We’ve been on Pico Island for four days now and have been completely captivated. There is nothing to do here, and everything at the same time. If you are ‘into’ nature, enjoy short hikes and mingling with local folk in tiny village cafes, you would adore Pico. Let me set the scene.
Pico Island is famous for the pods of whales that visit just off shore most of the year, hand made lace, locally produced wine, divine Pico cheese and beef so tender you can cut it with a fork. We start every meal saying we won’t eat all of the cheese plate brought to the table, but you guessed it, we always gobble up every crumb. The cheese is light yellow, spreadable, with a mild slightly nutty flavor. Each of the Azores Islands make their own cheese which differ slightly from each other. There are contented cattle roaming on all the hillsides, munching away on vivid green grasses. Here in the Azores it stays warm all year, so there are no barns for the cattle, they roam free all year. On Pico the pastures and vineyards are divided by miles and miles of neatly stacked black volcanic rock walls.
Pico is dominated by a towering volcanic peak that is often crowned by clouds or snow. The topic of each morning is ‘can you see the peak today?’ Bright green terraced pastures tumble down to the sea, and everywhere you look are dramatic ocean views along the craggy lava shoreline. The combination of blue sea, white fringes of crashing waves along the black lava rock, giving way to green fields is simply mesmerizing. Spotless small seaside villages hug the hillsides and nestle into the valleys. Neat white-washed houses capped with creamy terra-cotta roofs gleam in the sunshine. It all makes you wish you were an artist able to capture this pastoral perfection. All along the coast there are ‘natural swimming pools’ – pockets where the lava has created protected pools. From May until November vacationers and locals alike scamper across the black lava and dive into the shimmering pools. And have I mentioned the flowers??? Everywhere you look are beautiful displays of roadside blooms. I think I’ve seen every summer flower I’ve ever bought for my garden growing wild here – coleus, nasturtium, painted daisy, azaleas, calla lilly, impatiens, bird of paradise, and on and on. They are famous for hydrangea that grow along all the roads and fields, but it is too early yet to see them bloom. We’ll settle for miles of shocking pink azaleas in full bloom! And don’t look for swimming pools here…. you just jump right into natural pools formed by the volcanic flow to the ocean.
The total effect of being on Pico is one of tranquility and harmony with nature. It’s like stepping through an hour glass to a simpler time. It is clearly evident that Azoreans respect the beauty of their islands and do everything possible to preserve it. They are gracious, welcoming people who love Americans. Most families have relatives who live in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and are anxious to share stories about their family members in the States. Our favorite taxi driver spent 30 years in Gloucester and is now totally living the good life back home in Pico!!!