Thursday, August 18, 2016

Biking and Swimming around Favignana, along the Egadi Islands

Caroline Shepard’s photos of the most beautiful and the most harrowing beach and blue waters along the Egadi Islands.

Our last full day in Sicily, we decided to take a trip for another adventure to the Egadi, ten miles away from Trapani, where we are staying in West Sicily.  So, we went to the roof of our hotel and enjoyed a quick meal before making our way out for our 10:20 ride out to Favignana, the largest of the Egadi islands.  Getting on a boat here is always full of drama, the crew told us our tickets did not count.  We needed to run to the ticket office three streets away to get tickets.  So myself and a ton of others, men in fedora hats, women in bathing suits, ran over to the office, down the streets, where we got our tickets and run back to get on the boat.
Once back, we all lined up. A line in Italy is a bit of a mess, with everyone pushing, the women with their bikes in their sea through beach skirts, the men in their faaabulous printed shirts and hats, everyone in sun glasses.
We pushed up, made our way to the top of the boat, where we sat in the heat while the boat filled. The men started taking of their shirts.
Theres always a lot of showing off here.
Finally we made our way inside where we chilled out. And the boat arrived.
Everyone rushed out, some to grab scooters or get in the front of the line for bikes.
The beach we wanted to hit, Cala Rossa, was 6 K away. Walking would take 90 minutes.
So we rented bikes and make our way through the dirt roads, zigging and zagging around the Island, past queries, cactai, plants, ancient trees and lovely vistas of the other islands.
Finally, we got to Cala Rossa, where made our way down through the volcanic rock to the blue cove below.
“Multi pericoloso,” explained one man in an understatement.  One literally has to climb through fossil shells and rocks to make our way to beach.  One false step and you crack your head open. Some demure, waiting to jump in.  Others take a less time. The men cheer for those jumping in.
But it was worth it, the blue clear water was as clear as I’ve ever seen, clear and blue and stunning.
So we swam all afternoon, dipping twelve feet down into the clear water, touching the while sand, swimming back to the shore, eating some lunch, playing, swimming, doing synchronized swimming, feeling recharged. We swam and rode bikes all afternoon, making our way to Lido Brunni, where there was actual sand, napping and playing and swimming and people watching.  I adore the new Italian bathing suits the women wear.
Families out there swimming, enjoying the day together, the kids, their parents, men doing yoga, teenagers napping, the whole beach pulsing. 
By 545 PM we rode around the island again to drop off our bikes and made our way through the lovely town for a snack of cous cous and aperol spritz before we caught our boat.  The sunset on the way, felt like a bit of a goodbye, with the moon rising in the distance, as the sky was still splashed with the rosey colored sun.
We wandered through Trapani, looking at the people, the tiles on the ground, the people in restaurants, piazzas full of life, people dressed up, just out enjoying the summer evening. A woman is selling jewelry so we stop to talk with her.
People are sitting drinking  wine from the barrel so we had a couple of glasses of Sicilian wine and just looked out, pretending we were not leaving the next day.
Sicily has been  a huge treat.
Thank you.  We’ll drive today, making our way through a medival town, and then back to Palermo, where we catch a flight to Rome. We leave tomorrow.
But for now, we’ still thinking about the Egadi Islands.

The Thinking Traveler describes the Egadi Islands off the west coast of Sicily, Italy.
Lying like so many partially submerged giant whales just a few miles off the coast of Trapani(west Sicily), the three Egadi Islands offer a great deal of charm and diversity.
With a permanent population of around 5,000 spread over the three islands, the Egadis boast a long history and yet have somehow remained largely unchanged over the years. It is still possible to find isolated bays and coves, deserted mountain paths and a pace of life which is extremely relaxing.
The historical highpoint of the islands, at least on an “international” level was 241BC when the First Punic War was brought to an end here. Catulus defeated the Carthaginian fleet there and a treaty was signed whereby Sicily was handed over to the Roman Empire.
However, the history goes back much further. On both Favignana (the largest and most populated of the islands) and Levanzo (the smallest) there are some Paleolithic and Neolithic cave paintings. The most famous of these is the “Grotta del Genovese” on Levanzo. Discovered only in 1949 these incisions and charcoal and animal fat graffiti show scenes from daily life including fishing for tuna, animal husbandry and even dancing.
Favignana, or La Farfalla as it is often referred to thanks to its butterfly shape, is the largest and most important of the islands. It lies some 10 miles of the Trapani coast and is a popular holiday destination in the summer months largely thanks to its crystalline azure waters in bays such as Cala Rossa.
The main town, also known as Favignana, has a small port and is dominated by the Fort of Santa Caterina, originally built by the Arabs as a watchtower, enlarged by the Normans and then used as a prison by the Bourbon Kings. With its two main piazzas and its low Mediterranean houses, the town is quite pretty. It is also home to two buildings testifying to the influence of the Florio family: Palazzo Florio, built in 1876 near the harbour, and the large, abandoned skeleton of the Florio tuna fishery.

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