Monday, August 27

island brothers

fishing fleet, marettimo
island transport parked in front of the old tuna cannery, favingnana

The Isole Egadi each have a unique personality; like three siblings living in the same neighbourhood. One is the quiet, handsome poet, one a rugged and burly fisherman, and the third a gregarious socialite.

Fast, efficient ferries connect the islands, making a full day round trip possible from my base on Levanzo. A swim here, espresso there, cold granita everywhere. I could have spent a week exploring each island; walking the back country goat trails in Marretimo and cycling to the outlying bays on Favingnana, but island time must end, and the Italian voyage migrate northwards to Venezia.

Arriverderci Sicilia, grazie mille.

Thursday, August 23

cala dogana, levanzo

The last post from my halcyon days at Levanzo.
May your day be as calm and agreeable as a morning coffee overlooking the bay. 

Monday, August 20

here we go round the cactus bush

Levanzo is the smallest of the three Egadi Islands, and the few dirt roads that radiate from the village see only an occasional old car or Vespa that have been retired to the island with their equally retired owners.  I had read that it is possible to circumnavigate the island on foot, and I am always up for a rambling adventure with ocean views and the promise of a swim and coffee at the end. The tourist information promotes the island as perfect for "those who seek solitude and rhythms set by the breaking waves or the sound of ones own feet on the stones", and for once, they are not exaggerating; at least outside of the weekend and summer holiday months.  The track along the rugged limestone coast has expansive views over the other two islands and many sequestered bays accessible only by boat.  Steep steps lead down to the famous Grotto del Genovese, a cave with ancient graffiti, engravings and painted figures estimated to be from the Neolithic and Palaeolithic eras.  A more romantic and less taxing way to visit on a boat tour.  I passed on the stick men and steps, and continued along the ridge, listening to my feet skip over the stones. 

In fact I was so taken with the solitude and sight of a loaded fig tree that I missed the turn-off.  The track narrowed to dozens of interwoven goat tracks through sharp scrub, and as I climbed higher up the scree slope of Pizzo die Monaco, I could see the beach and road far below with no way down.  Just me and the over sized seagulls catching the updraft. Back I went to the fig tree where I found the path down to the pebble beach for a welcome dip. Now for that coffee...

Monday, August 13

caravan by the sea

After one week away from the ocean my gills begin to close over and I hanker to be saturated by salt water and sea breeze. I had crossed Sicily from east to west on public transport, and was ready to dump my bag for a few days and avoid more hot hours at dubious road side bus stops in the less appealing parts of town. I decided to visit the Egadi Islands off the coast of Trapani, and was recommended a place to stay by a wwoofing host.  "Call Antonia, she has a room to rent and there is nothing between your door and the ocean." Sold, to the woman in the floppy hat

I rang Antonia and was met with a giggle and definite "no" when I asked "do you speak English?"  With my stuttering Italian I managed to reserve a room and relay my arrival details, then with a gelato and macchiato in hand I envisaged my balcony overlooking the turquoise water. 

Once the small group of disembarking passengers had dispersed I was left on the wharf with one man. "Antonia?" he asked. I had forgotten to give them my name, so his wife's name was the best way to connect. She had gone to hospital with a broken arm and left her husband, Pietro, to collect the wandering Australian.  I followed him on foot through the single paved street, almost levitating with joy at the charming village. It was one of those peak moments that eclipse the long waits beside a rubbish bin in 40 degree heat. We got to his car and I thought we must be going to another beach or village, so was intrigued when we drove along the island's only road into the rocky interior. We pulled up at a house miles from the sea and I had a brief thought, am I being abducted? I was shown to my room, a neat vintage caravan with a kitchenette and a bathroom so small I had to sit on the toilet sideways.  From the patio were distant ocean views. I think the beach side room must have been occupied, or I misinterpreted the description, but I was happy in my curious lodging.

Pietro launched into the grand tour with detailed instructions in animated Italian about the water, power and cats, most of which I understood through common sense, and I nodded and smiled and answered with an enthusiastic "si, si".  I could have agreed to sleep with him and his mates, such was the limit of my language.  When Pietro was satisfied I was comfortable in my new digs and wasn't going to break anything, he disappeared into one of the many rooms on the property, appearing soon after with a box of tampons. I speculated they were from a previous guest and he was asking if I needed any. Not right at this moment, thank you for offering. 

The next morning a smiling Pietro brought three plump figs for breakfast, and a translator. His foremost question was "how the hell did you end up here?" 

Sunday, August 12

carla and I

venice mirror
The blogosphere is at once staggering large and yet intimate and congenial. Once a web is woven, it can create a lasting connection, providing support, friendship and motivation. Or I can allow it to induce unhelpful thinking and become disheartened by comparing myself to others, or by over-analysing blogger statistics.  We all have the power to decide what we focus our attention on, and so I try to remain goal-free and true to the process of creativity.  It is about the joy of sharing my words and pictures, with the confidence and belief that I am enough, I have enough, I blog enough. Why should an arbitrary number of hits, followers or subscribers indicate that someone has "made it"?  Where exactly is it you want to go, and aren't you already there?  

Carla Coulson is an Aussie photographer that I admire greatly - I mean, seriously, she shoots what she loves, she produces beautiful books, she lives in Paris and is married to an Italian architect....and yet somehow she finds time to comment on others' posts in the midst of her own prolific online presence.  Before I went to Italy I poured over every page of her book Italian Joy, and I have palpitations every time I open Paris Tango.  I am chuffed to be mentioned on her latest post,  homegrown Aussie talent, and to have my name on the same page as Natalie Walton and Paul Westlake.  Little ol' me, blogging in the shade of a coconut tree in the back of beyond, connected to the real world through a tiny dongle and a red and white tower. 

Friday, August 10

famous pastries

Walk up the main cobbled street in Erice and you may wonder why the sudden throng of posing tourists. Behold, Sicily's most famous pasticceria; a Mecca for all things sweet and almond flavoured. Its rise to world wide prominence followed the book Bitter Almonds, which tells the story of Maria Grammatico's childhood in a closeted convent where she trained as an apprentice pastry chef. Upon leaving the fold, she took with her the traditional recipes and opened her own shop, where an irresistible array of treats are baked in house. Maria sits behind the till, counting the coins, as boxes of assorted goodies walk out the door.  A sunken courtyard is hidden beside the cafe and provides the perfect spot to recharge with an espresso and selection of pretty button biscuits. The little morsels make for great dunking.

a castle a day

When I am travelling, I try to get up early, and reserve the warm dusk hours and magic "blue time" for walking and hunting with my Canon. I tend to put my camera away in between and absorb the day; observing the light change, the colours shift and the parade of camera happy tourists. As widely photographed as they may be, if a castle should appear, I am tempted to capture it, especially when one originates from a place where the only castles are guarding the outer corners of a chess board. Seen here, in Enna and Erice, two ancient towns with lofty locations in Sicily.

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