Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Swimming Under Volcanos from Palermo to Cerfalu and Stromboli in and about Sicily

We arrived in Sicily to a glowing sunset in the airport. The rosy colored Palermo sky seemed to greet us, saying hello. To get to our hotel hotel, we drove through the historic district, not seeing the limited traffic sign. Police told us to get out of the district. And finally we got to our hotel. We’d only stay the night. So I walked to grab a snack, stumbling into a piazza full of kids, hundreds sitting, hanging out, where I got a beer and kept on moving.
We slept in the next day and made our way to Cefalu Sicily, a city on the northern coast, Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea west of Messina. Most of the drive was completely peaceful. We passed olive trees, a man selling tiles, trees, and mountains in the distance. We turned around to look at the tiles, picking up a few. And made our way to Cefalu, where it was perched on a hill, stretching into the sea. The drive into the center of the city felt like a twisted experiment between clashes of cultures, the car vs the ancient city streets. Harrowing and panic attack inducing explained Caroline, reflecting on the drive. Getting close to the hotel, a guy parked his motorbike on one side, a car on another, and another on the other side. We had to move the motorbike and finally made our way in. The afternoon in Cefalu was splendid. We explored the town and swam for hours, jumping into the lovely blue water, where the ancient city stretched into the ocean. Waves of bodies, women in bikinis, couples playing together, kids jumping off the decks, as the sun stretched across the waters. Later, we went out for a lovely meal, watching cats play in the rocks along the beachas the sun set. After dinner, we sat listening to a violin player in the piazza outside the Cathedral, after taking in the Byzantine mosaics. It felt like we were living in another time.
“If you ever move to Italy, make it here,” noted number one, sitting in the piazza.
The next day, we woke up early for a 14 hour boat tour of three of the Eolie Islands, Salina, Panarea, Strombolicchio, an active volcano. These tiny islands are named for the Greek wind gods. We loved Salina, playing in the water, wandering through the town, having a picnic. Panarea, the VIP island, was less intriguing with tons and tons of golf carts pulling the VIP’s through the winding walking paths. With all the honking, I started feeling like I was in Times Square. One rolled over a kid’s toes. A father started cursing. And we couldn’t wait to get away from the VIP island and its golf carts. But it was the black sand beaches and active vegetation, the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Stromboli that caught us. People say this is the most beautiful part of Italy and I can see why.
“What happens when lava hits the water?” asked number two over and over again.
“You’ll have to find out,” we answered over and over, the smell of ash in the air.
Walking to the beach, two men offered us figs from the fig trees.
They pointed us toward the striking black beaches, between cacti and lemon trees, where the lava seems to have met the water over and over again through time.
Water crushed into rocks, and we swam and swam in delightful aqua blue water.
“One thing for sure, Italy’s water has not disappointed,” mused Caroline smiling, as we made our way around the most active volcano in the world.
The trip of the lifetime, we saw a couple of people enjoy aperol spritz cocktails with lots of ice and lemon on the way out. So we sat in the garden to grab small bowls of pasta and a few ourselves. We told them we had a boat to catch in half an hour. And they were happy to oblige.
The sun was starting to descend on the lonely, powerful mountain above, its fertile green ground exploding with life, gardens, plants, lots and lots of life. THe light was magic.
The boat circled the island on the way out, hoping we could catch a glimpse of one of the hourly eruptions. But nothing came to pass, just peaceful glow of the sea mixing with smoke from the smoldering volcano in the distance. We sat looking at the stars as the boat made its way the three hours back to Cefalu, a day for the ages.

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