Zorba and I love the little island life. Lipari is the biggest of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily’s north-west coast. We booked into the very comfortable yet affordable Diana Brown B&B at 50 euro per night, initially for two nights. After the first night, we extended our stay by another two nights.
Just as we stepped off the ferry, the Azzurri’s last world cup game was being played. All the bars on the main street had multiple TVs out the front and the place was packed with passionate Italian football fans. Italy sadly lost that game and at one point I thought a riot was going to break out when Slovakia scored their second goal and the score was 2-0. Chairs were almost hurled at the TV, fists pounded tables, loads of boo-ing and sounds of disbelief and disappointment. Then Italia came back with a goal and the sounds of excitement started to rise. Then the nail in the Azzurri’s world cup coffin came – Slovakia scored a third goal and half of the Italians watching the game got up and left, in a huff, not caring that there was still 20 minutes of play to go. It was quite a sight!
We booked ourselves into a boat tour of nearby islands Panarea and the famous active volcano, Stromboli. Zorba really really wanted to climb the volcano, giving me the option to chill out on the boat, or join him. As I’ve done the boat tour before, i decided to do the climb and had a couple of days to psyche myself up for it, and go shopping for some appropriate trousers to wear.
Dinner on our first night was at La Pizzetta da Nino Subba, a restaurant tucked away from the main street that seemed popular with the Italians. I had the most delicious involtini di pesce spada – or rolled stuffed sword fish – ever. Soft, succulent, firm, tasty – sensational. We had a caponata di Lipari – or Liparian style sweet and sour eggplant which was really good too, one of the best caponatas I have had in Sicily. A great dinner.
The next day we were up reasonably early and decided to walk to the beach, apparently 30 minutes away. It was longer than 30 minutes and I should have known better than to trust anyone in Italy with times (or distances). The walk did us good however and we were quite impressed with what we saw. The beach was nice and we decided to go home (to Diana Brown), get organised and go back to the beach for the afternoon. Two lettini and an umbrella cost 13 euro, about the same price as Positano, and we enjoyed a blissful relaxing afternoon snoozing in the sun.
For dinner we went back to the same place, La Pizzetta, because we both wanted to try the long thin pizza we saw other diners having there the night before. The long pizza had different sections of fillings – the first 5th had olives and capers, the second 5th had soft cheese, the third had mushrooms, etc. It was really good! We ordered bottled wine instead of house wine this time and fell into bed happy and full.
The following day was the boat trip to Panarea and Stromboli. Panarea is very pretty and looks just like a beautiful Greek island – white washed walls, blue shutters and doors on all the houses and electrifying colour beaming from the over hanging bougainvillea. It is lovely. Last time I was there with Donna in 2008, we had the best seafood pasta I have eaten, ever. Zorba and I tried to re-live that gastronomic moment by ordering that pasta from the same place. It was good, delicious in fact, but not the world’s best that day… Panarea is the island of the rich and famous resulting in lots of great boutique shops. I went to one and saw a sale rack. Oh goodie!! I picked up these balloon pants (all the rage in Italy at the moment) and they felt like silk, but were priced at 15 euro. I asked the cute little shop assistant if they were silk and she said yes and showed me the tag, explaining that they were cheap because they were the last pair in the store. I tried them on and they were like wearing, um, silk. So soft, so comfortable, so light, so mine! Yay! A new purchase! I’m hoping they will be good for Egypt, the next major destination of my journey after a short stop in London.
On our way to Stromboli, we went past a boat party – 4 boats tied together with a heap of young things in bikinis and boardies dancing to Black Eyed Peas “I got a feeling” – it was like a music video, a Brittney Spears clip! A part of me was wishing I was 20-something on that boat dancing and drinking with them… oh to be young and dumb again…!
It was time for the Stromboli mountain climb. I was very hesitant, Zorba was very excited. I knew I was in for a world of pain that would last hours and hours, but that didn’t deter Zorba, nor me for that matter. I wanted to have a crack climbing the mountain and knew that with Zorba next to me, I’d be ok. Three hours up, two hours down. We had to bring a change of t-shirt, warm clothes, long pants, a big bottle of water, picnic dinner / food to eat, flash light, hiking boots (the last two items are available for hire). Up we trekked. It was not the slightly inclined meandering walk some had said it was. It was sheer hard bloody work and oh-so steep. We were climbing over lose rocks and along narrow paths – one foot wrong and you would go tumbling down the mountain. The safety standards did not exist and it made me very nervous.
I was thankful they made me rent hiking boots, my little merrells whilst comfy, would not have cut it. And I was also thankful for the long bamboo walking stick I had that I used to haul my butt up that frigging mountain. At one point at the start of the climb when the sun was still beaming down on us, I thought I was going to pass out. Then our guide Marco said it was time for a “pausa”, a little break, and that saved me. Breathe, breathe, breathe, some water, some nuts, some more water, ok, my heart rate was down to a non-dangerous level and I was ready to go again. This went on for three hours. Three HOURS!!! If I’m not 2kg lighter after this, I’m calling for a refund!
I mean, if they can build a path with rails on Uluru (Ayers Rock) that is a sacred site, surely they can build a path and put up hand safety rails up a mountain? I was surprised that anyone who paid the money could participate in climbing Stromboli, to me, it is dangerous. But I did it! We did it. Exhausted, hurting, aching, and bruised, we did it. It was freezing cold up there, but we did it. There was a full moon and as the sun was setting the moon was big and orange, just beautiful. I got to see the volcano explode four times from its three craters from reasonably close proximity. It’s fair to say that I will never see anything like that again in my lifetime. I sure as hell won’t be climbing any more mountains again in a hurry either!!!
We got back on the boat at 11pm, utterly spent. Destroyed. And the trip back to Lipari took forever, and it was freezing cold. Urgh. Eventually we got home, had long hot showers – they had to be long as the water pressure was non existent at Diana Brown, despite the nice new bathrooms. We fell into bed at 1am.
The next day we did nothing. Lazed in bed, wandered down the street to get some food, relaxed on the sun chairs on the roof terrace, napped, and just chilled out. We did make the effort at 4pm to go out and watch the England game. How disappointing!! I can’t believe I was cheering on the poms and they got thrashed by the Germans 4-1. A beating!! The poms had very poor refereeing too, just like many teams had in the tournament, so I felt sorry for them. I was so hoping Germany would go down! I am still sore after they beat Australia 4-0 in the opening game.
Still aching and hurting from yesterday’s climb, we had an easy night. Ready to head to our apartment near Taormina next.