Monday, September 5, 2011

Here May Be There

Panarea isn't the easiest place to get to, but it's definitely worth the effort. It's one of the seven gorgeous Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily, and we're spending a week here, doing almost nothing. Could it be we're "There" already?

Panarea, with Lipari in the distance
Wealthy Europeans flock to the island in July and August--many of them taking the pricey trip by helicopter (note the helipad in the picture above), and others on beautiful yachts. We took the far less expensive sea route, by hydrofoil from Palermo. The boat stopped at three of the islands before reaching Lipari, where we changed to another hydrofoil to Panarea. That boat was running on island time, about an hour late, so by the time we reached the port the sun was setting.

Idling taxis at the port
We hopped on a golf cart taxi and were driven at top speed (for a golf cart) to our little house for the week, the Casa dei 100 Scaleri. And the name does not lie--the taxi dropped us off at the bottom of a 100-step staircase that we have to climb down every time we leave the house, and up again when we return. Good exercise.

We both brought some work with us (John has his sabbatical project and I'm doing some editing from afar), so we spend the hot afternoons working in our cool little cottage, out of the blazing sun.

Our bedroom
Last night we had dinner with the owners of the cottage, a charming mother-and-daughter pair, at their home down a few steps from our place. They spoke excellent English and filled us in on how the island has developed over the past decades--Silvia has owned the property since the 1950s, long before Panarea was fashionable.

They don't think much of the rich Italians who spend their August holidays here, nor do they like many of the locals, whom they consider greedy.

One thing they do like is to eat, but they recommend only one restaurant out of the dozen or so on the island, preferring their own cooking. For good reason, too--we were plied with delicious squid-ink pasta (it stains!), another pasta with tomato sauce and the squid body, baked eggplant and cheese, fried calamari fresh from the sea that morning, local red wine from the nearby island of Salina, island prickly pears for dessert, and mustn't forget the homemade limoncello. What a treat.  
Outdoor living

There's not much to do in Panarea, except relax, read, walk to the beach, swim in the Mediterranean, drink cappucino for breakfast and wine the rest of the day, eat refreshing lemon granite (even better than gelato!), and stare out at the sea. Kind of perfect, no?
Prickly pears cover the island
    Lemon granite -- I could live on this stuff

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