[ 22:13 friday 29 august – ginostra, isola di stromboli ]
it’s eight years since i last spent a night here in the tiny village of ginostra, huddled the opposite side of the island from stromboli’s principal settlement. back then there was no electricity and no quay big enough to accommodate the ferries and hydrofoils which ply the rest of the archipelago. having a shower meant pumping a lever for five minutes to fill a header tank. houses were lit in the evening by paraffin lamps and candles. mobile phones were turned on for just a few minutes a day and could be taken to gian luca for recharging via his solar panel for a modest fee. ginostra has historically attracted a particular class of tourist, predominantly wealthy intellectuals from milan, florence and bologna. they came to live in ginostra for a month or two each year during july and august, a self-conscious retreat from the hubbub of the modern world. they would dress in simple clothes, eat simple food and positively relish the non- electrified inconvenience of the place.
this is what i found when i came eight years ago. the peculiar intensity of the location and the bizarre community there gathered represented a fascinating blend of real and artificial to me. only thirty people lived there all through the year, too few to be a viable community in its own right. they were more like stage-hands, keeping the wings swept tidy and sustaining the illusion of a real village for the gratification of the ethereal summer residents. more than anything it brought to mind marie-antoinette with her shepherdess fantasies at versailles.
that was in the august of two thousand during my very first visit to stromboli. now, eight years later, many things have changed in ginostra. during a fateful san remo festival, broadcast live to the italian nation, a plea went out that the people of ginostra should be provided with electricity that they might share in the delights of the festival. the machinery of the italian state duly creaked into action and a huge solar generation facility was installed. as a result the houses now have electric lighting, hot and cold running water and televisions. mobile phones remain turned on throughout the day. at the same time a huge cement quay was being constructed, dwarfing the old harbour (the “pertusa”) which is suspected to be the tiniest in the world. five hydrofoil services a day now dock at ginostra during the summer months, with ferries arriving three times a week.
other things remain unchanged. there are no roads, no motor vehicles and no street lights. everything arriving at the new quay is still carried up the steep cliffside on the back of a mule. after midnight the village is immersed in an intoxicating silence, even in august. but the advent of electricity and easy transport have upset the previous delicate equilibrium in which tourism was poised. life in ginostra no longer demands such an exacting or spartan sensibility. different people are coming, seeking different pleasures. being here the last few days it has sometimes felt as if an unusually chic suburb of milan had been transplanted to this remote outpost, preserving its complex web of parties, social obligations and status distinctions intact. this is no less surreal than the marie-antoinette fantasy i found before but i cannot help but reflect that its aesthetic qualities are somewhat diminished.
personally my preference has been to seek a certain pensive solitude. right now i sit writing by candlelight on the terrace of the house where i’ve been staying the last few days. ripe bunches of musty purple grapes hang from the vines entwining the roof. the sea stretches dark before me with the lights of the other six islands in the archipelago glimmering on the horizon. a million stars blaze above me with an occasional flash of silent lightning to my left. the air is hot and humid, sweet with the perfume of fallen prickly pears fermenting on the path in front of the house.
for me this is not an idle vacation. there are many choices to make about the next chapter in trampoline’s development. i have come here to unclutter my mind and see things with a clearer perspective. during that first stay in ginostra eight years ago i wrote the specifications for the simple prototype system which was destined to be the seed that later sprouted into trampoline and has consumed these last years. It is fitting that this should be the place to which i return now to consider where the path leads next.
it’s not all been work, though. on wednesday evening i gave a little performance of bach’s goldberg variations for the crowd at stromboli’s bookshop and on the street outside, for which i was accompanied by several cockerels gathered in the neighbouring garden. also gusti has brought a clutch of fire jugglers and artists to the island who are giving a series of performances. and these last days in ginostra i’ve spent many hours sitting on rocks, swimming in the azure water and reading. last night at half past midnight i decided to go to punta u corvu and watch the volcano erupt. i’d never been there before and ginostra is a maze of paths and alleyways but after a variety of wrong turnings my instinct led me where i wanted to go. i sat there an hour or so watching the lava arcing gracefully into the air and everything fell into place around me.
: c :