On the islands there’s a change of pace, with an experience waiting to sweep whoever goes ashore off their feet. As soon as visitors set foot here, the metronome of time stands still. Habits are cast aside and the rules are simple and few: allow the wind to shape our thoughts, the sun’s rays to plunge us into the poetry of the world, flower heads to sway and our breath to turn to music. Everything, from blades of grass to small pebbles, reclaims its primordial role; here nothing is demure, everything is glorious.
This is why cinema is fond of the islands, and why it has used them for masterpieces that have shaped its history. Would Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Adventure really be the same without the silent and dazzling sculpture of the small island of Lisca Bianca, Panarea or the Aeolian Islands?Print itinerary
Of course the Aeolian Islands. The Sicilian archipelago has a longstanding relationship with film, through which it asserts its magnificent presence. Let’s go back to the 1950s and take a walk through Stromboli by Roberto Rossellini. The island was primordial back then, and we see Ingrid Bergman traverse it in her pleasantly foreign way: soon after the gossip columns would be buzzing with news of the affair between the actress and director. Meanwhile in the same year but on the island of Vulcano, jilted Anna Magnani’s jealousy rages on in a film about the other and them, Volcano by William Dieterle, which is set in the same archipelago.
Over forty years on, as soon as he sets foot on Stromboli Nanni Moretti feels the “threatening presence of the volcano”, and although he continues to rely heavily on his preferred device of irony, he cannot escape the lyricism of his surroundings as he travels through the Aeolian Islands (Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Alicudi) in Dear Diary.
Films shot on these islands focus heavily on the elements. Gorges, sharp stones, monoliths, scrub, cliffs, lighthouses, the moon and legends all lie in wait in A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino, who was bewitched by the splendour of Pantelleria with its dammusi (rural farm buildings with thick stone walls). The more successful pieces shot on the islands are those that create a dialogue with whispers of existence, vectors of events to do with the sea, absence, distance and isolation, even. Immersed in the watery world of the sea and its rocks, the characters return to themselves or remain imprisoned therein, like Valeria Golino, the wife of a fisherman in Emanuele Crialese’s Respiro, which was shot on a topaz Lampedusa.
“Poetry does not belong to those who write it, but to those who need it”, says The Postman Massimo Troisi to political exile Pablo Neruda, at whose house we enjoy not only the superb cadence of his poetry, but an open view of the island of Salina too. That said, the film was also shot on Procida, in the Campanian Archipelago, for one of the wonders that only cinema and travel can bring. We sail as far as Capri of the TV series of the same name, an easygoing place buzzing with tourists, a classic island-hopping destination.
Less of a classic among tourists is the waterway that leads to another island, which was inaccessible up until a couple of decades ago due to its status as a penal colony: Asinara off the coast of Sardinia, a rough and proud island pervaded by the impenetrable shouting of the currents. And if the wonders of Mother Nature weren’t enough, the theatre company in Stoffa dei sogni by Gianfranco Cabiddu is on hand to perform bewitching Shakespearian play (performed in the style of Eduardo De Filippo) The Tempest. But the seasons, taking on the sentiments of stories, can change, into a melancholy love letter on the island of San Giulio, on Lake Orta which, together with Fishermen’s Island in Lake Maggiore, gives life to the imaginary Borgo Ventoso in Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Corrispondence.
To wrap up, let’s head back to Stromboli and lie down near the volcano, like Bergman does as she waits for the morning’s revelation. Something is sure to happen.