I cycled into birdsong, into color, the sunshine glimmering in opposition to the white of the low stone partitions. There was a spaciousness as I cycled, a lateral stretching of soundscape, massive skies, birds fluting. I didn’t meet anybody else on the slim lanes and had a way of being utterly alone on an island of two,000 folks. Is there something happier than being on a bicycle early within the morning, heading to the ocean?

Egadi map

The Egadi archipelago off the north-west coast of Sicily is a well-kept secret. Italians come right here on vacation, however the islands are comparatively unknown to worldwide vacationers. And a fair better-kept secret is that these magical islands impressed the fantastical lands of the Odyssey, Europe’s oldest journey story. There are a complete of 5 islands and it’s attainable to go to three of them.

I’d come to Favignana, Odyssey’s “island filled with wonders” in line with one idea, as a part of my quest to find the real-life locations that impressed the Odysseus’s epic journey for my new ebook. As quickly as I set foot right here, I fell tipsily in love. The most important of the islands within the archipelago, it’s nonetheless tiny, measuring lower than eight sq. miles.

In response to one idea, this was the island the place Odysseus’s crew stopped earlier than he and some companions went off to fulfill the Cyclops. Favignana is supposedly the place they rested, hunted goats, barbecued them on the seashore and drank “robust purple wine” (although I didn’t see a single goat in on a regular basis I spent there).

Bikes are the proper technique to get across the island

The very first thing I did after I arrived was rent a bici from charming Marcello on the GAC rental store proper by the port. There’s no want for a automotive, as a result of the island is so small and principally flat. Favignana boasts one in all Sicily’s most famed seashores, Cala Rossa, and I got down to discover it. It was the location of a kind of countless, complicated Punic wars – this cove was the place the Greeks have been badly outnumbered however fought their enemies so bravely that the seas turned purple with blood, giving the seashore its identify. It’s a beautiful bike trip over and the rocky seashore is in contrast to any I’ve ever seen. Quarrying has left a legacy right here, and the large, vertical standing stones look unusual and delightful. And the water is a neon turquoise.

There are many different – equally pretty, if much less iconic – coves to go to. Lido Burrone is the island’s solely sandy seashore, and essentially the most dramatic is Bue Marino, a former quarry on the east coast the place the waters are deep and clear beneath partitions of rock. It’s essentially the most putting place for a swim on the island, and a terrific place to observe the dawn. Cala Azzurra, close by, is a extra basic cove, and proper above it’s a easy cafe the place proprietor Dario serves good panini and arancini.

For slightly island, Favignana has a really bloodthirsty historical past. I realized about this on the wonderful museum by the harbour. My information defined that Favignana was the location of the biggest tonnara (tuna fishery) within the Mediterranean, owned by the mega-wealthy Florio household (just lately the topic of a movie, The Lions of Sicily, on Disney Plus, starring many islanders as extras). She confirmed me across the Nineteenth-century processing plant and defined all its darkish improvements – together with a sophisticated association of seven nets that took a month to arrange beneath water, and sinister lengthy, picket harpoons that have been viciously efficient. She advised me fish have been canned right here in astonishing numbers.

The tuna fishery closed in 1982 and is now a museum

The plant closed in 1982 and, fortunately, bluefin tuna at the moment are topic to very strict quotas, however there’s proof of tuna fishing heritage throughout city in plaques and images, and within the ruins of the traditional boathouse buildings throughout the water.

In any case that historical past I grabbed a espresso from Maria on the Kiosko, a easy shack on Praia seashore, close to the manufacturing unit. It additionally serves wine and beer, to be loved on a deckchair going through the ocean. I sat right here for some time, studying extra concerning the geography of the Odyssey. There are many conflicting theories: some folks suppose Sicily was the island of the solar god, and Samuel Butler, a Victorian novelist, believed that Marettimo, essentially the most distant island within the Egadi archipelago, could possibly be Ithaca, Odysseus’s house island, the place he was desperately attempting to return to.

The perfect factor to do right here is channel the Italians and discover dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing

For breakfast the subsequent day I headed to Caffè Aegusa within the village, subsequent to the yellow church, and watched as Italians guzzled huge brioche con gelato with their espressos. Ice-cream for breakfast, that’s when you realize you’re on vacation.

This island is way extra relaxed and scruffy than locations like Capri, though Camparia, a graceful new seashore bar that provides elegant cocktails and sundown views, is making an attempt to raise the scene. Bar New Albatros within the centre of the village is extra relaxed, with robust drinks, chilled vibes and a very good playlist. For dinner there’s a bunch of choices, from easy fried fish or spicy tuna kebabs at Pescheria Florio to extra refined eating at Sotto Sale. La Bettola grew to become a favorite for its scrumptious seafood spaghetti and pleasant service. Lorenzo, the proprietor’s son, will get up at 4am each day to catch fish and calamari for the kitchen.

Levanzo will be visited by ferry as a day journey from Favignana

The island is about half-hour by hydrofoil from Sicily’s coast (in excessive season ebook tickets, together with your return, upfront). It may be performed on a day journey from Trapani. However for me, Favignana shouldn’t be a spot to hurry round. To understand its wonders requires slowing down and spending a while right here.

I stayed in Casa Giorgia, on a quiet road in the principle village. There’s a variety of motels and guesthouses right here and across the coast – simply be sure you ebook properly forward in summer time. I grew to become mates with native fisherman Silvano “Lo Squalo” ( the shark) and joined him to eat the fish that he’d caught that day and shoot the breeze (regardless that I converse no Italian and he speaks no English). He’s nice firm and likewise gives rustic lodging at his no-frills homestay within the countryside.

Often I roused myself to take a day journey – to Marettimo for climbing and chicken watching, and to Levanzo to have a look at the cave work. For extra motion, you could possibly ebook a ship tour with Capitan Sinagra, or go scuba diving within the protected marine zone.

Caffè and a cannolo to start out one other enjoyable day

However the easiest factor to do right here is channel the Italians and discover il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. Favignana is a spot to only be within the second, determine which path the wind is blowing from, choose a cove on the other coast (to minimise the possibility of jellyfish stings), seize a standard pane cunzato (a roll full of tomato, tuna, anchovy, capers and basil) for lunch from Jimmy on the Panificio Costanza and a few fig biscuits from Rosa at Antichi Sapori bakery, throw a swimsuit, some water and sunscreen in your bike basket and cycle to the seashore, protecting a watch out for the peregrine falcons that reside excessive above on Monte Santa Caterina.

For me, Favignana feels way more like Circe’s island, a spot of magical enchantments moderately than someplace to hunt goats. All of the geographical theories appeared fairly subjective, so why not invent my very own? I lay within the solar and dreamed of Odysseus crusing throughout the perilous seas, of goddesses that flip into birds, of all these infantile gods having their mood tantrums, and despatched out slightly prayer of because of all these previous gods for being right here on this real-life legendary island.

Enchanted Islands: Travels By way of Fable & Magic, Love & Loss by Laura Coffey (Summersdale, £16.99) is revealed on 2 Could. To assist the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com.

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