Join me for a tale about Calabria that needs to be told :-). Our trip in 2007 was indeed a memorable affair for so many reasons – quality time spent with family; new found friends, breathtaking beauty of land and sea and one very memorable boat ride.
The spectacular Aeolian Islands lay quietly off the coast of Calabria in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The seven volcanic peaks jut through the crystal blue waters beckoning to those on shore. Our trip to Calabria would not have been complete without a trip via boat to see these majestic islands. So from Tropea, we were able to book a trip to spend a leisurely day exploring these rugged peaks. The morning dawned bright and clear – a beautiful warm July day on the sea. My excitement was palpable. Some of my favorite movies were filmed on these dramatic islands – Stromboli (1949), L’Avventura (1960), and one I watch time and time again, the magical, tear jerking Il Postino (1994) with Philippe Noiret and Massimo Troisi. (‘Your laugh is a sudden silvery wave.’ ‘Your smile spreads like a butterfly.’ Sniffle. Sniffle.)
So boarded the boat we did – Joey, Mark, Aunt Mary and I – ready for our day at sea. The ship was jammed full for the excursion, hundreds of passengers both above and below. We luckily found a section of seating just aside the rail on the bottom deck so that we could feel the beautiful sea breezes. We sat content enjoying the lilt of the Italian voices around us. There was one very lively boisterous Italian man who appeared to be the boat ‘steward’. He bustled about getting everyone organized in seating, bantering with the passengers, singing over the microphone and having a jolly old time in his role. Once he discovered us passengers from afar, he made a big deal out of the only Americani aboard, announcing over the loud speaker our presence. He soon warned everyone that the seas might be a tad rough so we hunkered down for our 2 1/2-hour ride out to Vulcano, our first island.
True to our steward’s word, the seas grew increasingly rough. We were handed sickness bags as we boarded and we had chuckled at the thought of needing them on this beautiful sunny day. Soon enough passengers made good use of those little bags and the ship quickly became a sea of green faces as we tossed to and fro. Our strong American stomachs were up for the challenge however and we smiled demurely as our bags remained firmly tucked into our backpacks and bags.
I was standing at the rail peacefully watching the crystal blue waters churn alongside the boat. Suddenly, someone from above spilled a huge cup of warm coffee smack onto my head. As I turned back to the boat absolutely covered in coffee, the stunned looks on the faces of Joey, Mark and Aunt Mary along with the nearby passengers told me that it wasn’t coffee that had spilled on my head…but you guessed it, someone’s breakfast and possibly dinner from the previous evening. A direct hit! The Italian passengers sat shocked for a few seconds and then erupted into action. They started shouting for the our boisterous steward to come help which of course drew the attention of absolutely every passenger in the downstairs section. Our steward sprung into action – calling out loudly for a female worker to come help. I felt like I had suddenly been thrust into a Monty Python episode. Despite my condition, all I could do was break out into a fit of laughter – which got the Italians nearby laughing which got the entire downstairs laughing which drew folks from the upstairs deck. The female attendant appeared at my elbow as if from thin air (it was probably because I just couldn’t see her through my tears of laughter) and practically threw me over the rows of seats towards the nearest restroom. It was occupied so she loudly banged on the door to get whoever was inside out. The stunned passenger emerged quickly (with a wry smile on their face I might add). My new friend tossed me into the restroom and locked the door behind us. She turned on the faucet and quickly began dumping cups of water over my head – clothing be damned. (Amen that I was wearing that sexy Italian lingerie!) The tossing boat did nothing to calm my now queasy stomach. In spite of my sorry ass condition, we both laughed so hard we cried. I wish I could remember her name but I do remember thinking that she was ruining her great Italian shoes as I stared at her feet while she dumped cup after cup over my head. And my Italian angel kept at it until the water ran clear. As we emerged, the downstairs section erupted into cheers and clapping at the sight of the cleaned-up although soaked and slightly smelly Americana.
I returned to my seat. My very unsympathetic family erupted into puddles of laughter. Every time someone walked by they would smile over at me, in pity. Many waved and winked. For the remaining 90 minutes of the trip, I remained firmly planted in my seat tucked against the rail, slightly away from all family and passengers so as to not offend. Our boisterous steward proceeded to shout over at me from wherever he was on the boat, asking how the Americana was doing. It was a v-e-r-y long 90 minutes. And no one ever fessed up to the crime.
As for me, the nanosecond my feet hit the shores in Vulcano, I headed for the closest jumping off point….and believe me, those waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea never felt so amazingly good…clothing and sexy Italian lingerie be damned.