Isole Eolie - 7 islands off the north coast off Sicily:
Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Panarea, Stomboli, Filicudi and Alicudi
Lipari is the largest, and considered by many to be the prettiest of the islands. I visited Lipari for the first time 4 years or so ago with my twin, her husband and his sister. We had come over to Italy for a 2 week holiday from London (where we were living) and spent a few nights in Palermo, Taormina and Lipari.
We never used to worry much about accommodation, or plan to far in advance where we were going. It was thanks to this lack of planning that we found ourselves in Lipari for 2 (or was it 3...I can't remember) night. We caught a catamaran over, and at the port there were some locals offering rooms in their pensione. One of the locals approached us, and said he had an apartment just by the marina, off one of the main streets of the small, and beautiful island.
Having nothing to lose we took him up on the offer to view the apartment (and if memory serves me well I remember it was very, very cheap. It was slightly off season, end of September which always helps with the price.) I remember walking up many stairs, and then we were shown into a lovely apartment with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a view of the sea, and of the castle just above the town. Too good to turn down we took up the offer and spent an enjoyable time in Lipari.
4 years later, on my day off I went back to Lipari, about 2 weeks ago. I was sick of always going to the same beach here, so decided to join the tour that we run for our customers through work. Leaving at 6.45am I left Taormina, pretending I was a tourist and spent a beautiful day re-exploring Lipari. It is funny how much you think you have forgotten about a place, and then once you are there all the memories come flooding back. I saw the street which our apartment was on, the restaurant we had eaten a snack, and suddenly I could remember where the supermarket was!
The tour was not only in Lipari. The second island was Vulcano, which I too had done as a day trip 4 years ago from Lipari. Vulcano is as the name suggests a volcano. It is also famed for its therapeutic mud baths (very popular with the Germans in particular.) I braced myself as I exited the boat for the smell that I knew was soon to assault my senses. This time 4 years ago I nearly dry-retched as we first came to visit this island. The sulphurous fumes are inescapable... the smell of rotten eggs every where you go. Gripped with this memory I was fine, and actually could not help but laugh at the fellow tourists who were shrieking and blocking their noses in a most immature fashion.
This time around I opted out of relaxing in the mud baths. The only reason is that last time I remember the smell stayed with me for days, and no matter how many times I washed my hair the smell took a good week to go. I was paranoid throughout the rest of the holiday that others could smell this rotten egg odour still pouring off me. Yes, my skin looked good, but that smell was not worth repeating. I opted instead to go and swim and sun bake on the black sandy beaches.
All in all it was a great day, and I would like to return again to Lipari in particular because it is so pretty. I have been to 4 of the islands now: Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano and Lipari... so maybe I should go off and discover the others now.