Probably six or seven sailboats were anchored in this little cove just off the tiny island of Panarea, and a local fisherman was skippering back and forth between these boats, trying to sell some of his fresh catch. This would obviously be the Sicilian equivalent of a “traveling salesman”.
Sure enough he arrived at our boat as well and our captain Francesco had an animated friendly discussion with him. They both spoke Italian too fast for me to follow, but I gathered that we were not in need of fresh fish today. The fisherman flashed a bright smile and took off to try his luck at the next sailboat. Slowly but surely all our crew members came out of their cabins and made an appearance on deck on this beautiful day.
By 10 am we were ready to go on land, and in two trips Francesco packed us into his dingy and took us ashore. We arrived on a nice sandy beach called Drauto and hiked up past a local restaurant to a narrow road that was running halfway up the mountain along the eastern side of this tiny island. Panarea only has two villages: San Pietro with the main harbour, and Drauto. It also features excavations of a Neolithic village, just south of the bay where we landed. Many of the houses have beautiful gardens with tropical plants and colourful flowers. After about a 20 minute walk we had reached our next language learning locale: a local bar with an outdoor terrace where we would have our next Italian lesson. (An awesome concept…)
The bar was closed, and the owner came out to greet us. He had no problem with us sitting on his terrace to study Italian. We broke up into two groups, the beginner group with Lorenzo and Herbert was studying with our captain Francesco, while the three ladies, Claudia, Agnieszka and I were studying with Franco. We spent a good couple of hours studying and I was amazed that the beautiful surroundings with all the colourful flowers did not complete distract us.
When our group was finished, we listened in a little bit on Lorenzo and Herbert’s lesson. Francesco, always good for a sly little joke, had created a language learning scenario where Herbert was a representative of a dating service, and Lorenzo was looking for a wife. The challenge for Lorenzo was to communicate in reasonable Italian what he was looking for in a wife while Herbert had to ask the appropriate questions to supply him with the right “merchandise”.
Now, the irony is that Lorenzo is a Catholic priest, and some of the statements that came out of both of them were indeed hilarious. Fortunately, Lorenzo has a great sense of humour, played along great and had a lot of fun himself with this exercise. This is definitely not your standard, dry language learning experience.
After our lesson we continued our walk on the narrow street, probably another twenty minutes or so into the town of Panarea, located on the eastern side of the island and offering a gorgeous view of Stromboli and of a couple of rock outliers called Basiluzzo and Dattilo located in the sea.
By this time we were hungry and we sat down on the outdoor terrace of restaurant / hotel. Later on we realized that the sign above the hotel read “Best Western”. It was a rather strange sight to see this American hotel chain sign in this tiny little village on an island north of Sicily. I strengthened myself with a prosciutto and cheese panino while my colleagues had various types of pasta and salads. With lunch completed I was ready to embark on a photo safari of Panarea, said goodbye to the group who still wanted to relax and headed off into the northern part of town.
To me Panarea is probably one of the more scenic islands, after Lipari. Many of the houses have a cubic shape and are whitewashed. In many ways it reminded me of images of the Greek island of Santorini. Pink, red and purple bougainvilleas are growing all over the place, colourful subtropical flowers and plants adorn the brilliant white walls surrounding the houses. Everything is extremely clean, tidy and well-kept. Panarea incidentally is one of the more expensive of the Eolian Islands, and a simple pasta dish will set you back about 12 to 15 Euros at lunch.
I walked all the way towards the end of the road which led me up onto a promontory with a small pine forest and many rocky outcrops. I sat down for a bit and admired the majestic view from this little spot. The sky was a bright blue, while the sea was sparkling in a deeper shade of the same colour. Stromboli was visible in the distance, and the rocky outcrops of Basiluzzo and Dattilo were gleaming not far off shore. A view like this has to be absorbed and enjoyed.