Toes in the Tyrrhenian, Toilets in Tropea and Vongole alla Viagra

38 sushi pink  Two days in and will

                 we spot Sromboli the isle

                 they say’s just out there?

Tyrrhenian toes DeeSo we have provisions, we have a pool, the sun is shining and all’s well with the world. A brief trip of exploration to the beach in Zambrone Mare, dip our toes in the Tyrrhenian Sea and back to sun lotion and kindles by the pool.

After a few hours in the sun we decide it would make sense to head into the nearby town of Tropea – the jewel of Calabria – for a wander and a drink before coming home to cook. We find parking easily, walk into the main square to find the Tourist Information closed – no change there then. We book a boat trip to see Stromboli by night on Thursday on board the TropeaMar. It leaves Tropea Port at 14:00 gives you three hours on Stromboli and then goes to observe the nightly eruption before returning to port. There are several companies competing to take people out to the Aeolian Islands in general and the volcanic Stromboli in particular.

Fortunately the guide book we brought with us has a route for a one hour walk around Tropea which we begin. As we head towards the cathedral it becomes clear we have happened across a military wedding with chaps in blue dress uniforms with red plumes and swords ready to greet one of their own  – plus one  – as they emerge from the elegant and simple Duomo. The local wedding photographer even promises aerial photos and an amazing helicopter rig takes a camera into the skies to document the event. Confetti and rice are thrown at the couple. The bride looks a bit surprised by the whole thing. They then cram themselves into a tiny vintage Fiat 500 before the usual horn honking passage through the streets.

Tropea wedding guards Tropea helicam rig

Tropea wedding with confetti Tropea heels

Tropea wedding surprised bride Tropea wedding car

We continue our walk and fetch up back in Piazza Ercole, the main square for a beer and  a glass of wine before driving back to the villa – it’s beginning to get dark and we’re still none too sure of the road. Drinks are fine, price reasonable and accompanied by crisps, nuts and mini bruschetta but we need a comfort break before the drive. One of the guide books did warn us that few loos in restaurants or public places provide toilet paper. Most also don’t have seats or locks. And finding the flush the first time can be demanding – a tiny plunger spigot thing beneath a wall-mounted cistern. Equally, having to first find and then press a foot pedal, which looked like a spanner, to run the water in the handbasin was a surprise – after all if there is no visible tap you just wave your hands under the spout don’t you? After the luxury (and questionable environmental ethics) of heated loo seats and free toiletries in Japan this all came as a bit of an unpleasant shock. If you’re going to Italy make sure a roll of Andrex On the Go is in your hand luggage – thanks Boots’ holiday section.

Next morning we decide we’ll buy some fish from the local fishmonger in Zambrone. It’s a converted garage under a large family house on the outskirts of the village centre. We purchase a kilo of vongole and two lovely looking sea bass. The lady fishmonger takes us up into her garden to pick fresh parsley, basil and celery which she throws into the bag for free. She also counsels us to go to the beach to get some sea water in which to soak the vongole as it will make them open really well prior to cooking.

Sea water carrierSo we head off for Zambrone Marina with a litre water bottle which I have to empty on the strand. Have you ever tried getting sea water into the neck of a water bottle? When the tide’s coming in? I got very wet. I got about 700 ml of sea water. What was reassuring though was that you couldn’t tell from looking at it that it wasn’t mineral water, so clear is the sea round here.

Another session by the pool and after a shower and a stroll it’s time to cook the vongole with some onions and garlic and a chilli, dubbed in tatty tourist shops ‘Calabrian Viagra’. They are quite hot as are the red onions for which Tropea is famous – lots of tears at the stove.

Off shore are the Aeolian Islands, the most famous of which is Stromboli an active volcano which erupts regularly and predictably – they say. The villa details promise Stromboli views. After two days we hadn’t seen it as it was too hazy out to sea. This evening however we could see Stromboli set off by a gorgeous sunset. Let’s hope it’s like this tomorrow when we go to see Stromboli at play.

Stromboli sunset
Stromboli is the amazingly conical island to the right of frame with the big cloud above looking like it’s just erupted

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