Thanks a lot to Mohamad al Karbi who invited me to post my travel diary on his page
September 13, 2016 – The alarm clock is at four, but after the journey to Bergamo, the flight Bergamo-Trapani with Ryanair, a little ‘transfer and the hydrofoil, we arrive in Favignana to the village Punta Longa at lunchtime. The place is very cozy, a few little houses in the green overlooking the sea.
For a first exploration in the area we stop to eat in a small kiosk right on the rocks. The choice of dishes is not exciting, the bill is salty. We taste the sea of the beautiful bay of Marasolo, where the colors of the water have all the shades of blue, then we try to reach Cala Azzurra by bike, but it is too far. We go to the village of Favignana to make some food purchases, and we return in the evening for dinner in La Lampara restaurant: abundant portions, quality a little disappointing.
September 14 – After a good and abundant breakfast, we decide to spend the morning in the beach of Marasolo. Its transparent, turquoise and cobalt waters, very light, are an invitation to dive continuously. In addition, perhaps due to the level of salinity, the water is extraordinarily light. A light lunch, then we are waiting for the Vito Sinagra boat to take us on the island tour. Favignana is a very varied island, the coasts alternate overhangs overlooking the sea where you can recognize the old tuff quarries, microscopic little beaches hidden among impervious cliffs, tongues of rock that stretch out over the sea. The sandy and clear bottom allows the light to play with all the shades of blue and blue, and the sea is irresistible. The tour of the island takes about four hours, interspersed with numerous dives in the most beautiful bays. In the evening, dinner on the terrace with arancini, a delicacy!
September 15 – I get up early to take a walk in the area, explore the surroundings and see the sunrise. The sun opens a gap in the clouds and night moisture, and begins to shine. The day will then be the most variable, even with a splash of rain, but still fully summery.
After breakfast we all together make a stop in the village of Favignana where they taste almond milk. Gastronomic deepening is part of the holiday! We move behind the tonnara establishments for bathing … in port. There is a small and enchanting protected bay, almost inaccessible due to the irregularity of the rocks, where the water is very calm and the colors are beautiful.
We leave the group of friends, do a little shopping in the country and go home for a quick lunch. After lunch there is time for a nice bath and sun on the rocks of Calamone.
In the late afternoon we await the visit of the tonnara. For a long time the inhabitants of the island were supported only by fishing for bluefin tuna, a true and rare delicacy. The tonnara of Favignana is the industrial version of this fishing: built and founded in the nineteenth century by the Fiorio family, it has been for 150 years a well-known symbol in Italy and abroad and an activity able to give work to all the inhabitants of the island, men and women. After the fall into ruin of the family, the tonnara was bought by the Parodi family of Genoa, which managed to make it work until 1982, the year of the definitive closure. Of this management I like to remember the initiative of the wife of the owner, who had thought of creating nurseries inside the structure, to allow workers to work without too much difficulty even with very small children. Obviously, permits were granted for breastfeeding.
Today, bluefin tuna fishing is done with more sophisticated and invasive methods, at the limit of sustainability. Suffice it to say that young animals are preferred because they are smaller, whereas here adult fish were fished that had already reproduced many times. The bluefin tuna goes almost everything in Japan and in Japanese restaurants for the preparation of sushi, while what we commonly find in the box is the least prized yellow fin.
Today the tonnara has been converted into a museum, where you can visit the areas once used for the preparation of tuna, from the storage of boats used for fishing to all the necessary steps from capture to canning. Very interesting and touching is the final film, an unpublished one of the Istituto Luce dated 1926-1934 which illustrates all the phases, from the laying of the tonnara nets to the slaughter, to the arrival of the tuna in the factory.
Light dinner on the terrace of our small two-room apartment, to end with the pleasant visit of Mrs and Mr Puppi who pass by for a chat.
September 16 – Already in the morning we want to try the Praia, or the beautiful sandy beach of the village of Favignana. Port by port, it is worth while being comfortable. But first we cross the coast of the village to reach Palazzo Fiorio and visit it.
Today this elegant and impressive house hosts the info-point of Favignana, but it is allowed to take a ride in a part of the interior spaces, where different exhibitions are set up (among all, A sea of colors), and in the beautiful planted garden that overlooking the sea. We return to the beach, soft and golden sand, pleasant on the skin. It pulls a nice scirocco wind that makes it easy to endure the scorching sun. In the very first afternoon we face the ascent of Mount St. Catherine, on top of which there is a ruined building that denounces a variegated past. It is located on the highest peak of Favignana, and can be reached very easily, although a little laboriously, through a path that alternates the stairs and uphill paths. The wind helps us not to feel the heat, and in the space of about an hour we are finally at the top. From up there the view is, as they say, breathtaking. The butterfly shape of the island is well identified, the bays we now know, with the profiles of Levanzo and the farthest Sicily in the background. We descend, not without difficulty, just in time: the top is about to hide in the clouds. We return in the middle of the afternoon to change and prepare ourselves, in view of the dinner at the restaurant La Bettola: excellent fish cous cous.
I want to visit Lido Burrone, the biggest sandy beach on the island. In fact it is quite large and it seems very crowded, since we have now set eyes with the beautiful solitude of the rocks. In reality there is room for everyone, and we also enjoy a nice swim in the sea a little ‘rough, where the water is made less transparent by the sand beaten by the waves.
Lunch is at Cala Cavallo, in a small trattoria hidden in the green, run by Tuscans. I taste the tuna parmigiana, good but not very original. The lunch conditions us for many hours, but before returning we take a dip in the enchanting little bay of San Nicola, behind the cemetery. We continue to the country for some shopping, and then home. The beautiful sunset invites us to take a last, quick dip in Marasolo. For dinner, a very tasty arancino, with tuna, pistachio and fresh tomato.
September 18 – The day begins serene, then clouds, then brightens again. Better for me to spend the morning in Marasolo, in splendid solitude (or better, in the company of reading) with frequent refreshing swims. After a quick lunch of fruit, I move on a beautiful beach between Calamoni and Lido Burrone, sandy, not very popular and with a transparent sea, turquoise. The afternoon ends with an aperitif at Kiosco di Marasolo, where I fall in love with the “Cala Azzurra” sandwich, stuffed with smoked swordfish, aubergines and pistachios. Divino can be said of a sandwich?
The evening ends in beauty, with the cheerful and virtuous open-air concert offered by the Banda di Favignana at the old trap.
September 19 – Today the day is particularly windy, although quite serene. I take my morning jog that allows me to see the sunrise, so we take a stroll around the center of the country to see well what is already known and provide a little ‘expense. We return to “home” and go immediately on the rocks in front of Punta Longa, quite comfortable because dishes, where the water is once again beautiful, light and transparent. The air begins to no longer be so hot, it is better to take advantage of the central time of the day to make some dives. After a light lunch I prefer to end the afternoon on the deck chairs of the pool, more comfortable and warmer. In the evening we welcome for the second time the restaurant La Bettola, where I continue my gastronomic study: busiate with pesto alla trapanese, excellent, and aubergine caponata, superb. But first we take a tour of the “old” Favignana with the tufa houses and the spontaneous hypogeal gardens.
September 20th – Today we rent a scooter, in order to comfortably ride around the island and admire every corner. The first stop is Cala Azzurra, crowded (but how do they do it in summer?), Then the impervious cliffs of Bue Marino with its caves that seem Egyptian times, and Cala Rossa. The sea here does not end up enchanting me. Words are not enough to describe the colors. Unfortunately, the access possibilities are few and very inaccessible.
We continue the coastal path from the Scalo Cavallo, and from there we arrive in the country, for a quick shopping. After a light snack we head towards the Faraglione, where the rest of the company awaits us and where we take a bath in a microscopic, enchanting and well sheltered bay. We return from the east coast with a stop at the lighthouse of Punta Sottile, then the Cala Grande with its vast pine forest, to the wonderful Cala Rotonda. One last look at the Pirreca beach before going back under the Monte Santa Caterina and returning.
The sea represents Favignana’s strong point, for its never-changing colors and for the charm of a rugged, strong coast, rich in traces of the reciprocal relationship. Perhaps, when you visit the island, you think less about it, which is equally difficult, but varied and very particular. Favignana is rich in water, and this helps crops, especially vine and prickly pear, and urban settlement. In the vast flat areas of the two wings of the butterfly there are numerous tufa houses, with a square and often single-storied shape, plastered with white, with luxuriant and flowering gardens of purple bougainvillea and blue plumbago. In the western part there are many hypogean gardens, many spontaneous, others more conduits, which are born inside the old tuff quarries, now abandoned: flowering plants and orchards hidden to the less attentive eyes. An unexpected and fascinating show, a strong image of life that is born and grows where you least expect it. Dinner is at home, local cheese, olives, tomatoes, prickly pears and Sicilian desserts, king’s dinner.
September 21 – Today is the first day of autumn, but here we are still immersed in the full summer. If it were not for the days a little shorter and the air just starting to cool off, we might delude ourselves to be in July. The end of the holiday, however, is approaching, it is appropriate to take a look around: let’s go to Levanzo.
The small island is clearly visible from the coast of Favignana, it seems to touch it, in fact it takes ten minutes of hydrofoil to reach it. It greets us charming, a small crib of white houses, tidy and clean, looking at the small port where, on the crystal clear water, small boats swing. We ask some information to understand how to move: we go to the left, in the direction of the stack. We discover a nice walk a bit ‘high compared to the foaming sea, in a first asphalt path, then dirt, finally in a stony path that climbs gently and, at some point, falls a little to go through the pines, without but never lose sight of the sea. The walk is quite long, but not tiring, indeed, very pleasant, and when we least expect it we arrive at the Grotta del Genovese.
From here the road to return to the country is easy, well paved, and downhill. What little of the internal territory of Levanzo that we see shows us an island burnt, rich in Mediterranean vegetation, with some isolated and beautiful construction. Return to the village to take a granita and then continue the coastal walk in the other direction, to Cala Fredda, where we enjoy the view, once again, of a rocky corner that plunges into the wonderfully transparent sea.
Unfortunately waiting for the hydrofoil for the return, we will take a bath from the rocks in Favignana. In the evening, excellent dinner at the Due Colonne restaurant, with Danila and Paolo.
September 22nd – It’s the last day we spend in Favignana, tomorrow the hydrofoil is waiting for us shortly after 10am to take us to Trapani, on the mainland, at home … The island greets us with a perfect day, serene, warm, just ventilated, and the sea is calm and so blue that it does not seem to make us leave. Morning and afternoon are dedicated to long baths and swims and to equally long hours on the beach or on the rocks to sunbathe. It is also the day of the wild fennel gathering, we hope to be able to conserve it and use it. The dinner consists of an aperitif and a sandwich “Cala Azzurra” at the kiosk of Marasolo, but the guest of honor is the wonderful sunset that is proposed, as a new and unrepeatable show, and accompanies our last evening, all together, in Favignana.
September 23 – Surprise! The holiday is not over: we still have a day available, as the hydrofoil settles us in Trapani in the morning, and our plane will leave late tonight. We head immediately to the cableway that, from Trapani, takes us to Monte San Giuliano, in Erice. We are located in a medieval town built in stone and protected by the Cyclopean Walls. We immediately meet the Cathedral of the Assumption, erected in the fourteenth-century Gothic style, in which we enter through the portal of Catalan inspiration. The interior, which at first glance looks like a crochet sculpture, to a closer look reveals the lack of harmony with the context, is a recent addition. The large marble altar depicting scenes from the life of Christ is very beautiful.
Our walk continues through narrow streets and more or less patrician houses, but the destination is the famous pastry “Maria Grammatico”, known for the quality of Sicilian specialties. Refilled, we continue climbing up to the square where noble buildings stand out, and where it stands out the New Edelweiss restaurant, a name I would not expect to find here. Next to simple stone houses with a squat and squat shape, there are charming houses with sinuous flowered balconies and sumptuous portals. Among all the Palazzo Burgarella, of the homonymous family of entrepreneurs. They were importers of bluefin tuna, traders in sea salt, and among the founders of the Banco di Sicilia. We meet the well-known Center of Scientific Culture named after Ettore Majorana, and finally we arrive at the vantage point where the view is, as they say, breathtaking. Below us, the sea of northern Sicily and San Vito Lo Capo.
Slowly we go down, we must reach the bus stop that will take us to Trapani.
Even the Sicilian capital enchants us for its beauty. It is a rather large city, unfortunately largely enlarged with a building with an uncared for aesthetics, but the historic center is beautiful. Churches and Baroque palaces alternate, magnificent and impressive, while the sea often remembers its presence. We stop to attend the celebration of a wedding: we wait for the bride in an equally baroque and redundant choreography.
We enter the church of San Giuliano, which sees the first construction in the eleventh century. Inside, the original sculptural groups of the “Mysteries”, representing the death and passion of Jesus Christ, each of them dedicated, and supported, by the representatives of a profession.
In Trapani you can breathe an elegant and noble air as only the people of the south can express, and combines the redundant beauty of the Baroque with the privacy of large windows well protected by the dark and flowery courtyards hidden behind huge gates.
We could not leave Sicily without a last arancino … and as we head towards the airport, the sun setting on the salt flats gives us the last, wonderful images of this blessed land.
(13 September – 23 September 2016)