Friday 30 September 2016

Arrivederci Milano!

Arriving home in Sydney, 6th June 2015
We have been home in Australia for over a year, but I've been reluctant to upload this final blogpost. Perhaps leaving the blog open has been my way of gradually letting go of the incredible adventure that was 'our Milan transfer'. 

But home we are, settled back into our house in Sydney.  I'm working full-time again after my two years of la dolce vita, while it's Stefano's turn to catch his breath living the more relaxed pace of a freelance writer.  Before I close this blog, I thought I'd take a trip back to Milan one last time to document our final ten days in Italy.
Sant Ambrogio, the oldest church in Milan and our local metro stop.
We returned to Milan from Palermo to celebrate our final stay in the north of Italy with my sister Belinda who was on her way to visit her son Tim on a gap year in England
No sooner had Belinda landed at Malpensa airport than we whisked her away to the Italian region  that stole our hearts , the hilly Lange district in the Piedmont. 
The sun shone and the hilltop towns sparkled, so it didn't take long for Belinda to join our Piedmont fan club. We ambled through the Langhe vineyards basking under blue, spring skies, lounged by the pool at the agriturismo Carlin Carlota and
enjoyed spectacular views from the balcony while toasting Belinda's arrival.
 We revisited some of our favourite towns
Exploring the streets of Alba.

 and explored the spectacular ancient ruins of Sacra di Sant Michele.
We treated ourselves to a wonderful meal at Bovio, one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the Langhe region, in the nearby town of La Morra, 
Best of all, we returned to our favourite agriturismo, Stra, in Novello, to share its charms with Belinda and discover more about this beautiful corner of northern Italy.

After yet another wonderful stay in the Langhe, we returned to Milan to say goodbye. 
A final glass of prosecco at the rooftop bar of la Rinacente.
In a flurry of 'last times' we whisked Belinda around the sights of Milan.  
Sforza Castle, the street markets, and a quick tour of our favourite church, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.  

Then there was only one last stop left.  A last stroll past the Duomo.  Sparkling as always in the spring sunshine.  
Arrivederci Milano.  
Ci vediamo prossima volta!
Stefano e Jenny!

Perhaps it's no surprise that I've taken a taste of Italy home to Sydney.  Not just gelato. 

Sunday 10 January 2016

Lipari - Leaving the best to last (well, almost)

As the end of our travels drew near, we considered leaving Italy for an island experience off the coast of Croatia.  But that was before we had taken the ferry to Lipari, one of the Aeolian islands to the north of Sicily.  
Lipari seduced us, as did all the Aeolian islands.
Originally we had booked an apartment for a week, but after a couple of days, we knew that wouldn't be enough.

Was it the sea views from our apartment at SeaRose on via Madelena
with days spent idly lounging on the outdoor sofa, while ferries and fishing boats and yachts glided by?
Or the delicious gelato eaten in a brioche bun for some very Sicilian breakfasts?
Or was it the lunches of freshly caught swordfish served with succulent caponata,
followed by a glass of Malvasia, the dessert wine that has been produced on these islands for centuries?
Yes, yes, and yes!  It was for all those reasons that we stayed, and stayed, and stayed.  In the end, we spent almost a month on Lipari and loved every second, and every mouthful!
To work up an appetite for our lavish lunches, we explored many of the walking paths on Lipari.
Sometimes the paths resembled dry creek beds that tumbled steeply down to the sea, guaranteeing spectacular views, and some rather stressful strolls.  But we burned those calories!
We also enjoyed island hopping using the local ferries to take day trips some of the other six Aeolian islands.
Filicudi is the smallest and sleepiest of the islands.
It took a couple of hours to get there on the local ferry, leaving us just enough time to grab a taxi to the other side of the island for a quick lunch at the Hotel Sirena, before catching the last ferry back to Lipari.  We were the only customers.  Picture post-card perfect.
For many visitors, a night climb up the volcanic island of Stromboli is a must-do.  But for us, after walking up to the crater on Vulcano, our curiosity about getting up close to lava flows and volcanic activity was completely satisfied.
 Not even the thermal mud pools tempted us to linger for very long.
We preferred Salina, one of the more popular islands which is considered the most beautiful.  It was much greener and cooler than Vulcano.
The island of Salina hosts a small museum detailing the history of immigration from the Aeolian islands to Australia and the USA.  Although it is mostly closed during the off-season, we were fortunate to book a visit through the Commune.  
The woman who took us on our private tour explained that around the end of the 19th century, when the grapes used to produce the famous Malvasia wine failed, many of the islanders left.  
While our tour-guide's family had immigrated to Melbourne, most of the Aeolians who went to Australia settled around the inner-west Sydney suburb of Leichhardt, an area we know very well, having lived there and in neighbouring suburbs over many years.
After learning more about the connection between Leichhardt and the Aeolian islands, we felt even more at home on Lipari.  So, it was only mildly surprising when a local fruit-stall owner enthusiastically welcomed us as locals...from the eighth Aeolian island - Australia!
Leaving as 'almost locals', we took many wonderful memories with us.  And like many Aeolians who have left their islands for distant shores, we too will return one day.

E adesso l'ultima fermata in Italia, Novello e poi, Milano.

Where we stayed:
via Maddalena 90
Apartment Panarea - a 1 bedroom apartment with a wonderful terrace.
Apartment Filicudi - a studio apartment with the best view.
Reviews of SeaRose apartments CLICK HERE

The vivacious Alessia manages these charming apartments for Luciana, and her daughter, Nicole. Although small, with only basic kitchen equipment, the apartments are just gorgeous.  Perhaps in summer, when every apartment is fully occupied it wouldn't be quite as relaxing, but for us it was a dream come true.  Honestly we wouldn't think of staying anywhere else.  The kind hospitality offered by Alessia and Luciana was one of the highlights of our stay.

Where we walked:
Suggested walks on Lipari  CLICK HERE.
More ideas for what to do on Lipari CLICK HERE
To read more about immigration from these islands to Australia CLICK HERE.