SUMMER READINGS From the Aeolian Islands to Sardinia, via the islands of Campania/3


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abbatoggiaGiovanni Porzio is one of Italy’s greatest reporters and a passionate sailor. In his book “The Sea is Never the Same,” he recreated the essence of reportage, that is, “reporting” from a journey news, but also stories, feelings and images. It is from this very book that the story whose third part can be found here is taken.

The marina is half-empty. How come? The municipality has taken away light and water at the docks for “failure to test,” actually because it opposes the project of the company Ma.Fra. by Somma Vesuviana which was awarded the contract (and European funding) to enlarge the port, within the protected area of the Neptune. The judiciary has blocked the work, but a section of the reef has already been cemented over, including the “grottoone” that connected the sea with the inner mirror of the marina, allowing water exchange and cleaning.

John Porzio shows a catch caught on the Blue Gal
John Porzio shows a catch caught on the Blue Gal

Route to Ventotene. And finally the wind swells the genoa! A benevolent, cheerful and carefree wind, crosswind and upwind wide. When the Ganymede passed by St. Stephen ‘s islet in 1958, the Bourbon Penitentiary was still in operation. “The inmates for life,” I again quote from the Diary, “number 250 and with them live between prison guards carabinieri and family members of the latter more than 700 people. The great fortress, studded with funnel-shaped windows to allow the only view of the sky, oppresses those who look at it.”
Mussolini had the best of socialist intelligence locked up there: from Pertini to Amendola, Terracini to Lelio Basso. Here, in 1941, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi drafted the Ventotene Manifesto, the foundation stone of future European construction. But few tourists today disembark at the fortress and scarper down the dirt lane to the large circular building overgrown with wild grasses-a chilling place with ritual tombstones and rusty cell bars.
Instead, sunny, almost a counterpoint, is the pretty, neat village of Ventotene, with its shady cafes, vegetable gardens, windowsills with pots of geraniums and basil, turquoise water, eighteenth-century church, Roman pools, and ancient harbor carved out of the tufa, with arches and bollards carved into the rock where the elbows of the Urbe triremes once gave vault.
The bulletin favors the long crossing to Sardinia: 200 miles of open sea for 95°, destination Tavolara. We set course in the afternoon and just before sunset, at good time!, I hook a tuna of about fifteen kilos: honor is saved and I can smoke a Hemingwayan Cohiba while savoring the heavenly notes of a Mozart concerto.

At anchor under the raging mistral in northern Sardinia
At anchor under the raging mistral in northern Sardinia

Contrary to Gabriella, assailed by a vague and mysterious restlessness, sailing at night has always appealed to me, although with the crew reduced to the bone it is certainly tiring. I confess that I don’t close my eyes even with a full crew and set shifts. But lounging in the cockpit with the starry sky as a ceiling and listening to the swish of the hull as it glides through the dark wave carving a silvery trail of froth and glittering noctiluches aft is an exhilarating experience. Then, if, as tonight, the wind is blowing slack and the Tyrrhenian Sea is placid under the wedge of the moon, what more can you ask of the great sea?
Lights of ships rapidly approaching and receding: only once do I have to alter course to keep a safe distance. Then the puff of a dolphin I barely catch a glimpse of: a furtive shadow in the dawn glow, in the chilly hour before the sunrise.A hot coffee, as I watch the colors break free in the day: the pink of the clouds in the east, the pearl gray of the sea turning pale blue, taking on texture, shaking off the purplish reflections of the night and finally showing its deep blue.
Tavolara is in sight and the cumulus from the north, tall and majestic towers, herald the mistral. We sail up the coast by boating to La Maddalena: at Abbatoggia cove our friends Sandro and Stefano Boeri, inveterate fishermen, are waiting for us to cook our tuna over myrtle-scented embers. But the mistral continues to strengthen, and the next day, with a handkerchief jib, we row at 8-9 knots southward in search of a ridosso: in Porto Massimo they ask 160 euros and in Cala Spalmatore (Caprera), where anchoring is forbidden, for a buoy in the crowded roadstead it takes 90. We look for an alternative.

SUMMER READINGS From the Aeolian Islands to Sardinia, via the islands of Campania/1

SUMMER READINGS From the Aeolian Islands to Sardinia, via the islands of Campania/2


Discover all of John Porzio’s reports!




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