#31,32,33 Venetian Lagoon – The end of the voyage

When I chose Venice as the final island of my journey, I didn’t know what to expect. I was frightened by how people describe it, a city turned into an amusement park which lost almost completely its identity.
My interest in Venice began to change when I came across my “deus ex machina” Marco (there were at least three “dii ex machina” in this adventure, all unforgettable), a wonderful, funny, crazy! guy with a huge sense of welcoming, who after a simple phone call had already arranged a dozen meetings with very interesting people. The interest grew even more when I discovered – and I was ashamed of my ignorance – that all the incredible Croatian coast, filled with thousands of islands, was all part of the Serenissima (the Venice Republic) in its time. Slowly the image of Venice as mistress of the seas and of the trades was building up in my mind, and I thought its legacy had to be still visible in the places and in the people too.

These five days in Venice have further stirred my ideas. In the first place, Venice doesn’t exist. Venice is the Lagoon. The Lagoon is an archipelago. And none of its islands makes sense by itself, extracted from the unique context of the Lagoon. The Venetians exist, they are smiling people, open towards each other and towards change, they are active. And then they’re island people, just like the others I’ve met! They could as well come from the South of Italy. And they’re scattered all over the Lagoon.

Maybe it’s the language – because when they speak dialect, and they speak it very much, I do not understand practically anything – maybe it’s because I come from a whole different part of Italy, but in the Lagoon I often felt like in a foreign country. Everything was new, all unknown, civic and community rules. Big time!

Davide had a great merit in changing my understanding of Venice.On his boat, half broken and beautiful, strictly made of wood, he took us to the cemetery. Yes, the cemetery. Which is an island, named San Michele. After waiting for a boat to dump the casket and walking between the graves suddenly a door opened, one from about a thousand years ago, and… a vineyard, in front of us there was a vineyard. Now, Davide is part of an association called “The Lagoon in the glass, the recovered vineyards”; they indeed recover small vineyards scattered across the Lagoon and produce wine, of course a little homemade, but what’s interesting is that they don’t sell it and rather prefer to drink it among Venetians under some pergonal on Sundays.
Then we went to discover the island of Sant’Erasmo, called the “garden of Venice” and the farm Da Gino e Inda owned by Michele and Giorgia. A couple who love working in the fields and recovering abused animals, and who love producing, children and vegetables. Fighting stubbornly against burocracy, which is an Italian plague. People so warm-hearted I honestly have known a few…

Then the story of La Certosa, another island. Ex-Military, ex-Industrial island abandoned for decades at only a few hundred meters from Venice. There Alberto Sonino, former world champion of sailing, oceanic sailor and much more, channeled passion and knowledge made during a life around the world with a purpose: give back an abandoned place to the city making it the yachting pole of the Lagoon. The fact is that today, after more than ten years, at La Certosa there is a cool Marina with a cute little hotel, an electric boat rental to explore Lagoon with no emissions, there are shipwrights building or restoring wooden boats, international conferences are held on the future of yachting, and so on. The project is called Vento Di Venezia, and Alberto is a person of extraordinary intelligence, the intelligence of those who are able to dream big and to achieve them dreams. Without even talking too much.

Finally two other formidable Venetian realities. The first is the “voga” (rowing), which for many here is a religion and is seen as a whole art which includes the construction of boats, peculiar as the lagoon where they sail. And so I met another great guy, Pietro Meneghin, whose job is “rémer”, that is, an artisan crafting oars and “fórcole” (the pieces where oars are places, which are actually objects of an impressive plastic beauty, worth to be exposed and admires for hours), and whose passion is rowing. We have heard him talk about Venice and his very delicate future, which should arise from a slow reinterpretation of the Lagoon, based on rowing or sailing, and from the regulation of a completely chaotic and sometimes harmful boat traffic that makes it one of the world’s most wavy seas.
The second reality is Cristina‘s splendid Mare di Carta bookshop (a sea of paper), one of the four bookshops about the sea in Italy. Her place is much more than a book shope: in Venice, it is a meeting point for the sea lovers and for the Venetians in general, a place where meeting up for an aperitivo, and a place where talking about healthy politics and the future is possible. Cristina is a volcano, a freediver and an unparalleled librarian, who made me think of other volcanoes, other freedivers, other booksellers I met during these months.

So here end islands. There aren’t anymore, even if I wished to. I’ve stripped maribelle of her vestments and I’m going to hide for a while in the island that I feel most as mine, Ustica.

The voyage is threfore over but not 33 Isole, which in fact is just in its early days. Now I wish I can return the people I have met, who are heroes to me, at least part of what they have given to me. The work on the documentary about the voyage and the people is about to start. It’ll take time, but… stay tuned!


Posted on: 28.Aug.2018   Leave a comment

#25 Lampedusa – Departure

Lampedusa and Linosa, geographically, are certainly the most extreme among the small Italian islands. Lampedusa is the most distant from everything, the driest – it always made me think of a piece of flat desert accidentally detached from Africa – and, in the last twenty years at least, the most beleaguered misunderstood abused one.
That Lampedusa was all this, I already knew. But that I would find the right people to tell me so, it was less obvious. In fact, I admit I felt a lot of pressure, I was scared I would fail in taking the right picture of it.

And instead. I looked into fierce eyes and deep and met people with a heroic force and a great talent.

Simone is a Lampedusano who co-owns since many years now the Pelagos Diving Center Lampedusa. A man with long windy hair who dedicated his life to the sea, with cylinders as well as sailing (he reminds me of someone…). We talked about how Lampedusa changed underwater, how what was considered The fishing spot in the Mediterranean has now emptied out. As a child I came here twice, more than twenty years ago, with my father and uncle, to have some fun fishing, and Lampedusa was The Myth. But even here, while remaining a splendid sea, the emptying is just evident. Pollution but above all unconditional professional fishing with no vision of the future caused this. Blame it to greedy Japanese, Spanish, Sicilian, Tunisian, and Lampedusan fishermen. Simone, thank you for being so sincere and right, so helpful to us, and for the camera off tale, thank you…

Giacomo, on the other hand, is indefinable. Great black beard and curly hair, with its multifaceted association Askavusa Lampedusa he helps workers defend their rights as well as he revives the Sicilian tradition of the Opera dei pupi and Cuntu (I will see it on stage in Linosa on Saturday! ). He paints as he plays and creates musical instruments, and has entirely decorated the association with pieces of immigrant boats and with objects found inside them that he illegally harvested (“and proud to have done it illegally in a society where legality is so often criminal”) from the dump where the State destroys these boats. Entering your place, Giacomo, the impact is overwhelming. One can touch the essence of Lampedusa there…

Then the volcano, Jazira Caterina. A wonderful crazy woman! In her case too, enering the hall of her association, IL Giglio Marino, one is invested by a wave of humanity that inebriate and hits hard. Caterina works as a psychologist at the Immigrants Reception Center of Lampedusa, daily trying to help those who land, adults and children. And these people offer them drawings, words, often they participate in common creations that help them rework and transform their pain in order to survive to it. Thanks to Caterina the children in Lampedusa have learned to know and recognize the immigrants as their brothers and sisters, as their rights are violated in both cases. Lampedusa is a land of heroes and, in a few years, its new generations will have a great step ahead of their Italian peers.

And finally Filippo, same age as me, who stands in politics with really new ideas and young people who don’t compromise and believe a real change can come. Among the countless initiatives, he and his friends created the Porta d’Europa (the Door of Europe), a monument to all those who died in the Sicily Channel placed at the southernmost point of Italy (well, a few meters from it), they gave birth to a local radio!, and they work hard for a new Lampedusa, where the health system would work, where renewable energies would power the island instead of a gas power station such as those that still today, alas, feed most of the islands. I didn’t think there were any sincere politicians left. I changed my mind in Lampedusa.

This and much more in such a small, desertic and extreme rock. What a rich Italy hides behind the touristic, postcard side of the remotest places we have…

To Linosa, now, a handful of miles and an island, again, totally different with respect to the previous.


Posted on: 18.Jul.2018   Leave a comment