An Agriturismo in Sicily

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We sadly said farewell to the Aeolian Islands and the Sailing Vessel Enrica. We had a 35-mile crossing back to “mainland” Sicily with no wind, but it was quiet and gave us a chance to transition back to shore life.

We had a lay day before our next destination, so I booked us into an agriturismo in the nearby Nebrodie mountains. Italy has a program where local farms can earn extra subsidies by hosting guests. The requirement is that the farm really must be a working farm – not a hotel. These can range from an extra room in the farmer’s house to more upscale villas, but they usually offer a few less “frills” than regular lodgings. You will probably not find a champagne bar or spa – after all, this is a farm first.

Off the Boat

We had to be off the boat my 9 am. We packed, cleaned, and had our check-out with the boat base. By the time we hauled all of our stuff down the plank, up the floating dock, and down the very long concrete pier, we were hot and exhausted. Since we are going to an apartment after this, we decided to take our grocery bags of leftover toilet paper, wine, and pasta. Plus we still have Mirella’s olive oil and had acquired a basil plant from the fruit cart man in Lipari. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Our taxi picked us up for the 12-mile journey. We quickly left the sea behind and rode straight up, up, up. Before we knew it, the air had cooled, and we could see tiny villages precariously perched on the mountainside. We pulled into our agriturismo and into another world.

Casali di Margello

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We had stepped into a magical place. The farm dates back several generations and was centered around an olive press. The current owners inherited the farm from her grandfather and opened the agriturismo in 2000. They have won international awards for sustainability and create their own electricity through solar power, have their own system to capture water, and grow their own crops, oranges, lemons, and olives. They also have sheep, goats, and the famous black Nebrodie pigs (I have read about these in the guidebook).

The owners turned the outbuildings, dating from the 1800s into 10 spacious rooms, which are very nice and all have their own entrances and lots of privacy. There are little nooks and crannies everywhere to read or just enjoy the view, along with a pool that overlooks the mountainside villages in the distance. And there is no WIFI except at one spot in the center of things – we called it “The WIFI Chair.”  So – it was an excellent chance to really unplug and relax.

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At first we didn’t know what to do with outselves. After all the rushing around – sailing back, getting the boat back in order, and packing, we were at a loss. No schedule, nothing to do, and no WIFI. So we went exploring. Soon we found Chiccho, who has worked on the farm for 45 years. He was off to feed the pigs, so we followed him. We approached a fence – seeing nothing – and he called out in a sing-song voice. Soon a black head popped out of the trees and a gigantic black hog thundered toward the fence, followed by more. Chiccho kept singing and then a teeny black head peeked out tentatively, followed by about a dozen little piglets all in a line. Chiccho said they were 2-weeks to 2-months old.

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We spent most of the afternoon by the pool, swimming and reading. We were the only guests, but soon others showed up from their day-trip travels. Supper was at 8 pm for all (and no lunch), so we were suddenly thankful for our grocery bags so we could rustle up crackers, bread sticks, and white wine for a late lunch poolside. Not bad.

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And cena (dinner) was worth the wait – all fresh and organic and grown within the 50 hectare farm. Antipasti included 10 small plates – mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, tarts, cheese, salami, and more. Then fresh-made pasta with a ragu of the famous Nebrodie black pig (hopefully not the ones we had just met!). Then involtini – we’re not sure, but we think maybe goat – rolled in buttered breadcrumbs and lightly fried. Delicous. And fruit and homemade cream puffs for dessert. (And all of this included in our nightly stay.)

Relaxation

It is morning. We have just had colazione (breakfast) back at the main house. I am sitting with an espresso on a sofa next to the old olive oil press. We have a driver picking us up at 1 pm to take us back down to civilization. But we will savor these last few hours of peaceful bliss up on the mountain.

P.S. Sent from our next destination – as I was so relaxed that I never made it to the WIFI chair!

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The WIFI Chair

Exploring Salina

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We love the Island of Salina so much that we are still here. It is so peaceful and relaxing. We have noticed that many of the other boats that come with the intention of an overnight also are still here!

Around the Island

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We decided to take a look at the rest of the island today. There is a company that rents out teeny rental cars, and visitors take them all over.

Our first stop was Pollaro, which is where “Il Postino” was filmed – breathtaking views over the water, with boats anchored below.

Then on to Rinella – also on the water with a black sand beach. We drove from down from the top of the mountain to the end of the road that stopped at the sea. There was a giant dock with no one around, so we parked there and walked up into the town for a casual lunch. When we returned, the whole scene had changed – the once-a-week ferry was heading our way and toward our car! Frank ran down and consulted with the mooring men, who shrugged and said “Va Bene” (it’s ok). Whew.

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And The Most Interesting Beach

We had heard there was a good beach in the town of Malfa and followed the signs to “Spiagga” (beach). The road dead-ended at some curved stone stairs, with no water in sight. So we parked and cautiously walked down. The stairs curved more and eventually opened onto a path that seemed to be carved out of the volcanic rock, then sharply descended even further. Still, we could not see, but by this time were very curious.

Finally, we turned a corner and saw the most impressive and remote all-stone beach with a little tiki hut tucked into the rocks. We weren’t sure that the beach itself looked all that comfortable – those were some big rocks. But we ordered drinks, found a shady spot in the tiki bar, and wiled away the afternoon.

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Next Up – Sail Back to Sicily for a Night on the Farm

A Fish Story

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A quick update on the highlight of our day – Frank finally caught a fish – and we all witnessed it!

As I wrote before, Frank has been diligently trying to fish from the boat. He consults the local bait shop and tries out new types of fish, bread, and cheese every day – even rice cakes (which the fish liked, but were hard to put on the hook). He also walks up and down the dock talking to anyone else who is interested in fish. They all scratch their heads and come up with new theories in a variety of language – Italian, German, and French. (I am beginning to see how NASA collaboration must have worked to come up with solutions to get to the moon.)

He has been using our “day old” bread but today decided to use the good stuff. It worked like a charm. While he was still eating a roll himself, he caught a barracuda! I rushed up to take a picture. The guys on the boat next to us were appropriately impressed – especially that it was a barracuda.

So he tried again and again – and caught even bigger barracuda, although they fell off the hook in the end. He drew quite an audience. Here he is telling them all about the “big” fish that just got away.

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The Island of Salina

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We are on the move again – this time to the Island of Salina. This was a much easier passage – only 10 miles and no wind. So we motored, but the day was beautiful, with very nice scenery.

We docked fine, although our plank set-up is a little trickier than in Lipari.

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And we are next to some cruisers – on either side of us – who live in Scotland and Ireland respectively, but keep their boats in Malta. They are cruising around Sicily this summer. We were super jealous, but they told us their dream is to cruise the Chesapeake. I guess the water is always “bluer” on the other side.

Santa Marina

Salina was formed from two extinguished volcanos and has fresh-water springs, so has a lush landscape. Santa Marina, the main town where we are docked, has white-washed houses, lots of cute shops, and very good restaurants. The guidebook say the island is built on the fortunes of wine families that produce the Malvasia wine for which the island is famous.

It is very quiet and sophisticated, but in a laid-back way. It is our favorite so far.

Trek to the Beach

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In what is becoming our own small world, we ran into our former dockmate – the captain of the boat that took us to Stromboli. He was taking a group to Salina. He told us about his favorite restaurant in the next town over. Since we now consider ourselves pseudo-hikers, we decided to just walk. It was 3 kilometers (although hilly), but on a good road, rather than through volcanic ash. So seemed easy!

Lingua is at the end of the road and obviously THE PLACE to spend a Sunday afternoon. It is on the water with a rocky beach and lined with casual dining places. We went to the captain’s favorite and had the best squid we have ever had – stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley and then cooked in Malvasia wine. We topped off our lunch at a place that we read is famous all over Italy for its granite – a slushy ice drink. I had mandorla (almond) – my new favorite – they have lots of almond trees in Sicily so very fresh. Delicious and perfect for the hike back.

Everyday Life

Today, we are taking it easy and catching up on boat chores. I am working, we are doing laundry, and Frank is running errands in town.

And – I am very happy to report that FRANK DID CATCH A FISH! He has visited the local bait store wherever we are every single day to try something new and has consulted with every fisherman he sees. Everyone else on the seawall stops by to chat, so all the other boats have been rooting for him. On the big day, he was so excited that he woke up at 6:30 – so unfortunately no one was able to witness the catch, since we were all asleep. But I asked him to recreate it in the picture below – “How big was it?”

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So that is life on the Sailing Vessel Enrica.

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