Out of season, the island of Lipari, in the remote Aeolian Islands (north of Sicily), is like visiting a parallel universe. You know that in July and August, this sleepy place transformed itself into a glamorous resort for the Jet Set. Yet, at the end of April, it's just reserved for the down-to-earth locals (plus the odd cruise passenger).
In the summer months, this is a sun-drenched island paradise. In early spring, it was a grey, windswept place, that had a fairly barren feel to it. In the peak season, it's busy with constant arrivals from the ferries; but, at this time of year, there's a fairly empty feel to the island.
Of course, it's better to be here when there's fewer visitors to share it with; but with the grey skies, there was a flat feel to Lipari Town, which meant that it wasn't looking as photogenic as it normally does (more of a feel of an Irish fishing village, than a Mediterranean island vibe).
We ventured around its quiet streets, climbing up to the imposing medieval citadel that the town is built around. The town's main sight is its archaeological museum, which has a fairly dry set of exhibits, but it does at least put into context Lipari's long history, and traces its pivotal role on the ancient trade routes. Because, in ancient times, this volcanic island's unique gift of obsidian (super-hard volcanic glass) made it a rich place that received visitors from all around the Mediterranean.
Having had our fill of fragments of pottery, we then just wandered around Lipari Town's atmospheric streets, passing by fairly run-down houses, and upmarket B&Bs; smart boutiques and mobile fruit and veg stalls. It made you wonder what the locals feel about their summer invasion – the hardy fishermen pulling in their catch in the harbour must look on with bemusement. On the one hand, now that obsidian is no longer worth its weight in gold, this place is very reliant on income from the tourist trade; yet on the other, it must have a totally different atmosphere in those summer months, when prices go through the roof.
I think that Lipari needs a sunny day to see it at its best, but whatever the weather, there's still a raw beauty to this remote Mediterranean island.