The Rather Helpful F**k It Retreats Holiday Pack (for Stromboli)
Yippee, you’re coming to Italy!
This little pack will help you pack correctly, get on the right plane, ferry, and arrive at the correct address, in the easiest and most enjoyable way.
Actually, before we really get stuck in – we need to make something clear – as we get a lot of questions about it –
If you’ve been on a retreat with us before, you’ll know that people normally travel on the start and end dates of the retreat. So you’d be arriving usually on the evening of the first day, in time for dinner. And you’d be leaving after breakfast on the last day.
The Stromboli retreat this summer is different though.
So the date for 2024 is –
June 9-15 (that’s Sunday 9 June to Saturday 15 June).
So you’ll be arriving in time for dinner (aim for 7.30pm latest at the hotel) on the Sunday.
And we’ll have our first session the following morning (ie. Monday morning).
Then, at the end of your retreat, we’ll be gathering for our last session on the Saturday morning, then closing our time together at 1pm .
This means that we have 6 session days together (ie. just like every retreat we’ve ever run)… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (and we’ll often do two sessions a day, or one long one)
So…Given you’ll be free from from lunch on the last day of the retreat, you’ll be able to leave the island on that afternoon, but you may be unlikely to arrive all the way home on that day.
So have a think about what you’d like to do.
Maybe you’d like to stay on Stromboli for that night and leave the next morning (though there’s not enough room in the hotel we’re using for all of us to do that, but there are of course other hotels on the island).
Maybe you’d like to do a bit of island hopping and explore one or two of the other Eolian islands… we love Vulcano for example and its healing waters and jacuzzi sea experience (hot springs bubble up from the rocks in the sea, it’s fabulous).
Or travel back to Sicily and enjoy some time in Catania (we LOVE Catania). Or Naples.
Yes, you know it, it’s a great opportunity to extend your holiday. But please do make sure you can stay until lunchtime on the last day. Last year a lot of magic happened on that last day 🙂
Some ideas of what to bring:
Well, bring everything you’d normally bring for a holiday on a volcanic island of course…
- Everything you need for the beach: sun cream, swimmers and a beach towel.
- There are plenty of beaches on Stromboli where you can hire a beach umbrella, or you can buy one. But do bring some goggles or a mask for swimming in the sea (and a snorkel too to keep your head underwater and see the delights beneath the surface).
- Bring a torch (or your well-charged phone as most of us use these days), as the streets of Stromboli are not lit at night.
- Bring comfortable shoes as it’s all about walking there… there are many gravel roads and a lot of gentle ups and downs. There is a viewpoint about 400m high (Osservatorio) from which to see the eruptions at night and people love walking there in the evenings. If you are planning a hike on the volcano, hiking boots are necessary, but no need to bring them (unless you want to) as they are available to hire on the island.
- The island is beautifully wild, so comfortable summer clothes are best.
- Bring some warmer clothing for the evenings, like a fleece or jumper, just in case.
- Also bring comfortable clothing for the sessions – remember we’ll be doing some gentle exercises and some moving around… you don’t need full lycra gear, but it’s probably best not to wear a mini-skirt.
- Bring a waterproof or equivalent just in case (it’s only rained once on our many trips there – but you will also need an extra layer if you’re going hiking).
Some Italian words for your trip:
grazie (grat-see-ay): thanks
per favore (pear-fav-or-ay): please
buongiorno (boo-on-jaw-no): hello (during the day)
buonasera (boo-on-a-sarah): hello (in the evening)
ciao (chow): hello / bye, but very informal for friends or kids
sono inglese (so-no-in-glay-say): I’m English
non ho capito (non-oh-cap-ee-toe): I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about old chap (follow this with ‘sono inglese’)
pizza (pizza): pizza
gelato (gel-ah-toe): ice cream
acqua (ack-wa): water
che caldo (kay-kal-doe): My goodness, it’s hot
che bello/a (kay-bell-o/a): How beautiful
scusi (scu-zee): Excuse me
vorrei (vo-ray): I would like
andare (and-are-ay): To go
come ti chiami (komay tee kiamee): what’s your name
this is my phone number: just write it down and give it to them
Stromboli is in Southern Italy: so in the summer the weather is generally fabulous. Even in the height of summer, the heat tends to be bearable, with the sea breeze and dips into the sea.
The hotel is right on the beach, so there’s often a gentle breeze. In fact, the weather is (usually) totally gorgeous.
But, of course, there are no guarantees – so do bring a waterproof just in case (and do bring a jumper for the evenings anyway).
In fact, as we write this we realise it’s good to keep a jumper handy on your trip as well, because the air-con on the boat can be a bit strong – and you’ll want to wrap up.
We’ve done some research for you on how to get there.
But please do check everything yourself thoroughly.
You may be coming from a different place to others.
Timetables may have changed since we did this research.
So please do check your entire journey before you book any elements of it.
And there’s likely to be a difference in timetables between June and July.
This is the route we’ve recommended for years. Because it’s easy. But in the last few years, Easyjet (and other airlines) have been flying to Catania and Palermo, on Sicily, so we give those option too below. The Naples route also involves a longer trip on the hydrofoil than if you’re going via Sicily and Catania. And this year, it looks like the return trips are limited, with the first one on the Saturday after our last day.
So, for the Naples option, just aim for Naples (Napoli), and then grab the daily hydrofoil to Stromboli.
Many airlines fly to Napoli from all over Europe (eg. from UK, at the moment, there’s Easyjet and British Airways).
To get from the airport to Mergellina Porto you can catch a taxi. Please specify Mergellina Porto as there are other ports in Napoli. It takes about 25 mins. Regarding the cost of the taxi: it’s only worthwhile paying on the meter if you are travelling before 8am (as there will be no traffic and it will only take about 15 minutes and approx €15). Otherwise, make sure you ask the taxi driver for the ‘TARIFFA FISSA’ (fixed tariff) which is around €30 and remains the same whatever time it takes to get to the port. This is a tariff fixed by the council which the drivers have to respect. This is important to specify as otherwise you could pay any amount.
Public transport. Take the Alibus outside the airport’s arrivals (it costs about €3, you can buy the ticket on the Alibus itself, there is one every 20-25 minutes, and it takes between 15-30 minutes depending on traffic) and get out at the STAZIONE CENTRALE. In the Stazione you get the metro to the MERGELLINA stop (tube, marked with a big M sign). Take line 2 (the main line) direction ‘Pozzuoli’, Mergellina is only 4 stops from the Stazione Centrale. You can buy the tube ticket in any ‘tabacchi’ shop (tobacconist) either at the airport or in the train station, or in the tube station itself (in the tube station there will usually be only automatic machines). It’s just 2 minutes’ walk then from the Mergellina station to the port.
Then, take the fast hydrofoil / ferry (aliscafo in Italian) to Stromboli: SNAV (which, at time of writing – departs 2.30pm arrives 7pm). Do buy your ticket well in advance, just book it on-line here (also in English): www.snav.it
When you get to Stromboli port, the hotel is only 900m from the port, but we recommend you get the hotel transfer, which is a golf cart as normal cars aren’t permitted on the island (and the walk with your luggage is somewhat long). The transfer costs €6 and needs to be booked ahead by e-mail with the hotel (see hotel contact details beneath).
For your return trip, check with the SNAV site again, but for the June retreat, as an example, it’s likely that the only hydrofoil from Stromboli back to Napoli is at 9.05am, and at the time of writing, they are only departing on Saturday, Sunday and Monday after the retreat.
The Aeolian islands, of which Stromboli is one, are just north of Sicily. So Sicily is closer to the islands than Naples is. So it makes sense to look at travelling via Sicily.
We fly to Catania (and you can also look at flights to Palermo. If you prefer this option, you’ll need to take a train from Palermo to Milazzo). And various airlines go there, including Easyjet from the UK (Luton and Gatwick).
From there, there are regular buses to both Milazzo (where we sail from) and Messina.
It is worth saying now that, again at the time of writing, and for the June retreat, the last hydrofoil from Milazzo to Stromboli is at 4.30pm.
And the last hydrofoil from Messina to Stromboli is at 3pm.
So if you’re aiming to do the trip in one day, make sure that your flights, then connecting bus or train, allows you to get to these ports on time.
Milazzo first: where you’ll have various hydrofoil and ferry options to Stromboli and the other islands (and the time the journey takes depends on which islands you’re going to be stopping at). There’s a choice of around 5 hydrofoils a day. The fastest is 1 hour 10 minutes. The longest around 3 hours. But remember that the trip from Naples is 5 hours. They’re cheaper too compared to the Naples hydrofoil. (We used Liberty Lines for checking times etc.: http://www.libertylines.it/ )
There are many regular shuttle buses from the airport to Milazzo. It’s all very easy. They’re cheap-ish (around €30 each way) and take around 2 hours. You’ll find lots of operators online.
It’s also possible to get a train to Milazzo (from the train station in Catania centre).
Then there’s Messina: The bus trip from Catania is about 10 minutes less than to Milazzo and you can get a public ‘autobus’, which is cheaper than the private operators going to Milazzo. So it’s around €10 one way, or €15 return.
For the hydrofoils, it’s a similar picture, with a variety of departure times and journey times (the shortest is around an hour and a half). And it may well be even cheaper than Milazzo too, just check the Liberty Lines site (http://www.libertylines.it/).
When you get to Stromboli port, the hotel is only 900m from the port, but we recommend you get the hotel transfer, which is a golf cart as normal cars aren’t permitted on the island (and the walk with your luggage is probably too long). The transfer costs €6 and needs to be booked ahead by e-mail with the hotel (see hotel contact details beneath).
Like our other F**k It Retreats, it’s likely that you’ll be on the same flight / bus / train as other people joining the retreat. And normally, you wouldn’t know who they were.
So we usually set up a private WhatsApp group for you all. And we will be inviting those who’ve booked a retreat into those groups. If you’re getting close to the retreat and haven’t received an invitation, please email us to say.
If you fancy travelling together, sharing a taxi when you arrive at Napoli airport, or just saying hello before your retreat, you can get in touch with each other there. This way you could choose to meet others to travel with and share transfers, taxis, ice creams etc. You could also use this to share pictures and stay in touch after your retreat too.
So it’s actually pretty easy – especially if you’re able to share some of the journey with fellow retreaters (see beneath) – and it will be a very beautiful journey whether you’re alone or in company.
You might want to arrive a day early or stay an extra day on the way back for some sightseeing, as Napoli is an amazing city (just put your wallet somewhere safe and then use it at Pizzeria Da Michele, featured in Eat Pray Love. It is, without doubt, the best pizza in the world – and we’re Italians, so we know).
If you are travelling around Sicily or island hopping in the Aeolian islands, there are ferries to Stromboli also from Sicily at Milazzo port, or from any of the other Aeolian islands.
Address and full name of the Venue:
Hotel Villaggio Stromboli
Via Regina Elena 38
98050 STROMBOLI (ME)
e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please e-mail the hotel if you want a transfer specifying your name, time of arrival and with which ferry-line you’ll be travelling.
If you need any help, please call the hotel’s reception: +39 090986018
Once you arrive at the Hotel.
So you’re likely to be arriving around 7pm, if you are coming from Napoli, or at other times if you are arriving in other ways.
When you get to the venue, their lovely staff will welcome you and take you to your room.
We meet as a group at 8pm for dinner, followed (or preceded) by a very brief intro about practical stuff, so then you are free to go and rest or have your first Strombolian ice cream. Reception will confirm when and where we’ll meet (and it might well be just ‘the restaurant at 8’). The sessions start the next morning, on the roof terrace above the restaurant. But we’ll explain all that when you arrive.
Food and Dietary Requirements
We are booked into the hotel as ‘half-board’. So you have breakfast every morning. And we usually have dinner together in the hotel. Though we’re likely to have at least one lunch and then go out together in the evening (for example, to the pizzeria beneath the volcano).
The hotel is 3*, so the rooms are simple (and rather lovely), and its unbeatable quality is its position right on the beach, and its roof terrace where we do our sessions. The food is 3* too, so somewhat basic, though plentiful, and cooked by the family’s aunt. So it’s like Italian family food. You can sample pizzas and other dishes in the many restaurants on the island.
If you have any dietary requirements (including being vegetarian), please e-mail the hotel directly before your holiday, as they need to get special diet ingredients (like gluten-free and dairy free) in advance of the week (in fact, they need to get it from another island, as there’s not so much in the way of Wholefood supermarkets on Stromboli).
A Typical Day
Now, we tend to have different routines, depending on the weeks. But we might, as an example, be having a session from around 9 till 11am, and then another one late afternoon, from 6 to 7.30pm, for a total of around 3-4 hours of sessions every day.
In this way we have plenty of time for beautiful sessions, we avoid the hottest hours, and you have lots of free time to spend on the beach, lounging around, napping or having nice long lunches.
Some of the days we may have a longer morning session, and then no late afternoon gathering, for example if a few of you want to go up the volcano (no, that’s not a Carry On film), which is a late afternoon excursion.
The final session times will be specified on the day by John or Gaia.
You can pay for anything extra by card at the hotel (eg. wine, bar items, etc.), and most restaurants take cards (except,notably, the Osservatorio pizzeria beneath the volcano), but it is best to bring some cash with you, as there are only two cash points on the island, and they do occasionally run out of cash, and might take a couple of days to be filled up again (yes, really!).
You’ll need cash for ice creams, beach umbrellas rental (about €10 per day), and any small things. The hotel and other associations organise excursions (approx: €30 up the volcano, €20 to Ginostra, the town on the other side of the island with only 25 inhabitants, €20 for a night boat trip to Sciara del Fuoco, the lava ridge).
The island’s best pizza and ice cream place is the ‘Osservatorio’, from where you can look at the eruptions by night, though it only takes cash, as it’s too far up to get a phone line there (to use a credit card). This gives you a nice taste of the place.
Can’t wait to see you there and spend some time together on this amazing island.
Ciao & love,
John & Gaia x