#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

#21 Marettimo – Arrival

Finally, I spent less than two and a half days for “the big jump” from Carloforte to Marettimo. Waiting for the right weather forecast it’s been intriguing, and so it’s been choosing the departure time – and being eventually right – as six hours before or after could have made things dangerous. So rapidly do the winds change in the Mediterranean Sea. Even so, the rudder got damaged and needs to be fixed straight away.

As I passed Capo Carbonara, Sardinia’s southeastern tip, the jump in the void has really been startling. When I turned the rudder to 120 degrees, my heart beat went through a sudden change. I felt really vulnerable.

For 24 hours I felt again the emotions of the Atlantic crossing, two years ago. I’m not only talking about the really big swell coming from nowhere. But also the thorough loneliness that magnifies the thoughts and makes them pure observations: of the weather, of the colors, of the wind, of the ever present shearwater, of the boat. The present and nothing else.

Yet it’s time to come back to the social and solid reality. But then here I am in Marettimo, one of the most amazing places in the Mediterranean Sea. I won’t complain…


Posted on: 28.Jun.2018   Leave a comment

#15 Isola d’Elba – Arrival

Here we are in Isola d’Elba! Many, too many sailing hours, submitted to these changing breezes, sometimes light, sometimes strong, coming, disappearing, turning, at times just for some minutes. As if nature itself were breathing. That’s the Mediterranean too…


Posted on: 30.May.2018   Leave a comment

#12 Ventotene – Departure

So we leave also Ventotene behind… and with it, its magic atmosphere, its pastel-colored houses, the incredible Roman Port, the gently volcanic glimpses of its sea. But above all its most Mediterranean essence, which after all means culture and sense of welcoming.

We met Ventotene’s bookseller, Fabio Masi, in its stunning, inimagginabile for an island with 300 residents, Libreria Ultima Spiaggia Ventotene, where thanks to Predrag Matvejevic unreal encounters can happen. Then Salvatore and Elena from the Archaeological Museum who explained to us the history and its importance in the present. The legendary Petra of the Circolo Velico Ventotene (Ventotene Sailing Club), where many, really many children learn to sail.

And finally a special mention to Valentina and Stefano from Diving World Ventotene, who welcomed us and gave us a taste of the island’s underwater world, a Marine Protected Area. And above all to Pietro Pennacchio, owner of the Hotel Mezzatorre Ventotene, who hosted us understanding, with simplicity and great open-mindedness, how important it is to talk about small islands and their future.

Heading towards Ponza now!


Posted on: 21.May.2018   Leave a comment