European Diary

Under the Volcano

It’s a small world, as the boat’s captain explained to me between puffs on one of the Antico Toscanos that my friends had been thoughtful enough to bring aboard, seeing I’m too poor to buy cigars, even the cheap Tuscan kind.  The African continental shelf, said the captain, is in continual movement toward Europe, and consequent tension is responsible for the seismic uncertainty that is our lot in Palermo.  The epicenter of tectonic instability was right here in the “Aeolian Arc,” extending for 100 square miles of the Tyrrhenian Sea and dotted by the Aeolian Islands, though the general area of instability is much larger, encompassing all of Sicily, Calabria and Campania on Italy’s mainland, together with parts of Greece and the Aegean Islands.

We anchored for a quick swim in the dazzlingly cold May sea within view of the Carasco Hotel on Lipari, the largest of the eight islands of which the Aeolian archipelago is composed.  The hotel, one of the first on these islands, was built by the parents of a London acquaintance of mine, Luca Del Bono, an erstwhile professional gentleman who is now a force for the good, building as he is a new club in St. James’s with a roof terrace for recalcitrant smokers.  As one who resigned from a venerable St. James’s club with an open letter in The Spectator that ridiculed the board’s bureaucratic...

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