I was in hospital the other day waiting patiently with everyone else for the slow receptionist to call my partner’s number. I am not exaggerating when I say slow either, this lady took an hour to check that two people had appointments. On her third outpatient she suddenly upped and left, not saying a word to the guy who was being booked in and accompanied a tearful woman to a room next to where I was sitting. She gave the lady a ticket for the car park and proceeded to give her the following advice: “Don’t eat cheese for a month and you’ll be fine”. Now, this lady had obviously just come from the cardiac ward. The receptionist trivialised her problem and sent her on her way. The lady was upset. The receptionist dismissive. The lady stood there for a moment, repeated what the receptionist had said and shed another tear. The receptionist went back to making sure that no-one would be on time for their appointments.
I wonder how the lady is getting on with no cheese. She might be thinking “But how can this be so? I live in the Mediterranean, everyone knows that they follow the healthiest diet on the planet, right? and cheese is part of that diet”. She has probably decided that the ricotta she puts on her Pasta alla Norma doesn’t count, nor the parmesan for that matter. One thing is for certain, she will have got advice from everyone she knows, solicited or not.
I have piled on the pounds since coming here. I too have thought “but how can this be so? I am living in the Mediterranean, everyone knows that they follow the healthiest diet on the planet, right?” I, too, have been advised to stay off the cheese and somehow I have managed it but I am not convinced that this is the problem. The truth is, Italians consume vast amounts of pasta and white bread. Most of them have a sweet tooth. The sweets that they have here are amazing. If you have a drink, you get given all sort of mini pizzas, salted peanuts and small arancini to go with it. The ice-cream here is the best ever. Lots of tavola calda is consumed. Tavola calda translates as ‘hot tables’, they are essentially savoury snacks, usually made of bread or pastry or deep fried. There is temptation at every corner. Cheese is only part of the problem.
As I am trying to lose the weight that I have gained, I am avoiding temptation. This means not entering bars and averting my eyes when I walk past them. It means, not eating out. I am walking more to work but as everyone drives here I am breathing in fumes the whole way. I stare at skinny people stuffing their faces. I drool if someone puts a cake in front of me as I explain that I just can’t have any, not even a tiny mouthful. I’ve sat and watched my partner and our dog eat a pizza together.
And you know what? It’s working!
I’m still a little, robust, shall we say, but last week I had to buy a new belt.Pulling your jeans up every two seconds is not a good look. I ventured into a little shop and a kind lady helped me choose one before putting it around my waist to work out where her husband should punch the holes. She squeezed it a little tighter than I had and asked if that would be better. I replied that it would as I hope to lose more weight. At that moment, her husband chortled and said “hope is the last to die”. He obviously had no faith in me but when I go back in another few weeks to get more holes punched because I am already on the last one, it’ll be me who is chortling.
I have just returned from Lampedusa. One of the many islands that make up Sicily and one that is actually closer to Tunisia than it is the Italian mainland. It is well-known among Italians as a holiday destination, especially those from the north of Italy but less so among other nationalities. I didn’t hear any other language spoken bar from Italian (and of course Sicilian) the whole time I was there although I was reliably informed that a few Canadians were on the island. And you know what? I loved the fact that this island has not succumbed to mass tourism! Although as RAI 24 were there reporting that tourism had suffered a significant fall in recent years it would be better for the island if more people knew about it. Of course, Lampedusa is never off the news due to the desperate plight and continuous arrival of migrants from Africa. Lampedusa is an island of tourists, fishermen, migrants, turtles and dogs. All of which will be covered in separate posts as this island left a lasting impression on me and I have so much to say about so many of the issues it faces.
So, where do I start when I have so much to say? I guess with tourism and what there is to do and see. Well, the main draw of Lampedusa HAS to be the sea and its coastline. That obviously includes the famous ‘Rabbit Beach’. The island itself is small, easy to get around but doesn’t really have anything of interest. It is hugely devoid of trees and gets blasted by the wind in winter so it looks desert like, a huge slab of flat rock floating on the sea.
The town is very small, most of the action is centered around Via Roma which is where you will find boutique shops, cafes and restaurants. There are the old and new ports which I loved just walking around at different times of the day. The island is geared towards to the tourist. You will find bike, jeep, scooter, car hire places in the new port and boat trips in both ports. Don’t expect the scooters to be top notch or for everything to work. This is an island after all and they are much more relaxed about everything. The speedometer on our scooter didn’t work and the brakes squeaked like mad but the price was reasonable and the island is small so it doesn’t really matter. Petrol is expensive and on the day we arrived the petrol station had run out. This meant HUGE queues the next day when the tankard arrived on the island so bear this in mind when choosing which type of vehicle you want to hire, also make sure you aren’t running on empty as you can’t guarantee the petrol stations will have fuel. The island is dotted with coves and small beaches.
To help you decide how to spend your time, here are my top ten things to do:
1. Hire a day boat
Ok, so we were a little anxious about this as we had never piloted a boat before but it is a great way to see the coastline at your own pace. Strong winds on the north of the island meant that we could only visit the south of the island but the best swimming spots are on the south so it really didn’t matter. Having your own boat means you can avoid or keep ahead of the crowds. If you are lucky, you’ll have a cove to yourself for an hour or two. Dropping anchor causes the most stress as in the coves if you anchor in sand you will drift, you’ll get thee hang of it but keep an eye out on the boat when you go for a swim. We had to return to our boat when someone else hadn’t anchored properly and were drifting towards our boat. There are a number of companies who hire boats. We used DAG and they gave us a little test run first to make sure we knew what we were doing. They provide a handy cooler for drinks. Cost depends on how much petrol you use. The hire of the boat is 50 Euro plus petrol. We ended up paying 80 Euro for a day’s hire.
2. Dolphin Watching
It is possible to see dolphins off the coast of Lampedusa. We took an organised tour and went on the lookout for dolphins. It was a memorable experience and the sunset on the way back unforgettable. We spent a good hour, perhaps more, watching the dolphins with La Perla del Mare. The cost of the trip was 20 Euros a head.
3. Round the Island Boat Trip
Yep, yet another boat trip but a nice, relaxing way to spend a day and meet some fellow tourists. There are loads of boat operators offering pretty much the same tour. We went with Perla del Mare and were not disappointed. We got to the most popular areas before the other boats and left when too many boats came. The food was excellent, plenty of it including some leftover for the fish. Giovanni was a gregarious host and although we had slightly more people on our boat than the max of 12, we didn’t really notice. At 40 Euro per head it was definitely money well spent.
4. Rabbit Beach
Most people would be surprised that Rabbit Beach, named best beach in the world in 2013 by travellers on the TripAdvisor website, would come so far down the list. Well, the thing is, it is too popular. We headed there early to beat the crowds but as the turtles are laying their eggs there at night you are not allowed down to the beach until 8.30am. By then, quite a few people had arrived. We were lucky to be among the first to lay out our towels and walk into the crystal clear sea but after an hour or so Italians being Italians we were surrounded. Now, this wasn’t just the inconvenience of having a family or couple close by, they were on top of us. Towel touching towel so to speak. One family plomped themselves in the shade of our parasol advising us that the shade would soon move. There was space further back, but everyone wanted to be as close to the sea as possible and they would have plonked themselves on our towels if they could have. Some Italians like to stand around in the shallow of the sea which also meant that I was staring at an old man’s bum for quite some time. We enjoyed the beach and the water is amazing BUT two hours after arriving we left. If you can’t beat them, leave them to it! Seriously, go early morning to make the most of it (8.30am) or outside of the months July and August.
5. A sunset aperitivo
An aperitivo at O’scia whilst watching the sun go down is a MUST. Drink a cocktail or two and take advantage of their buffet and you won’t need to eat out later.
6. Explore the island by scooter
The coastline is just as spectacular from above. The roads may be a bit bumpy now and again but you will get almost empty roads when you leave the town and stunning views out to sea.
7. Visit the turtle hospital
The turtle hospital is located in the old port and is open Mon to Fri in the evening. Informative volunteers are on hand to tell you about each turtle they have in their care.
8. Cocktails at Turkez
Another great place to have an aperitivo and close to town. You will find it at Cala Croce.
9. The Sanctuary of Our Lady
Worth a look as there are some old previously inhabited caves and a little church.
10. Archivio Storico Lampedusa Whilst the museum in being reconstructed there is a very interesting studio to visit with old photos and newspaper front pages which tell the story of the inhabitants of Lampedusa.