Friday, July 20, 2012

Lipari - a jewel in the Aeolian Islands

Last week we were running a conference in Lipari which is a spectacular island in the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. I have been to this island on a number of previous occasions and was so delighted to be returning as it has a beautiful calm and low key mood that truly allows one to relax into island life.

It is not easy to get to as one has to fly to Catania in Sicily, catch a bus 2 hours to Milazzo, then board a one hour ferry to arrive in the port of Lipari. Alternatively you can get a hydrofoil from Nalpes port which takes 7hours! However, this remoteness ensures the tourist numbers remain small which helps to retain its authentic Italian way of life. The surrounding water is absolutely crystal clear and several times during the week we hired boats to take us to swimming spots around the island - you can also swim off the beautiful beaches (rocks though, not fine sand like Australia), but hiring a boat gives a different perspective plus accessibility to swimming areas otherwise inaccessible.

The island has a very rich history of settlement by numerous groups dating back to 5th millennium BC and the Aeolian museum located on the site of the ancient fort houses a spectacular collection of painted ceramics, greek masks and pottery amphorae. It is definitely worth visiting as you explore this island.

An added attraction is undoubtedly the food - everyone knows Italian food is always good but here one eats enormous amounts of seafood caught daily in the surrounding waters - in particular swordfish and squid. Living here permanently you would be particularly healthy - huge quantities of seafood, walking as your main means of transport, and swimming in the clear Mediterranean ocean on a daily basis. Hard to imagine a better way of life! 

This boat is on the hunt for sword fish - with 'spotters' in the turret at the top, they inform the man on the nose at the front of the boat whose job it is to spear the fish - with no harness it is a job I would prefer to avoid!
On one of our boat journeys around the island, this BBQ boat pulled up for lunch to grill our fresh swordfish steaks!
The Aeolian islands were formed through centuries of volcanic activity which explains the rocky topography. A visit to the other islands in the group such as Volcano (where they have thermal mud baths), pretty Salina where they grow capers and make delicious Malvasia wine and Panarea, a lovely resort town is certainly worth doing. Famous for its continually erupting volcano, Stromboli is also an amazing place to visit. A few years ago we trekked the 3hour trek to the top of Mount Stromboli (you begin about 6.30pm so you get to the top after nightfall) to sit on the summit for 40minutes and watch the volcano continuously explode. It was an incredible experience as there are not many times in life where one has the opportunity to scale an active volcano! However you don't have to trek for hours to see this amazing geographical phenomenon as being in a boat in the waters at the base of the volcano once night falls will also allow you a great view.