I explain the Aeolian Islands to my granddaughters this way: Italy is shaped like a boot and Sicily is the football just off its toe. The Aeolian Islands are the seven dust particles kicked up from contact between boot and ball. I’m not sure they got the picture, but that was the best I could come up with at the time.
Some of the seven volcanic islands still have smoldering craters. One called Vulcano has an unpleasant sulphurous smell and few tourists. Another looks like a movie set (In 1949, Ingrid Bergman filmed Stromboli on the island by the same name). And lovely Panarea is a playground for the international jet set.
The largest, nearest, and most touristy of the islands is Limpari. By hydrofoil we reach its rocky coastline in less than an hour. With only the afternoon to spend there, we rent a taxi for a drive around the island, stopping in a rocky cove for a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
As I relax on the breezy shore, a fellow creeps up behind me with a camera that has a lens long enough to capture the proverbial flea on the wart, on the frog, on the log, at the bottom of the sea. Now I’ve never bumped into a member of the paparazzi, but clearly he was tracking someone. He was not at all interested in photographing me, though I tried my best to look trendy in my Walgreen sunglasses. He told me he was on the trail of billionaire Giovanni Ferrero, who was aboard one of the the yachts moored offshore. Tut, tut, poor Giovanni thought he’d be hidden on the touristy isle.
Siracusa: The Ancient City
The next day we load up for the two-hour drive to Siracusa. My son, Tom, does a perfect imitation of Clark Griswald as he packed the 7 of us and luggage into the car and says cheerfully, “Anybody not here raise their hand.”
The ancient coastal city has the distinction of being mentioned in the Bible as a place where St. Paul spent three days on one of his missionary journeys. For some reason he didn’t bother to write them a letter, which is why there’s no Book of Siracusa in the New Testament.
The next day we join the hustle and bustle in the city’s old food market on Ortigia, an island joined to Siracusa by several bridges. Colorful stalls offer an array of fruits, vegetables, and smelly fish being dissected. Everything from asparagus to zucchini and sardines to swordfish.
One vendor offers oysters on the half-shell, another an assortment of nuts, including Sicily’s finest pistachios. Tomatoes are mostly the Roma varieties used in cooking sauces or cherry tomatoes used in salads. Few slicing tomatoes. I love taking photos of food stalls, though they only give a one dimensional view. It’s the sights, sounds, and smells that add the real charm to this outdoor market that’s been here for centuries.
Ortigia Food Market: Its Sights and Smells
A Final Taste of Sicily
The kids discover granite, an icy concoction, that reminds me of a lemon slushy. It’s a bit too sweet for my taste, but can be very soothing on a warm day. Pietro, our cooking instructor back in Veneto, said the locals often dipped their pastry in granite, but that never caught on in our group. Below are a few food shots that give a further taste of Sicily.
Scene on the Street