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Lipari to Rome

Day 24 - Friday 22nd July.

sunny 28 °C

Only a few hours of sleep last night, up before 5am as we had a schedule of various forms of transport to hit today as we were traveling from the island to Rome. We quickly packed up the ancestral home of my mother, waved goodbye to the awesome views and took our luggage down to Canneto. We were aiming to catch the 6:10am bus over to Lipari to catch then the 7am hydrofoil across to Sicily. The man I hired our car met us there and my aunt also came down to say goodbye. We were on our way.

We got to the dock with time to spare, both grabbed a pastry and a coffee and waited. The hydrofoil was a few minutes late but we were off the island and by 8am had arrived back at Milazzo in Sicily. We then caught a taxi to Milazzo train station, we had booked seats on the 9:37am train to Rome. We got there an hour early, sat on a deserted station for most of the time then a few people came closer to the train arrival time. The train was late 15 minutes, but once it arrived we jumped on with our luggage. The seats we had booked had someone in them - apparently people sit anywhere as the trains are never full. We sat in the last row as there were 3 seats and left our luggage behind the 2 seats in front and left so we could keep an eye on them, and stored our hand luggage above.

The trip was going to be 9 hours, so plenty of time to rest and catchup on the travel blog - which I did. The train has a short trip of about 30kms to the tip of Sicily to Messina. The train drops off passengers then backs away and moves onto a ship that takes the entire train across the Strait to the mainland. First time I've ever seen that happen. We were able to get off the train as they cut all power and aircon and could go up the deck to get fresh air. By now I was hungry as I'd been awake over 5 hours and only had a pastry to eat. I bought 2 arancini and a drink and that hit the spot.

The train disembarked off the boat, getting on and off the ship was a lengthy process for the train. It took about two hours to get from our starting point to the mainland whilst only covering 30km. Once we took off the trip was quite pleasant. The track follows the western coast of the mainland up to Naples. We got to see lots of water, beaches and resort towns all with people swimming. The water looked so inviting, shame we couldn't use any of it.

The train had only a few stops spread throughout the journey. It had a longer stop at Naples but from there it was about two hours to Rome. Given the train was delayed from the start it made up lost time and we arrived in Rome just after 6:30pm. First time in over a week we were suddenly hit by crowds and hotter weather. Getting a taxi was fairly simple, only a short trip later and we arrived at our accommodation. Here in Rome I chose an apartment which I thought was a bed n breakfast, but the front door was locked and had no idea how to get in. I called up the contact who was actually in the apartment and she came down to meet us.

Quaint little one bedroom flat, very neat and had aircon! I was sweating carrying up the luggage as the room was on the second floor (no elevators) and it was so steamy. But we were here, had a chance to rest a few minutes then shower and go out for our first taste of Rome.

First noticeable thing about looking for a place to eat dinner is that the menu prices here are a lot higher than anywhere else in this trip so far. We walked a couple of short blocks, found a place that looked nice and we ate there. It had good ratings on Trip Advisor, but I was disappointed as the entree we shared and my main meal were too salty. It wasn't cheap either but that was a sign of things to come. Just so we wouldn't eat and go to bed we walked over to Piazza Novona, it was buzzing with people and artists selling stuff. We thought it was too busy and too dark to take pics, we just wandered around a little and came home. A long day of travelling so naturally we were both tired and had no problems falling asleep.

Posted by Ace from Oz 14:50 Archived in Italy Tagged rome lipari canneto Comments (0)


Day 23 - Thursday 21st July 2016

sunny 30 °C

After all the planning to get here and the absence of 47 years since I was last here, today was our last full day here on the island. It was to be a rest day, other than packing to leave for tomorrow it would be a day to relax on the beach. We were in no rush so took our time getting up and having breakfast. My aunty had come up to the house by bus to do a few chores, one of which was picking a few capers off the tree that Vicky did with her.

We headed off to Lipari as we wanted to buy our tickets for the first hydrofoil off the island tomorrow morning at 7am. After this we headed back to Canneto beach, we were told the swimming and snorkelling is better at the far end so we looked for a place to park there. On the beaches here people rent out beach umbrellas and sun lounges, we'd never thought of paying for one but asked how much they cost as it was going to be a hot day so shelter would be needed if we were to stay there a while. It was 12 euro for 2 lounges, an umbrella, the wifi password! and we had use of a fresh shower - that's a rarity. We sat and relaxed and swam and the water was so clear. We saw a few fish and all up we spent around five hours there. Much longer than I had expected as there were a few things I had wanted to do.

We headed to Tano Bar as I had to have a granita from here, everyone has told me it's the best on the island. Was pretty much the same as others, but I was thirsty and had two. We then popped into the supermarket to buy snacks for our trip tomorrow as we'd be travelling by train to Rome and needed to bring enough food for the day. I had two other things I really wanted to do so we rushed back up the to cemetery in the village up the mountain so I could see the graves of my aunt and uncle I forget last Sunday. Then I pulled over and showed Vicky the house my dad and grandparents lived in - sadly when my aunt and uncle died a while back my cousin then sold the house. We dashed back home as time was passing, we had wanted to pack before dinner but now it was already 7pm and we hadn't showered yet.

Dinner for the last night was again at my cousin's house, she had two visitors this time though. Would have been nice to sit and chat quietly with my cousin one last time but as other people were there it was difficult. Dinner was some tender chicken drumsticks and pieces roasted and roasted potatoes. We sat and chatted a while after dinner, but then another lady arrived and pretty soon the majority were in their own discussions in Italian, it was probably best for us to say our goodbyes as we still had to go home and pack. I said goodbye to my cousin and hoped we'd see each other soon and her health continues to improve. We got home and started arranging things for the morning - we aimed to drop the car off down in Canneto and catch the 6:10am bus so we had little time in the morning. We packed up, Vicky did some mopping and went to bed but by now it was already midnight.

Posted by Ace from Oz 13:11 Archived in Italy Tagged canneto Comments (0)

Canneto and Lipari

Day 19 - Sunday 17th July 2016

overcast 30 °C

After the traumas of yesterday it would've been nice to sleep in today, but I had plans that included us all. Sadly for me the events of yesterday played heavily on my mind, I woke at around 5am and couldn't get back to sleep as my mind was racing. Once we all got up and had breakfast, I had planned for us to attend the Sunday morning mass in the church here at Lami (Lami is the name of the village up here on the mountain). This was particularly important to me for a few reasons. One is that on my last trip here as a 5yo I remember the church and the statue of Mary in the church. The statue is placed up high behind the altar, but on feast days they lay tracks and the statue slowly inches down to ground level on a motorised track. This way the locals can lift and carry it. The second reason it was important to attend the mass is that my parents grew up in this village and the church was very much part of their lives.

The name of the church is the Madonna de la Rosaria, which translates to the Madonna of the Rosary. We got to church 10 minutes before the start of Mass but saw no one, I wondered if I had the time wrong. My Aunty was inside there, she came and introduced me to the 90yo priest, and his assistant, who knew my whole family (naturally). We chatted for a few minutes, and as I said I was emotional that day already but pretty soon he had me in tears when he told me he was godfather to one of my friends I grew up with in Sydney but who sadly was murdered a few years ago.

I went and sat with my family and listened intently to the church service. It was in Italian of course so I had trouble following it. I was mostly surprised however how few people attended Mass, just 21 including the four of us. Whilst the church is in the midst of the mountain there are plenty of houses and people around, so not sure why there weren't more attending. The church is small but very beautiful, marble floors and nicely painted walls. I loved the experience of doing this with my family, it meant so much to me spiritually.

After the service, we walked down the path to the cemetery where all my ancestors are buried. My Aunty pointed all the family members to me, especially both sets of grandparents. My Aunty had brought fresh flowers so we helped her put some on the graves - the cemetery isn't spread out on a lawn but instead is a rectangle yard with tombs built on top of each other, 5 high. It was hot there but there were menacing dark clouds, we decided to move on and head home. It wasn't until a while later that I realised I hadn't seen my Aunty (my dads sister) and uncle who were buried there - apparently there was another section of the cemetery we never saw. I intend to go back before we leave here.

We came home and changed clothes from our nice church attire and into our swim wear, our plan for today was to circumnavigate the island so the kids could see it all, they leave before us and only have three nights on the island. We started the drive from Canneto, first we tried to find Spiaggia Bianca - the White Beach. It's not named that for the colour of the sand, the beaches mostly here are rocks and maybe black sand. It got its name as the area had pumice mines and factories, the volcanic rock was mined and exported from here for many decades. Over time the rocks and dust would have settled on the sea floor and from a distance the water colour is almost fluorescent green. There were no distinct signs for this beach, we stopped at one spot and looked down - the road is a few hundred metres above the beaches so it's always a long walk down. Unsure and not willing to traverse down the cliff for no reason we kept driving further.

We turned onto a road into a small town called Ponitcello, the road went all the way down to the water. We parked and looked around, there was a beach just nearby next to the old abandoned pumice wharf where the sand was actually white. We didn't swim as it was overcast and didn't look that inviting. We found a caravan that sold food and had lunch there. We jumped back into to the car and headed on around the tip of the island, the next town we found was called Aquacalda, which means "hot water" in English. By now we realised this rental car was given to us with only a quarter tank of gas, and by the town we got to Aquacalda the needle was getting low. There is only one petrol station on the whole island, over in Lipari and we were a bit worried if we toured too much we'd get stranded. We didn't stop here but continued on, the climbing up and down of the roads certainly chews up gas. We only stopped once at a little spot high up on the hill and they were selling a lot of local produce, like handmade biscuits, and Malvisia which is a sweet dessert wine made on the island. We drove further along, I pointed out the various landmarks and sights as we went and made our way into Lipari to fill up the car.

The weather had improved as it was gloomy earlier, we headed back to Canneto and stopped at the end of the road and grabbed our gear for a swim. The water was refreshing, not too cold and the only problem is walking over the hot rocks to get in and out of the water. After a swim I walked down the main street mainly to see what shops were there. I found Tano Bar, everyone had told me it had the best granita on the island (granita is like a lemon sorbet, found in almost every shop here and very refreshing on a hot day). I started talking to Gaetano the owner and of course he knew most of my family and relatives. He also introduced me to a couple sitting down who knew my family. Everyone knows everyone as I've said before. I finally got back to the beach, then went up the street to my cousin's house and came ack to the beach with her youngest daughter Alessia. The kids had a ball playing together in the water, using Stephanie's GoPro to film themselves underwater.

I had offered to take my cousin and her family to dinner tonight but she kept on refusing. Not sure if that was because she is always tired and still recovering from the stroke or was embarrassed to accept a free dinner. We went home, showered and came back and took Alessia down to us with dinner. We ate on the street right beside the beach at the same restaurant where we had bought the pizzas last night. The meals seemed ok, I ordered prawns but here they are extremely tiny and cooked with the shells. The shells were soft so I wasn't sure if I had to eat them whole or peel them. I ate a couple intact but didn't like the taste so sat there trying to peel these minuscule prawns. Can't say I enjoyed the meal, and was still hungry so I ordered a dessert.

We dropped Alessia off at home and headed back up the mountain to our place. Despite only arriving yesterday, tomorrow is the last full day here for our kids before they move on. The plan for tomorrow is to wake early and get moving so we can explore the neighbouring island of Vulcano.

Posted by Ace from Oz 06:39 Archived in Italy Tagged lipari canneto lami Comments (0)

Milazzo and Lipari

Day 18 - Saturday 16th July 2016


After a restless night of sleep - somewhere around 12:30-1am some idiot kept honking his car horn - and also the steamy conditions, I was awake early and first thing I wanted to do was to walk down to the port nearby to make sure the hydrofoils were actually running. At the time I got there one had already gone and the second was arriving soon. So at this stage the services were back on, but as the guy there said, nothing is ever guaranteed when you rely on Mother Nature. I walked just a few streets heading back to see what was open for breakfast, not much, maybe because it was a Saturday, but found a cafe literally around the corner. I went back and showered and we headed to the cafe for our breakfast. The day was gloomy and pretty soon it was raining, at some stages quite hard. Great, we had to lug four suitcases and all our hand luggage back to the port. After breakfast we headed back and packed our gear, all the way back down the stairs. We made our way to the port, only five minutes away, and luckily the rain had stopped.

We arrived there just after 10am, our departure time was 10:45am. The service was late so by the time we boarded and took ft it was past 11am - that didn't matter, at least we were on our way. The trip is about an hour, we were going to arrange to have a taxi pick us up on arrival, a friend of my cousin that lives on the island. But I had a message from my cousin saying he was busy, so when we arrived we carted our luggage and took the public bus. The arrival port is in Lipari, the main city of this island which is also called Lipari. We took the bus to Canneto, a town only a few minutes away around the other side of a narrow patch of land in the island. We jumped from the bus and were greeted by my Aunty, she normally lives in the north of Italy but spends a lot of time here in the south as her daughter and grandkids are here. She is basically the only one that looks after the house we are to stay in which is a few kms drive up the mountain. She had also arranged for me to borrow a car from someone she knows, and this is where more problems arise.

We all walked up the street and went to visit my cousin Daniela, we are first cousins and she grew up in Sydney but moved with her whole family to Italy in 1986. I hadn't seen here in 30 years. Sadly too she suffered a stroke early this year and whilst she has recovered she still has difficulty with a lot of things. She is only 46 so way too young for this to have happened. Needless to say the hug and greeting was emotional, and yes I was crying. It was probably more the fact she isn't fully fit but also the fact of the distance of time. We met her husband Giuseppe and daughters Martina (who turned 13 yesterday) and Alessia (11). My Aunty lives in a small flat beneath, she graciously cooked up a quick lunch that we ate, then took me to the car she had borrowed for us.

I wasn't expecting much from this car, only that it would get us around mainly up and down from the house because it's so high up the mountain you can't walk. The car was a bomb - dents, scratches, bumper falling off, it was very poor. And the guy wanted 30 euro a day to use it! I had no choice as I had wanted to get us into the house, I took Vicky and my Aunty and whatever luggage I could manage and we drove up to the house. This house was built by my grandfather, who I never met as he passed away 11 years before I was born. My mother, who is now 88, was actually born in this house. It is small but well built, solid brick and is at the end of a narrow lane near the edge of the mountain. But - I cannot describe the view accurately. You walk up the steps to the balcony and you can see down to the town of Canneto, the beach, the Mediterranean Sea, you can see the neighbouring island of Vulcano, you can see Sicily in the distance and a bit of the mountain to the right. No one lives in the house, my Aunty maintains it as best as she can but she is on her own and not getting any younger. She tries hard to keep it neat but needs help, it's not easy getting to the house and hard for an elderly lady to maintain it.

My Aunty had people staying on the house that left yesterday to make way for us and they had left the place untidy, I don't know how they managed to stay there. There was dust everywhere, on all the surfaces making wonder how they could even eat. They also had a dog in the house and there were tufts of black fur all over. There was half a roll of toilet paper left, no food or water (not that we expected that). I left Vicky at the house as she started to clean up their mess and took my Aunty back down to Canneto, so I could return with the kids and their luggage.

I got the kids and luggage into the house, and once settled the plan was go to into town and get some necessities for the week. This is where things get worse. I parked the car in a spot just above the house that belongs to the neighbour - I was going to park it higher up the lane once the luggage was all brought in. I tried to start the car, and the ignition block jammed. I tried and tried and tried but it wouldn't budge. I was there for over half an hour, swearing profusely and nothing worked. I rang my Aunty and cousins to let them know we were stuck here. Even worse I was blocking the neighbour's driveway so I was getting worried I'd be getting abused when the neighbour came home. I'd only been on the island a few hours and I was utterly frustrated and angry.

I wandered up the laneway just to get some air and get away from the stupid car, a guy came down on his Vespa and then I heard the car horn so I figured he was the neighbour and was getting my attention. I walked down fearful of getting abused, I explained to him the situation and he wasn't the neighbour but was a tradesman who was working on the neighbour's house (they weren't actually there, they lived in Milan) but he had his work trucked parked in the property and wanted to get it out to pick up a delivery. He tried to squeeze through the narrow gap I had left but no use, he was stuck. He called my Aunty and explained what was going on and asked whose car it was. In the conversation I heard him say his name, when he finished the call I asked him his name as the surname was familiar to me. Turns out his is a cousin to friends of mine back in Sydney, people I'd know for decades. On a small island like this people all know each other, and so many have migrated to Australia there are links to people all over.

Having made the connection we then sat there together and chatted about stuff, in Italian so I had to try hard to understand everything. My Aunty and cousin were trying to reach the owner of the car but couldn't. My Aunty caught the bus up to the house and we sat there for a couple of hours, both Antonio (the man who was trying to get his truck out) and then another neighbour came down to get this stupid car started. While I was a complete stranger to Antonio he was so nice and helpful. Knowing my situation he called someone he knew down in Canneto who runs a legitimate car rental business to get me another car. A car is a must for where we had planted ourselves, several kilometres up the mountain. There is a walking track to get you down to the town but is too steep to get back up. Then Antonio offered me a lift on the back of his Vespa as there was a car available for the week. I hopped on behind him, held on to the seat strap for dear life as helmets aren't a norm here. He took me to the car rental place, it was 6:30pm by now so was lucky he was still open and got a little Fiat. Nothing great, it was a 2 door, bit messy and couple of things looked broken but it worked, so I drove back to the house.

The events of this afternoon left me totally exhausted. From the excitement of being here for the first time in 47 years and seeing my cousin, to the frustration, desperation and anger of the car troubles. I was a mess, physically tired and mentally exhausted. I got wind from my Aunty later that the first car owner is blaming me for wrecking his car - please - it was such a bomb and had history of ignition trouble, I just happened to be the sucker that was using it when it fell apart. I have to confess - it was at this point I wished I could pack up and leave the island. Mechanical issues will always occur, things break down, but to be blamed for this I was totally shattered. I pride myself on being a good person and was deeply distressed at hearing this. I showered as by now we were all getting hungry, there was no food or toilet paper either. We dashed down to Canneto to get to the supermarket before it closed so we could get them, we just made it.

I had arranged to have dinner at my cousin's place, I didn't want to burden her with cooking so we went and grabbed pizzas nearby. We took her husband Giuseppe with us, the prices weren't that expensive but going anywhere with a local means you get looked after. We ordered 8 pizzas for us all, and they only charged 5 euro each. Our first bit of good fortune since we arrived on the island. We ate together and talked, her youngest daughter Alessia is full of beans and chats all day, it was cute watching her and our kids trying to communicate. After eating and a couple of drinks, the wave of exhaustion hit me - I was very tired and needed to rest. We said our goodbyes and made the climb back up the mountain to the home. It's so isolated up there you barely here anything, especially at night. We were all tired and soon headed to bed and I hoped for a better day tomorrow.

Posted by Ace from Oz 11:44 Archived in Italy Tagged eolie lipari aeolian canneto Comments (0)

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