This was a last minute holiday. On Monday we decided to go away, on Wednesday we booked it, and on Sunday, at 4am, we were headed to Gatwick, flying with EasyJet to Catania. We’d found a delightful 5-star hotel on the island of Vulcano, part of the Aeolian islands which are north of Sicily, Italy.
Getting to Vulcano is a bit of a trek. From the airport, with baggage in tow, we boarded a Giuntabus to Milazzo. It followed the coast, around the base of Mount Etna for 90 mins, through Messina and miles of tunnels. At Milazzo we boarded an Ustica hydrofoil, normally a smooth 45 minute journey across the water to our destination. But today the sea was rough, and unbeknownst to us, you shouldn’t ever sit at the front of a hydrofoil. Before long we were clutching our arm rails; the boat crashed into waves and the nose veered up and down, our stomachs in our mouths, water smothering the windows, a buoy smashing the sides. The children, of which there were many, squealed in equal measures of terror and delight. Poseidon’s roller coaster had set sail.
An hour into our 45 minute journey, and our predicament hadn’t changed, the up-n-down up-n-down motion continued. Only now the hydrofoil’s passengers were silent. Everyone had turned a shade of green, and with concentration we all struggled to hold down our lunch, praying for the journey to end. The kids gave way first, and a yellow shirted crewman arrived with a sick bag moments too late. The kids were sick, the passengers were sick. One family were carrying a cat in a pet box, even the cat vomited — the poor thing look stunned.
Miraculously Samantha and I held out, and after 90 minutes we were on dry land, but greeted by the bad-egg sulphur smell of Vulcano’s nearby mud baths. Our smiling wide-eyed hotel rep enthusiastically greeted us, and from the minibus to the hotel pointed out the sights. It took all of Sam’s ability to focus and hear her words. I should say now, the return journey was a non-event, it was even pleasurable. I’ll repeat our learnings: never sit at the front of a hydrofoil.
Our hotel, Therasia Resort Sea & Spa, introduced itself with breathtaking views. Perched on the northernmost corner of Vulcanello, a small volcano, it looks out at a 180º vista of the Aeolian islands. From left to right we saw Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina (housing six volcanoes), Lipari — directly in front, Panarea, and in the distance to the right, Stromboli, a regularly erupting volcano dubbed “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”. Between us and Lipari there lay only a thin channel of water, at most 1km across, and frequented by ambient sailboats. Lipari itself rises quickly into the sky, leaving behind two characteristic rocky outcrops to the West, like the ruined pillars of an ancient monument. It is these small rocks which make the view unique, and magical, and from where the hotel derives its insignia. Night and day, for six days, through sunrise and sunset, this view remained wondrous. Looking into it we felt privileged, and became calm and reflective, our pefect sea of tranquility.
In such surroundings the hotel itself has much to live up to, and it does so, magnanimously. An infinity pool melds seamlessly with the sea, and is surrounded by unobtrusive cacti. The site is built into the rock in tiers, each tier with its own unobstructed and unique view, whether it’s from the breakfast table at L’Arcipelago, a table at the Michelin recommended Il Cappero, the bar at reception or your room. In the foyer stone arches give the building a sense of grandeur befitting its environment. The staff were both friendly and helpful, and by the end of the week we couldn’t help but treat many of them like friends.
Our room was modest, the cheapest room available, with a garden view — the crater of Vulcano smouldering in the distance. But it too was lovely, whitewashed with a stone tiled floor, a hidden and near silent air conditioner and a bed that slept us soundly every night. The minibar was free, and the room even had complimentary flip-flops. Twice a day our room was kept both clean and tidy, our clothes neatly folded, a little almond treat left by our bedside at night.
Come the rest of our first day, all we could do was nap and eat dinner. From L’Arcipelago we watched our first sunset, the red glowing ball silently vaporising itself in the salty ocean.