Aeolian Islands Romance: The Stuff of Fiction (& Real Life)

June 5, 2014

Have you seen the super-romantic Il Postino (The Postman)? This is where it was shot, 20 years ago.

Pollara, Aeolian Islands, copyright Jann Huizenga

The tiny port of Pollara on the islet of Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

The film is fiction: it’s all about falling madly in love: a simple, shy Sicilian postman wins the heart of his voluptuous true love with a little help from Pablo Neruda and Neruda’s seductive poetry.

But reality is just as fine. In November 2005, Libby Lush, a Sydney native who was on holiday from her job as a physiotherapist was traveling sola on the island. (Sola–Did you catch that, ladies???)

In Libby’s words:

Getting off the hydrofoil alone, with nowhere to stay and no contacts, there was the strangest sensation of ‘returning home’. Something about the place felt so familiar and comfortable. Salina had a magical, mystical and romantic feel to it. A full moon added to the atmosphere. There seemed to be more stars in the sky here than I’d ever seen before…  The island was peaceful, quiet, slow moving, yet definitely not boring. As if it belonged to another era but lacking nothing. The locals were warm, fun loving, generous, tolerant and hospitable. They seemed to have found the balance for a perfect life style with family life, social interaction, work and play all in harmony. 

Libby was sitting at the bus stop one day when handsome Santino roared up and offered her a ride. How could she refuse? But that was the extent of her “holiday romance,” and when Libby left the island after 5 days, she thought her days there were over. However….

Aeolian Islands Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Libby and Santino with the village of Pollara in the background.

As fate would have it my next visit to Salina would be six months later, followed by another trip that Christmas. Destino! Santino and I were married on Salina in November 2007 on another mild mid- November day. A perfect day.

Libby has learned perfect Italian, and she’s exchanged a busy urban life for a slow rural one.

Everyday seems to bring a new surprise. Salina is a place that enters your heart and soul and never leaves. The mistake would have been not to board the hydrofoil on that mid-November day in 2005. 

She now spends her days “cooking, sweeping, writing and living ‘la dolce vita’ on the island of Salina” with Santino.


There is a difference between existing in a place and living in a place. (Elizabeth Lush)


Thank you, Libby, for the inspiring story of your life.


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35 comments to Aeolian Islands Romance: The Stuff of Fiction (& Real Life)

  • Jann, the film “Il Postino” is one of my favorites. I love that it’s Italian and I love how Pablo Neruda plays a key role in the fate of the mail carrier. Libby’s story proves how “il destino” will be what it will be. How romantic! 🙂

  • :)

    A nice place (and a beautiful movie)

  • Denise

    I included Salina as part of a 5 week holiday to Italy 5 years ago. This was solely based on Il Postino. I dragged my husband from our hotel and walked the couple of kms to Pollara. It was magic and did not disappoint. Hopefully I can get there again one day.

    • Jann

      Wow, Denise. I’m impressed that you walked up and down that mountain to get to Pollara. That’s quite a road. I think everyone who’s ever been to Salina wants to get back, and I met many folks who came for a short holiday and never left. (I was almost one of them myself!) Welcome to the blog, Denise and thanks for commenting.

  • Santino… Ora devi presentarmi Libby!!!

    • Jann

      Grazie, Sergio. I just looked at your website and it looks like you’re doing some fantastic work. Bravo.

  • Anitre

    Romance lives on in Salina. How lovely! Stunning photos. Brava, Jann!

    • Jann

      Ciao Anitre! Have you been??? We went to “your” herb farm the other day. WONDERFUL!!! Thanks for the tip.

  • What a handsome couple!! Thank you, Jann, for sharing their love story. I suspect romantics everywhere would be inspired to travel more by reading this and seeing how magical the island is!

    • Jann

      Debbie, it takes a bit of doing/determination to get to the island, but I think that’s what keeps it so special–far removed from the everyday. xxx

  • Diana

    Magic……. ❤️

    • Jann

      They are. It was! How do you make a heart with your keyboard???? I want to make one back. xxx

  • vicki carol

    Lovely, to see and hear. I smiled softly and felt an inner warmth for them.
    She has a look of contentment and he has a look of lucky me.
    thanks for sharing the story so often told but not seen.

    • Jann

      And what a charming & generous couple they are–they took us to the house in the movie that belonged to Neruda because we were not able to find it on our own. Thanks for reading and commenting, Vicki.

  • Beautiful opening photo, Jann. Followed by a gloriously simple love story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jann

      And the moral of the story? Maybe to hang out at bus stops when you’re in Italy? Are there more Santinos around?

  • cemal karahan

    The shy postman’s encountering with Pablo Neruda
    changed his fate and he married the town’s the most beautiful woman.This film’s music is so romantic. The soul of the accordion is so very well felt in one’s heart. Libby found peace there; luck she is. Hi,Jann…!

    • Jann

      I love the music of that movie, too, Cemal. Yes, some people have all the luck–to land on an island like that!

  • Those of us who should have stayed know the difference between living and existing. Still stories like Libby’s still fill me with hope. A beautiful vignette for a winter Friday a long way from Sicily….Grazie Jann xx

  • “…She now spends her days “cooking, sweeping, writing and living ‘la dolce vita’…” WHAT a wonderful love story! I love how she changed her entire life and is extremely happy because of that. Thank you for this lovely, lovely story.

  • **There is a difference between existing in a place and living in a place.**


    Love the photo of Libby & Santino. (Santino looks like my Uncle Alex.)

    So VERY Neruda!

    Love & Kisses from MN. xx

  • Magical story! I like what Libby says about it belonging to another era but “lacking nothing”. Transformation happens.

  • Sam

    “Libby Lush”!!! Some people get all the cool names!

  • Just wonderful! Grazie mille.

  • Jann, thanks for sharing Libby and Santino’s story… magical, encouraging and simply wonderful!

    • Jann

      Hi Aysha, thanks for your comment and I hope you’re having a wonderful European adventure. xxxxx

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