Golden Day Forty-Six: Awesome Stromboli With Mamma Margaret
Buon Anno Amici! To begin the New Year, we’re traveling to the amazing Aeolians, a cluster of 7 diverse islands that lie off the northeast coast of Sicily. We’ll start off with the most dramatic of the group, Stromboli, that rises out of the sea like a huge black cone. Its famous, flamboyant volcano erupts about every 15 minutes. Last October, on a Country Walkers trip, I had the awesome experience of climbing up to the top of the island and watching the amazing show of fireworks.
The wonderful Margaret Cowan (aka Mamma Margaret) is also a Stromboli fan. I met Mamma Margaret on-line through her acclaimed newsletter and Italian Cooking Schools website. She has been traveling to Italy since 1972, lived there for a few years, and has turned her decades-long passion into a thriving business that guides travelers to culinary holidays all over Italy. Clients praise her exceptional programs that bring them to authentic, magical Italian experiences, for great prices.
Here’s Mamma Margaret’s Golden Day In Stromboli:
Stromboli enchants me as a feast for my senses. In San Vincenzo (population about 400), I walk slowly, indulging in the visual buffet. On stone streets too narrow for normal cars, brilliant white, cube-shaped houses with shady verandahs, supported by round white columns, stand behind white walls. Purple bougainvillea, red hibiscus, orange geraniums and lemon trees peak over walls, splashing colour on the dazzling white scene. The blue sea washes against black sand or jagged volcanic rock. The mountain with its black and brown top and skirt of green foot hills dominates it all.
I wake up in the Casa Limone (Lemon House) with four B&B rooms on two floors, part of the 12-room Hotel Miramare about 50 stairs below. I step out my ground floor door into a garden paradise. Ambling down the stone walk lined with palm, fig and pine trees, I see the black beach and blue sea. Flower beds hold an exotic variety of succulent plants, pink flowering trees and geraniums. Rosemary bushes and sage plants beckon me to inhale their perfumes. Behind them lie lemon trees and lines of grape vines.
Down at the family run Hotel Miramare for breakfast, I greet the signora, “Buon giorno!” On the covered outdoor terrace right at the beach, I savour my fresh croissant, drink my caffe latte and gaze over the beach and sea way out to the horizon. Peace, beauty in a friendly little spot!
For lunch I walk 10-15 minutes to the town centre, first along a narrow street lined with homes and gardens. A main street has a few shops and the red house where Ingrid Bergman lived “in sin” with Roberto Rossellini in 1949 when they made the movie, “Stromboli”.
Up a slope to the main piazza and down a bit, I arrive at Luciano’s (Via Roma 15) down home style restaurant. On the big balcony with amazing 180 degree panoramas of the town and sea, I always eat well on their antipasti buffet with grilled eggplant, octopus and more, seafood pasta or tasty swordfish.
About 4:00, I don my sturdy hiking boots and put my flashlight, water and layers of clothing in my day pack. For about three hours I hike along mountain foothill paths, mainly through Mediterranean scrub, about half the time up and down stone steps, and half on flat ground, reaching 400 metres–that’s as far as one can go without an official guide. Great exercise after lazing all day! The views of the white town, coast and sea awe me.
The live volcano, an imposing presence, dominates the landscape. Towards the end of my hike, I hear it rumbling about every 15 minutes as if to say, “This is my territory. Welcome.”
As the path zigzags down the hill, I spot my oasis, the Osservatoio Restaurant, about 200 metres right above the sea. Sipping white wine on their patio, I look back at the sun setting over the sea in orange, pink and gold. Eating pizza under the dark sky, I look up at the volcano hurling its fire into the night sky as if it’s showing off, “See my power and beauty!” Spectacular, natural fireworks!
About 9:00, flashlight on, for about 40 minutes I slowly make my way to town down the dark, zigzagging road of uneven stones and dirt. A few people walk past me. Stromboli taxis resemble golf course vehicles, so passengers hold on tight on a rather bumpy ride. For awhile I hear the volcano talking. Then far below, the sea and dark town come into view. Stromboli has no street lights. A 15 minute walk along quiet, dark streets takes me home to Casa Limone.
I feel truly grateful for my Golden Day of peace, colours, gardens, sea, sand, fish and fire. I’ve enjoyed Stromboli many times and will always return.
Other restaurants I’ve enjoyed: Punta Lena (Via Marina) and Ai Gecchi (Via Marabito Giuseppe) atHotel Villaggio Stromboli
Grazie Margaret, for starting off our 2011 of Golden Days so beautifully!
I must add that there is superb gelato (with beautiful views) to be had at the bar in the Piazza San Vincenzo in the town of Stromboli. Also, the adventure of hiking all the way to the top of Stromboli is spectacular! For info about Group Climbs, check out Magmatrek, where you can be set up with hiking boots, flashlights, and a great guide.