where & what
- Australia (5)
- Austria (3)
- Brazil (3)
- Broken photo links (10)
- Caribbean (4)
- Cornwall (19)
- Egypt (2)
- Finland (2)
- France (3)
- Germany (3)
- Ghana (15)
- Greece (4)
- Hungary (1)
- In transit (48)
- Isles of Scilly (63)
- Italy (28)
- Japan (1)
- London (93)
- Luxembourg (1)
- Malta (1)
- Mexico (1)
- Morocco (1)
- Music (1)
- Netherlands (1)
- Photo links (51)
- Poland (2)
- Sandhurst (12)
- Sicilia (15)
- Spain (1)
- Stromboli (43)
- Switzerland (1)
- UK (23)
- Uncategorized (1)
- USA (30)
- Venezuela (8)
- Video (15)
where & whatAustralia Austria Brazil Broken photo links Caribbean Cornwall Egypt Finland France Germany Ghana Greece Hungary In transit Isles of Scilly Italy Japan London Luxembourg Malta Mexico Morocco Music Netherlands Photo links Poland Sandhurst Sicilia Spain Stromboli Switzerland UK Uncategorized USA Venezuela Video
Category Archives: Italy
[ 02:24 tuesday 25 august - haggerston road, london ]
a couple of weeks ago i made a last-minute escape to sardegna with henry. it’s more than a decade since we last went traveling together so it was high time. we were only there four days but it felt like a couple of weeks. mostly we were far from civilisation scrambling around the rocky coastline, swimming in the clear water, or walking in the interior where few tourists tread.
rather than write about the journey i’ve put together a montage of film clips taken while we were traveling. this is a medium where i still feel like a child with little grasp of grammar or rhythm. but i shall only learn by making things. i welcome any comments.
: c :
[ 22:37 sunday 3 may - asinara, sardegna, italy ]
seated on a rock in the mirror-flat sea several feet from the shore. i leapt here from the white sand beach of cala sabina, ghostly pale under the half moon. the limbs of the bay stretch in from either side, silhouetted against the star-spattered sky. the nearest artificial lights twinkle on the coast of sardegna twenty-five miles away. i can make out the town of porto torres by the concentration. the only sound is the gentle shush and heave of the water moving against the rock and sand.
this island of asinara is one of the most strange and beautiful places i’ve been. it’s ten miles long and five miles wide with a human population of no more than forty. in 1885 the freshly-minted italian government designated it as a high security prison and relocated its community of five hundred shepherds and farmers across the water to sardegna’s nurra peninsular. shortly afterwards a quarantine station was opened for mariners with contagious diseases.
during the great war austro-hungarian prisoners of war were interned on asinara. five thousand of them died here. the ethiopean imperial family was incarcerated on the island during the italian occupation of their country from 1936 to 1942. during the 1970s the facility was used to intern high-level mafia criminals. with poetic irony certain of the judges leading the prosecutions against these same figures also took up residence on asinara for their own safety. in 1991 the island was designated a national park. in 1997, after one hundred and twelve years, the penitentiary facilities were closed down and people started being permitted to visit under strict controls.
what remains is an environment of astonishingly pure nature punctuated by grim abandoned penal structures. the combination is jarring, emotionally confusing.
just two days ago, sitting in the trampery, i decided to escape from london for the weekend and impulsively acquired a return flight to alghero in north-west sardegna. i made no plans for what i’d do once i arrived. claudia kindly sent me a message with a few suggestions. as soon as i arrived i became curious about asinara. in alghera i asked people if there was somewhere i could stay on the island. a lady in the council office said she thought visitors could stay in the old barracks.
so i rented a car and drove fifty miles to the tip of the nurra peninsular where i stood looking across to asinara. there was no sign of a quay or ferry so i drove back south to the nearest town, stintino, and picked my way down to the compact harbour. i learned that there was one boat each morning crossing to the southern tip of asinara. someone also had a mobile phone number for one of the people working at the barracks on asinara. it took several attempts to get through but when i did i was told i could stay.
not wishing to spend the night in stintino (which felt one-dimensionally touristic) i continued south and arbitrarily took a side road to a tiny hamlet with the fabulous name of noddigheddu. this consisted of seven single-storey stone houses arranged around a green. one of the houses was abandoned and the roof had caved in. an elderly lady called giovanna had two rooms where people could stay. i dropped my bags and continued down the dirt track to the coast. just before sunset i was walking on the long deserted beach when thirteen flamingos appeared magically and noiselessly in the azure sky above me, wheeled slowly around where i stood watching, then returned the way they’d come.
this morning giovanna plied me with sardo biscuits and told me some of her family history. her great-grandfather had been a farmer on asinara, part of the community forcibly depopulated by the state in the 1880s. after breakfast i drove back up to stintino and down the track to the quay. the boat was waiting for me. i leapt aboard and we were away across the sparkling water. arriving at fornelli i hitched a lift up to cala d’oliva at the north of the island and dropped my rucksack at the barracks. then i set out on foot and spent the rest of the day walking. except for the three staff at the barracks i haven’t seen another soul.
this is a tough landscape of granite outcrops and hardy low shrubs populated by wild donkeys, goats and birds. about five miles north from the barracks i crested a hill to find a jaw-droppingly beautiful view spread in front of me. a shallow white-sand beach with turquoise sea breaking against it, low woodland behind the beach, a headland extending to the east surmounted by a crumbling genoese watch tower. this was cala d’arena. i picked my way down through the scrub and reached the beach. there was no sign anyone had been there in weeks. the only footprints were from birds and donkeys. the detritus washed up over the winter remained undisturbed.
my excitement at the opportunity to explore and photograph was in conflict with my reluctance to disturb the pristine environment. i trod lightly and sparingly with my heart in my throat. i remembered the excitement in kirmo’s eyes when we walked through ancient untouched forest in lapland. after exploring the beach and the lagoon behind it i picked my way along the rocks to the watch tower then came back over the scrubby headland to the beach. i discarded my clothes and swam in the chill clear water. my first swim of the year. the current was quite fast at the edge of the beach so i did not go out far.
later on, back at barracks, i was served dinner alone in the mess. nobody else is staying. then i walked out to the rock where i sit and write now. tomorrow i want to hitch a lift down to cala reale to explore the cluster of old prison buildings there.
: c :
[ 17:41 friday 28 september - piazza dante, napoli ]
sitting on the plinth of dante’s graffiti-laden statue in the centre of the piazza waiting for maurizio, a talented performer of the city’s traditional music and street theatre whom i met a year ago on stromboli. there’s a band warming up on a stage to my right. the early evening crowd ebbs and flows around me.
napoli overwhelms the senses. this decaying, anarchic, spectacular city grips and fascinates me like no other. its vitality is uncontainable. every facet of human possibility is found here, crammed into this this highly unstable patch of ground.
: c :
[ 22:25 thursday 27 september - mv laurana, stromboli to napoli ]
i’m huddled in the ship’s bar with irene and her friends, an hour out from stromboli. this journey has so many memories for me. today i’m sharing a cabin with maurizio, on his way back to melbourne to rejoin his girlfriend.
yesterday evening i had dinner with gustl and valerie then walked up the mule trail to punta la bronza. the moon was full and the sky was completely clear. the volcano was unusually quiet, expelling a glowing fan of lava every half hour or so.
i sat on the helipad for a couple of hours watching a cloud front slowly drift in from the north-western horizon. by the time the wispy outrunner clouds passed across the moon orange flickers of lightning were starting to flash in the distance and it was clear a storm was coming. i did a few sets of yoga sequences, bid farewell to the mountain and started my descent. a few minutes after i got back home an hour later the heavens opened.
: c :
[ 05:21 friday 21 september - ryanair 3916, stansted to palermo ]
here i am, fitting myself into a seat in a packed plane at this truly unholy house. karsten dropped by while i was packing this evening and suggested my expectations of getting a couple of hours´sleep were optimistic. he was right. i didn´t get any.
thus commences an alarmingly complicated journey. after this flight to palermo i´ll take the train to milazzo, a hydrofoil to stromboli (where i´ll stay a week), then the overnight ship to naples, from where i´ll fly to madrid for a night, then fly to marrakech, drive around morocco for a few days, up to the spanish colony of ceuta on the mediterranean coast, take a ship over the straits to gibralter and finally fly back to london. with any luck i´ll manage to meet a succession of friends along the way. i didn´t intend the trip to be so tortuous, it just gradually got that way. sorting out all the connections has been a nightmare.
13:00 / now seated on an even more crowded train waiting to depart from palermo. this is one of the ancient regional efforts with no air conditioning and seats designed to banish any possibility of sleep (of which i´m in sore need). nonetheless i´m feeling excited. it´s a while year since i was in sicily and it´s wonderful to be back in the midst of the familiar sounds, perfumes and chaos.
my first liaison has already gone awry. antonio was due to travel down from tuscany today but he had a run in with a dentist and won´t be coming til tomorrow. meanwhile he´s told me where i can find a key to one of his aunts´ houses on stromboli so i have somewhere to spend the night.
19:44 / perched on the wall overlooking the little port at rinella, on the south-western corner of the island of salina. from where i´m sitting the islands of lipari and vulcano spread out to my left, with filicudi and alicudi to my right. i shouldn´t be here at all but the hydrofoils switched to the winter timetable two weeks early so there was no way to get to stromboli today. rinella was the most remote place i could get to and i´ve never been here before so it was the obvious choice to spend the night. so far nothing is going to plan.
i arrived an hour and a half ago, sorted out a room in a deserted hotel by the harbour then swam off the rocks with the sun setting over alicudi. preparations are underway for an open-air theatre performance on the little square above the harbour but it´s hard to predict what my state of consciousness will be by the time the show commences. i´m already hallucinating from sleep deprivation.
: c :