A cone emerging from the Tyrrhenian waters, Stromboli is a volcano in constant activity. Two villages crawl on its slopes, caught between the craters and the sea, exposed to the weather’s caprice. According to the myth, god Aeolus moved his headquarters there in order to better combine and distribute the winds in the Mediterranean Sea. Not infrequently they’re so strong that no boat can reach the port for days at a time.
An ancient society of sailors, fishermen and farmers, with few last names and rivalries whose reasons no one remembers anymore, coexists with foreigners, artists, renegades from all over, who settled on the island attracted by the volcano, to turn a page in their lives.
The spitfire mountain wrote chapters in the island’s history. It forced most people to emigrate after the eruptions of 1919 and 1930. It gave some the possibility to come back, attracting tourism and new jobs in the 50’s. In the place that inspired Verne and Rossellini you can meet fishermen who laugh about that time when they acted in a Dolce & Gabbana spot, but every morning at 5.30 am you still see them rolling the boat on heavy wooden sticks to get it to the water. It feels as if the fuss of the fame-driven world had occasionally passed over their heads, amusing them with its endearing banality, only to flow away with the tide shortly after.
They’re the backbone of society, resisting the changes of the world around them. After electricity was installed on the island in the 70’s and the fish population started decreasing because of the arrival of big fishing boats, most jobs converted to tourism. In the words of a local guide “God Money has taken many souls”, and while rich foreigners keep buying houses, local families are increasingly fleeing to care for the future of the new generations, as children have to continue their studies elsewhere after middle school. Currently the island’s population drops to a few hundreds in the winter, when the touristic season is over.
I’m working to portray the island’s current state, caught between the worship for the raw beauty it’s been able to preserve and the nostalgia for what in the present still resembles the past, and is fighting not to disappear. I often turned to the older generations, people who've lived on Stromboli when it was crude and unpolished just a few decades ago. Before the light came to the houses, before the port and the street existed. After they’re gone, what will be preserved and how?
The volcano looms over, unaffected by human troubles. Every day though, residents look up at it to read the wind and choose how to go about their day. “You always see this smoke, this plume of feathers on the mountain, and you have to understand where it’s going. Based on the direction of the smoke you decide. You decide what to do tomorrow”. They call the volcano “Iddu”, Sicilian for “He”, like a god who can’t be named and a friend you live with every day.