Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Vulcano Blu is very very Blue

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

From Cefalu we took the train to Milazzo and then a taxi brought us to the Ferry Port.  It was about 10 or 15 Euros for the taxi to the port and the driver explained to use Siramar.  “Go to  Siramar, not Ustica”.  We appreciated the hint.  With Ustica you pay more to get on the same ferry as was later explained to us by Francesco De Pasquale at Vulcano Blu Residence, where we stayed for 2 nights. 

The train (Trenitalia) is very easy to use.  At first we always waited in line to have a person help us buy the right ticket for the right train to the right destination.  There are machines that are actually very easy to use and they give you the English option.  If there are people waiting in line behind you to use the ticket machine (biglietteria automatica) you want to know what you are doing or they will snatch your credito carte and put it in properly.  A bit unnerving but you learn.

The train from Cefalu to Milazzo took about an hour with lots of stops in between.  I was amazed at the amount of solar panels, not only on roof tops but also they are used to cover huge green houses full of produce.  These greens apparently  need to be protected from the relentless Sicilian sun in summer and kept warm in winter;  all the while collecting energy — ingenious really.  The homes are stunning with gates, flowers and tiled carports.  The towns have futbol fields and plantations of fruits and vegetables.  The sea can be glimpsed often as the train rides along the northern coast of Sicily from town to town.  I slowly but surely started to fall in love with Sicily on that train.

while taking the train to Milazzo to grab the ferry for Vulcano, There were many gorgeous sea side homes like this one.

while taking the train to Milazzo to grab the ferry for Vulcano, There were many gorgeous sea side homes like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was happy to find out Vulcano was the first island stop.  I’ve decided I don’t like ferries.  I didn’t like ferrying around Lake Como and I wasn’t too fond of this ferry either.  I much prefer trains, taxis, horseback, burros, scooters  and cars.  Airline travel is my least favorite form of transportation, but, I like the speed. 

I promised Tony that we would rest for one full day while in Vulcano.  We would shop and eat and swim.  He was very happy to hear that after walking from one end of Palermo to the other and up to La Rocca in Cefalu.  Shortly after arrival to Vulcano we found out you could go up to the rim of  the crater and peer in to it.  It hadn’t blown since the 1800’s so it must be safe.  A bucket list item that just couldn’t be missed.  It would take a good 12 hours to convince Tony to climb up the Volcano with me.  The best mealyet at Vincenzinos helped as did a delicious sleep, and a homemade breakfast of strong (albeit instant) coffee, fresh fruit, yogurt with granola for Tony and Granola with milk for me.  By mid morning we were trekking up the side of the Volcano.  My shoes were exceptionally inappropriate.  (I came down barefoot)

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So, so very glad we made the climb and carried on to the rim.  It was imposing, gave you that “empress of the universe” feeling once you got there.   We enjoyed some fresh squeezed orange juice near the bottom where a lady sold us water before the climb and looked at my shoes and shook her head then pointed to some walking sticks stating “necessario per voi, gratis”  meaning –> necessary for you, free.  I was really really glad I had those sticks.  She was a smart lady and me — not so smart.  I wish only smart people were rich.  If I become rich I will find that lady and give her lots of money.

We walked back in to town and had a wonderful salad and brushetta at a tiny pizzeria.  There was one other young couple, obviously in love enjoying their gigantic sandwiches.  So much love everywhere we go, how can you not be enchanted in such a place?  Then we wandered past the hot mud.  Tony wanted to go in but I wanted nothing to do with it.  It smelled of sulfur and as Francesco explained on the way in to town.  Thousands of people for hundreds of years have been sitting in that mud, the idea is just unsanitary.  We did go to the sea and find some fumaroles.  They are areas in the sea where the Vulcano’s bubbling hot water escapes in to the sea.  The water is crystal clear and the island is very proud of its water and its purity.   Some of the mud bathers would rinse off in the sea which is frowned upon. 

Vulcano Blu Residence

Vulcano Blu Residence

German ship

Giant ship slipping in to port while we swam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was trying to find a place for a manicure and pedicure, but the place I found was booked up, as was the next place before we knew it we were almost back to Vulcano Blu.  We just walked and found our ambrosial pool and watched the giant ship come in from some far away place.  Francesco explained that the ship companies have to pay and wait their turn to come to the Vulcano port.  Not all ships are allowed due to the stringent rules that maintain the purity of the waters around the Aeolian islands.  The water is strikingly clear;  a teal blue with areas of azure blue.  Inconceivably beautiful water as we found out the next day while kayaking.

Rosario

Rosario

We kayaked

We kayaked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eugenio we found while wandering the grounds of Vulcano Blu.  He made you feel like you just ran in to a long lost relative.  He was warm and delightful and gave us an intense but short class on kayaking in the sea.  he owns the Sea Kayaking outpost on Vulcano and belongs to the Sports Association Canoe and Kayak Club of the Aeolian Islands based in Messina.  He recently had surgery on his lumbar spine and the doctor told him to stay out of the water for a month.  So his very capable friend Rosario who didn’t speak a word of English took us out for our 4 hour kayak around the base of the Island of Volcano.  They gave us appropriate water shoes to wear and loaned me a surfer shirt so I wouldn’t burn.  What a fabulous day!  So glad we didn’t miss this opportunity before catching our ferry back to Milazzo and looking for our rental car.  Let the photos speak for themselves…

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goats

goats

Grotto Blu -- wonder how it got it's name?

Grotto Blu — wonder how it got it’s name?

just can't capture

just can’t capture the beauty and clarity of this water with a camera

My advice for Palermo

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

We recently (September of 2013)  took a two week trip to Sicily.  We had a marvelous time and I would highly recommend the island to all ages and all interests.  There is something for everyone.  Adventure lovers, peaceful beach walkers, history buffs, cliff climbers, horse riders, and fabulous vista viewers.  If you are a fashionista you may be bored; I fit right in. 

I read some books prior to going and they helped to prepare me for what I was in for.  One was called Sicily is not Quite Tuscany by a fellow named Shamus Sillar.  The other was The Leopard a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.   If you go to Sicily The Leopard is a must read so you understand the names of streets and the history of the country.  The other is a fun and witty read that made me look for some of the same places the author Sillar sought while his wife worked.  I have to go back because I never got to eat Milza in Palermo.

Vincenzo

Vincenzo

Vincenzo picked us up at the airport.  It was wonderful to see him and his tall handsome self and smiling face carrying a sign saying Bordonaro.    He explained his love of Palermo during our drive and how all the young people are leaving it, but, he hopes to stay and continue to be a part of the city he loves becoming prosperous.  He asked us what we thought of Obama and told us that most Sicilians like our President Obama.  He had visited Miami and California and liked them both.

lunch in Palermo at Ferro di Cavallo

lunch in Palermo at Ferro di Cavallo

We met Luca the owner of Ai Vicere B&B where we stayed.  It was a suitable location but I wouldn’t recommend it for luxury or large showers.  They did serve eggs at breakfast and they did pick us up from the airport as promised and free Wifi in the rooms is not available at most places but it worked well here.  Luca is earning a Doctorate in History and is a bit preoccupied with that endeavor I would imagine.  The B&B helps to pay for his schooling.  His family is in the Historical painting and artifact business.  He recommended this little restaurant on a typical Palermo street.  The food was good, the service was lousy, the people watching was excellent.

market in Palermo

market in Palermo

This is a typical market street in Palermo.  I called it the Sicilian Walmart.  Wish we could have bought things but our flight on Easy Jet only allowed one carry on unless you paid $40 euros for baggage.   Kind of a problem for the vendors here.  Also wanted to buy some of the fresh fish and vegetables and fruit and have someone cook it up for us.  At night there were restaurants all over the streets that cooked out doors and you sat in the street at small tables.  It was fun to watch and wander.  Other than the very first night, we felt safe and comfortable.  See my review of Ai Vicere to get a feel of our first night in Palermo.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187890-d2436218-r177233361-Ai_Vicere-Palermo_Province_of_Palermo_Sicily.html

I was sad the whole while because of news of my friend Andrea’s death.  My stomach was in knots and I cried a lot.  Wish I could go again and enjoy this flavorful town with a happier mood.  I think some jet lag also played a part.  Tony was a gem as usual but he didn’t feel any sense of belonging while wandering Palermo which is where his grandfather was from.

these little Mother Mary shrines

these little Mother Mary shrines could be found everywhere

 

 

 

bombed building

This building was bombed in WWII.  Never rebuilt it is a reminder of how dumb war is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxi to Tonnara Bordonaro

Taxi to Tonnara Bordonaro from downtown Palermo cost 20 euros.  Talked him down from 40 euros.  Never except the original price of anything in Sicily

 

 

Sea glass beach

Sea glass beach near Tonnara Bordonaro on Via Bordonaro, next to Piazza Bordonaro and a great restaurant called La Mattanza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So we strolled Via Vittorio Emanuele, We found the Quattro Canti, we found Vino and Co in Piazza Marina where you can fill a 5 liter jug with wine from their wine vats.  Didn’t eat Milza from a street vendor which I read is a must to experience in Palermo.  We toured the Palazzo Reale with its mix of Norman, Gothic, Spanish, and Napolitan styles, not interested in seeing the catacombs, couldn’t find the puppet theater, and our B&B was right next to the Teatro Massimo (a gorgeous building). 

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If I were to give advice to Palermo, it would be for the Carabinieri to come out of their immaculate buildings, and get in with the people to help them clean up the trash, scrub off the graffiti, enforce traffic codes and pedestrian crossings to make the city safer and join the young people who love their city in making it prosperous and attractive to tourism.

popped in for a shave at Mario Cardinale's barber shop.  A total man facial for 5 euros.

popped in for a shave at Mario Cardinale’s barber shop. A total man facial for 5 euros.

vegetable oil collection site on via Bordonaro

vegetable oil collection site on via Bordonaro.  Just thought it was interesting

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