The smallest of the Eolian islands but unique in charm and beauty. Every time a ferry or hydrofoil arrives at the jetty in the little port of San Pietro, a ritual is repeated. Hundreds of people, visitors and inhabitants, are there to see who is arriving or leaving. You seem to know everybody, also because you meet them several times a day on the roads of the island, on foot (cars are banned) or on ‘moto-ape’, used to transport luggage.
The island has a good level of tourism; in the last 30 years tourists have also bought land from the inhabitants and restored old buildings very carefully, but indiscriminately.
The Eolian style was characterised by simple design, and the use of cheap materials found locally. The typical white colour is relatively recent: in fact, the walls were left unplastered, both to save money and as camouflage against the pirates who infested these waters. Indeed, one of the districts bears the name of the pirate Draugh, who used to moor his ships there. Panarea owes its name to the physical characteristics of the terrain – Panaria (rugged) – which, however, offers pleasant walks among hibiscus, caper bushes and bougainvillea, with views of the islets: Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Bottaro, Lisca Bianca, Lisca Nera, the Formiche, the Panarelli and, in the distance, Stromboli. In the past it was called Euonymous, ‘the one on the left’, in other words, on the left of ships which went from Lipari to Sicily (Strabone).
If you have a little time for shopping, the boutique Raya will amaze you with its coloured materials, pareos (beach wraps) from Indonesia, craftware and antiques; Hobbit for crafts and clothing wanted, Paguro with ethnic interior and exterior furnishings, Bouganville with ‘Panarea’ style goods, ‘alla Sarta Ana’ clothing and souvenirs and the Vecchio Magazzino for quality pottery, Pucci for patterned materials, Biddikkia for fashionable clothing and other articles. In via San Pietro, moreover, you can find Eolian style clothing at L’Ombelico. At the port Paguro Porto offers high class fashions.
To Flee… to stay Forever
Two apparently contrasting themes which, when the editor asked me to express my feelings, I thought coexist in many of us. Often I’ve said to myself: ‘that’s enough! Now I’m leaving’. Then, after a short time, I’ve found countless reasons for staying. The comparison with heaven and hell immediately comes to mind. You can open the door to one or the other and you’ll probably find a single world, a palette with all the colours, all the shades, all the questions and answers, or only a reflection of yourself. Among sails coming from the north, transported by the wind, I finally realised the dream of my youth: to live on an island. An engine breakdown and then a great love sealed my destiny, …I stayed. One foot in the sea and the other on land, I began to be fascinated by the variety of this archipelago.
To the north Stromboli, with the sensation of being on an active volcano, which gives cause for reflection on questions relating to life and time; to the south Gelso, with the gentle rustling of the bunches of canes which extend across the hillside, down towards the lighthouse; to the west Alicudi, the island of sweethearts and post-hippies. History, turbulent winds and the wrinkled faces hold together this isolated world. To the question put to me by many of my foreign friends, ‘which is the most beautiful of the seven islands?’, I must give an answer after many years: ‘All of them, because each of them corresponds to a particular mood’. It is not only a question of the unforgettable views of the crags, of the cones of the other islands or Etna covered with snow on the horizon; it is not only the immense blue sea in front of the house, like a garden, in which thousands of diamonds are reflected: the southern sun, the starry Mediterranean sky, the aromas of basil and of broom, the colouring of the lava and the sulphur; the traces of the cultures of these islands’ inhabitants. You can find all of this elsewhere in the world, but there is something magical, inexplicable and incomprehensible that these islands possess and I believe that if this magic could be explained, they would lose much of their charm.
… I want to flee … I want to stay.
If I were only to think of the other aspects, of relations between the people, of the spiritual loneliness, of the transport difficulties, of the uncompleted public works, of the patronage system, of the thousand big and small problems that an island community has …
Today it lives on its natural wealth which attracts tourism, sometimes harmful, and tomorrow?
I want to stay … I want to flee. I flee … I stay forever!
Alberto Santo Bevitore (Kurt Wahlen)