In Kefalonia, you learn quickly that the time required to move from one place to another does not depend on actual mileage. The roads are twisty asphalt grooves etched in the wall of the mountain overlooking the sea, severely damaged by the many earthquakes that have nearly destroyed the island. As if not enough, exclusively on this island, it is customary to leave unattended herds of goats, which invade the streets to move from one pasture to another.
At 7:45 we board the ferry to Ithaca, with many other tourists, mostly Italians. All Italians staying in Kefalonia, want to go to Ithaca and Zakynthos. These are names that we learned in school when we were child, by our teachers, from the books of history and literature. They are part of us.
In less than an hour we land on the tiny pier of Ithaca. We are immediately directed to the only road on the island, and so we reach Vathi, the island's biggest town. The town is very attractive: multicolored houses lie along the edges of a beautiful cove bordered by two promontories that seem to embrace and protect what is called the largest natural harbor in the world. I wonder if Ulysses embarked from here to the Trojan War, reluctantly, and after trying to avoid the departure, feigning madness.
Ithaca has a shape vaguely reminiscent of an hourglass: two large rocky mountains (one north and one south) covered by thick vegetation, joined by a narrow strip of land. Is possible to cover by car only the northern part, while the rest of the island only on the back of a donkey or from the sea.
Just outside from Vathi we follow a curious indication bearing the words "archaeological site." that lead to a clearing bordered by olive trees.
Another sign with the description, in four languages, of the archaeological site, directs us to the hill to our right.
We meet a girl that warns us laughing that is not the right direction. In fact, soon after, we come across a small house. We are in a private property. Between giggles and smiles, she shows us the hill where a hundred stones make a fine show, scattered among the olive trees. The archeological site is not on the hill, IT IS the hill.
We drive to the extreme north of the island and we come to the small and lovely Stavros. There is a sign for another archaeological site, called "Homer's School".
This time, before go visit it, we ask around if it worth the effort. People tell us that is the most important archaeological site of the island. Following the signs, we take a dirt country road that becomes increasingly narrow and without any intention to end. Just when we are about to be taken by anxiety we see a small clearing and a sign with the words "HOMER SCHOOL". All around, only the low walls, stones and trees. That's all. But we do not need much else.
On the way back we cross two other villages Frikes and Kioni .... gorgeous! We start to drive towards the top of the mountain, following following hard curves and turns. The countryside becomes more barren and brings honor to the name by which it called Homer, the poetry: "the stony Ithaca".
We arrive to the Monastery of Panagis Kataron with its bell tower and its terrace. The view is breathtaking, so much so that I forget my vertigo: Kefalonia, Echinades, Zakynthos, up to glimpse the entrance of the Gulf of Patras. To the right, below, the bay of Vathi.
I'm sure that even Odysseus, King of Ithaca, has stood here, watching the wild beauty of its rocks, the sea beyond, the borders of his kingdom. Perhaps this gave rise to his proverbial curiosity, his inexhaustible thirst for consciousness, his love for the discovery, but also his attachment to this land that, despite all odds, led him to return.
We do not know if Odysseus really existed.
Ithaca instead is real.
Later, while we wait for the ferry that will takes us back to Kefalonia, I find myself thinking about the poem by Konstantin Cavafis (1911):
"Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
And if you find her poor, Itacha won't fooled you".
Ithaca is not poor and it did not disappoint me.
Rosanna is a plastic reconstructive surgeon that live and work in Tuscany, (Italy) and she has dedicated any moment of her spare time to travel all around the world. She has several experiences to tell and write about people and countries, but her first and true love is Spain and its dwellers, place that she deeply know as the back of her hand.