Since that trip did not start until 1PM I decided to also do a Mediterranean dive in the morning with Lipari Diving Center. I didn't think I would get the chance to do a dive in Italy, but I figured while I'm here I should just go for it, even though it cost 50€ for one dive! Really not in Asia anymore. We took a little dinghy right off the coast of Lipari, and I actually got to practice putting on my gear in the water, something I practiced during my certification, but haven't had to do since. The dive itself was unlike any I had done before. The water just seemed different somehow, bluer, clearer. The visibility was excellent. There was not a whole lot of life to see, the fish were much smaller than the dive sites I had been to previously, we did see a few moray eels and a small barracuda, and there wasn't as much colorful coral either, but there was still a lot to see. As we descended to 22m the water also got really cold. I was wearing a full wetsuit for the first time but I was still freezing. I'm really happy about getting to experience diving a new location, and it was very beautiful. Sorry no pictures though since I drowned both of my underwater cameras :(
By 11:30 we were back on land and I was off to grab a bite to eat before boarding the Paloma, my touring boat for the day. It was a typical tour, which I normally try to avoid. The tiny boat was packed with as many people as they could fit, but it would do for the day. There were mainly couples and families, since Lipari is not so much a backpacking destination, and almost no one spoke English. They weaved the boat around all of the tiny islands of the archipelago, which were all very pretty but totally uninhabitable, basically just large, craggy rocks peaking out of the sea. Then we were off to Panarea, where we were able to go swimming in a beautiful little cove. After the swim they dropped us off in a little village and gave us a couple hours to explore on our own. I went on hike through the hills, and was rewarded with some stunning views of the island. Then we boarded the boat and were off to Stromboli. Stromboli is an active volcano that erupts pretty frequently. You can actually climb to the crater and watch since most of the eruptions are pretty small. I really wish I could have done that (next time!). We were given about 3 hours to explore the town of Stromboli. The island only has one town on the side opposite the volcano, but you can still see puffs of smoke over the crater every time it erupts. I took some time to walk around the narrow, winding streets of the town before laying out on the famous black sand beach.
As the sun was setting we cast off again to get a good spot on the water to watch the eruptions after dark, when the mountain puts on the best show. We saw probably 5 spurts of lava high into the air during the roughly 90 minutes we were watching, some were quite spectacular! The pictures below are pretty terrible since I only had my iPhone, and it was much more impressive in person. The ride back took about 2 hours, and by this time the sun was well set and the stars were shining brightly over the blackened sea. It's amazing how the sky seems to bend when you are on the water and there is no land to level it out. You can almost see the curve of the earth, and the stars are everywhere, all around you, and even reflected in the glistening waves. I was so at ease. By the time we got back to the marina in Lipari, I was happy with how the day had gone and everything I had seen, but I was still brooding over not being able to climb Stromboli. Le-sigh...next time.