Ischia and Procida
Ischia is a small island off the coast of Naples that is known for its volcanic soil and thermal waters. It is solely a tourist economy, mostly Italian and German tourists come here. So menus and some brochures are in German as well as Italian. This is helpful for me, since I can read German much better than I can get by with Italian. Most of the people in our hotel are German-speaking, and my guess is that the Germans come for the thermal waters and treatments. There are massages, manicures, facials, the basic elements you find in spas all over the world, but also fango or mud treatments and baths, using the particular thermal waters. These waters are tested and described by their therapeutic purposes - for healing dermatological issues or rheumatological or respiratory ailments. Here there is a pool they refill daily with the local water from the spring. It is ruddy in color, a cloudy suspension of minerals. It looks like rooibos tea with milk in it. A muddy reddish tone. When you immerse yourself, it is lukewarm and thicker than water. When you get out, your skin smells like iron and sulphur, and has a tinge of orange coating. I like this daily soak.
Other than that, I am not particularly amazed by Ischia. It is a small fishing boat community turned touristy. There are shops, restaurants with views of the water and seafood and pasta on their menus. Ischia also has the best shopping I have seen so far in Italy...good shoes, designer boutiques, unique products...a very very good tourist spot to visit, well worth the journey, but bring your pocketbook filled with money. There is a positively stunning old castle fortress built on an outcropping of rock near our hotel, called the castle of Aragon. We will visit it tonight. We plan to take a boat tour around the island if we can find a boat big and sturdy enough to not look like it would sink under too much weight. I doubt there is any chance of getting an infant life vest or any such precaution for Bodhi so I hope to find a larger boat than the dinghys we have seen that provide water taxi around the island.
I should be happy to speak German, but I have yet to speak it. For some reason, Italian seems easier, even though I know much much less. I think with Italian speakers there is much more room for error than with German. They are more forgiving of grammatical mishaps and fumblings. I can be a C student here, where Germans expect A's, or speak to you in English instead.
I am developing a love-hate relationship with Italy. There are parts I adore: the romanticism, the fresh simple local foods, the sea, the wine... And parts I cannot stand. For instance, our hotel is supposed to have air conditioning in the rooms. They DO have it, and it works...sometimes. But then they shut it off again. So, I go downstairs and tell them it was working, but now it isn't working anymore. Without it, it is an absolute sauna in our room. The baby wakes from his nap restless, head covered in sweat. Oh, they say, sounding shocked. We will see what we can do. This is Italian for: I will do nothing. After harassing them and pleading, the air conditioning comes back on. For a few hours. Then off again. I have been downstairs at reception now five times in two days to discuss the matter with various employees. I have heard now five different stories. Oh, our colleague that works the AC is off today. Oh, the management deals with the AC and sets the times. Oh, we are having it fixed today. All lies, wrapped up in sweet apologetic phrases. I know it should be a simple fix. But nothing is simple here, everything MUST be complicated. I bought a thermal mud mask for my face yesterday at a shop. I told the saleswoman I did not need a bag for it, I would just put it in my purse. Oh, thank you, she said, but I must. So she wrapped it nicely in a bag. How bizarre, that they have rules that they must follow, regardless of logic or thought, based on authority. The employees do as they are told to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I am sliding against a wall of impatience and tolerance.
The next day, our AC was fixed, the room was cooler, and I have a new outlook on this hotel, this island, this country. It's so much cooler than I thought. They serve an amazing breakfast here: fruit, juice, water, coffee, breads, croissants, eggs, breakfast ham, cheeses, yogurt, cereals... much more than a typical breakfast in Italy. Still every person stops to admire the little one. Piccolino. (Little one), Amore (love), Bello (beautiful) are common words we hear.
Today we set out for the port to see if we could find a boat to drive us around the periphery of the island of Ischia. We missed the daily boat, but there was another trip leaving for Procida, a very small island nearby, so we signed up. It was fortuitous, because the island and the views in this tiny place were absolutely magnificent. Best I have seen yet for our entire trip. Literally breathtaking. Well, it was partially the view, and partially the gigantic hill we had to climb over cobblestone streets with a stroller and 20 lb baby that caused the breathlessness. But it was well worth the trip. As we reached the top of the hill and the historic city center, we also found a granita limone. Basically crushed ice, sugar and fresh lemons blended into a cold, refreshing slurry, which Procida is famous for, and now we know why. I already want to take a boat back for another one. You cannot imagine the sweetness and refreshment, the pure liquid sunshine... cold icey sweet tangy goodness melting on your tongue. I gave Bodhi a taste and kissed the rest of my granita goodbye. The look of shock and joy on his face was magical. The lemons grown here have some kind of life force energy from the sun and soil that makes them absolutely irresistible. The small of lemons, a citrusy earthy scent, follows you around the coast of southern Italy. Limoncello is amazing here, lemon anything can be found on the menus, anything made with these lemons is sensational. At night, when it gets sticky hot, I dream of lemon granita...