The Isle of Lipari


Lipari is a popular island among tourists, but it does not have the crush of shoppers who waddle the spic and sparkle lanes of Capris. Stephanie had this on her personal agenda because her grandfather was imprisoned here (house arrest) by Mussolini for unacceptable political beliefs. It falls short the standards we set with Alcatraz or Rikers, where we house teenagers, presumably innocent, awaiting trial. Of course, Benito did not feed them; that was the responsibility of a family on the mainland that had lost its pasta winner.

I have made only occasional mention of our hotels, most of which we loved, but this one has interest beyond its breakfast buffet and clean hallways.

This place has tchotchkes everywhere. The outdoor garden is serene; a great place to read a book or catch up on a blog, which obviously, I did not.

Our first excursion took us to a simple restaurant on the main street of this two-street town. Once again, the food was surprisingly great.

San Francisco should have so many variations on spaghetti, this one with crushed anchovy dressing. The calamari was rolled around a seafood stuffing and grilled perfectly. Rod’s fries and tomatoes were served separate from the swordfish, as if the tools to eat the steak might require room to plan an attack. The effort was less than modest.

Rick and Stephanie booked a sail to a volcano and a couple of nearby islands for the following day, but Rod and I had been traveling for 24 days, so the lure of our hotel’s peaceful garden was too great. We stayed on Lipari.

Before their ship sailed, the group got to do a morning museum tour.

Rick and I speculated about the shape of amphora vessels, which to our sensibilities seem awkward. They are fashioned to a pointed bottom, which makes for a long carry home from Delta Kappa Groceries if you cannot set it down. But I think I know why they were manufactured this way.

After the boat took our travel-mates away, we strolled the narrow, non-commercial streets off the second port. These sun drenched simple homes, with murals bleached into tasteful obscurity, were the confines of Italians serving house arrest. Maybe Sing Sing will one day be a fashionable co-op, but I don’t see it.

There is not much to say about these photos (above), but I thought they captured the happy dignity of people whose place on the earth seems remote. I doubt that many would live anywhere else in the world. There is something relaxing about an island. It brings to mind a passage from Shaw’s play, Man and Superman, from an encounter in hell:

No, no, no, my child: do not pray. If you do, you will throw away the main advantage of this place. Written over the gate here are the words “Leave every hope behind, ye who enter.” Only think what a relief that is! For what is hope? A form of moral responsibility. Here there is no hope, and consequently no duty, no work, nothing to be gained by praying, nothing to be lost by doing what you like. Hell, in short, is a place where you have nothing to do but amuse yourself.” 

And so island life seems to me.

We settled at a marvelous restaurant on the slope of an ancient street. Seated beside a young Brit couple, Harry and Lidia, the conversation was entertaining, about Brexit, Trump, and a dozen other, less consequential things.

I finished off a marvelous Sicilian Cabernet, Rod contributing almost nothing to the effort, while we shared gnocchi with clams, Rod had pork with almonds, figs, and red onions. I ordered an artisanal green pasta with shrimp. We split a huge bowl of fresh fruit. The restaurant owner was justly proud of this establishment and the wife who does all the cooking. They seemed satisfied with life. Though we had dined outside, I made it a point to find the cook and express our appreciation to her beaming face and square shoulders.

You oughta see her carry wood!
I tal you w’at, eet do you good.”  from a poem by T.A. Daly

Rick and Stephanie wandered by, having finished their boat trip, and ate at the same restaurant, but at a different table.

The hour was late, the night warm, the moon was full and so were we.

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