaters visit the area and cruise from island to island at their leisure.

Between Vulcano and Lipari

We found the Hotel Aktea to be a nice, quiet place -- just a 10-minute walk from the port and all the tourism businesses of the town. We enjoyed learning about the area. We enjoyed every restaurant we ate in (unusual for us), and the hotel was relaxing with friendly staff. No great view though. 

They have a quality pool that we did not try being sea people but it was great to have a drink there and wait for dinner to be served. 

The side streets of Lipari are narrow and shady

The second day we drove the road around Lipari. It is 26 km and took 1 hour including stops! The truth is, we could have left the car in Milazzo and used tour buses, public buses, or even rental motor scooters – all for much less cost than taking the Renault on a ferry. 

We spotted the isolated beach below, but did not dare drive the car to it.  We later discovered that small boats from Canneto take you to that isolated spot.

The beach we only saw from above
Lipari used to have a large pumice mining and export industry. It appears that tourism is now the dominant business. Our mythical beach (we never reached) is in part a remnant of the mining business.

Isola di Salina is famous for hot springs and spas
The majority of people visiting this area come to Vulcano, Lipari or Salina, then take smaller tour boats to other islands, like Stromboli, for hiking, etc.  (small boat)  We figured we would get bored and sore riding a small boat for hours in each direction in the baking sun. Besides, Guido worked for 20 years on a volcano in America called Mount Hood. Okay, not such a good reason to be negative about it. Di figured that if you found just the right boat with just the right tour, it would be heavenly--how do you do that unless first you take the trip to find it! We haven't used tour books for years as the info is always sketchy and dated, the internet is great for some places but I guess we didn't go deep enough. Next time?

Lido at Canneto where we spent a peaceful day
Panarea on left, Stromboli right above the kids

The second day we drove to a lido in Canneto and enjoyed the sun, sea and views, and there was a nice restaurant across the street.  To our English speaking friends, remember in the Italian language, there is no “long i”.  So a lido (commercial beach) is "lee-doe"! 

Guido "Gwee-doe".
Smaller island tour boat

Crater above Vulcano port - note steam and sulfur stains
The Aeolian Islands in the wake of our ferry


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