Going Back, Back to Lipari... Lipari
When I was a little boy, my great grandmother used to tell me about Sicily and Lipari Island. It was always one of those things that seemed a bit out of reach to visit. Thanks to my little friend, AirBnB, I learned I could live there for three months for what I spent monthly in NYC/Hoboken... It was worth a shot.
I stayed in Port Lipari, on Lipari Island, across the street from Lipari Castle... In the pink house. I did it right, I got to know the mother land very intimately.
Because I was there so long, I hiked every bit of the surrounding islands; Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea. Lipari being the biggest, by far, it was the only one that took more than a few days. On one of my hikes I made friends with locals who taught me how to make a traditional Sicilian pasta.
Getting there, that was a journey. Fly into Catania, which is like going back in time. A nice little city where even the security guards were super friendly. A 4 hour bus from there, through Messina and in to Milazzo. From there, a 2 hr hydrofoil ferry service. The only way to the islands is by this ferry or the seasonal 4 hr ferry from Naples. Lipari is the only one of the Aeolian Islands with a heliport and it's for the hospital only. Each of the islands are beautiful, Panarea is a honeymoon destination and Vulcano (an active volcano) has natural hot springs / mud baths. But, my favorite was Stromboli... Yes, Stromboli. Like the bread. It's also an active volcano that shoots streams of lava into the air, a naturally occurring event called a Strombolian Eruption.
Anywhere on Lipari I paid with a debit card I was treated like an old relative. I had a regular coffee shop I went to every morning for an incredible chocolate croissant and 2 Americanos. The real treat, two doors down from my AirBnB was Ristorante Filippino. A Michelin reviewed place that I went to three times a week (at least) and had to myself on most weeknights. It was my favorite reward after a long hike up in to the mountains or through the villages of the Aeolians. Compared to Brooklyn prices, everything was cheap. The most expensive thing I did was my laundry. There's no fresh water on the island, so using it gets costly.
Every morning, before my coffee, I liked to walk the grounds of Lipari Castle. It became my routine and I made a friend who waited for me every morning. I called her Kitty and every morning we'd walk the neighborhood. She seemed to rule the castle these days, today it's a series of museums that teach the history of the islands. Which is pretty fascinating. The Aeolians, more specifically, Lipari was fought over for generations. Inhabited at one point or another by the Spanish, French, Persian, African, Greek, Sicilians; at one point it was overrun by pirates. On Lipari, pirates are regarded as heroes. They banded together with locals to repel the constant attacks from mainland Europeans. My family GTFOed in the late 1890s-early 1900s, I know for certain we first came to the US in 1903 and I'm the first one to go back since. I felt a great sense of pride in that, especially when someone's eyes got big reading my last name on my debit card.
On the castle grounds they still have the ruins of the old amphitheater. Masks, dolls and props in the museum lead archeologists and historians to believe that Greek comedies were especially popular on Lipari. The most popular being The Comedy of Aristophanes, a story about the women of Athens getting so tired of the men ruining everything they take over the government and dismantle the patriarchy by disguising themselves as men and running for office.... THESE are MY PEOPLE!