Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where's my motorino helmet?

The student diggers of Poggio Colla have no idea how lucky they are.

Why? Because they get a four-day weekend in the middle of a six-week season. This luxury is generally unheard of. But the best part, of course, is that since the students get a four-day weekend, so do the supervisors.

As much as I love the Mugello Valley and its greenery, I felt it was time to get out and to do something touristy and beachy. Thus I took off for a sunny holiday on the Tuscan island of Elba with Angela Trentecoste, the site zooarchaeologist (animal bone specialist).

Yes, that Elba.

Perhaps because I've gotten more elderly, it's been a while since I've had any haphazard Mediterranean adventures - my days of island hopping by myself in the Cyclades are nearly ten years past. But Elba and Angela provided plenty to make up for it. Such as:

Campeggio. We borrowed some camping gear (thanks, Phil!) and set up our little tent in the rather interesting Camping Aquaviva. This involved crushing a pillow over my head at night to keep out the blaring 'Macarena' and likewise crushing a pillow over my head to keep out the ear-plug defying pigeon cooing directly above our tent at 6am. (At least I could throw rocks at the pigeon).

We rented a motorino and toured the north and west of the island. This involved various adventures such as driving on a windy cliffside road in the dark with no real headlamp and getting entirely lost in the steep cobbled medieval alleys of Portoferraio, until some nice angel of mercy led us out to freedom on her own motorino.

There was plenty of swimming to be had and I actually got to do some diving, something I'd not yet done in the Mediterranean. There was a decent bit of wildlife, to my surprise: eels, baracuda, octopus, manta ray, grouper, etc.

Don't think, of course, that it was all fun and games. I got the requisite share of antiquities in at medieval Marciana, perched on a hill, where we were able to visit sparse 13th-century chapels and the island's little archaeological museum.

Sure, this pottery doesn't look like much, but I've spent the summer obsessed with these bowls and their sharply outturned rims. Many of them rest on pedestal feet and have elaborate profiles, including the fancy one we found in our trench. They're called piatelli.

And somehow, by complete accident, every place we stopped to eat had drop-dead-benissimo food and gorgeous views.

Dinner and a view at the little harbour of Enfola.

I probably wouldn't recommend Elba to visitors since it was a tourist mecca more than anything else, but for a four-day escape from the Mugello, it perfectly hit the spot.


Jana said...

Hi Katie, camping and food go together. The appetite really sharpens when the effort of cooking makes one anticipate. Look on your email soon for pictures of our camp food. Green chili stew, yum. and biscuits in the dutch oven. Glad you got this adventure.
Aunt Jo

Anonymous said...

"There was plenty of swimming to be had and I actually got to do some diving, something I'd not yet done in the Mediterranean."


Anonymous said...

You saw a Manta Ray, aren't they massive like 15 ft. from wing tip to wing tip? That's really cool.