Off to Lipari
05.30.2015 - 05.30.2015 77 °F
Saturday is one of those Shakespeare days…”parting is such sweet sorrow”. We were up VERY early to catch a 9:40 flight to Reggio di Calabria, an airport on the easternmost edge of Sicily. We had an early breakfast, hugged the staff and those fellow students who were up with us and departed for the Rome airport…our driver being Paolo, probably the staff person who speaks the least English. But his English is better than my Italian. It used to be better, but I have spent too much time in Mexico the last few years.
The Brewers had a similarly timed flight to Nice, so we rode together with the two honeymooners who advised that they had been out with the staff at Mama’s, a bar and restaurant not far from CG, until 3am. They were on their way to Florence for three days to complete their honeymoon.
There was a little delay in getting to the airport and we were getting a little nervous. Once we arrived, we were not quite sure where to go, and once we found out where to go, there was a huge line. It was now about 8:45 and as I walked to the back of that line I thought there was no way we could make that plane…still having to go through security which is always an adventure for me. So I turned to talk to Margaret and she wasn’t there. Then I saw her waving at me…from the priority boarding line which had three people waiting. She beckoned me and I faithfully made my way to her. I told her we did not have priority boarding and she said, “Just act like a dumb American.” “I can do that pretty easily”, I replied. Ten minutes later we were at the counter and the agent never blinked an eye. We got to the gate in time to board. He flight to Reggio is only 55 minutes.
We arrived in Reggio and needed a cab to catch the hydrofoil to one of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari, which is to be out first stop in Sicily. Getting our luggage onto and off of the hydrofoil was a major challenge, but a crew member provided some assistance. As I type this, we are on the hydrofoil, chugging our way to our destination, the Hotel Bouganville. More later.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the northern coast of Sicily, and the name of the island's main town. Its population is 11,231, but during the May to September tourist season, the total population may reach up to 20,000. The main focus is Lipari Town, a busy little port with a pretty, pastel-colored seafront, it makes the most convenient base for island hopping. Away from the town, Lipari reveals a rugged silent, windswept highlands, precipitous cliffs and dreamy blue/green waters.
Named after Liparus, the father-in-law of Aeolus (the Greek god of the winds), Lipari was settled in the 4th millennium BC by the Stentillenians, Sicily's first known inhabitants. These early islanders developed a flourishing economy based on obsidian, a glassy volcanic rock used to make primitive tools.
Commerce continued under the Greeks, but the arrival of the Romans in the 3rd century BC signaled the end of the islanders' good fortunes. The Roman authorities were in a vengeful mood after the islanders had sided against them in the First Punic War, and reduced the island to a state of poverty through punitive taxation.
Over the ensuing centuries, volcanic eruptions and pirate attacks – most famously in 1544, when Barbarossa burnt Lipari Town to the ground and took off with most of its female population – kept the islanders in a state of constant fear.
Unremitting poverty ensured large-scale emigration, which continued until well into the 20th century, leaving the island remote and unwanted. During Italy's fascist period in the 1930s, Mussolini used Lipari Town's castle to imprison his political opponents. Things gradually started to improve with the onset of tourism in the 1950s, and now Lipari sits at the heart of one of Sicily's most revered holiday destinations.
We settled into the Hotel Bouganville after being picked up at the port by the hotel shuttle. We were given room 210 which is a sea view double room with a terrace. The hotel is small with a nice pool area. There is a bar and restaurant. The staff is friendly and helpful. The room is adequate and very clean. There is a large terrace outside the room with chaise lounges a table and chairs…excellent for dominoes.
Having left our Tonic at CG, Margaret was pleased to find it in the mini bar in the room. We had cocktails on the terrace overlooking the blue sea and did some research on restaurants for dinner. We settled on La Conchiglia which turned out to be a very nice trattoria right on the water at the wharf. I was a little concerned when I was informed online that the earliest reservation was 8pm and we showed up at 7:30 and the place was empty. Perhaps they were discouraging customers prior to 8, although the place was probably hopping at 10! We were given a very nice table right by the front door with beautiful views of the sea. I had prosciutto and melon to start and spaghetti carbonara to finish. Both were excellent. Margaret had a so-so antipasti plate and pasta with tomato, capers and eggplant which she liked.
After dinner we took a walk on the main drag of town, Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle, which stretches for about a mile and contains many shops, cafes, bars, boutiques and specialty food stores. The street was packed with locals and tourists and there were bands playing. We wandered the street for about an hour and found a market where we stocked up on tonic water AND limes. A beautiful island and charming seaside village. Buona sera.