Today is Monday, May 17, 2004. I have been either too busy or too relaxed to write much for the past 4 days. Taormina was wonderful. We had a few problems with our rooms, unable to get air conditioning that worked consistently. For 2 ˝ days I tried to explain to the engineer that he had a defective thermostat. Finally, Friday evening at 6 pm he agreed this was the problem after we had moved to another room that had the identical problem, but of course it was too late to acquire a new one, so we managed that night again. Otherwise, the hotel was lovely. The food was excellent and the location couldn’t be beat. We went on a tour of the Greek/Roman amphitheatre above us on the hill. It was truly astonishing to see what had been created more than 2000 years ago and how the Romans, with their interest in entertainment, gladiators and violence had changed the structure. The picture below doesn’t do justice to this.

With the improving weather, we were able to tour the town. The homes are jammed together along the narrow streets, often with balconies overflowing with flowers.

Taormina is built high on a hill overlooking the earlier town of Naxus which can be seen in the distance on the earlier picture of the view from our balcony. In the distance you can make out the base of Mt. Etna. We were impressed at the courage and tenaciousness (?folly) of these people who make their lives on the slopes of a volcano that has been active and often erupting since the dawn of civilization and before. Their attitude seems to be, it won’t happen to me, and if it does, I’ll just move to another area.

We were picked up Saturday morning by a bus that carted the Nichols, the Feldmans and the Solomons to meet our yacht, La Coveta, in the next town. Below is Steven boarding the yacht.

We cruised along the eastern coast of Sicily, through the Straight of Messina which is the body of water between the toe of Italy and Sicily. We than turned west and made our way to our first stop in the Aeolian Islands, the island of Vulcano. This small Island first appeared in 183 BCE and has since been a source of constant interest for civilization. It quickly cooled down but has remained a source of constant sulfur and mineral baths from slow warm jets of heat from the earth’s core. When the air is cool, as it was that first night, you can see steam rising from the pools on the top of the peak. We are told in Frommer’s that the island is a favorite spot for Germans who come to bathe in the sulfurous mud. We all went for a walk on the island and stopped at a few spots for pictures.

The night was spent at anchor at Vulcano where we had a fabulous meal prepared by our chef, John. We were a little fearful about the food since John’s claim to fame, at least with me, was having made a circumnavigation in the Whitbread race as cook and crew. He did not disappoint us. The food has been spectacular. As good as we’ve had anywhere in Italy.

The next day we went to Panaria, a true resort island northwest of Vulcano. Lunch on shore at Raya, a local favorite restaurant, was excellent. This is view from the restaurant, with La Coveta in the distance.

Unfortunately, Harriet was a bit under the weather, so there was a damper on some of our fun. But she was a great sport and we managed to enjoy the beauty of the island. We returned Southward to Lipari, the island capital of the archipelago. After docking for the night, some of us went for a walk to explore the town. We discovered there museum and decided to return the following morning. Dinner was once again a masterpiece.

Today, Monday the 17, we returned to the museum. Although the contents were remarkable, what I found most amazing were the prehistoric village that had been discovered. These pictures hardly convey the feeling one has looking at the remnants of a town where people lived 1500-2000 years BCE.

People lived in these stone huts. You can see the passage ways that constituted the paths between homes. From just above here, you could look over the next harbor where all the nice restaurants and shops operated.

Tuesday we were off to a quiet cove off of Lipari where we were able to sale on the Lasers and some went for rides on the launch. The cliffs and volcanic rock were beautiful, jutting out from the sea to enormous heights and leaving many small coves below. The water was still cold, so nobody went swimming. That afternoon we motored over to Panaria for lunch at Raya restaurant. The food was all homemade and delicious and the view from the restaurant was another site of many that continued to take our collective breath away.

We walked on the island a bit and met a man from Bologna who has spent the summer on this tiny island for 40 years. He had a lovely house that looked out on the sea over beautiful gardens.

Back to our cove behind Lipari for the night, but we were awakened when the wind surprised the crew and turned around to blow against us, so we all joined the captain and crew up on the Bridge deck while he navigated us in pitch darkness back into the safety of Lipari Harbor.

The next day we were off to a new cove behind Vulcano Island. This was like paradise. We were sheltered in a small area on rocky plateau. The water was crystal clear and we spent the most perfect few hours just lying around, kayaking into the nooks and crannies and eating lunch. Then we motored up to the island of Salinas. What a special place. This is the island where the movie “Il Postino” was made.

Later that evening, as we motored to see the volcanic eruptions from Stromboli, the northernmost island in the chain, we watched the sunset on the Mediterranean.

Everybody on board saw the dramatic and famous “green flash” as the sun went just below the horizon. As it darkened and we approached Stromboli, we could see the red hot flames at the upper edge of the volcano. Unfortunately, it was impossible to photograph. The combination of the perfect cove, beautiful Salinas, the magnificent sunset and witnessing a volcano erupting made this the most exciting night of our trip.

We left Lipari harbor early on the 19th and headed to Cefalu, a port on the northern shore of Sicily half way back to Palermo. This is supposed to be the town where “Cinema Paradiso” was made, though you couldn’t convince me based on what I saw of the town. It was still lovely. The picture below shows the piazza that convinced me this was not the place I saw in the movie.

We arose the next morning and Betsy and I went for our daily walk up the hill from the harbor towards Cefalu, then off back to Palermo over the smoothest sea I have seen in some time. The weather was perfect and we bid a sad adieu to our hosting crew and La Coveta.