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"! 

Later,
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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