The reason that we decided to come Sailing in the Aegadian Islands in the first place was on friend’s recommendation. Every year they go to Marettimo for a week on holiday. They said, “You have to eat at La Scaletta, and say hello to Giovanni!”
So like I do before any trip, I check it out on Wikipedia for any fun facts and history bits to impress my travel companions & then on Trip Advisor: best places to eat, sleep, & do. Its my pre-travel regimen. Wikipedia enlightens me on the fact that there is a mere 300 residents. My High-school student-body consisted of over 800 kids! Trip Advisor informs me, “We’re sorry but Marettimo doesn’t have any hotels.” They have a couple of Bed & Breakfasts and less than 10 restaurants. Forget any nightlife! Blaspheme!!!! That’s a desolate Isle, remote and barely inhabited! I read on in the attractions- Visita alle grotte di Marettimo con le barche dei pescatori… WICKED! Explore the interior of the Mountain’s Caves in a local fisherman’s boat! Marettimo just became Top of my To Do list!
Sailing across from Favignana was a good 1-hour nap, sprawled across the deck of the sailboat. I awoke to the vision of this 2,251 ft tall mountain (686 meters) erupting out of the Mediterranean Sea, breath-taking natural beauty. The only port on Marettimo is marked by a collection of white stucco square flat-roof buildings with pops of bright azure blue from the shutters. Snap Snap Snap, Photo Oppurtunity! A group of young Italian men in swim trunks ushered us to our slip for the night. Welcome to Marettimo, read a sign at the end of the rickety narrow bridge luring us into this magical island!
We wandered through the Village of Marettimo in search of a bar with a television to watch Italy & Costa Rica play in the FIFA World Cup. Eventually we situated ourselves in a corner at the bar of La Scaleta, overlooking the fishing port, where they had set chairs out like a mini-theatre to watch the important soccer match all together. It soon filled with locals eager to watch their country play in the World Cup. Unfortunately the game didn’t go too well for Italy, but our amazing dinner in La Scaleta after made up for the loss!
The bar of La Scaleta downstairs is typical of any bar in Italy… in contrast the restaurant’s dining upstairs is impressively romantic. Elegant table settings on a balcony overlooking the boats in the port. It seats only about 25 people max and there is no menu, only a fixed dinner price. You eat what they give you and the base is most often seafood. We sit at our table and notice the couple beside us. The guy is the same swim trunks guy who earlier helped us into our slip at the port. Only this time he is looking like a sexy GQ model in black pants and a crisp black dress-shirt. Dinner commences as food rises up in the dumb-waiter from the kitchen below. Each course is more delicious than the next, if I could give it a Star Rating, the cuisine would get 20 stars! Every bite is pure oral enjoyment.
While we are eating our meal, I noticed an interesting guy sitting alone at a table drinking his beer and smoking his cigarettes. He is obviously the Boss Man around here! I pay attention as he directs the employees in a secure demeanor, never getting up from his place. All the while random dinner guests come over to pay him respects. This is the man we are supposed to meet! Hello to Giovanni!!! He is in somewhat of a foul mood only because today he spent all day fishing and came back empty-handed. His confidentent air is intriguing and somewhat contagious, making us feel at home in his establishment. He even beckons for his baby grand-daughter to come to wave hello and blow air kisses at us. As he learns that I am American, he calls for his daughter-in-law to come up to meet me. She is a beautiful southern girl from North Carolina; came to Marettimo years back on vacation and fell in love with Giovanni’s son, the bartender downstairs. He followed her to France where the deal was sealed. Bada Bing Bada Boom!!! A Classic fairy tale story of that vacation in Italy, and a stunning couple too! Later we ask Giovanni about the oh-so-talneted chef and learn that the chef is Giovanni’s daughter!!! Giovanni Maiorana is a world-famous chef as well as a son of Marettimo reaching back many generations. He is carrying on the traditions of Marettimo and his culinary expertise through his huge Sicilain family, all of whom contribute to the fabulous La Scaleta institution.
After dinner we wander over to Bar Tramontana… & Who do we see going into the apartment above the Bar? GQ swim trunks! Damn this island really does only have 300 inhabitants, and I think I have seen and met them all after only 6 hours! My random thought process fills my head with questions about this remote islands ability to continue with generations. Calculating the Darwinistic math in my head 300 residents + 1 tiny village = aren’t they all blood-related somehow? They are all really handsome and good-looking and appear very healthy so I’m not worried. And then I remember how many tourists must stay and fall in love with the locals each year! After 6 hours & I am already in LOVE with MARETTIMO! What’s not to love about this charming romantic fishing village?
Next day we take the Cave Exploration… & Who is our tour guide? Yep, thats right… GQ swim trunks! Check out our fantastic tour guide/deck hand/dining companion below. Find full images and more information about le Grotte in my next post…
Playing cards in the Bar Scirocco surrounded by a group of 16 something well-dressed young adults, I am totally at ease. The World Cup is on the bar television and the place is full to capacity with locals and tourists such as myself. Somehow I feel like I could be sitting at grandma’s house on a Sunday afternoon with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The kids beside me help me to play my hand to win as I play Buracco with Regina. They are very open and eager to talk and share their Marettimo & Sicily stories. Some kids transplant each summer with their families to the island from Trapani for the season to work in Marettimo. The ones who live here year-long tell stories about a winter in absolute peace and solitude. My random thoughts again, ask the kids about where their high-school is on this tiny village island. No school in Marettimo – daily 1-hour ferry to Trapani to get to High School.
Marco, the owner of Bar Scirocco, pictured above with his Tuna Catch is an absolute doll of a character! Another faithful loyal son of Marettimo, he serenaded me with his beautiful Sicilian accent almost as if he was singing his stories. He recounted his grandpa’s fishing stories with directions to the best fishing spots. “go out from the port, when the Punta Troia is on your back left shoulder go slightly right and look for Favignana at one o’clock & Levanzo at ten o’clock!” Got it? Who needs GPS and Fishing sonar when you got grandpa’s legendary knowledge??? The story that really stuck with me was the restoration of the Castello di Punta Troia. The Castle was recently restored, but only using local Marettimen. They restored this castle almost as if it was brand new. It takes hiking the hour plus long hike up hill to truly understand what effort was put into this job. You gotta hike it yourself!
Just at the end of the port in Marettimo head straight down the first street and check out the maritime hand-crafted jewelry of a daughter of Marettimo, the FANTASTICAL Jewelry Designer Giulia Li Voti . I was fortunate enough to meet the talented designer as Giulia was all dressed up to go to a bonfire on the beach with her friends! I bought a bunch of her one-of-a-kind pieces and you just might be getting one this Christmas…
Take a hike up from the village to the restored Byzantine-Norman Church called Casa Romana to experience amazing views of Marettimo, Levanzo, & Favignana.
Check out Red Velvet Voyage’s discoveries inside Le Grotte di Marettimo or the Caves of Marettimo in my next post…
Marco explains that Marettimo is named so because it is Mare (sea) and the island is filled with Thyme (timo) = Sea island of Thyme ~ Mare+Timo. However I see this island as a Magical Isle paused in a beautiful place in time! I see more respect and love of Marettimo through its sons and daughters than in any part of Italy that I have ever experienced. There is no graffiti or vandalism only beauty and respect for Marettimo. Io amo Marettimo!