#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

#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

#24 Pantelleria – Departure

What an island, Pantelleria! Planted in the Sicily Channel, closer to Tunisia than to Sicily, imposing, black, green…

Many, too many stories hide on this rock. Starting with Giancarlo and Cristian from Konza Kiffi – Azienda Agricola, two young brothers who after working in catering abroad decided some ten years ago to return to their homeland to be farmers and create real high quality products. It was an honor to harvest tomatoes with you in one of the most beautiful countrysides I’ve ever seen, the one of Piano Ghirlanda.

The countryside, which always meant life and work in Pantelleria and which still survives, I think, especially when compared to other islands. With billions of km of dry walls all in rather good conditions. But, as Giancarlo says, you must want to work hard and get your hands dirty, in order for the story of this Mediterranean countryside to be continued…

Then Donnafugata. Those of Ben Ryé, the best Passito di Pantelleria. That’s right, people who get their hands dirty while being modern and up-to-date. A huge thank you to Ivan Caronna and Antonio Rallo for welcoming me into their lovely estate and tell me about the mythical passito and the mysterious panteschi gardens. The Ben Ryé, ça va sans dire, a masterpiece of wine 

Some artist had to collect all the energy that emanates from the volcanic Pantelleria. I was delighted to see Sebastiano Fischer Ceramic Art. A story of passion for this island and some raku ceramics (and not only) just sublime, born literally from the belly of this island. Thank you, Sebastiano

Finally, a special woman. One of Italy’s first divers, which until last year, before losing almost definitively her eyes, was keeping educating new certified divers despite a clearly important age. Maria Ghelia, from Turin, fell in love with the waters of Pantelleria thirty years ago. She spent her life in building underwater knowledge especially among children, in schools. A magnetic woman with such a character, who had also drawn up a proposal, for once actually based on scientific analyses, for a Marine Protected Area that is still does not exist here.

Maybe more than ever I leave with the desire to come back. The beauty that is here, I’ve rarely seen it anywhere else…

But Lampedusa is waiting, despite the Scirocco blowing against my nose although weak. If I don’t melt on top of Maribelle tomorrow I’ll soon be there, in this other place so important for our good old Mediterranean…

 


Posted on: 12.Jul.2018   Leave a comment

#23 Favignana – Departure

As it already happened with the islands that frightened me the most by size or tourist influx (Capri, Lipari, Elba), even Favignana had great surprises in store.

The Gulliver sailing school, to start with, is a sailing school which, throughout the year, receives more than half of the children of the island, teaching them not only to sail (up to a national competion level), but also the rules of management and cohabitation within a structure that needs everyone’s help to exist. The legendary Peppone has been superbly directing it for over 20 years now. There are only a very few tourists’ children, those who spend all summer here; apart from them, Gulliver lives oblivious to the summer mass invasion.

This invasion, on an island close to the mainland and all in all quite cheap, attracts a lot of money. And the money attracts many interests. So it happens that the authentic heart of Favignana, the Borgo Marinaro of Punta Lunga, a true Mediterranean jewel, has for some years been in danger for the concessions requested by various foreign speculators who would throw away the fishermen from the village to fill it with yet other rubber dinghies meant to be rented to tourists during a couple of months a year. But Favignana resists, forming an association led by the smiling Norman Giuseppe Campo.

So it happens that the presence of Mafia here is strong and established. But Favignana resists. The association Casa Macondo has been entrusted with a house confiscated from Mafia, for example, where children, throughout the winter, have a safe and cultural meeting place that takes them off the road. Thank you so much to Barbara and Michele for having patiently explained all this to us, and above all for, without earning a penny, keeping this reality alive.

Then the wisdom of Maria Guccione, from the height of her 80 years but much younger than many, who told us about her fights in the past and, with eyes still almost injected with the blood of passion, explained how them fights should still be carried out: with passion, of course, but also with technical knowledge and actions from the base, politically. Writing a post on Facebook, the modern version of the concept of “fight”, serves almost only to unload personal anger. Fighting is another story …

And finally, the sympathy and obstinacy, also very Mediterranean, of Paolo Balistreri, a marine biologist who tries and tries to work on his island, where with one of the largest Marine Protected Areas of the Mediterranean it would be natural to find a job. Especially when you’re really good at what you do. I wish you with all my heart to make it, Paolo.

And finally finally, in Favignana there is the most beautiful “arena”, the outdoor summer cinema, ever in a fantastic former tuff quarry / hypogeum garden!

I forgot the fantastic hospitality of an atypical, fun, professional, absolutely authentic diving center, the one owned by Vincenzo and Ciccio, Egadi Scuba Diving. A big thank you too.

But now, after too much waiting, the new tracker has arrived and it will send my position in real time again. I can safely sail again! To us two, Sicily Channel: Pantelleria, I’m coming!

 


Posted on: 9.Jul.2018   Leave a comment