#26 Linosa – Departure

What should I write about Linosa… Perhaps the most authentic one, the best to stand against mass tourism, welcoming tourists instead of robbing them in such an impersonal way as it happens in so many other places.

In Linosa it is difficult to arrive, you can’t find a more remote island in Italy. Therefore who comes here does it with total awareness and a fully open spirit, ready to discover an island that is not just beautiful landscapes or crystal-clear sea, but most of all unforgettable people.

And me, I met so many wonderful people in those that were supposed to be three days and eventually became eight because of Mistral. Everything started with Claudia, Giovanni and Francesca of Terraferma Diving, one of the best diving centers I’ve known, a diving center that is also the cultural center of Linosa – which is even more awesome considering that hardly ever in Italy diving rhymes with culture. A cultural center where welcoming is the first rule, and the second is sharing: the pillars of the Mediterranean spirit. I don’t know how to thank you guys, and by the way this is not the right place to do it.

The diving center is called Terraferma because the friendship among its members was born on the set of Terraferma, Emanuele Crialese’s film that was shot a handful of years ago right here in Linosa, a masterpiece. And who did I meet and interview? Of course Emanuele Crialese himself, a sweet man, full of poetry and sensitivity. It was a great privilege and a great source of inspiration to meet you, Emanuele. Thank you too for opening up and understanding it all straight away.

Then an amazing man and an impressive professional, Claudio Palmisano, a photographer who for six months a year lives here in a house he turned into a small photo studio. Among a thousand other things, Claudio studied a method to create underwater panoramic photographic compositions that render the grandiosity of Linosa underwater landscapes. In a world where post-production mostly takes away the picture from reality, in a quest for sensationalism, Claudio works in the opposite way: post-production serves to approach reality in the best possible way. And these seascapes are the obvious evidence. I beg you to take a look at them, following this link. Your sushi, your pizza, your fun, Claudio: unforgettable indeed…

Then there was Michele, who apart from kneading the bread for the only bakery every night, brought the cows back to Linosa with great passion. Here, 25 years ago, there were more than 500 cows; until stupid European laws, distant and careless of isolated and remote realities such as this, imposed their elimination. But Michele is trying again for personal use of course. Two anecdotes: cows eat cactus leaves, which here are used to delimit the land, and ricotta is made using sea water.

And finally Piero Zambuto, a sculptor who draws inspiration from the immense energy of Linosa, who also opened to us the doors of his world, made of research of the perfect shape, between female nude and poetry of stone and wood.

Now heading to Ortigia, first of the two atypical islands (the other one is Gallipoli), 150 miles away with the creepy silhouette of the least Mediterranean island, Malta, in between. But the spirit of Linosa will stay in my mind for so long still…

 

Posted on: 25.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