by Ottavia Redaelli
Ibiza, besides being an island with the most beautiful sea in the world, the Mediterranean Sea, is also a place for the mind. A place to get out of your reality and jump into a parallel universe.
The island is magical with such variety and contradiction. Sometimes it is sleazy, but it can be wild and sophisticated too. Ibiza is spiritual but also materialistic and snobbish. Hugely popular and eccentric but also simple and calm. The Yin and the Yang is evident here because on this island, with a surface of only 60 km of length per 20 km of width, you will find everything…and the opposite of everything.
I have been coming to Ibiza for the last 27 years and have been hearing people say that the island cannot take it anymore, that it is about to burst, that sooner or later it will sink… actually Ibiza is getting more and more beautiful and ceases to let you down.
As soon as I land on the island, and this happens every time I get off the plane, I feel a tickling in my stomach, a feeling that something fun is about to happen. Since the very first landing it was love at first sight. I arrived on the white island at the end of the 80’s, I was not yet 18 years old, and had followed my boyfriend of the time from the peaceful village of Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany. He whisked me away on his enduro motorbike and made me travel the 1000 km to Barcelona, from there we boarded the ferry, next stop… Ibiza.
The island at the time had a reputation for being an extravagant place; House music had just appeared in Europe and Ibiza, where the night life was already ahead of its time, had become the background for it. The original clubs were all open air; Amnesia looked like a country Spanish village surrounded by low walls covered by a purple buganville. Pacha and Ku, now called Privilege, were fabulous and already featuring the finest music and parties of the time. After all, it is said that already 3000 years ago the Phoenicians were celebrating their victory feasts on the island.
Over the years I came to Ibiza almost every month of the calendar year. During the winter the island is stunning, the red soil is covered by a green carpet and in January the almond trees are already in blossom. The charm of the Ibizenco countryside touches my heart. The smell of the fig trees, the Mediterranean pines and the carob trees is one of the most pleasant in the world. The perfume of the island is evocative bringing with it ease and happiness.
The heart of the island, even in summer, is not entirely invaded by tourists. I like to drive, in a convertible, among the lush green hillsides and dusty off-road tracks taking in the beautiful landscape. Going through the small villages of San Mateu and Santa Ines you can still meet the typical Ibizenco old ladies, wearing their smocks and distinctive straw hats, grazing their goats and taking a rest by the shady walls of the small country churches. This is the pure soul of the island which still happily coexists with the more well-known party side. For the best meat restaurant, unknown to tourists and appreciated by locals, is Can Cires, also in San Mateu. Do not forget to try the homemade Hierbas here (the typical Ibizenco spirit).
The island is Yin and Yang in its geography with the southern part being populated and chaotic as it is filled with the turquoise Salinas beaches, naturally attracting tourists. You will find many legendary Chiringuitos (beach bars) in Sa Trinxa with resident and historical djs playing music that never stops. Although the music and limpid waters draw an international crowd, it still holds its original allure, remaining a classic Ibizenco experience. On Es Cavallet beach, the east side of Salinas’ tip, you have El Chiringuito, a sophisticated day restaurant with excellent service, even on the beach, making it one of the most difficult places to book a table.
From Salinas, drive west a few miles after the airport and you will reach the bay of Sa Caleta. With its red cliffs and turquoise waters, this beach hosts one of the best fish restaurants on the island. Their specialty is black paella with squid and shrimps, a must! Furthermore, in Sa Caleta you can find the first Phoenician settlement of the island, dated from 654 BCE and declared a world heritage site. A few miles up the coast you will find Cala Jondal. Here, between July and September, some of the most fabulous yachts drop their anchors, enticed by the splendid bay and iconic beach club, Blue Marlin. The stylish crowd, exclusive beach and top djs make Cala Jondal one of the more up market beaches of Ibiza, a favourite of the rich and famous.
Between the remarkable peninsula of Porroig, where you can find original villas from the 70’s, there is the charming village of Es Cubells and Es Torrent beach. Attracting an international crowd, sometimes a bit snobbish, this beach remains an oasis of calm, especially during the month of August. For another mouth watering experience, Es Torrent’s fish restaurant is worth a visit. Follow the coast and soon you will reach the mythical rock of Es Vedrà, the most magnetic part of the island. This legendary cliff is located in front of Cala d’Hort beach. A cathedral of rock with large concentrations of minerals and metals resulting in a remarkably high magnetic field. Many legends surround Es Vedrà. It is said that this is the point where, in the Homeric Odyssey, Ulysses was bewitched by the Sirens and it is what remains of the legendary Atlantis. It seems, moreover, that if we would observe Es Vedrà from a satellite it would appear as a darkened spot, like the White House or Pentagon. The fact is Es Vedrà is sacred soil and nobody has the right to step on it. The magic released by this place is certainly magnetic, no doubt one of the reasons that brings us back to the island again and again. The traditional restaurant of Es Boldado, just next to Cala d’Hort beach, is a great place to view this masterpiece.
For shopping, expect a different experience in Ibiza. Up until now the designer names never quite took hold of the market, therefore one can still find unique pieces, going around the old port, especially in a small street called called de la Virgen. Shops don’t open before 10 pm and stay open all night – hairdressers too! For unusual treats visit the Sunday market of Las Dalias, near the village of San Carlos. A hippy chic market with some surprises to reveal.
When night arrives and it’s time for dinner you will not find a seat in a restaurant before10.30 pm! The island is teaming with delicious restaurants. Over the years the quality of food on the island has certainly increased. I love a small restaurant, just in the centre of Ibiza town, called Pastis, their specialty is meat and their canteen is lovely too. For people watching and a pre club warm up one should go to Downtown Cipriani, a classic. Here you will find a combination of excellent traditional Italian cuisine and the coming and goings of a sophisticated crowd, ready to rock and roll in the Ibizenco
Finally, we are ready for the most popular reason to visit the island… clubbing!
I don’t have much to say on this that has not already been said but I have some favourites.
Lio, with its eccentric show and amazing views of the old town, is worth the long waiting list for an extravagant dining and dance experience. The best night on the island, for me this summer, has been Sundays at Pacha: Solomun +1, for those that seek top quality deep house music you will not be disappointed!