Our friends were thinking about taking us to one of the Aegadian Islands near Trapani (the main ones being Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo), when they settled on Marettimo since their uncle, who had lived on Marettimo as the local doctor for 8 years, was staying there for a visit.
After we got off the ferry, we let our stomachs settle as we wandered through the town. Marettimo, having about 300 inhabitants in the busy season, was relatively quick to walk through, and we soon found ourselves on the other side of the port town enjoying a wonderful peach granita (like the watermelon and fig versions I made) that helped cool us down in the hot sun, as we waited for our second boat ride of the day.
Marettimo is a rocky, mountainous island, and most people hike around it or take a boat to get to the other side of the island. Even to reach most beaches, you must hitch a ride in a boat or hike there as there really isn’t anything immediately surrounding the port. Much like the hidden beaches in Puglia, often boat operators will drop you off at a beach in the morning and pick you up later.
It takes a certain level of skill to drive a boat like this on the open water. And a lot of crazy. You can’t tell from the picture, but the boat is probably about 15-18 feet long. The driver made a series of zig-zags to keep us in the right direction while avoiding the waves that threatened to topple the boat at any moment. He even stopped and pointed out a sunken boat visible from the surface, a few hundred meters off the shore, much like our own boat. I could have done without that historical monument. He laughed at the expressions on our faces.
Some of the best photos I’m afraid I missed because, well, I was afraid. Not only for the sea salt to accumulate on my lens, but that I might actually topple over the side with my camera didn’t make me too eager to sit there perched and ready for a shot. I’d be lying if I said the “three-hour-tour” refrain from Gilligan’s Island didn’t enter my brain a few times during the trip.
One of the most memorable parts of our boat trip was also the scariest. We made our way through extremely choppy water, and the sun slowly started to disappear as clouds covered it. The blue water turned a dull gray and we neared a tall rock formation in the water called Punta Troia, in the shape of a half-bell, open-faced and hollow. (This is not it, remember, I didn’t have my camera out!)
Our driver, whom I’m convinced had the crazy part of his job down pat, decided we should get a better look at the ceiling of the hollow rock formation. He turned the boat around, and backed it slowly in the formation, with waves from the open water throwing us up, down, and around, and the sides of the rock formation mere feet from our boat.
Another boat had been following our path but made no move to join or follow us into the bell-shaped cavern. The passengers in that boat stared at us open-mouthed, I’m sure it was because their driver gave them some additional information we weren’t privy to, like, “Remember that sunken boat we saw earlier? Well, here’s the driver in his new boat! Hope it lasts a year this time!”
After we pulled out of the Punta Troia, we spent the rest of the trip stopping at the various grottoes, taking several swims off the side of the boat, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
There was a beautiful “natural” swimming pool which was barricaded on all sides by rocks and protected from the turbulent sea just on the other side.
On the way back, though the waters were as rough as before, I felt more secure since I had stashed my camera away and I was in my bathing suit. I had nothing to get wet besides myself, and nothing to lose.
Here is the prize that awaited us at the end of our trip. Over 2 kilos of Pasta ai Frutti di Mare (looks similar to the Pasta allo Scoglio we ate in Puglia, doesn’t it?) to split between the 7 of us. We were hungry, we were ravenous, but they’d also brought us french fries and bread beforehand, and the hunger had its way with them before the ginormous plate of pasta arrived. The plate was set down with a thud, and I met the eyes of each of my companions, their mouths set in a grim line. We made an unspoken commitment, picked up our forks and dug in. A fight to the finish!!
We did our best. The ladies took as much as they could, seconds, thirds, and then the burden fell on the men to clean up as much as possible. We didn’t want to make a brutta figura and leave half a kilo of pasta in that bowl. In the end I did some skillful rearrangement of the remaining pasta to make it appear “less,” but 2-300 grams of pasta per person is not a single meal, it’s a U.N. food shipment!
To be continued….