Friday, June 6, 2014

Isole Ciclopi by boat

A few weeks ago a friend suggested we take the kids on a boat ride to the Cyclops Islands. While I'd kayaked around the islands before and taken a glass bottomed boat tour of the marine reserve that surrounds them, somehow I'd never gotten around to being ferried across the bay on a wooden fishing boat to explore the islands on foot.  
In Acitrezza we headed straight to the port across from the main piazza, where all the smaller boats are docked. A fisherman could tell right away what we were there for and approached us even before we were at the water's edge.
Minutes later we puttering across the bay out towards the archipelago. The islands are only about 200 meters from the shore and with a motor boat take just a few minutes to reach. 
Isola Lachea is the largest of the islands and in the summer is a favorite spot for snorkelers, swimmers, boaters and sun bathers. This island is unique because of its striations of white and black rock. The white rock is the mineralized clay that reacted with the magma as it was pushed up from the sea floor about 500,000 years ago when the underwater eruption that formed these islands occurred. The black rock below the white rock is the volcanic magma that flowed from the earth's crust and cooled to hard rock under the sea.
We cruised around the island to get a good look at all the beautiful rock formations, but did not get out because the path that takes you to the little museum up top was closed that day and it would not have been possible to explore very much. Instead, we were brought to the little craggy island known as the Isola della Madonna or Isola di Santa Maria because of the marble statue of the Madonna carved by the local sculptor Rosario Piazza that was placed there in 1954.  
As we stepped onto land, our driver assured us he'd come back after our requested time of 30 minutes. A long flight of stairs greeted us with a statue of the Madonna visible at the top. 
We started up the stairs eagerly until a couple of sunbathers warned us about the angry seagulls. I had been told that the seagulls nested on these islands and could get aggressive. After a little hesitation we decided to brave the stairs anyway.  The gulls swooped and cried their angry cries, but we crouched low and kept going.
I was so glad we because they soon quieted down and let us mingle at the top of the stairs next to the statue of the Madonna.
Gazing back at the town from here you can fully appreciate the beauty of this little paradise, the turquoise waters, the sweet town, the bulge of Etna rising above.


Getting out to the islands is easy. If you head to the port with the small fishing boats you'll be offered a ride in exchange for a fee. We paid 10 euros for 2 adults and 3 kids, but that price is a little on the high side and we weren't in the mood for bargaining that day. If you are be sure to set the price before you get on the boat. You'll be offered a short tour around the islands and the chance to get off at either Isola Lachea or Isola della Madonna. Tell your driver when you want to picked up and you'll be surprised at the punctuality! 

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