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 – Ustica – Margherita Longo

Ustica is “my” island. I’ve lived there a year and a half in the last three years, and after a quick calculation, I spent at least the equivalent of a month underwater.

It’s not an easy or an astounding island. Her affection, in both ways, must be conquered: it is reserved to the patient ones.

I believe Margherita and her partner Vito were patient enough. Here go her words:
“I’m 39, I have got two kids, a degree and a PhD in agriculture. After studying and working in the city I came back to the countryside. We decided to bet on our future on our grandparents’ piece of land, along with my partner Vito Barbera, who is from Trapani and moved to Ustica. Eight years ago, after leaving, he, the academic career, I, the mythic permanent position at the Ministry of Agriculture, we returned to live in Ustica with our children to renew the family farm. Given my half-Sicilian, half-Lombard roots, I can integrate organization and passion in both the company and the family management. I am an active part in the associative life of the island, which tries to join agricultural producers and tourist operators in order to promote agriculture and tourism.”

The name of the farm is Hibiscus (https://www.agriturismohibiscus.com/eng/) and is one of Ustica’s flagships. It produces, with organic methods, some awesome white wines and an incredible “passito” made of zibibbo grapes. Beside the inevitable lentils – Ustica’s Slow Food item – and extra virgin olive oil from Erice.

Margherita, Vito, you will be the first whom I will meet along my voyage, but it will be like coming back home

Posted on: 20.Mar.2018   Leave a comment

Island People – Vulcano – Eugenio Viviani

 

I didn’t know what to expect from Vulcano. It had never attracted me, unlike the other Aeolian Islands, until I chatted on the phone with Eugenio, who welcomed me with such a rare and unexpected enthusiasm.

This Sicilian man found out one day that his love was sea-kayaking. He did a tour of Sicily with his minor islands, alone of course, then Sardinia, Corsica, Peloponnese, Crete, Dalmatia, until he left everything and settled in Vulcano where he founded the kayaking school Sicily in Kayak that is today internationally acclaimed: http://www.sicilyinkayak.com/home_eng.php

A visionary man animated by a strong passion – who knows why this rings a bell…

Alright, I’ll have you give Maribelle a spin and you take me for a ride on one of your kayaks. And then, perhaps while we circumnavigate Vulcano, we talk about traveling alone. Deal done?

Posted on: 12.Mar.2018   Leave a comment

Island People – Procida – Nicola Scotto Di Carlo

Procida is Elsa Morante’s “Arturo’s island”. “Ah, I would not ask to be a seagull or a dolphin; I would settle for being a scorpionfish, which is the ugliest fish in the sea, to be there, to have a good time in that water”.

When I was working in CNR (Italian National Research Center)’s oceanographic vessels, all sailors were from Procida. All of them! True and modern seamen, they would tell us how hard it was to make a proper living spending 3 months onboard and 3 on the ground. Plus, the cooks, amazing!!!

Procida is also a truly extraordinary person’s island. Here’s how Nicola Scotto Di Carlo defines himself:

“I’d say I’m a comebacker to Procida. I returned to the island 12 years ago after the birth of my second son. After living in Manfredonia, Bari, Rome, Fiumicino, Pavia, Milan, Zurich, Naples, Procida recalled. Many places, many lives, many passions and deep experiences. Today I can say that living on a Mediterranean “atoll” compared to the metropolitan dimension of large cities, the poor quality of life, and the complexity of everyday life, has allowed me to identify the golden rule necessary to perfectly control the space and time variables. All of which results in being well.”
“I’m 44 years old, I am a designer / technologist, and I was educated at Politecnico di Bari, at the Higher Institute of Design, as well as at the school of the great designer AG Fronzoni. I am an educational coordinator in a 3-year degree in Communication Design, I deal with 3D underwater surveys, I am IT director of a company that manages a wide network of travel agencies, and I am part of an active research group on representation systems for underwater museums.”
“See, I try not to get bored. And in order to avoid that risk, since 2008 I have been committing to society trying to transfer some of the experiences and benefits of the metropolitan cultural dimension to the small island context. In this direction, with friends and institutions we were able to create an exhibition area called TERRA (EARTH) in which finally people from Procida could learn the scientific truth of their “own” archaeological as well as geological history. Today, TERRA has become a virtual civic museum and I am actively involved as its curator. I hope I can open its doors soon to all 33 Isole and Lucio’s friends.”

And me, Nicola, I just can’t wait for you to be my cicero in your Procida. I will leave enriched, wiser perhaps, and full of wonder.

Posted on: 5.Mar.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