When Italians organize

Via three planes, a car ride, and a boat ride, on Saturday I made it to Lipari, for the Lipari Summer School, which this year is devoted to algorithms. The computer science Lipari summer schools are legendary among former attendees for the strength of their scientific programs, the beauty of the location, and the extravagant hospitality of the organizers.

I arrive just in time for the Saturday afternoon social activity; we are taken by a chartered boat to Vulcano, the island the word volcano and Mr. Spock’s home planet’s name come from. We hike to the top of the volcano, from which the whole crater is visible

Apparently, an anonymous fan had earlier been to the bottom of the crater:

After the hike, the boat takes us to a beach on the other side of the island; the beach is enclosed by rock on three sides, and is accessible only by boat or hiking from the top of the rocks.

There is no pier, so we are taken to the island in small groups using an inflatable. (More later on this.)

Right-to-left, co-organizer Raffaele Giancarlo, Cliff Stein, Catherine McGeoch, co-organizer and founder Alfredo Ferro, and professor Ferro’s sister, who is on the phone to complain with local authorities for the fact that we were charged to access the hike to the volcano.

On the beach, there is a four-course dinner, abundant wine, and live music, the better to keep the students entertained.

After the dinner, there is a full moon to the East, the coast of Sicily, all lit up, to the South, and a working lighthouse to the West.

When, finally, it is time to come back, there is a problem with the inflatable. Thankfully, Italian resourcefulness comes to the rescue: the boat crew realizes that on the beach there are two pedalos, and they take our group of 50+ back to the boat with them, four at a time. (The crew, who has not been drinking, does the pedaling.)

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