Sunday, September 14, 2008

L'isola di Favignana

We wanted to make a quick island getaway before the summer ended. We were looking for rest and relaxation so we decided to visit Favignana, a tiny island off the west coast of Sicily. Favignana is also known as 'la grande farfalla', the big butterfly, because of the way the island is shaped.

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We left Milan on an early Friday morning flight, flying a low-cost airline, RyanAir, from Bergamo's Orio al Serio airport. It was a quick 1.5 hour flight to Trapani. From the airport, we hopped on a local bus taking us to the port in downtown Trapani, about 20 miles away. By 10.30am, we had boarded an 'aliscafo', hydrofoil, for the 30 minute trip to Favignana. I was surprised how precisely on time the ferry company was run; the boat left exactly as scheduled.

Before long, we caught our first glimpse of the island. We landed on a dock bustling with mostly fishing activity.

There were fishermen busy cleaning their nets that morning.

By that time, we were starving after all that traveling. We stopped at bar in one of the two main piazzas for a typical Sicilian breakfast: coffee granita and brioche. Granita is basically a frozen ice dessert, but with a smoother texture. I had been dying to try the real thing and I was not dissapointed. It was really good.

Then we picked up our bags and walked less than 10 minutes to our home for the next 4 nights. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our apartment at La Plaza Residence was so convenient, just outside of 'town' and it looked nice.

We decided to rent bikes to get around the island. That afternoon, we were already blissfully happy laying on the beach at Lido Burrone. It was only 10-15 minute bike ride away.

I admired the scenery as the sun went down. The temperature was perfect: hot enough outside so that you wanted to jump in the water for a swim, and the water was cool enough so that you felt refreshed, but warm enough so you could stay in for as long as you liked. Ahh... I could feel all the stress from work and city living melt away.

In the next days, we visited other beaches around the island, but our favorite remains Cala Rossa. It's easy to see why...

The bright blue water in this cove was really amazing. We spent alot of time here, jumping into the water when arriving (it was hot riding over), swimming, come out, apply sunblock and lay down to dry, repeat. I had my swimming goggles which I used to check the fish that were also swimming around. The water was so, so clear.

The only drawback is that this beautiful place also attracts lots of boaters. At its peak on Sunday afternoon, there were easily over 100 boats out there. Luckily the bay is big enough for everyone. Also, it's too bad that the beach is a rocky one; the white sand in the bay doesn't start till after the rocks. Still, the beautiful color of the sea made up for it.

All around the island, you can find tufa rock and caves, which makes for an interesting sight. The island is also famous for its ancient fishing technique of tonnara, of Arab origin, with the trapping and 'mattanza' massacre of bluefin tuna. This usually happens in May and Favignana is one of the few places in Italy where this is still done.

Now, what's good vacation without food? On the first night, we made the mistake of not having made dinner reservations anywhere. It was a Friday night, and although there were quite a number of restaurants in town, the ones that looked good were all full. We finally found a busy one where we were promised a table at 9.30pm instead of 10pm.

Turned out we made an excellent choice. We ate so well and the prices were very reasonable at 7-8euro/dish. I tried a local specialty, 'sarde beccafico', stuffed sardines, for the first time and absolutely fell in love with it. They are these tiny sardines, wrapped around a filling of breadcrumbs, pinenuts and raisins, sprinkled with sugar and baked in lemon juice. Yum!

Stef had a dish of 'involtini spade', swordfish rolls, which he also loved. We ended up eating at U'Spiticchiu 3 out of the 4 nights were there. (We tried a different place the 2nd night, was dissapointed and knew to come back). It wasn't a fancy place, but the food was great and the atmosphere was friendly. We ended up making friends several other tourists who were also eating there every night. Seating is close together in this small restaurant and each night we sat there enjoying our food while conversations flowed easily between tables. I think that really added to the appeal of this place!

For breakfast, we would usually get a pastry from one of the bakeries and sometimes granita as well. This is granita di gelsi, which is mulberry.

For lunch, we usually picked up two pieces of pizza from this breadmaker. I don't what it is but the pizza here is really good even when eaten 2 hours later on the beach. The tomatoes on the pizza are probably locally grown and are oh-so sweet.

There's also a pasticceria that sells traditional Sicilian sweets, like the many varieties of paste di mandorle, almond cookies.

The town itself is small and cute. There are only a couple main streets where all the shops are located.

And it was not unusual to see the local residents sitting outside watching the world pass by. This old man was actually selling fichi d' india, which is prickly pear cactus, a fruit from the cactus plants. I've never actually tried this, but I've seen them on cactus plants here.

Getting around the island on bikes was fun. Well, this was until I had my 'little accident' at the end of our 3rd day there. I was approaching a t-junction where I had to make a left turn when I hit some gravel and went sliding into the road. Stef was ahead of me but he made a sharper turn avoiding the gravel, but when I was there, a car had arrived so I didn't follow his path and went straight into the gravel (which I didn't see till it was too late). The result: scratches an lost skin on elbow, knee and shin. Bruises on my upper leg, knee and ankle (thank god I had on shorts that came to my knee!). It was not a pretty sight, and poor S ended up being a regular at the pharmacy purchasing first aid supplies for me. I was limping for the next couple days and the most comfortable thing for me to wear was a dress that hit just above the knee.

So my last day on the island was pretty much shot. No more swimming. I tried to convince S to go to the beach but he didn't feel like it. (Hey, I tried!) We stayed inside most of the day. Unfortunately I had only brought one novel with me and I ended up reading it twice. I only ventured out for dinner... no way I was going to miss out on that!

The next morning we packed up and headed towards the dock again. We were going to spend the day and that night in Trapani as our flight home the next morning was an early one. At the dock, we saw some fishermen selling fish fresh from their catch.

This time we took the ferry, which was slower, but it fit our schedule.

Goodbye, Favignana, thanks for an enjoyable island holiday...


longkn said...

that's a good life you're living there homie! (minus the road rash of course)

leng said...

Arghhh... the road rash! What a souvenir to take home. ;-)

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