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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Egadi Islands Scores with The Telegraph

It seems that almost with every top 10 or top 20 list of places to travel to, be they lists focusing on exotic, out of the way, food orientated, historical, sunny and beachy or just plain beautiful, and you will see Sicily's name prominently added to the list.

This time it is the Egadi Islands to the west of Sicily, previously covered by this blog.  The Egadi Islands (Aegadian Islands in traditional English) are often unfairly overlooked in comparison to the very funky Aeolian Islands, or the quasi-African Lampedusa, or the mystical Pantelleria (with the magical healing properties of Lake Venus' Mirror or lago specchio di venere, mentioned recently by Siciliamo).

The Egadi Islands do have an amazing amount to offer a traveller and it is no surprise that they were awarded an entry in The Telegraph's Holiday Destinations for 2011.  The Egadi islands include Favignana, famous for its tuna and the traditional way it is fished using an ancient Arab technique known as tonnara, Marettimo, and Levanzo with its Neolithic and Palaeolithic remains.

Favignana's beaches and swim spots are also world famous with a number of calcerinite rock caves by the water creating a turquoise blue, swimming pool clear, type of water to swim in, such as in the majestic Cala Rossa.  In addition to the natural beauty found here, Favignana also shares Sicily's history of being a popular attraction for conquering civilisations with remains found from Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and so on.

Just a short ferry away is the province and city of Trapani, known as the bread basket of Italy for its amazing variety of food and produce.  You will not go hungry here.  Also close to Trapani is an incredible array of ancient Greek and Hellenic temples and structures located in places such as Selinunte, Segesta and Agrigento (not to mention the archaeological treasure that is Mozia).  If you are a follower of this blog, you will be aware that due to its number of intact temples and structures from Greek and classical times, we consider Sicily to truly be, Magna Gracia.

The Egadi Islands - enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Fountain of Youth does exist - Lago Specchio di Venere

Nothing prepared me for what I witnessed on the sun drenched southern Sicilian Island of Pantelleria.

Pantelleria - more Africa than Europe, more East than West, more tropical than temperate, but above all, more mythical than real.  Not only is Pantelleria jam packed with some of the most picturesque beaches in Europe but it also guards many secrets, some of which are only recently starting to reveal themselves, such as the ancient mysterious civilisation known as the Sesi with their Neolithic burial mounds.  Others may never be explained.

It is the latter that this post is about.

As your plane descends into Pantelleria's airport, the last few seconds sees you only metres above a beautiful spherical lake carved out of the caldera of an extinct volcano.  The water has a strange - unnatural-like, almost surreal torquise colour.  It is surreal, yet hypnotisingly beautiful, almost as if it were designed that way.  The lake, which incorporates a thermal spring arising from the lava activity of the ancient volcano, is called Lago Specchio di Venere, which translates to Lake Venus' Mirror.  We mentioned this lake briefly in a previous post on Spa Heaven.

Like so much of Sicily, Lago di Venere is the site of an ancient classical Greek legend (I am beginning to see that a good proportion of the Pantheon of Gods made Sicily their home at one point - who can blame them?).  The legend behind this place is that as the water was so strikingly blue and clear in its colour, it was used as the vanity mirror by the goddess of love, Venus.  She especially liked to compare the beauty of her reflection in the lake with that of her rival Psyche.  At no time is the mirror effect more profound than close to sunrise or sunset.

People bathe in the lake and sometimes exfoliate themselves with the thermal mud as a beauty treatment while others swear by the healing powers of the lake.  My experience amazingly corresponded with this.  A week earlier I had a minor motor scooter accident on another Sicilian island, Ustica, off the coast of Palermo.  While I was largely unhurt, the accident left deep gashes and cuts to my leg.  I immersed myself in Lake Venus the day I arrived in Pantelleria and covered my skin with the volcanic mud that is to be found on one side of the shore.  After an hour or so, I stood up to walk further into the lake in order to wash off the mud.  When I returned to shore I noticed the scars and the deep cuts on my leg had almost healed.  Where there had once been a deep scar and crusty surface before, now there was a small mark that resembled an old wound that had almost healed.  It was almost as if my accident had occurred three months earlier and my scar had all but healed.

I don't know what are the chemical properties that make up the thermal mud found in Lago Specchio di Venere, but I am sure that if a company had the rights to bottle and sell the mud, they would be sitting on the rights to "The Fountain of Youth".  I know I would buy a lifetime's supply - and maybe more!  In fact, I am sure there must be a natural cosmetic beauty company doing this now.  I will research and report back to the Blog.  Stay tuned future immortals.

With regard to accommodation there is an amazing place called Suite di Venere located half way up the volcanic wall overlooking the lake.  It has splendid views of the lake which allows you to take in the true beauty and colour of this phenomenon.  It is not for a light wallet unfortunately costing between €200 and €400 per night depending on season.  But where else can you take someone to a place that used to belong to the goddess Venus?

Lake Venus' Mirror - Magic does exist.