When I told my mom that we could take a hydrofoil from Trapani to Levanzo to see cave paintings on Thursday, she was eager to do this.
Levanzo is one of the three Egadi Islands. Most tourists go to Favignana, the largest and most developed island, unless they want to see the cave art in the Grotto del Genovese on Levanzo, which we did.
I’ve always heard that the pace of life is different in the Mediterranean, but I never experienced this until we visited Levanzo. Fishing, tourism, and agriculture are the main (perhaps only?) industries. There are fewer than 500 inhabitants, and they seem to savor every moment of the day. No one is ever in too much of a hurry to stop and chat with friends.
When we got off the boat, the first inhabitant we met was a red Irish setter who was running around the dock and greeting the arriving passengers. It was a wonderful welcome to the island.
We found a sign about seeing the Grotto del Genovese posted outside a building near the dock. I thought it was a tour office. Jesse poked his head in. The lady inside explained that it was in fact her home, but she gave us a pamphlet about the tour and called her husband, who was the tour guide.
A few minutes later, a man rolled up with an off-road vehicle. We hopped in the car and the man whistled for his dog–the Irish setter! We didn’t learn the man’s name, but the dog was named Eddie. Eddie might have the happiest dog life in the universe–an entire island as his dog park and never a leash in sight. He was very eager to act as a second tour guide on our journey.
During high season, I’m sure that arranging a tour of the cave paintings would be more difficult. I was amazed at the simplicity. After being on the island less than twenty minutes, our guide was driving us over the mountains to the cave.
When we signed up for the tour, we did not realize that we had to hike down 700 meters to reach the cave. Of course, it was climbing back up that was the real challenge. We were determined to see the cave paintings, though, and we didn’t want to turn back. (More about the paintings themselves in the next post.)
I was awed by the Zingaro Nature Reserve, but Levanzo really blew me away. The rocky outcroppings set between the blue sky and blue sea are beautiful in a dramatic, bold way. Tucked along the coast is the little village of white buildings with blue doors and shutters. It is almost too good to be true.
Our day trip to the island did not go completely smoothly. Because of a puzzling communication error, we missed our hydrofoil back to Trapani. The next hydrofoil didn’t take off for an hour and forty minutes.
Of all the places in the world to miss a boat, idyllic Levanzo might be one of the best. We took some more pictures, and then we were hungry. We asked the owners of a restaurant (perhaps the only restaurant in the village) whether they were open. The wife said not until 8:00 PM, but the husband said that we could have spaghetti.
Jesse observed that the wife probably didn’t want to open up because she was the one who had to cook the spaghetti! I’d like to think that husband was so hospitable that he couldn’t bear the thought of visitors leaving his island hungry. Probably he was just glad to make an extra 40 euro. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
Whatever the case, he was a very gracious man. He didn’t know any English. so in my limited Italian I said, “No carne, no pesce, vegetariano,” pointing to Jesse and myself. He nodded and asked whether my mom wanted fish.
Now, my mom had had an unpleasant seafood experience the previous night. She thought she’d ordered pasta with scallops on top, and the waiter brought her pasta with shrimp. And she likes shrimp. But these shrimp still had their shells, arms, legs, antennae, and eyeballs attached. They looked like they’d just jumped out of the ocean and onto her plate. She is open-minded about food, but that plate was way, way out of her comfort zone! I ended up removing the bodies from her plate and scraping out the meat for her.
Jesse explained that she was afraid of fish, and we all had the vegetarian pasta, which was delicious.
I’m sure the man and his wife were puzzled by the three Americans who came to their tiny Mediterranean fishing village and didn’t eat their delicious seafood. They probably thought were crazy!
After a very pleasant meal, it was with regret that we boarded the next hydrofoil to Trapani.
Some places you love so much that you miss them before you even leave. Levanzo is one of those places.