The morning’s light brought the sight of a smoking, flaming Stromboli, after an overnight sail on a 54 foot Hanse schooner from the island of Procida, which lies off the coast of Napoli. I was traveling with my son and another family, and our captain Antonio.
It was a voyage of myth, mystery and privilege to tread the waters of the ancients, and answer the invitation of Aeolus, who was king of the Aeolian Islands. He was appointed by Zeus to be the Ruler of the Winds, both to calm them and to arouse them. Other myths, as well as poetry, were set on the stage of the Aeolians and it brought to life a line from the Jabberwocky that my father quoted every night before putting my sisters and I to bed.
“The time has come the walrus said,
to think of many things,
and sealing wax,
and cabbages and kings,
and while the sea was boiling hot,
and whether pigs have wings”.
Sure enough, the sea does boil with underwater “fumeroles” and thermal hot springs that we delighted swimming in, in between glasses of fruity Sicilian wine and local delicacies. We sailed from island to island discovering what lay in waiting for culinary voyagers like us just passing by discovering the likes of great gelato, fresh fish with capers and wild island fennel on Panerea, sweet Malvasia wine from the slopes of Salina.
We sailed out to Filicudi, one of the furthest islands with a population of 235. Our destination was La Serena, a great fish restaurant that sits rig
ht on the beach on a giant rock that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. It fulfills the dream of what we all want in an island getaway; picturesque, authentic, delicious, and away from it all.
Tethered to the pier, we spent the next day swimming and I have a lasting image of my son Graham, 24 at the time, who was snorkeling around the bay and caught a baby octopus with his bare hands. All I could see was a fist full of tentacles coming heroically out of the sea. We made an octopus potato salad for lunch and dined on a just-caught foot and 1/2 long shiny silver tuna from a passing fisherman’s boat. After we sliced the tuna into steaks and rendered an aperitivo’s worth to eat raw with a squeeze of lemon and fresh pepper, Graham licked the bones of the fish as if it were a sushi popsicle. We bought a huge “grappolo of pomodorini” (bunches of cherry tomatoes on the vine) and fresh basil and hoisted the sails for another overnight sail back to Procida. It was a magic trip full of unexpected good fortune and delight. Although, as we left Panarea, we heard the warning howls of Aeolus’s winds, a bit eery at best and wondered how to interpret. Even though the sun was out, a storm was brewing under the sea. Sure enough, we had a bumpy sail through a deep dark night, but we made it. Adventure and good memories intact.