Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lively Lipari

Where Panarea is dreamy and very quiet outside of August (only about 350 full-time residents), the island of Lipari is a bustling center of activity for the 9,000+ people who live here and the hundreds of tourists who flock here from all over the world. The main town (also named Lipari) is full of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and agents for the private boat companies that organize tours to the other islands. About the only time it's really quiet is between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, when all the shops close down for their break during the hottest time of the day.

Lipari harbor

We are staying smack in the center of Lipari town, down a little alley and around the corner from the main commercial street (even it is mostly pedestrian-only), in a nice little B&B run by a woman from South Africa, Diana Brown, and her Italian husband. Our top-floor apartment (only 26 steps to climb as opposed to the 100 in Panarea) has a small open-air kitchen, a sunny deck with lounge chairs, and the standard tiny Italian shower.

Our deck and dryer
Since it's right in the middle of an urban neighborhood, the colorful sounds of Italians living their daily lives in the surrounding houses are always entertaining, even when we don't know exactly what they're saying (maybe it's better that way).

We even get to join in the daily ritual of hanging our laundry out to dry on the lines above the street--now I really feel Sicilian.

The clothespin is a Sicilian's greatest asset

The bus situation here is kind of funny. There's a really good road that goes all the way around the island and buses could easily make a circular route, but for some reason there are two bus routes--one that goes halfway around, clockwise, to Quattropani (1.70 euros), and the other that goes a third of the way around, counterclockwise, to Aquacalda (1.55 euros). To connect between the two for the full circuit you have to walk 3 miles from the end of the first route to the end of the second route! I'm sure somebody's benefiting (taxi drivers?) from this crazy setup, but it's not the passenger.

John on the road to Aquacalda, Salina in the background
We did the full circuit (bus, walk, bus) this morning while the weather was still fairly cool, and it turned out to be a fun walk with beautiful views across the sea to the island of Salina (where we will be staying next week). All downhill, much to my delight. When we arrived at Aquacalda we rewarded ourselves with our first gelatos of the trip (strachiatelli [chocolate chip] for me and nocciolo [hazelnut] for John) as we waited for the counterclockwise bus to pick us up.

On our walk we saw an interesting company working on the roadside, securing metal netting to prevent landslides-- "Vertical Workers." The picture looks like they're Navy Seals or CIA machine-gunners on ropes, but in reality they're just using power tools to drill into the rock.
Mostly we have been cooking at the apartment (pasta, pasta, pasta) but last night we ate out at a very cool restaurant, L'Anfora, nestled in one of the narrow alleys near the port. The restaurant's tables are lined up at the end of the alley, and to get to them you get to walk by the laundry drying on little racks outside people's homes.
L'Anfora restaurant, in the alley

The meal included a small souffle of ricotta, shrimp, and spring onions; a caprese salad with delicious homegrown tomatoes and to-die-for fresh buffalo mozzarella, a risotto with zucchini flowers and more shrimps, and tuna on a bed of arugula with a balsamic reduction sauce. We loved everything but the tuna, which was plentiful but just adequate. Note to self: next time you feel like ordering tuna and you're not in Japan or the coastal United States, order something else instead!

It's easy to get to the other islands from Lipari--both public hydrofoils and private excursion boats are constantly plying the waters.

No climb for you!
We made one full-day trip back to Panarea and Stromboli, mostly for the chance to swim at locations only boats can get to (fantastic swimming!) and to view the volcano erupting at night--currently accessible only from the water because the trail to the summit is closed, much to John's dismay.

He had plans to climb Stromboli but has had to put them on hold because the climb is too dangerous while the volcano is so active.

We had a good view from the boat, though it's almost impossible to capture it in pictures with my little camera.

Stromboli erupting at night
Before we leave Lipari on Saturday (for Salina), we will take boat trips to three other islands--the remote Alicudi (no vehicles on the island--donkeys only--and less than 100 full-time residents), Filicudi, and Vulcano. When we're not boating around to the other islands we have enjoyed walking the streets and alleys of Lipari, where there's always something interesting to come across, like the murals in one little neighborhood:


Or the guy selling fresh fish from a truck on the main street

Or the posters announcing the funeral arrangements for local residents. 

Or, on a happier note, the tub races in Marina Corta, the harbor for excursion boats and private craft.

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