Volcanic Adventure

Stromboli Travel Blog

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Pulling up to Panarea, our lunch stop on our mini-cruise to Stromboli.
Thursday, 10/1/09

We woke up early but got on the road a half hour later than we wanted and headed straight to the port at Milazzo. It took forever to find parking. The first time we went, to get tickets, it was easy...we realized this was because it was siesta time - between 1-4pm - when every Sicilian family is home eating lunch. LOADS of parking spaces then. We went to the parking garage that was recommended to me by a TravBuddy friend (the Garage Delle Isole), but learned they would be closed by the time the cruise got back. We found another garage a few blocks from the dock, and Mags said the attendant gave her a card, which said it would be closed at 10:30pm, so if we did happen to get on one of the island cruises, we'd get back in time because they arrived back at the port around 9:30. We kind of assumed we were too late to get on the boat at this point, because the cruises left at 10:30am, and it was 10:20, but I was determined to try.
Liz, Dad and my big face enjoying our lovely seafood lunch at Da Francesco restaurant on Panarea.
I really wanted to see red lava - not the black, already hardened kind.

The Turqs ran to the tour company that had canceled us to get their refund in cash, and I looked at the waterfront and noticed the boat from the other tour company at the dock, so I ran over to the lady standing at the front with a clipboard and asked if that boat was going to Stromboli and Panarea, and could we get on it? She said of course, and walked us to the ticket office across the street and we got our tickets JUST in time to get on the boat.

It was a lovely cruise - stopping at Panarea for lunch. We found an adorable restaurant one flight up from the dock, with a view onto the beach and the bay.
View from our restaurant on Panarea
Food was great, and the waiter was very friendly and helpful. We walked around the rocks a bit, taking photos of a smoking Stromboli in the haze, and got back on the boat headed towards the volcano.

We toured around some of the larger rocks like Strombolicchio - a huge monolith sitting in the water - and then saw the lava flow area blackening one entire side of Stromboli in the daylight before stopping at the island to walk up the winding narrow road to the top. We grabbed a gelato (becoming a daily habit) and some pignoli cookies (pine nut cookies - my favorite from childhood). Mom and Dad went back down, and the Turqs and I walked around some more, checking out the villa where Ingrid Bergman stayed during the filming of Roberto Rosselini's film, "Stromboli," and we shopped for souvenirs.

Back on the boat as the sun was setting, so they took us to the blackened side to view the volcano by night.
View from Panarea to smoking Stromboli in the haze.
We were stopped in front of the lava flow area for about ten minutes and then we heard what sounded like a small thunder clap, or fireworks burst, and saw the first eruption. Mags and I kept waiting for the next eruption, and when it seemed another one wasn't coming, we figured maybe we should make some kind of offering to the volcano gods. She had some cereal in her bag, so we threw a little bit in the water, and POW! Eruption. Worked like a charm. Who knew the volcano gods liked cereal. Within a half an hour we saw 4 small eruptions. Hard to catch on film, but it was fun. I’d like to see more - do the hike to the top next time, even though that was a logistical nightmare. Starting October 1st, the ferries and hydrofoils do limited crossings, so the timing gets really tricky. Also, all the charming hotels were booked up.
Our restaurant on Panarea - typical Aeolian architecture (looks like the Greek islands)
Next time!

On the way back, the mini-cruise folks served a basic macaroni with tuna, with some good bread, and crappy wine in a box. When we arrived at the garage at 9:45, it was closed. We were starting to freak out. My mother would not be happy if we couldn't get back to the villa and had to spend the night in Milazzo. Mags had a business card from the parking attendant so she called the number and handed it to me to talk to him. It was ringing and ringing, and then these folks sitting in a parked car next to the garage asked if we had a car parked inside. They said they had a car in there too - but the lady in the car happened to know the wife of the owner, so they had already called and he was on his way down to the garage now. What luck! Mags looked at the card and it said it closed at 20:30.
Cruising around the huge outcroppings of rock surrounding Stromboli
..she thought 20:30 meant 10:30, not 8:30. I had made that exact mistake with a train schedule when I was backpacking several years ago. Sucks! But we passed this test by the skin of our teeth. A foreshadowing of what was to come...

As we were driving back to the villa, it started raining. We had seen plenty of lightning on the boat, and it had drizzled a lot, and even poured for a bit, but then it stopped. But now it was REALLY coming down. The water wasn’t draining off the streets. I was driving slowly on the autostrada, but came upon a fork in the highway, missed where the highway turned and wound up exiting near Messina. The city was flooding pretty quickly - it was hairy in some spots with some areas of water coming up to the car door - I was trying not to drown the car and just get back on the A18.
The side deck of our "mini-crociera" (mini-cruise)
I think my shoulders were hunched up to my ears, I was so nervous.

A few miles after we finally got back on the A18 (which took 20 minutes), the traffic stopped and there were police blocking the way at the tollbooth, diverting traffic back the other way. I asked if there was any way to get back to south to Acireale...on the strada statale (state road next to the highway), etc. He said absolutely impossible, all the roads heading south were closed. I didn’t understand any more than that, but I figured they were flooded. There are also dozens of tunnels on the A18, and some weren't lit, so this seemed like a prudent decision on their part - I wasn't going to argue. However, the only other way to get back to Acireale was to go northwest to Palermo, and then head southeast, which would probably take over 8 hours - on a good day without rain, and who knew if other areas of Sicily were flooding? Nobody wanted to drive it, so we got off at Messina.
Stromboli!


We looked in our GPS for a hotel in Messina. The first one listed didn’t exist, so then we looked for a name brand chain hotel - there was a “Jolly Hotel” which luckily DID exist (I'm not sure how often these GPS's get updated, but the "Points of Interest" and other categories were usually WAY off). We got 2 rooms and found parking on the street. We were soaked just running the 2 blocks back to the hotel. Nothing was open - bar, etc. - and we certainly didn't want to go out in the rain, so I stole a piece of pound cake from the hotel lobby (probably the display was left over from breakfast, but it was good), and then Liz, Mags & I drank the 2 beers in the minifridge and went to bed and slept soundly.
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Pulling up to Panarea, our lunch s…
Pulling up to Panarea, our lunch …
Liz, Dad and my big face enjoying …
Liz, Dad and my big face enjoying…
View from our restaurant on Panarea
View from our restaurant on Panarea
View from Panarea to smoking Strom…
View from Panarea to smoking Stro…
Our restaurant on Panarea - typica…
Our restaurant on Panarea - typic…
Cruising around the huge outcroppi…
Cruising around the huge outcropp…
The side deck of our mini-crocier…
The side deck of our "mini-crocie…
Stromboli!
Stromboli!
The Sciara Del Fuoco -  current …
The "Sciara Del Fuoco" - current…
Up close and personal with the vol…
Up close and personal with the vo…
Strombolicchio, one of the big roc…
Strombolicchio, one of the big ro…
Another side of Strombolicchio
Another side of Strombolicchio
The black beach at Stromboli
The black beach at Stromboli
One of the tiny Ape Cars (Ape …
One of the tiny "Ape Cars" ("Ape"…
Dad and Mom with their daily gelat…
Dad and Mom with their daily gela…
The house where Ingrid Bergman liv…
The house where Ingrid Bergman li…
Plaque on the house
Plaque on the house
Hanging flowers I liked
Hanging flowers I liked
The church at the top of the island
The church at the top of the island
Some flora and fauna of Stromboli.…
Some flora and fauna of Stromboli…
More interesting plants
More interesting plants
And then...the eruptions!
And then...the eruptions!
My poor camera was struggling to f…
My poor camera was struggling to …
Stromboli eruption
Stromboli eruption
Stromboli eruption
Stromboli eruption
My best shot of the eruptions.
My best shot of the eruptions.
OK, Im kidding this shot and the …
OK, I'm kidding this shot and the…
Stromboli
photo by: tonygiglio