The catch up post ….by popular demand

Yes, we know…..it’s been a while since we last chatted. More like a month and a half to be (not so) precise.

Why? you ask. What’s been happening ? you ask. Well, PLENTY. So here is some of it in more of a pictorial and rather spare verbal nutshell:

Montepulciano 

On the advice of my gorgeous cousin (thanks Beatrice!!), we spent a week at the agriturismo, Il Casalone (the Big House), just outside Montepulciano in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. We drove all over the countryside, into tiny little towns with ancient churches, beautiful food and brilliant wines. I have even started drinking the odd rosso!

One rather unsatisfactory and outrageously expensive “tourist” tour of a local winery was positively counterbalanced by a visit to the Gattovecchi cantina, on recommendation of an old friend of Beatrice’s, Patrizia, who had befriended us. Meeting Jonatan (no spelling error) was such a warming experience – he was a big he-bear of a guy who literally scooped us up in his enthusiasm about his family’s 300 year old cantina and its quality produce. (It helps to have a name to drop – thanks Patrizia!).

It’s times like this I’m so proud to be (part) Italian – the passion, the warmth, the enthusiasm and the openness to people is what I love . (He was apparently a really good salesman too because we bought heaps of wine!)

Siena

Possibly the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen – both inside and out. We met a lovely Sydney couple, Harry and Susie, and asked them to join us for lunch in Monteriggione, about 12 km out of Siena. Pity we couldn’t stay into the evening because a bunch of locals were preparing for a Knights Templar mock battle with horses and “weapons” and it looked like it was going to be lots of fun.

 

Lucca

We just loved Lucca, a beautiful town in Tuscany not far from Florence and Pisa. It was great to have three weeks in the one place, minus 4 days spent on a trip to Milano (more on that later). We knew Sue and Karen, a couple of girlfriends from Sydney who are currently living in Lucca, so it was a very sociable time all round, with lots of dinners, lunches, beach and day trips and wine!

This incredible medieval town is surrounded by a huge flat topped wall which is 4 kms around. At certain points, you can actually enter the cavity within the wall where, eons ago, soldiers and horses were housed, awaiting battle. The wall contains many surprises – inside and out – including pop up exhibitions of art and sculpture, which seem to appear over night!

One particular highlight for me was a cooking course with Extra Virgin Cooking Classes. Giovanni is an international cook who has worked in the US, Australia and many other countries and his enthusiasm and attention to detail were riveting. I picked up so many little tips and can hardly wait to get into the kitchen again at home. Mal took advantage of his “day off” to get some golf in so we were both happy!

Ok. Here is where I am struggling. If I want to get this off tonight before we head off to the Eiffel Tower (no apologies!), I have to do a bit of a photo montage which is light on the commentary but happy to answer questions when we get home.

Multiple dinners, lunches, aperitifs both in Lucca and day trips to exotic sounding places like Montacatini (in a raging storm), Forte dei Marmi, Pietrasanta and Portofino, amongst others . In general, some great times with Sue Steedman, Karen Thomas, hubby Ed and sister Leanne, Mum Doreen and all the kids, Nahid Coventry, Lisa Law and many others!

 

But Florence does deserve it’s own little mention, don’t you think? It was only a day visit with our own personal tour guide, Sue (xx), and a specific purpose in mind – handbags for Lia! Mission achieved along with some beautiful antique “ruby” earrings (thanks, Bubby!!) plus a few pressies for home. A chilled prosecco in the roof top bar of the Westin Excelsior Hotel capped off a fabulous day.

And a bit of touristy stuff too….

Paris calls so must head off now. Milano is on the menu for next post….as well as the rest of our trip though Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

With biggest hugs to all.

We will be home before we – and you – know it. Be prepared!

Mal and Lia xx

PS Happiest birthday wishes to you, Yo. We can hardy wait to see you in Scotland on the 25th!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharks, snakes and private detectives

Bidding a sad farewell to Trulli Boccadoro, we headed south to the east coast of Salento, the province based in the heel of Italy, bound for Santa Maria al Bagno. Another lucky find, we “discovered” a fabulous hotel at this beautiful seaside town by sheer accident, trawling through Trip Advisor posts on beaches in Puglia.

 

The beaches on both sides of the “heel” are famous for their beauty and are hugely popular with locals on the weekend or for holidays – a mix of rock and sand leading into the most beautiful clear aquamarine waters.

We took a boat trip from Torre Vado near the southern end of the western coast of the “heel”. The route travelled around the very bottom of the heel and included the “Cape Horn” of Italy, Santa Maria di Leuca – the southern most point of the country – where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet.

We visited about 20 grotte (sea caves) during the trip, with a couple of stops for a swim amongst the fish. The stunning shapes of the stalagmites and stalactites (whichever is which) had taken on shapes leading to wonderful names and  legends for these caves – the Dragon Cave, the Cave of Lovers. At one cave, you could duck your head underwater at the water level entrance to find yourself in a large cavern. The water was strangely lit with light filtering in from outside – totally beautiful. A highly recommended boat trip if you’re ever in this corner of Italy – www.biagiotour.it

 

And the Dragon Cave:

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Unfortunately, Mal missed the last cave swim because he wasn’t allowed to get his ears wet. For some days, Mal had experienced a blocked ear (with a possible infection) to the point that we eventually had to visit an ENT specialist north of Lecce to have his ears seen to.

Dr Carlo Baffo was the coolest ENT I’ve ever met – shoulder length curly hair held back with a hair band, rasta bead bracelets, jeans and an open shirt. In fact, he was SO cute, that I had my ears syringed too – just for the heck of it! (Actually it did help my hearing a bit too.)

In fact, the whole process was an interesting experience too because we visited a medical clinic who rang the specialist’s offices for us and within 45 minutes we were in Dr Baffo’s consulting room (in another town). Would have taken 6 weeks at home. Proof No 2 that not everything in Italy takes forever to happen.

Jus’ saying…..

Feeling we deserved (another) lunch out after our stressful medical morning, we headed down the coast of stunning beaches to Roca Vecchia for a bite. Found a cute little beach shack place with super cool Bob Marley playing in the background – we’re sure Dr Baffo would have been right at home.

But the best thing about lunch was finding proof of sharks in the Med! Here’s at you Unbelievers!

 

(The sign on the right is asking people to support the protection of sharks which are endangered in the Mediterranean. Told you!)

IMG_4217And, on the topic of things supposedly not found in Italy (including snakes), we found this little fellow on the way out…

 

But a totally different kind of snake here (of the Private Investigator variety):

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A few really relaxing days were passed at Santa Maria al Bagno – eating, eating and a bit more eating.

Before we move onto our next stop – Matera – the Land of the Stones and venue for the Saga of the Laundrette, here are some more piccies:

With love,

Lia and Mal xx

 

 

Trulli heaven sent

It’s hard to believe that only kilometres away from the Ostuni “cave” (see last post) was the haven called Trulli Boccadoro and even harder to believe that we ever found it in the first place. How on earth did we travel before Google?!

Unable to check in until 4pm, we spent the morning checking out the local beaches off the coast of Ostuni and some of the Norman villages scattered around the area before making our way to Trulli Boccadoro (TB), about 12 kms south of Ostuni.

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Before long, we found ourselves down a lane the country equivalent of the narrow town alley we had been stuck in the day before! Breathing deeply (it was such a recent trauma), we stopped to ask directions of a deeply suntanned, shirtless man working in a yard off to one side. He was so close, we could almost have tapped him on the shoulder from the car window. And the conversation went:

Me: Buon giorno. Cerchiamo I Trulli Boccad….(Good day. We are looking for…)

Him: (In the most English of English accents) Terribly sorry. I don’t speak Italian at all. Do you by chance speak English?

Me: Well, you may not think so but we Australians tend to think we make a reasonable job of it!

Actually, I never said anything of the sort.

Lovely man as he was (and God only knows what he was doing out in the back of whoop whoop working on a farm and unable to speak a word of the language*), it turns out that he had absolutely no idea where TB was. This was not encouraging. But we did discover that we were on the main Boccadoro road so things were looking up. (* PS It was probably his farm.)

We pulled back out onto the main road and found the sign to TB a few “roads” down. Interesting thing tho’: you’d think, in a tiny, tiny locality like the one we were in (so small it didn’t even have a village name, let alone an actual village. Or a piazza for that matter and every self-respecting place in Italy has a piazza!) So you’d think that the people round about would know the middle name of each others’ cats. Not so.

(I know my sentences meander…..like my mind does. Like it or leave it.)

I cannot describe how thrilled we were as the gate pulled open and we drove into the grounds of Trulli Boccadoro. A line of five trulli to the right (the small conical buildings unique to Puglia that you’d know about if you’ve been keeping up with the posts), a garden of olive trees, roses and stone work and, most exciting for me, a vegetable and herb garden at the far end which was available to us to pick from as we wished.

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We had arrived in heaven. And we only had to share it with one other (very quiet) German family in the trullo next door for the whole week we were there.

We cooked, we read, we drank wine, we drove around a bit, we biked (ok, only once but still impressive for moi!), Mal golfed once and we went to beaches. We even exercised every morning in the garden.

On two days, we did nothing at all. Travelling is wonderful and we are totally conscious of how incredibly lucky we are to be doing this – but the chance to stop, to ponder and just to enjoy was exactly what we needed.

I have run out of superlatives so here are some of the photos.

 With love

Mal and Lia x

13.6.17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mal gets a word in edgeways

We left Ostuni for our hastily organized accommodation at Trulli Boccadoro (TB) a privately owned resort about 15 km away, hoping for a place to settle down for a week yet with access to the car so we could travel at will. Many will remember that our initial dream was to spend 3 months in Puglia to immerse ourselves in this region’s growing reputation as a beautiful destination. The cave in Ostuni was never going to be that. During the week at TB, we have travelled far, many firsts achieved and it has been fantastic. Again it will be a pity to have to leave tomorrow.

The firsts, Lia (and I) went for a bike ride. Lia pleading no balance, we comfortably went for a short half hour ride along tiny country roads/lanes between the rich red soil paddocks and acres of olive trees.

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Lia still hasn’t driven on the wrong side of the road yet. That’s probably because I have scared her a few times trying to turn into oncoming traffic (unintentionally). But most of the time the driving has been ok and fun.

Puglia boasts beautiful beaches. They are clean and aquamarine and the water is refreshing at a comfortable 22 degrees. However, to get to the water, at the very least you need to wear thongs to the water’s edge and we didn’t think of that. IMG_4169A first, we struggled over the pebbles at Torre Santa Sabina to have an ocean swim. Lia’s first. My first was a swim at Puolo, where we spend a few days near Sorrento.
And what is a holiday without golf? It has been over a month and I was worried I may forget how to hit a golf ball. The answer is in : after 18 holes on a tight little course, I can comfortably say I can hit the ball as well as ever including the rubbish shots that are always present but it is and was fun. I look forward to the next game.

 


Puglia is a lovely region rich with produce and particularly wine. It provides 17% of Italy’s wine. We have had excellent wines priced in the €15 to €20 but have seen top prices up to €145 a bottle. That is for rosse (reds) – the region is not known for white wines. The food is wholesome but not quite as interesting as presented in Rome or the Sorrento peninsula.

Arriverderci!

Mal

9.6.17

A cave by any other name

June 2. We’re a month in and we’re thinking: “Wow! This travelling gig is easy! Everything’s going just tickety boo.”

Not quite.

Having (without regret) left Hotel Corallo, we headed to Alberobello, the city of trulli. A trullo (singular) is a small conical structure, unique to Puglia, built of limestone bricks but without mortar (apparently so they could be quickly deconstructed for their inhabitants to make a quick get away to avoid the King of Naples’ taxman and other unruly landlords).

Anyway, we wandered through this magical looking place for about as long as we could stand the throngs of tourists (totally hypocritical, I understand). We bought some local wine to take with us and enjoyed an espresso con ghiaccio (short black on ice), which I promptly spilt all over my white shirt. The first sign.

Our “cosy loft” in Ostuni was awaiting our arrival so we entered the city, trusting our GPS (which up until now had been our Goddess), only to find ourselves in ever shrinking alleyways until, finally, our tyres were literally stuck on stone extensions on either side preventing our progression. (Bear in mind, folks, this is a brand new Peugeot 308 we’re talking about.)

We couldn’t go forward; we couldn’t go back.

And then it started to rain (Sign 2).

Luckily (or perhaps not, if you were Mal stuck in the car), I had exited the car prior to assist in said progression so was in a position to confirm – absolutely – that we were stuck. I like to be helpful.

Something had to be done. So, centimetre by centimetre, (and we sincerely hope Peugeot has not subscribed to this blog), we scraped …no, no no, not scraped…we inched our way forward. (I know I’m mixing my Imperials with my Metrics but this was a crisis.)

We got through at some cost to us all (read: car) and I think it would suffice to say that it was not a highpoint in the trip so far. Mal’s face confirmed this.

Feeling mightily relieved that we were not to be craned out of the squeeze we had managed to get into, we finally met our host’s mother and uncle on a regular street some distance from where Goddess had directed us. (It will take some time to rebuild that trust, I can tell you.)

After witnessing a heated exchange between these two rels, Mum led us to a car park some 500 metres from the “apartment” (because our car would not fit in the street) and drove us and our gear directly to our front door. She opened the door, showed us the light switch and promptly left. She was clearly a woman in a hurry.

And this is what it looked like.

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By this stage, smoke was coming out of Mal’s ears. I knew what I had to do. 1) Find lunch, 2) find wine and 3) find them quickly.

The funny thing is (and things can be funny after the fact), the only place we could find open was actually called Al Solito Posto (The Only Place). Sign 3IMG_4009.JPG

Things became decidedly clearer after the first bottle (yes, it’s true). We would simply find a new place and all would be fine.

And it totally was, as you will see in next post.

With love

M & L xx

(9.6.17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossings in the night….

 

 

Farewelling Feudo Vagliasindi and Sicily, we took our final car ferry trip back to the mainland and headed for Villapiana al Lido, for a one night stop over on our way to Ostuni, Puglia. After a last minute change to our travel plans (possibly because someone had miscalculated the directions), we arrived at Hotel Corallo in the late afternoon and immediately discovered what €39 will (or won’t) get you in a small town hotel in Woop Woop, Italy. (It was a special deal, OK?)

Hotel Corallo faced the main road running right through the middle of Villapiana, which itself was vaguely reminiscent of a Western ghost town. (Was my mind playing word games with “Corallo” (coral as in sea) and turning it into “corral” as in horses?)

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The room was clean and basic, the wifi worked, they had a restaurant and it was only one night after all?

We moseyed on over the road (it’s a theme now…) and spent the late afternoon watching the action on the street (none) over a couple of drinks. And bought a beach towel.

But in fact, something was happening which I totally missed, being engrossed in another riveting episode for this blog, but which eagle-eyed Mal watched with interest.

A heavy set and important looking policeman was at a table nearby having a very intense discussion with a lady whose car, it was clear, was close by. It appears the woman had come very close to running an elderly man over on a pedestrian crossing just out front. “What pedestrian crossing?” she was clearly saying, gesticulating emotionally about the very faint markings on the road which were practically invisible on approach. This was, in fact, quite true (but totally irrelevant, as Italians pretty much ignore them anyway).

(Sorry – no interesting photos available to intersperse these paras.)

We left them to it and headed back to the ranch…sorry, Corallo…to see what might be had for dinner. It was a weird evening, being the only guests in an enormous dining room for around 80 people (must get pretty busy in summer). The fact that it was absolutely silent and without music made us whisper throughout dinner – it felt like being in church. Two waiters hovered within centimetres, trying to outdo each other with service and handsome, white-toothed smiles. The food was good and we were happy.

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Next morning, the main road was an absolute apparition! Overnight, every single pedestrian crossing within sight had been repainted starkly, brilliantly white!

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So what’s the morale of the story?

It’s obvious! Whoever says it takes forever to get things done in Italy is WRONG!

Then again…. the old man who was nearly run over was probably the policeman’s uncle/father/brother.

Either way, stuff happens….even in Villapiana, the ghost town of Puglia.

With love,

Lia and Mal

xx

 

From one volcano to the next (continued…)

I wanted to move into Villa Carlotta on a permanent basis but it was time to move on. After a slightly embarrassing scene (think unattractive visions of Lia gripping exit door with hands and feet), the nice man at the desk, taking pity on me (and my plastic bags), gifted me with a lovely orange rattan beach bag. And it matched my sunhat! Sniffling, I finally agreed to get into the car.

So it was with somewhat lower expectations of our next lodging that we drove on to Randazzo, on the northern edge of Mt Etna. The intention was to experience more of the interior, lesser known part of Sicily – rough it a bit, so to speak.

Having difficulty finding the place, we resorted to a tried and true solution – stop somewhere for lunch! Il Veneziano not only delivered a delicious dish of chargrilled lamb cutlets and wild greens, but the Tenuta delle Terre Nere 2014 red was divine. And they gave us directions to Feudo Vigliasindi, which it turned out was minutes away.

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As we drove down the pebbled driveway to what was in fact the Vagliasindi villa, we were stunned. It was a magnificent building, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, all lovingly restored only 15 years ago by the two brothers who had inherited this 600 year old estate from their family.

Walking into the downstairs foyer, we were greeted by a voluptuous Venus who definitely reminded me that I needed to watch the pasta! The view of Etna from the terrace (with compulsory glass of wine) was just brilliant, sometimes puffing quiet white clouds of smoke and with snow visible at the top when the cloud lifted.

We visited the Alcantara Gorge the next day – too steep for us to get to the bottom but the fast flowing water coursing through the beautiful rock work looked very inviting, albeit freezing!

That evening, we were treated to a tour of the original wine production cellar under the villa, complete with enormous wooden barrels and a massive grape press that looked as though a giant had built it.

The villa and estate had been uninhabited for more than 50 years before Paolo and his brother took it over and it is absolutely amazing what these two young men have achieved in that short time. The villa has been fully renovated and very tastefully decorated. The estate has been brought back to life with old orchards and groves rehabilitated and new plantings ongoing.

A highly recommended stop over for your next trip to Sicily!

With love

M & L

8.6.17

From one volcano to the next….

Having returned to Lipari, our last night with Sonia and Enzo was spent in a homestyle restaurant up in the hills serving Eolian specialities including a “small” antipasto entrée which covered the table with plates of pickled, sauced, roasted and fried delicacies, followed by coniglio al’agro dolce (rabbit with a deeply flavoured, slow cooked sweet and sour sauce). Mal actually enjoyed the rabbit after years of refusing to eat “bunny” at home. It was one of my favourite dishes as a child – my mother’s coniglio recipe was absolutely delicious – and I’m happy to cook it up for anyone who is willing to give it a go when we come home!

The next morning, we were up at 5 to catch the 6.30 am car ferry back to Sicily but not before scoffing a deliciously flaky croissant fresh from the oven with an “eye opener” espresso from the port café, whilst watching the sun rise.

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Before long, we were back on the autostrada on our way to Taormina, on the east coast of Sicily. Whether by sheer luck (or, more likely, incredible foresight on my behalf), we managed to miss the Trump Show by a mere day. The absolute relief of the locals to see the back of the politicians and the hundreds of staff they brought with them was palpable (one local said each G7 country had an average entourage of 600-700 staffers!) and we were greeted with happy smiles and beaming hospitality everywhere. After months of preparation for the G7 meeting – road upgrades and closures, tight personal security, access restrictions, etc – business had been severely affected and everyone was just so happy to get back to normal.

Taormina is one of those places you either love or you don’t. It’s the place where the beautiful, the rich and the famous go to spend money and be seen. (You’ll have to work out which category we fall into.) But its coastline is stunningly scenic, it’s within spitting distance (volcanically speaking) of Mt Etna, its Teatro Greco is hauntingly beautiful and it would be hard to find a better place in the world to people watch. Oh, and ok…. we splurged on a fancy hotel perched on the top of the cliff to enjoy it all!

After a late start the next day, we decided to drive to Siracusa, about 1.5 hours drive south. I had fond memories of the town, having visited with Lidia Long in 2011, and I was sure Mal would enjoy seeing the historic and very pretty port area of Ortiggia. We found a parking area and were trying to work out how to pay when we met up with an English couple in the same quandary.

As they say, when in doubt read the sign – although it does help if you speak the lingo – which is how we discovered that the ticket system was “temporarily” out of order so free parking – yay! (Travellers always get overly excited about a free park!)

We decided to team up for a bit and wandered off just in time to catch the end of the wonderful seafood, veg and fruit market I remembered visiting with Lidia a few years back. We enjoyed a happy lunch with J & C before parting ways and being invited to drop in for a cuppa when we hit Ol’ Blighty in August. (We Saunders move fast!).

In chatting ‘though, one thing especially striking was the difference in our experiences of Italy so far. Almost without exception (apart from the odd disinterested parking attendant or supermarket cashier, and who could blame them?), we have been treated so well, with people going out of their way to assist with directions, finding things in shops and by staff in hotels and restaurants. J & C had experienced the opposite, to the extent that they never intend to return to Italy. They had been double charged, ignored in restaurants and found people in general unhelpful. Such a pity!

And yet, in trying to identify later what would have led to such a differing experience of two couples in the same country at the same time, we couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer that was a bit more logical than “bad luck”. I know I can speak a little but Mal often does the “talking” here and people have really responded to his genuine (and often hysterical) attempts to communicate. One of life’s mysteries, I guess…..

But what about the other volcano you ask? It’s coming up next.

An afternoon espresso calls.

With love

L & M xx

(written 8.6.17)

BLACK AND BLUE…and lots of WHITE

Wednesday morning (24/5) saw us aboard an 8.30 am Siremar car ferry to Stromboli, one of the Eolian Islands north of Sicily, bound for Hotel La Sirenetta . This wonderful place was about 3 minutes away from the bustling port, via one of those funny little 3 wheel car thingies they drive around here (machinette) (think Mr Bean) . Or a 10 minute walk (not the safest option due to aforesaid machinette drivers!).

La Sirenetta fronts the black lava pebble and sand beach and incredibly clear waters where you can see absolutely clearly for metres from the shore. Something to do with there not being the refraction caused by white sand. And for someone with an absolute paranoia about sharks, this is not a good thing. (Please, no shouting “There are no sharks in the Med”. I don’t believe you and never will.) And anyway, the pebbles are bloody uncomfortable! (Somethings never change Lucille!)

And whoever has the franchise for white paint in Stromboli must have made a fortune over the last couple months or so, with nearly every house on the island being repainted starkly, blindingly white in time for summer – with beautiful blue trim here and there. Totally reminiscent of a Greek island and not surprisingly, as Sicily and the islands were subject to constant invasion for centuries from peoples across the waters all around, with evidence of Norman, Greek, Roman, Moorish and Turkish influence everywhere in the food and the architecture.

But enough of ancient conquerings! Because Mal and I (well, mainly me) were on a mission of huge import – to find the house on Stromboli where I spent a summer holiday when I was 15 years old (and on my way to live in Milano for a year).

What clues did I have? I remember a large patio with stone inbuilt seating facing the water (pretty standard), a steep, narrow staircase to the right of the house leading down to a black sanded beach (ditto) and a vague recollection of a cave nearby. We think we found it. Although, has anyone else ever been back to a place years and years and years after and found it all looked so much smaller than you remember? Anyway, suffice to say I’m pretty sure we found the house and, even if it wasn’t the right one, it felt good to know, after all these years, that I was close enough.

Another special highlight was meeting Vivian, an old friend of Sonia’s, my cousin. Vivian works at the volcanology centre on Stromboli and was an absolute font of information about the volcano. Vivian was born in Australia but, like many, fell in love with an Italian man and has chosen to live a beautiful and simple life in the islands. We thank Vivian for telling us so much about the volcanic nature of the islands, although it was a pity we were unable to visit the actual monitoring centre because (you guessed it!), it was being renovated.

IMG_3837 Armed with extra background intel from Vivian, we set out on a boat trip around the island to the Sciara, the black avalanche of scree from Iddu or Him, which is what the local name for the volcano.

I know the photos below are pretty bad – it’s hard on an iPhone being tossed side to side on a boat – but I can only hope they give some some indication? Iddu spat the dummy about 8 times during our 25 minutes out on the water and it wasn’t even as “busy” a night as the previous evening!

The scree on the crater side of Stromboli (La Sciara); Vivian, Cristina, her lovely friend, and I on our last night; the black sand beach out the front; fichi d’Indi, the ubiquitous cactus fruit rampant in the south; and some bird Mal found on the way.

Later the night of the boat trip…

LS: Imagine! We have just seen an absolutely 100% live volcano in action! Unbelievable!

MS: What’s unbelievable is that we’re sleeping on one…..

Love to all

LS and MS xx

 

 

 

 

 

Where it all began

As many of you would know, my mother, Irma, was born on a tiny little island north of Sicily called Lipari (and so was my paternal grandfather, Giuseppe). Lipari is actually a volcano, one of seven in the archipelago called the Eolian Islands. Two of these island volcanos are still active – Stromboli and Vulcano – and, together with Mt Etna on Sicily and Mt Vesuvius near Naples, they are the only remaining active volcanoes in the whole of Europe. (No jokes here about “explosive” Italian tempers and “effusive” hand gestures – I’m sure there’s no connection whatsoever…).

I am watching Etna as I write this from the balcony of our hotel just outside of Randazzo, on its northern perimeter. Feudo Vagliasindi is a villa surrounded by grapevines and olive trees with a 600 year old history of  wine and olive oil production carried on within the one family. More on that later. And that white stuff on the summit is snow .IMG_3925But I am getting ahead of myself because this post is supposed to be about our week in the Eolian islands. We drove from Sorrento to Scilla virtually at the toe of Italy (c. 6 hours) so that we could get to Villa San Giovanni early next morning to catch a car ferry to Sicily. The weather was our first experience of really heavy rain and, combined with the novelty of driving on the wrong side of the road and crazy, crazy Italian drivers, it was a less than satisfactory experience for Lia, albeit strangely exhilarating for Mal (go figure…).

We picked up our first fine on that sunny late Sunday afternoon in Scilla (when any self respecting parking officer should have been at home enjoying an aperitivo before dinner), because we parked illegally (accidentally) at the port. This was quickly resolved next morning with a payment at the post office which, very handily, happened to be underneath our B & B (stranger things do happen…).

Two car ferries later (a very exciting business, I must say- all big anchors and strong, tanned Italian men throwing big ropes around and making sure everyone’s watching), we arrived in Lipari and met up with Sonia, my cousin. Sonia grew up in Sydney but, after marrying Enzo, has lived in Lipari now for 28 years and it is now her forever home. We had a wonderful dinner together and an even better sleep that night at Sonia and Enzo’s beautiful villa in Canneto, one of the two main towns on Lipari. And hence the title of this post because both my mother and my father’s father were born in Canneto so that’s where it ALL began…..

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A morning at the fascinating archaeological history museum followed by a yummy lunch on very uncomfortable stools in a tiny eatery on a busy Liparian street. Between cobble stones and mole-like eyesight, I spend a lot of my time watching my step as opposed to checking the surroundings so it was to much amusement to look up and see Mal wearing my hat, which I had absent-mindedly left behind. What WOULD I do without him?? xxIMG_3750

Secretly, I think it suits him better…

On a drive around the island, we discovered L’Aurora gelateria in Aquacalda, a tiny Liparian village, where we met Francesco, the ice-cream artiste. He made us promise to visit his old mate, Luigi, who he claims brought gelato to Sydney when he opened his Da Luca gelateria. So if anyone knows where it is, drop in and pass on Francesco’s regards!

Some innovative parking in Canneto, a basket of baby apricots from Sonia’s tree and marzipan fruits.

To be continued….

Love to all xx