Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Lighthouse

I have always had a fascination with lighthouses. I grew up not too far from a very pretty one on Lake Erie, and sometimes swam in its shadow on hot, humid summer days. So it was a neat surprise on our first or second evening here to see the streak of the rotating beam as we watched a gorgeous sunset. From the village you can't see it, or at least I had not noticed it during our forays into town.

One morning while the fishing boats were exiting the harbor I grabbed the binoculars and fixed them on the lighthouse. It sits on a little island just off the rocky shore, and I could see waves crashing onto the little slip of land from which it rises. I looked through brochures but could only find vague mentions of Punta Licosa and the lighthouse.

Following days of rain, when the sun finally dawned a few days ago we figured we better take advantage of it while it lasted, grabbed our grubby hiking shoes and set off to find the faro. We followed a few vague signposts to Punta Licosa from the nearby village of San Marco, which directed us down a rutted dirt road. It wasn't so much a road as a collection of water-filled, suspension-jarring potholes loosely laced together by little threads of earth. We went as far as the groaning car would let us, and continued on foot through the mud, passing several very luxurious-looking villas.

Two dogs bounded up to act as our guides, with one running ahead and then stopping to wait for us, while the other, pudgey mutt brought up the rear. We were like a rag-tag parade. All was silent and views spread out across grassy expanses to the sea and stretched to the hazy outline of Capri beyong. The wind was chilly and the walk was much longer than we had anticipated, but we arrived finally at the point, where jagged hills plunged down to the churning sea. Just past the land's end the lighthouse stood solidly while windswept waves battered around it.

Punta Licosa is swathed in legend, deriving its name from the Greek 'Leucosia', who is said to have been one of the three sirens (or mermaids) mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey, whose songs lured sailors to shipwreck on the rocks. Odysseus had to be tied to the mast to keep from succumbing to their melodic allures. The mythical Leucosia, after failing to bring destruction to Odysseus, was thrown into the abyss of the sea and washed up on an island, which was named after her...hence, Punta Licosa.

There is a lot of legend in these parts, which makes sense since it was a part of Magna Grecia a few millenia ago. Really makes me wish I had paid more attention in mythology class. In any case, the lighthouse stands guard and keeps sailors from shipwrecks, by sirens or storms.

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