Thursday, October 8, 2015

Postcard from Lampedusa

Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Our trip to Sicily last month meant we could continue the unintentional tradition we've followed since we were married, that being, we spend my birthday away from home.

During our first year of marriage, like this year, we spent most of September in Sicily, but that year there was an additional impetus for our visit—R's brother, an elected official of the city at the time, conducted a civil marriage ceremony for us amongst R's family and friends that couldn't make it to the U.S. the year before for our wedding.

Two days after the ceremony we flew southwest to Lampedusa, the largest of the islands in Sicily's Pelagie island chain. It's only 70 miles from Africa (Tunisia), while Sicily is 127 miles away in the opposite direction.



The year after that we flew from NYC to Sicily in September again, but we made it back just before my birthday, so it doesn't actually count (although since I was still sporting tan lines from the beach there on my actual birthday, maybe it does?).

The following year was our ill-fated trip to New Orleans. Then our tour around the island of St. Lucia. And last year, our incredible road trip through Andalucía.

This year, though, back to Sicily. After we booked our flights R suggested we book another set to Lampedusa for my birthday, a place that was etched in my mind from my last one there because of the breathtaking colors of its water, its tasty crudo (Italy's take on sashimi), and the simple beauty of its arid landscape.

As I would be almost 7 months pregnant, though, I wasn't too sure how I'd feel about experiencing the desert heat of Lampedusa without being able to cool down with some of the island's delectable crudo delicacies.

But then I thought of the water—as seen above—and agreed.

Hotel Cupola Bianca pool + garden, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Hotel Cupola Bianca pool + garden, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Hotel Cupola Bianca pool + garden, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into the elegant, yet low-key, Hotel Cupola Bianca, a lovely little property that R found. Last time we stayed in town, but this time we opted for a more relaxing and resort-y ambiance a 20-minute walk from the main drag.

Despite the desert heat, the hotel had a lush garden filled with bougainvillea and plumeria, at the center of which was a pool edged by palm trees, olive trees and dark wood chaise lounges. A few steps away were the small casitas where we stayed, each with its own terrace, perfect for drying our beach gear every evening.

Also in the garden: a small restaurant where we had dinner our first night and breakfast every morning of our stay.

Hotel Cupola Bianca pool + garden, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Hotel Cupola Bianca villa, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Between breakfast and dinner we drove around in our little rental beach car to explore the different cale (small bays) around the craggy-cliffed island.

On our first full day we did the easy 20'ish minute hike (easier for me since I wasn't carrying our beach bag and a very serious umbrella) down to the Isola dei Conigli (Island of the Rabbits), a nature reserve and beach that has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world.

Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

We'd been there before and knew that the pros (gorgeous, crystal clear water, white sand, and stunning views) far outweighed the cons (the hike down and the lack of beach loungers for rent or any other services), especially since the cons weren't really cons.

We'd rented an umbrella before making the descent and packed food and drinks, so we were all set to laze the day away there.

Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Riserva Naturale Spiaggia dei Conigli, Rabbit Island Nature Reserve, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com


On our second day on Lampedusa we explored a brand new spot: Cala Pulcino, a place that was partly chosen for its cute name (pulcino means baby chick). After parking our car we headed to the path leading down to the beach, passing a sign with an indecipherable set of numbers that should have informed us how far the hike down was and about how long it would take. Too bad we didn't try harder to figure out what the numbers meant or to Google a bit about that particular cala before we ended up on what turned out to be a 45-minute hike down a very rocky path (in flip flops).

We were quite charmed by the path at the beginning, being as we were somehow in a fragrant pine forest that provided lots of shade. But then the forest ended and we were under the blazing sun at 11AM, squeezing ourselves between narrow rock faces and down an uneven rocky path.

But we knew (hoped) it wouldn't be that much longer to get to the beach, where we could finally take a dip and cool down.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. A combination of high tide and the scirocco wind that was blowing during our entire visit created an even higher-than usual tide so the beach we arrived at didn't match the pictures at the link above—instead, all we saw were black stones the size of baguettes and dinner rolls leading to black boulders one would need to clamber over or around to reach the water.

Not exactly our hoped-for beach experience.

R leaned against a boulder while I plopped myself on a rock, we both took large swigs of water and then, without even discussing it, we turned and began the 45-minute hike (and by then it was noon) all the way back up, not even bothering to take a picture. When I stopped to catch my breath in a pocket of shade, a group of Italians passing us on their way down stopped to make sure I was okay (I felt completely fine, just your normal "whoa it's hot and I need to relax for a moment", but I'm sure I looked much more distressed).

By the time we reached the top we were ready for something easy—and having warned some people who were heading down that they might want to reconsider while they were still near the top and learning from them that Cala Pisana was a nice, non-strenuous beach experience (pictured below), we decided to head there.

They were right—it was beautiful: a small beach with chaise lounges for rent at the head of a cala bordered on both sides with flat spaces etched into the cliffs where people could lay out their own towels and chairs. And in the middle? Gorgeous, gorgeous water.

The only problem, though, was that it was already well into the middle of the day by the time we made it there, and there was literally no place for us to set ourselves up for a relaxing afternoon.

So: we headed back to our hotel and cooled off in the garden and pool.

Cala Pisana, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Cala Pisana, Lampedusa Sicily  |  Postcard from Lampedusa on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com



On our last full day we rented beach loungers on the low-lying cliffs surrounding Cala Croce, a cala we'd spotted our second night in town when R took me out for my birthday dinner to the most perfect of restaurants: Cavalluccio Marino.

It's not located in the town, but rather on a cliff edging Cala Croce with a lovely terrace where we dined two nights in a row (it was that good). As there are no structures around the hotel, and a drop down into the water was not too far away, the ambiance was wonderfully isolated beyond the warm glow of the restaurant's lighting, yet lively within it.

The people that work there were kind and welcoming (and congratulatory), while the food was outstanding. So outstanding that when R tasted my exquisite pasta (a linguine with prawns, chilies, and silky, caramelized onions), he quickly finished his own (a black squid ink ravioli) and ordered another dish of mine.

(This is one of the many reasons a nice long walk was necessary upon our return.)

By the time we were boarding our flight back to Sicily proper we were significantly tanned (me so much so that I remained under my hat and under an umbrella for the entire rest of our trip), full of seafood, and completely blissed out.

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One year ago: Postcard from Andalucía: Nerja & Marbella & Sunday in Sigtuna
Two years ago: Properly ushering Autumn in

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XOXO,
J.