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Explore Lipari by Car and Spend an Enchanting Night in Vulcano

Explore Lipari by Car and Spend an Enchanting Night in Vulcano

Last night's elegant meal in Lipari's historic center was yet another chance to sample the delicious food of Sicily. After a fun and restful evening, I poked my head over the side of the boat at 8 a.m. and saw another beautiful day. I had about an hour and a half before everybody else woke up, so I decided to walk into town and have another look at beautiful Lipari. I dropped off my postcards at the post office and bought some locally grown oranges for the crew.

Once we returned to the boat, my traveling companions, Herbert and Claudia, and I set off on a driving tour of Lipari. To document the Italian language immersion experience offered by Laboratorio Linguistico, German TV travel journalist Herbert plans to bring a television team to Sicily next year. He must visit each potential filming location in advance to assess its aesthetic potential, lighting, and infrastructure.

He'd asked Francesco, our captain, to set him up with a local guide who could drive him around the island, and he'd been kind enough to invite Claudia and me along. At 9:30 a.m., our local guide and driver, Pasquale Liberatore (what a terrific name), met us at the Lipari pleasure craft harbor to begin our tour of this stunning island.

We all piled into Pasquale's car, and he drove off. There is a huge community of southern Italian emigrants in Melbourne, Australia, where Pasquale and his family settled in the late 1950s, making for a fascinating personal narrative. After WWII, the economy in southern Italy suffered greatly, and hundreds of thousands of people fled the region. As the last surviving member of his family, Pasquale decided to move back to Lipari after spending several decades in Australia. About 15 years ago, he relocated back to the United States, where he has found a home he loves, despite the fact that he occasionally misses his siblings and their families back in Australia. He advertises himself as "Pasquale, the English-speaking cab driver and tour guide," so it stands to reason that he does speak the language fluently.

He initially took us to Canneto, a small town to the north of Lipari that boasts a picturesque seaside site along a horseshoe-shaped harbor. We opted to start the day off with a late breakfast, and I thoroughly liked my tangy lemon granita, a traditional Sicilian dish that consists of crushed ice in a variety of flavors. Herbert ate a warm croissant and sipped cappuccino in his peaceful slumber.

As we left the tavern, we passed a small three-wheeled cargo vehicle parked near the lungomare, the waterfront promenade, from which a local fisherman was selling the fresh fish he had caught that morning. He yelled out the names of the fish at an unusual tempo, drawing the attention of curious onlookers. One thing I noticed about Sicily is that selling goods on the street is still commonplace, especially for those dealing in food.

We kept on driving in the direction of the white pumice quarries for which Lipari is known. This volcanic rock is an important ingredient in the making of cement as well as an abrasive and exfoliant in the beauty industry. Involcanic eruptions produce pumice, a porous, lightweight, typically white stone. Obsidian, sometimes known as volcanic glass, is a dark brown, dense, practically opaque, and heavy volcanic stone that we stopped to observe just a few dozen meters away from the pumice quarries.

Despite having similar chemical compositions, obsidian and pumice are ejected at different temperatures during volcanic eruptions, as detailed by Pasquale. Since obsidian possesses a flint-like characteristic, it has been utilized for countless years to fashion blades, spear tips, and other cutting tools. Modern obsidian surgical scalpels are used because they are safer than their steel counterparts. Jewelry made from obsidian, a type of volcanic glass, may be found in various shops around the Eolian Islands, serving a less technological purpose.

We rounded the northernmost point of Lipari and were rewarded with a breathtaking panorama of Salina. Pasquale drove us up a winding mountain road to a stunning country church with breathtaking views of the Eolian Islands: the Santuario di Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani. A jet fighter zipped by us a few meters over the lake as we stood on the terrace railing at what must have been supersonic speed. The source of the thundering sound had already faded beyond the horizon by the time we located it.

We drove for another fifteen minutes to a kaolin quarry on the western side of the island. Kaolin is a silica-based mineral that is utilized in many different applications, including ceramics, food, and even toothpaste. The crags that look out over the ocean were illuminated by yellow and purple flowers, and everything was in full bloom.

We pulled off in a parking lot next to a private settlement at Lipari's southern tip, where we got a breathtaking glimpse of Vulcano. The fissures around the crater of this still-active volcano were releasing columns of sulfur fumes, which we could see. In front of the main island of Vulcano is a level area known as Vulcanello. About 2000 years ago, a volcanic eruption created this area of the island. All around us, volcanism is still changing the landscape.

By the time Pasquale left us off in Lipari's historic center, we had already explored nearly the entire island. Having a tour guide who is also an island native give you the rundown is the best way to get to know Lipari. After a pleasant tour around town, Claudia and I stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant on the square near Marina Corta before beginning our journey back to our sailboat.

We left Lipari around 3 in the afternoon and headed toward Vulcano. Francesco, our boat's skipper, sailed us by some fascinating rock formations on Lipari's southern coast. In front of Lipari, a group of tall, solitary boulders rose up out of the water, and one of these juts up into the air like a praying pope. We sailed around the island to its eastern side and anchored in the bay in front of Porto di Levante, the only port of entry. There were a number of sailboats anchored off the coast of the island and a number of ferry boats entering and leaving the harbor.

For the next two hours in the late afternoon, Claudia, Agnieszka, and I studied Italian grammar principles such as the Condizionale and the Congiuntivo under the direction of Franco, our professional teacher. If you want to learn Italian, you won't find a more inspiring setting than a sailboat in a picturesque bay in Southern Italy.

So far, the best part of our sailing trip has been the near-perfect immersion in Italian that we've had thanks to our constant exposure to the language and the fact that both of our professors speak only Italian with us. The learning process is extremely intensive and rapid, and the concept comes as close to total immersion as one can imagine.

We stayed out on the boat for the night, taking in the gorgeous sunset that painted the sky pink and purple. Following supper, we retired to the deck, where we were serenaded by Agnieszka, a talented singer, and Franco, an accomplished guitarist.

It was a fantastic, almost religious experience to sit on a sailboat at night in the beautiful bay of Vulcano, surrounded by candlelight, and listen to the moving music of two talented artists. As much as I knew that tomorrow would be our last day of sailing, I didn't want this moment to end.

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