Boho-chic, Panarea

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Boho-chic, Panarea
Antidote to Ibiza

Panarea is the antidote to Ibiza. It’s where the real boho-chic lives, an island away from the world. Where life is barefoot and nights are lit by oil lamps and volcano fire, spewing from the crater of Stromboli. Hard to get there, even harder not to stay.

Boho-chic, Panarea
Pure focus

I’m an island-lover; my accompanying photographer is too. We like to have our boundaries set for us, the reassuring boredom. Maybe because it limits how the story can be told. A nice cadre to which the image can be fitted without the temptation of endless possibilities. An island is about pure focus. Focus on what’s around you and only that.

Boho-chic, Panarea
Invitation island only

There’s a healthy lack of accommodation on Panarea for which it’s assumed the reputation of an ‘invitation-only island’. You go there because you’re asked by friends or friends of friends. Or friends of friends of friends - because it’s not for everyone. Included on the list of homeowners are names such as Borghese, Visconti and Bulgari.

Boho-chic, Panarea
Stay at the Raya

If you lack such high caliber friends, you can always book a room at the Raya. Built as the first boutique hotel in Europe, it’s exactly what one would imagine a Mediterranean hotel from the sixties to look like. White bungalows with blue-white tiles in the bathroom and coarse linen on the beds. Bougainvillea, huge cacti and frangipani thrive on the terraces. And then there’s the breath-taking view.

Boho-chic, Panarea
Panarea rocks!

Be that as it may, day three tends to be the harbinger of feelings of rebelliousness. The longing for adventure. The ‘let’s go explore!’ And against all good advice, we go on a long hike - in sandals. Half an hour in, the turns into a path, winding its way towards the cliffs. But when the path also disappears after a couple of hundred meters, and the cliffs become dead steep, we turn back. We had reached the limits set by the island.

I’m an island-lover; so is my accompanying photographer Brenda van Leeuwen. We like to have our boundaries set for us, the reassuring boredom. Maybe because it limits how the story can be told. A nice cadre to which the image can be fitted without the temptation of endless possibilities. An island is about pure focus. Focus on what’s around you and only that.

Over the years we’ve visited many islands; not all of them equally suited to focus. A good island is one that can’t be reached easily; the voyage there is necessary to create distance, to be able to leave things behind. Panarea is the antidote to Ibiza. It’s where the real boho-chic lives, an island away from the world. Where life is barefoot and nights are lit by oil lamps and volcano fire, spewing from the crater of Stromboli. Hard to get there, even harder not to stay.

When travelling to Panarea, the smallest of the seven Aeolian Islands, one takes a boat from Naples or Sicily. One must brave the wild crash of the waves on the bow, sure to cause seasickness. The island has no safe marina, so if weather circumstances are unfavorable, you must dock at near-by Lipari and hope for better weather before you continue. But by now you’ll have stopped looking at your watch and time will have assumed a different dimension.

“There’s a healthy lack of accommodation on Panarea for which it’s assumed the reputation of an ‘invitation-only island’”

There’s a healthy lack of accommodation on Panarea for which it’s assumed the reputation of an ‘invitation-only island’. You go there because you’re asked by friends or friends of friends. Included on the list of homeowners are names such as Borghese, Visconti and Bulgari.

If you lack such high caliber friends, you can always book a room at the Raya. Built as the first boutique hotel in Europe, it’s exactly what one would imagine a Mediterranean hotel from the sixties to look like. White bungalows with blue-white tiles in the bathroom and coarse linen on the beds. Bougainvillea, huge cacti and frangipani thrive on the terraces. And then there’s the breath-taking view of the sea, dotted with uninhabited islands; or better, mere rock shards protruding from all the blue. At sunset these turn a soft pink, progressing into deep red as night settles in, a red resembling the Negroni that has just been poured for you at Bar del Porto.

Raya is the life’s work of the eccentric Myriam Beltrami and her artist husband, Paolo Tiche. The couple came to the island in 1958 before there was running water and electricity, where they bought a simple fisherman’s cottage and had guests sleep in outhouses. The self-made guesthouse grew until it became the hotel where Gianni Agnelli, Aristotle Onassis and Francis Bacon were regulars. Kate Moss (in sarong and sandals) and Princess Caroline of Monaco came later. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have owned a house on Stromboli for years. They like to sail over in the evening for a party on Raya’s terrace. Giorgio Armani made it a habit to anchor his yacht in Panarea every summer for a couple of days.

“A good island means there is hardly anything to do there at all.”

But the real charm of this hotel lies in its simplicity; no televisions, an oil lamp next to the bed and, for the longest time, no pool (there is one now). And even though it’s now considered to be fashionable amongst island dwellers to steer clear of the Raya, nobody can deny that it was this Bali-inspired paradise that has made the island into the epicenter of boho-chic in the sixties.

A good island means there is hardly anything to do there at all. With all the intention in the world, shopping is impossible in the handful of boutiques in the harbor unless you’re happy with a pair of leather slippers and a sarong. The sarongs can be found at the hotel boutique and are sourced by Myriam herself who spends her winters in Bali. The only way to get to the sandy beach is by foot. Well, you can take a golf cart but why bother if there’s nothing else to do anyway?

Be that as it may, day three tends to be the harbinger of feelings of rebelliousness. The longing for adventure. The ‘let’s go explore!’ And against all good advice, we go on a long hike – in sandals. Half an hour in, the turns into a path, winding its way towards the cliffs. But when the path also disappears after a couple of hundred meters, and the cliffs become dead steep, we turn back. We had reached the limits set by the island. Rest at last. From the terrace of the Raya, I savor a plate of vongole and stare at Stromboli’s smoky plume. I’m relaxed. If I’m lucky, the winds might prevent the ferry from landing tomorrow – I sort of hope it will.

 

Interested in publication of this article? Photos and text are for sale. For more info send an email to stephanie@shotofjoy.com

 

 

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