Palermo alla Isole Salina

Sabato 16 Ottobre.
Palermo alla Isole Salina.

In my train compartment, on the way to Milazzo, was occurring, what I imagine to be an Italian family dinner. The father directing conversations, the son weighing in with his educated offerings, the mother agreeing and disagreeing, the daughter having to leave and visit a boyfriend at a stop along the way. But it was just 6 strangers.

The train skirted the coast, and at times all that I could see from the window, was the Mediterranean, as flat and smooth as a mirror.

As we approach Milazzo, la famiglia mia, of my compartment, point out my island (ominously shrouded in clouds), and tell me stories of how beautiful it is…

The ferry ride disconnects me – I’m now ready to meet my island, Salina. I size it up as we slowly approach.

I see two towns, one at the port, Rinella, the other half way up, nestling between and dwarfed by the two craters that dominate the island. Everything seems as though it’s being pulled up to them.

It’s in the higher town, Leni, that I meet the key-holder to my rented house. He takes me higher still, round tight, hairpin turns, on small island lanes past tiny vineyards and country houses.

The house is plain, but it’s quiet and far enough for me from everywhere. From its vantage point, I can see the adjoining islands, and the lights of the mainland of Sicily. Clouds on the horizon blend the sea into the sky – I can’t see where one ends and the other begins.

I have to explore right away – find my way to the sea’s edge, a journey I plan to make every day.

Down, I find little paths, some carved into the rocks, with stone brick walls as high as my head. I map out the way, knowing that I have to return in the dark.

I flag every landmark to memory – an old Vespa, swallowed by weeds, the rotting remains of a house, an altar built into the side of the road.

Down past Leni, down into Rinella, and it’s only until the last turn on a small cobblestoned path through houses, that I finally hear, then see the waves lapping a small sandy beach.

I find a restaurant and eat quickly, not wanting to delay my trek back. It’s 4km by road, and I fear with the climb, it could take hours.

The sound of the waves is replaced by my labored breath. I stop once or twice. The sound of chirping insects and a far away scooter are soon drowned out by the thumping of my heart.

I find new short cuts, and although they bypass my carefully remembered landmarks from my descent, I soon have cut a path straight up the island to my house, la Casa Mia. It took me 25 minutes.

Tired, I end my first day on my island.