Hello From Sicily – Exploring Stromboli

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Due to bad weather yesterday we spent the entire day docked at Santa Marina di Salina but we had nevertheless a great experience during our driving tour of the island, with expert guidance provided by two locals. Our first Italian lesson had also progressed smoothly and a quiet dinner capped off an occasionally drizzly and grey day.

Well, today was another day, and when I peeked out of the sailboat bright and early I saw right away that we had clear skies today. This meant that we would be leaving Salina and sailing on to the next island in our linguistic sailing trip experience: Stromboli!

When I saw Franco, one of our Italian language teachers from Laboratorio Linguistico, come out of the on-board shower room wrapped in a towel, it crossed my mind that an Italian language learning trip aboard a sailboat is definitely a very unique experience. As a matter of fact, boat life really brings you close together, and notions of personal space and barriers of shyness seem to be decreasing the more time you spend on board with your shipmates.

It’s just that kind of environment, and it’s actually very refreshing to move outside one’s comfort zone and allow oneself to experience something completely different. This has been one of the beauties of this unique trip all along – the unique tight environment on the sailboat, six great ship mates (thank God!), and the beautiful experience of gliding through the Mediterranean waters from one beautiful island to another.

Our departure was planned for 10 am, so I took a quick walk through Santa Marina, indeed a very picturesque little place, particularly when lit up by the morning sun. I had a quick on-board breakfast before Herbert, one of my shipmates, departed. He had been feeling a bit sick for a while and was going to take one of the fast ferry boats, one of the “aliscafi” or hydrofoils to one of the other islands to visit a doctor and get some medication for his flu-like symptoms.

So the remaining six of us got ready to sail and we were out on the open waters by 11 am. Leaving Salina behind, we sailed past the island of Panarea which features a gently sloping mountain on the eastern side and a steep precipitous cliff on the western side. The weather could not have been any better. The sun was so bright I closed my eyes and started to fall asleep. All of a sudden this intense feeling of tiredness overcame me, it was as if all the accumulated stress from my life in Toronto was trying to unravel itself, so I retreated and lay down in my cabin.

When I woke up again we had actually reached our destination: Stromboli, another Eolian island, this one distinguished by an active volcano. We anchored our sailboat off shore since the island has no harbour, and Francesco, our skipper, got a little dingy ready that would carry us from the sailboat on shore. The dingy was barely big enough to hold three, definitely no more than four people, so in the first trip Francesco scooped up Claudia, Lorenzo and me while he steered the vessel.

I was of course planning to do lots of photography on the island, and I thought I just hope to God that we won’t tip over in this tiny inflatable vessel, since my camera and my memory cards would certainly be gone. But I should not have mistrusted the expertise and prudence of our captain: Francesco transported all six passengers safely to land without incident.

In my quest for photos I embarked on a solo discovery of Stromboli on foot, while Claudia and Lorenzo headed off into town as well. I walked by the waterfront, past a variety of shrubs, some industrial buildings and the lone electricity generating plant on the island to a promontory that looks out on a rock just off the coastline: Stromboliccio (little “Stromboli”), of course also of volcanic origin, is uninhabited but features a lighthouse.

From here I turned left and made my ascent into the town of Stromboli which stretches up along the foothills of the volcano. The roads are incredibly narrow, a regular car would definitely not fit on the roads, so all the vehicles are either motor scooters, tiny three-wheeled mini transport trucks with a cargo platform, or even golf carts. I snapped a few pictures of the various vehicles, and was rather amused when I saw the two local policemen – carabinieri – ride through town on a golf cart.

The village of Stromboli is located on a hill overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the main square features a viewing platform that provides a beautiful look over the sea. The Church of San Vincenzo overlooks the square, and on the left hand side is a restaurant with a large terrace offering a great view. A local politician was starting to make announcements for the upcoming mayoral elections and at 6 pm one of the main candidates would be making an appearance. Not many people listened to his speech since most of the people on the square were actually foreign tourists that had come off the ferries to stay for just a few hours. But he steadfastly continued on with his political message…

I stopped into a local outfitters shop that provided shoes and clothing for hikers, equipment appropriate for hiking up to the top of this active volcano. Various local operators provide guided hiking tours to visit the top of Stromboli which is in continuous eruption. This retail store also had Internet access, offering one rather antiquated machine tucked into the corner, but the owner explained that unfortunately the Internet had been down all day, so I was out of luck. I continued my explorations of the town instead which offered numerous restaurants and various retail and artists shops, all closed of course, due to the siesta.

So I bought myself an ice cream and relaxed for a bit on a bench by the waterfront. He added that the medical treatment had actually been free of charge. Rested again I hiked back up into the village and turned left at the big church and headed up past the village on the narrow road that provides the ascent to the volcano. By this time, about 6 pm, the sun had already disappeared behind the volcano, and it was getting pretty cool so I decided to come back into the village. There I bumped into Herbert who had arrived on the island in mid-afternoon after accidentally taking a wrong ferry to the island of Panarea to visit a doctor about his flu-like symptoms.

Fortunately he had found a medical specialist and got a prescription for his flu. The medical treatment had actually been free of charge. We sat and chatted for a bit until it was time to get back on the beach where our skipper would pick us up with the dingy. By 7:30 pm all of us were on the boat and we were ready to start our night time navigation to Panarea, our next destination.

A big cruise ship was approaching from the south, and the setting sun bathed it in its golden glow. We were just turning the corner near Strombolicchio when we saw a gorgeous beautiful pink and purple-coloured sunset. I thanked our skipper Francesco for timing our departure so perfectly. We rounded the island of Stromboli and also got to see the lava fields on the western side of the island.

The sea was rough today and we were now sailing in complete darkness. A cool wind was blowing and after sitting at the back of the boat for about an hour I got chilled to the bone. I decided to lie down in the cabin and covered myself with two blankets to try to get warm. In addition, the choppy waters had made me feel a bit queasy and I felt better lying down.

Around 10:30 finally we had reached Panarea, not that we could see it because it was totally dark, but our captain had dropped anchor and we were going to sleep offshore for the night. A nice on-board dinner of gnocchi and salad capped off an eventful day and I was already wondering what this new island of Panarea would look like tomorrow morning.


write by Lionel

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