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.

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

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

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Mario and Nuvola: An Industrious Pair

May 4, 2014

Meet Nuvola (left) and Mario (right).

They live and work in Castelbuono in the Madonie Mountains, not far from Cefalu.

Several years ago Mayor Marco Cicero had the idea of eliminating garbage trucks from the old town and substituting six donkeys–going back to the way things were done 60 years ago. Nuvola (Cloud) works everyday except Sunday, clomping door to door gathering and separating trash. She and her fellow donkeys are all female because, according to Mario, women are more docile and diligent.

Garbage-Collecting Donkey in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The sweet creatures get pretty bogged down.

Trash-Collecting Donkey in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The town is saving money (no need for truck upkeep or gas!) and there’s less exhaust from trucks. Eco-friendly, says the mayor.

But as animal rights groups and the mayor of New York are trying to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park as being abusive (though the “Horse Whisperer” says the horses are content), I’m wondering: what do you think??? Are trash-hauling donkeys a good idea?

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ABOUT CASTELBUONO: Nuvola (Cloud) gets her name from the clouds often hanging over this lovely town. If you’re on holiday in Cefalu, be sure to visit! There’s a stunning Norman castle and museum, some interesting shopping (check out “manna” and the fabulous sweet shop called Fiasconaro), and a yellow piazza bubbling with water, chatter, laughter.

Central Piazza in Castelbuono, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

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A Corner in Rome

March 25, 2014

Early one morning I hid in some lush old ivy near a decaying corner in Trastevere, one of my favorite places to shoot.  For 15 minutes I shot Romans and tourists coming and going. Then I had a little fun with the Posterize effect in Photoshop.

What’s your favorite place to photograph in Italy or elsewhere? Do you use Photoshop (or something similar)? What are your favorite “effects”?

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Off Season in Sicily

January 28, 2014

There’s something wonderful about being in Sicily on winter mornings: you have the piazza all to yourself.

Oh, there might be a mutt or two coiled in a corner… but otherwise there’s a deep calm, far from the clamoring crowd. You’re free to breathe in the empty island air and indulge your inner lone wolf.

(Is it the decade of a too-busy life in NYC that’s made me crave solitude? Shoving my way on and off the 6 and 7-train every day?)

Dog in Marzamemi, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

This is Marzamemi, a honey-colored fishing village on the east coast of Sicily (south of Siracusa and not far from Noto). I won’t set foot there in summer (crowds!), but in winter I could linger for hours. I hope heaven is as nice.

Won’t you join me for an open-air caffè? Now I’m feeling a little lonely.

Marzamemi Piazza, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

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Burano, Amore Mio

January 5, 2014

Happy New Year my friends!

On a normal New Year’s Eve, after a hot cup of tea, we’re snoring by 10pm under a layer of duvets and quilts. But not this year.

This year we pushed and shoved our way into Piazza San Marco in Venice as the moon and the stars spun above.  While the countdown proceeded–10.9.8.7.6.5–merry-makers in glittery masks shook bottles of bubbly Prosecco. At the stroke of Midnight, the crowd howled, sparklers flashed, and the fizzy stuff boiled up into the night, showering us with a icy spray.

The next day we rode the ferry to the quiet fishing village of Burano, a  perfect antidote to the chaos and glamour of Venice.

Burano in winter, copyright Jann Huizenga

Burano in Winter, copyright Jann Huizenga

Burano in winter, copyright Jann Huizenga

Do it yourself to Burano:

If you go to Venice, don’t pay for an expensive tour to Burano. Just walk to Fondamente Nove and hop on a vaporetto (Line 12). They leave every half hour and the trip takes about 40 minutes. My best advice: Go early!!! By 11 am, the tour boats have arrived.

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