I made it. I survived the volcano, the flying flies invasion, the hard climbs and the storm but I came back happy and fulfilled. I have been planning this trip for years now, constantly postponing it for a variety of reasons but in the end everything came together just fine.
My friend Bruna booked a house in the wrong village, or so it seemed except that it turned out to be the place I had been looking for.
Ginostra on the Sicilian island of Stromboli is a very small village clinging to the rock, only accessible by sea by means of the smallest port in the world. In this village you immediately have the sensation that time has stopped. There are no cars, just a mule-track flanked by walls made of lava stone. Above it there is Iddu, as it is called by the locals, Him, the volcano.
It is slightly unnerving, I have to admit, to go around at night in total darkness (there is no public illumination in the village, you have to go around with a torch) and even more so to go to bed knowing that the volcano is under you, above you, around you, alive, breathing, rumbling. Unnerving but also exciting to be so close to something so magnificent and powerful: a smoking mountain in the middle of the sea!
Stromboli is one of seven Aeolian Islands and among the most active volcanoes on the planet. Its dramatic black sands, lush vegetation, deep blue seas, breathtaking sunsets and volcanic rumblings offer an inspiring set for any artist who wants to engage with its light, colours, textures and forms. It is a landscape of earth, wind, fire and water that evokes elemental metamorphosis: the huge lava boulders, the gigantic prickly pears plants dotted with coral fruits and the luxuriant bougainvillaea bushes that surround the white washed traditional houses, really get your imagination going!
And then there is la Sciara del Fuoco, the Fire’s Pathway, the great black slope down which clunks of lava make their way from the crater to the sea. There we were meant to wait for the night and see the ‘startling explosions shoot matter high into the air, tingeing the night’s blackness with red’, but we had forgotten our torches behind and it would have been impossible to walk back on the rough track at night. I also never made it up to the crater choosing to leave this excursion for the next time I go back to Ginostra.
A light wind is always blowing on the island and it keeps the hot temperatures pleasantly bearable. The Aeolian islands take their name from Aeolus, the Keeper and Ruler of the Winds in Greek mythology who, in the Odyssey gives Odysseus a tightly closed bag full of the captured winds so he could sail easily home on the gentle West Wind.
We sailed back to Sicily on a hydrofoil instead that stopped at each one of the islands including the port of Vulcano, where a huge boulder of yellow sulphur rock created a magnificent set I longed to paint!
The art course in Ginostra will take place in September 2014.