#22 Levanzo – Departure

After 24 very intense hours I leave Levanzo towards the near and hype Favignana.

At a first glance, Levanzo looked to me as a place where time stopped. Time got stuck in the beauty and the rawness of this tiny white village with such a welcoming yet hardly existing harbor. It got stuck in the mystery of the Grotta del Genovese – Levanzo (Genovese Cave), an incredibile prehistoric place where Natale Castiglione, a special guy, took me.

And then, old people’s memories about the time when here more than 100 thousand liters of wine were produced, and there was cattle, and there was fishing, often all simultaneously.

And finally, memories of a guy such as Peppe, who decides to come back to his island as a chef for the season and remembers, despite being only 21 years old, those summer days as a child, here, spent in the sea all day or playing hide and seek with the tourists’ children, while today kids spend their time on the cellphone or gaming with the playstation.

Maybe, after all, time hasn’t stopped. Now spiderwebs hide a tremendous beauty…

 


Posted on: 3.Jul.2018   Leave a comment

#21 Marettimo – Departure

Marettimo is a place of disarming beauty. If it is true that all the islands are beautiful places, without exception, Marettimo is probably more beautiful than many others – because it is remote at the right point, because its morphology is impressive and wild, because the small village is cute and because underwater it hides real marvels.

It is an island of seamen (which is rare, given that most islands had a predominantly agricultural economy), and this can be felt immediately. Its people are used to emigrate and to greet in return. They are passionate and smiling, open. I met nice guys like Francesco, willing to share his wonders beyond a mere tourist logic, spontaneously and professionally. It is a pity that from next year even primary school will not reopen …

I interviewed Vito Vaccaro, historical memory of the island’s identity from which we should start seeking an idea of future. He told us, for example, the story of the salmon fishermen, who still today go to, and come back from, Alaska to fish for one or two months every year.

Then Leonardo, the beekeeper of Isola Del Miele (the Bee’s Island), who produces here tons (it is not a joke) of honey – he has even won several national prizes. He told us that here there is no mortality of bees issue, because there is no agriculture that pollutes the air with pesticides that damage the insects.

And finally my friends from Blu Tek Diving – MarettimoDavide and Diletta, who out of love for Marettimo and its sea bought a diving center a few years ago and even got married here. After some dives, for the first time the absolute primacy that the sea of Ustica has in my diving experience started to tremble. A very special thanks to you, guys.

The bow is pointed to Levanzo, now, just 12 km away while the Scirocco blows …

(The picture is by Ferdinando Meli, whom I thank a lot. That guy is me next to a wonderful colony of Leptogorgia sarmentosa.)

 


Posted on: 2.Jul.2018   Leave a comment

Island People – Alicudi – Teresa Perre

Teresa, as she hadmits it, is and will always be known as the “Alicudi Teacher”. She began to teach in the eighties in the tough, peripheral neighborhoods of her hometown, Milan. Those were the years and the place where the modern history of italian education was written.
When she asked to be transfered, as she were in love with the Aeolian Islands in Sicily, her first vow went to the Lipari municipality.
Chaos, or hazard, was tricky to her, changing her life forever. Now, Lipari municipality includes all the aeolian islands but Salina (which has three municipalities by itself – but that’s a different story, a very sicilian one). And since her ranking was the highest, she was given the island beginning with ‘A’: Alicudi. Blame it to the alphabetical order.
Teresa had never heard of Alicudi before – well hardly any tourist used to visit Alicudi back at that time (it hasn’t changed that much, by the way). She arrived on a July, 14, for the Bastille Day. When climbing up the only road made of lava steps, where men seldom outnumber donkeys, at some point she asked indications for the school to a massive man. The asnwer she got was: “S’accomadasse” (sicilian dialect for “please come in”). The school was there, in a room inside a house like all the others which, hopefully, was rented to tourists in summertime.

In the years, I believe that Alicudi’s school has had an average of 5 pupils, primary and secondary classes unified and mixed into a single one. But the school won an important battle: in 1997, a talented Lipari mayor (the same who made it to have the Aeolian Islands declared as the first UNESCO heritage natural site in the world…) could buy a wonderful aeolian house in order to make it the official school location. You know, I was at the school, I was there chatting with the kids about my voyage and about what an “island of plastic” is (which is not a place in the middle of the sea where you can walk on, as many sensationalist environmentalists love to say); and I think that beside being the smallest school in Europe it is the most beautiful in the world. With such an overwhelming view on the sister islands and sea, sea everywhere, unlimitedly.

Teresa, with eyes too smart for a face so marked by commitment, is a woman who traded her personal life for the defense of the right to education. This statement bears the echo of partisans, transoceanic emigration, distant love. Yet we are in the twentyfirst century, and it proves that there are still (plenty) of battles like this to be fought. Today, she’s done with her mission at the school. Or actually she would be done if they hadn’t called her back for yet another teacher quit the island after a few weeks or months.

What is extraordinay and moving is that a woman with such a cultural background and such a fine mind could decide to vow herself to a tiny geographical dot such as Alicudi, inhabited by 60 people at most from more than half of the year (among these, you can cross turtle eaters and water spout cutters), simple people for sure, but at the same time close-minded, cynical, who underwent too many farewells to be able to trust someone again. Such a tough yet amazingly wonderful place, where it’s very hard to find a personal balance. Whether you were born in the island or not. A place, though, where with the help of this huge and deafening natural beauty, and only if you’ve got a precise objective in life compatible with a remote place and loads of strength, it maybe be worth retiring to, accepting the apparent simplicity of the everyday life.

P.S.: Alberto Bougleux, a filmmaker (and sailor) in love with the Aeolian Islands, founder by the way of the Museo del Cinema di Stromboli, shot a few years ago a sublime yet very unfiltered documentary film about the school in Alicudi.
Here there is the trailer.

Posted on: 21.Apr.2018   Leave a comment

Island people – Marettimo – Davide Di Franco, Diletta Giannola

Guess what, I am not gonna go diving a little bit during my trip through such crazy places? And what’s better than doing it with people who actually chose the Island, leaving back a whole life to devote themselves to the Island?

Let me introduce you Davide Di Franco and Diletta Giannola, owners of Blu Tek Diving – Marettimo. Both form Palermo, him always fond of scuba diving, her former dancer of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, a few years ago they decided to bet everything on their passion and love, mutual and for the sea. They chose Marettimo – unquestionably in the top 3, I dare say, of best diving destinations in Italy (and in the Mediterranean) for its underwater caves and unbelievable sceneries -, boat an old fishing boat named “El Merendero”, and the dream has come true. They even got married in Marettimo!

I can’t wait. Above and under water, take me discovering your island’s pearls of beauty…

Posted on: 22.Feb.2018   Leave a comment