Friday, July 13, 2007

June 2007 - Lipari, Sicily - The Aeolian Islands

The Aeolian Islands (Isola Eolie in Italian) are absolutely stunning, but we have yet to discover an area of Italy that does not possess its own unique beauty. These islands are made up of volcanic cliffs separated by deep inlets. They are most extraordinary for their rock formations, volcanoes and ancient history.
For our exploration of the Aeolian Islands we based ourselves in Lipari, the largest of the islands with the greatest population and most tourist resources. We arrived by ferry from Milazzo on the Northeast coast of Sicily. These large ferries make the 2 hour journey back and forth about 12 times per day. From Lipari we were able to take a boat trip to the other islands. They are covered in their respective blog entries.We stayed at a wonderful hotel right on the coast of Lipari that faces Vulcano. We had spectacular views from the hotel's terrace.Here we are on the terrace with the Ionian Sea and the mountains of Monterosa on Lipari behind us. The water is an intense dark blue because it is very deep. These islands are the peaks of volcanoes whose walls drop at steep slopes. As a result, these islands are surrounded by incredibly deep waters.Here is Casandra in Lipari's main square. From here we took a sightseeing cruise to some of the other islands. Life centers around this square as it is surrounded by restaurants, shops, the tourist port and a tall sea wall with beautiful views of the surrounding islands.The streets of Lipari are lined with colorful buildings and terraces with iron work unique to the Aeolian islands. Most residents keep pretty potted plants and flowers on their windowsills making for very picturesque streets.Near the town center is the Cathedral built by the Normans in the 11th century.The Cathedral was rebuilt in was rebuilt in the 16th century after a barbarous pirate raid destroyed the entire town in 1544. Thus, the interior of the Cathedral is decorated in the baroque style with elaborate and colorful, frescoed ceilings. The 11th century cloisters remain in ruins adjoined to the rebuilt Cathedral. They are open for visits but do not look structurally sound. We took our chances but did not stay long. There is Casandra poking her head out from between 2 of the columns.
Surrounding the Cathedral is an old Spanish castle incorporating the city's ancient walls and towers. The castle was built during Spanish rule to put an end to the pirate raids. Towers from the castle can still be seen as you circle the perimeter of the Cathedral. Lipari's towers are impressive and resemble those of Greece in style and shape. In front of the Cathedral is an important archaelogical site home to many cultures, some as old as the 9th century b.c. - almost 3,000 years old. At this site there is evidence of ancient baths with sophisticated calidariums and frigidariums which must have been built by the Greeks and improved by the Romans.

After some cultural sightseeing, we decided to head to Canneto on the other side of the island from our hotel. This long stretch of beach is full of touristy activities. We found a stand that rented buggies and we decided that would be a creative way to tour the island. First we stopped at the pumice quarries at Acquacalda beach which once contained a port used just to export pumice stone all over the world. Ladies that love their pedicures should know that most of the world's pumice comes from right here.

We stopped at Acqualcalda for this picture which offers a great view of the island of Salina which is just across a small inlet.

After some mechanical difficulties with our buggy, we finally made it to Belvedere Quattrocchi viewpoint up on the cliffs which tower over Lipari and offer views of the west side of the island.

After dropping off the Buggy (which was a total lemon) we headed back to the center of Lipari and found this lookout on the Spanish castle with a view over the old town of Lipari. This island was populated in the Neolithic Age which is 3500-2000 b.c. These people began the absidian (stone that looks like black glass which is derived from lava rock) trade in the Mediterranean. Despite it's long and complicated history, Lipari is only 6 miles long (like Manhattan) and barely 3 miles wide with a permanent population of 11,000.
As usual we stopped to pet and photograph all of the wandering animals that greeted us on the streets.
You know Casandra cannot pass a cat without trying to make friends. A little bribe in the form of food leftover from breakfast always helps.

This was our favorite companion - a really sweet dog that patiently walked us home (through town, across the beach, and up the hill to our hotel) in the evening. He waited for a pat on the head and was off to town to make more friends.

No comments: