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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Lava's burning passion

Lorenzo Starace Nastase writing for http://www.luxuryfiles.com/luxury/mooffanka/?$lang=EN&$version=port&doc=784, has described the emotional connection that Sicily and Sicilians have with their volcanoes.

He writes ...

Throughout the centuries Stromboli has taken on connotations of evil, and has been likened by historic nautical correlations to a lighthouse. From the dawns of time it lit up the way for sailors of the Tyrrhenian Sea, including myself. Its charm survives despite a variety of events that in recent times have brought it under the spotlight again. The same fascination that it exuded in remote 1949, set off the “war of volcanoes”: a conflict of pure passion, one that had nothing to do with geological issues – only exquisitely human ones.

The “spark” was a letter written by Ingrid Bergman to Roberto Rossellini. In 1949 he was working, with Anna Magnani, his partner of the time, on the movie “Vulcano”. In the letter, written in English, Ms Bergman articulated her desire to work with the greatest name in Italian Neo-realism, concluding the missive with the only words in Italian that she knew: “ti amo”. Rossellini was deeply affected by this peculiarly expressed request, and rushed to America to meet the actress. At the time, she was one of America’s most beloved stars.When they returned to Italy it was perfectly clear to everyone involved that Rossellini and Magnani were history.

At the time the latter was in London receiving a prize but on her return, an indirect clash from the shores of two volcanoes was ignited: Rossellini was about to make “Stromboli, terra di Dio”, with his new flame Ingrid, while Magnani continued to work on “Vulcano”.

It was a ruthless battle, complete with acts of espionage and sabotage from both productions, both of which were working without respite to beat the other in wrapping the movie first.

The arm wrestle finally came to a halt with the première of “Vulcano”, directed by William Mieterle, which took place at the Fiamma cinema in Rome. However, during the showing the news of the birth of Rossellini and Bergman’s daughter began to circulate. Every press agent present at the première left the room to verify the news. This was an indirect declaration of defeat to Magnani’s movie, relegating it to a spectacle of lesser relevance. Even today, Stromboli is a reminder of one of the greatest love stories that has ever blossomed at its feet, with a plaque commemorating the Swedish actress’s stay in full view on the façade of the house known as “la casina rossa” (“the little red house”), which once hosted her here.

Many tales were spun in Stromboli and it’s easy to fall in love in a place that maintains intact a sense of “leaping back in time”. This is enhanced by its tranquillity, the absence of cars, and peculiar lighting in the streets: all elements that heighten one’s anticipation of a shiver of emotion, when listening out for iddu (“him”, as the inhabitants of Stromboli call the volcano), he who is always active and present.

Don’t be under any illusions, then.

If you’ve never been to Stromboli you will never know whether it’ll inspire love or hate in you. But if you end up loving iddu, remember that after your departure, sooner or later the volcano will beckon you back here without you even realizing it. You will find yourself admiring its fireworks in the sky above the Aeolian Islands once again, just like someone else who decided to make Stromboli their home and workplace.

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