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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recycling Calabria

Scalea Centro Storico
The natural beauty and the beauty of the people of Calabria attracted us to embark on a new life adventure here. Yes, our eyes were full of the stars that only visitors to a new and seductive place can create for themselves. We also knew we would find the serpents lurking in this (and every) paradise. This is the story of the rubbish serpent. 

The Problem
Scalea This Year
Unfortunately not everything you see these days is beautiful. The past two years in Calabria have seen a rifiuti (rubbish) crisis in towns large and small. Cosenza, Catanzaro, Crotone, Reggio Calabria and also our neighbor, Scalea (featured below), have had ugly piles in their streets. We could rarely read a daily newspaper that did not contain at least one article about the rifiuti crisis. The main problem is that Calabria ran out of landfills. They filled up and closed, so  new places to haul the rubbish were frantically sought. For a while much was trucked to Tuscany and Abruzzo (very expensive hauling). Then for a short time a landfill was available near Catanzaro, but that soon was filled and backups created more piles. Recent mafia arrests in the Scalea community government added to a general leadership vacuum.

Scalea South Side
A cultural and language barrier prevents us from a full understanding but it seems to us that the Provincial governments of Crotone, Cosenza, Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria and Vibo Valentia failed badly to plan for replacement landfills. Another aspect of the whole situation is the European Union requirement for member countries to reduce the amount of municipal waste placed in landfills by implementing recycling programs. We may not be totally correct in all our interpretations of Italian newspapers and even what we hear from officials. If our Italian readers have corrections, please send them.

You can read in the two reports attached here and here how the wealthy northern regions are doing fairly well while the poor southern regions lag behind. Sicily is the worst followed by Calabria.

In the much larger and wealthier city of Trieste, we looked at these rubbish disposal stations. Material dropped into these things actually goes into an underground room where it is out-of-sight and cleared away in some sort of tunnel system!

To The Rescue
We are proud to now have one of the first recycling plants in the industrial park of Santa Domenica Talao. To our knowledge, there is only one other like this one in Cosenza, in Calabria. BUT, the incentive is there for more to be built – maybe by the same company if they are profitable. 

This company, Multiservizi Igiene Ambientale  (M.I.A.) has only been operating its new facility for several weeks. They plan to serve most of the towns in the coastal region. They already have 15-20 towns under contract to bring waste to the site. The only materials they do not accept are hazardous waste and wet organics. This means the towns must still have a landfill option for organic materials.

The photo above features a large grinder that will take mattresses, television sets, refrigerators, wood and plastic, and grinds it into a mix that can be burnt for electricity generation and other applications.

Plastics, Glass and Aluminum
The facility is not like one in the US or maybe the UK. This is a Phase 1 separation site where they separate materials, compress it into bales and ship those bales north to companies that further process it into other materials, recycled cardboard/paper, burn it, ecc. The citizens in the towns are required to dispose of certain materials on designated days so every town is sending the same type of rubbish to the plant each day.

In-coming rubbish is weighed on a truck scales .

We like the fact that this plant requires manual separation work because this creates jobs. There are currently 12 people working here. It doesn’t sound like much, but in Calabria, fulltime, year-round jobs are precious. Welcome M.I.A.!

The company has a very nice modern classroom in the facility for employee training, and it is open to the local schools for environmental education classes. We wish our Italian language classroom had such comfortable desks and chairs – maybe Guido would learn more!!

All of these changes affect the residents. Santa Domenica adjusted fairly well being a small village. Scalea is coming along, but there is still resistance to change and folks continue to throw mixed rubbish where it should not be. In August when 20,000 holiday homeowners arrive, there will be quite an interesting learning curve! This time next year, we believe it will be much better for all. We know the rubbish contractor in Scalea is having customer service problems when they issue the special bags to residents – badly under-staffed. Today when Doug drove by their office across from the Bata/Oviesse stores, the blinds were down and the door locked. 

There still is an urgent need for provinicial governments to purchase and develop new landfills and we don’t know if anyone is working on that issue.

Calabria is still one of the most beautiful places in Italy. We are hopeful that the region will soon adapt to new waste management methods. Piano, piano

Guido e Diana

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sapori Divini

Tourist season is approaching and we have an idea if you are thinking of visiting Scalea or Santa Domenica this season. There is a new business in town brought to us by the inspiration of our neighbors, Giovanni and Angela.

The day of the grand opening, parents were dressed in their best and young Alfonso entertained visitors playing his little accordion.

The shop, Sapori Divini literally means divine tastes. They sell bulk and bottled wine, dried fruits and vegetables and jars of other typical foods of Calabria.

The bulk wine (sfuso) comes from a company in Veneto, the region of Venezia and is a great buy at €2,20 a litre.


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