Where is fundamental to explain who I am and what I’m going to do.
What is an International Multidisciplinar Centre welcoming students from all over the world to study masterclasses on Geology, Marine Biology, Mineralogy, Archeology, Music and Humanist matters like local Traditions.
The "Where " is Giglio Island, a jewel of the Tuscan Archipelago, in Italy.
The building is an old light house in disuse.
The reason is the progressive abandon of the island and the belief that a project like this would inject a new lymph to the life on it.
Below there is a long description of the island: my aim is to make you to fall in love with it.
Besides there is a long biography to explain who I am and why you can trust me.
I was born on a little island off the coast of Tuscany. Its name is Giglio, which means Lily, the flower. Someone, hearing this name, immediately would tie this splendid isle to the splendid flower. A few know the etymology of the name, which comes from the Greek root Ogilion, later corrupted into the Latin Aegilium, then, much later on, into the medieval vulgar Italian Giglio. Ogilion in ancient Greek meant “goat”. As well as many island of the Mediterranean which names remind the word “goat”, in Italian “capra”, like the famous Capri, but also Caprera, Capraia and many others, also the delicate Giglio has got the same origin. The reason of these names is because the climbing and small goats were the only suitable animals to be bred on small hilly islands.
Giglio is one of the seven “pearls” of the Tirrenian sea – today unfortunately famous for the disaster of the Costa Concordia shipwreck. Because of its territory, the morphology, the quality of rocks and, consequently, of plants and animals, it is the “very” unique one, completely different even from its twin sister Giannutri, the other small isle at south east belonging to the Municipality.
The isle is a block of granite rock, actually two layers of granite rocks, hardened in two different eras. For this reason the island has been visited by teams of professors and students of Geology since many years ago: they come to study the birth of the earth.
The coast is characterized by tiny smooth rocky bays and beautiful, enchanting sandy beaches, emerging from a turquoise crystal clean water.
The granite, just from a few meters upon the sea surface, is covered by a green carpet of the typical “macchia mediterranea”, rich of spiny bushes, medical greens, pine trees, old vineyards, agaves, prickly pears, aromatic herbs and many endemic plants. For this reason the island was visited by botanic researchers who made the classification in the 1700s.
Almost all over, its mountainous surface is built up with terraces to make possible the cultivation of any sort of edible plant, mostly vines, but also olive trees, wheat, beans, fruits trees and vegetables. Throughout the centuries the island has been necessarily independent with food. Today just a few peasant have remained, but the terraces are still there to remind us the strength of the inhabitants, at the same time breeders, farmers, fishermen and, occasionally, warriors. In facts, unfortunately, the island has undergone the assaults of pirates many times. The last time in 1799, when, after a cruel battle, the local people was able to defeat the Tunisian pirates landed on the beach Campese with their vessels. Some well preserved sighting towers in the three villages are today a tourist attraction.
The island, briefly, has been inhabited by Etruscans (around 500 b.c.), Romans, then colonized by the Pisani in 1100s, enforced by the Medici in 1500s, ruled by the Lorena in 1700s, and attached to the new whole Italian nation in 1860, like most of Italian territories. Its history makes it very interesting by the archaeology point of view: at the bottom of the sea there are still relicts of ships from any time and any people; on the eastern coast there is a buried Etruscan settlement; the ruins of an ancient Roman Villa are still visible in the Port; Roman columns and mosaic are well preserved on the island of Giannutri.
If it is true that I love to feel myself part of the whole world – thing which is sometime visible in my cuisine, made up with my natural Italian style married with the local products I find where I go - , it also “double” true that I feel deeply part of this particular piece of world. I feel to be an “islander” in every single cell of my body and, as well as each of my “conterranei”, I feel strong with my origin and my identity, which make me “ready” to face, to be open – like the eye view all over the open surface of the sea up to the horizon - , to embrace the rest of the world.
That’s why the Where is strictly connected with the Who and the What and it had to be explained first.
I’m a chef and a cooking teacher.
My cooking experience is 50 years old, just a little younger than myself.
I was shorter than the table and I used to spend my time in the restaurant, actually a familiar “trattoria”, my great-aunt set up in the storage room down the house in the middle of the 50s. She, my grandmother’s sister, was a stout woman, often dressed with dark clothes, with long silver hair braided and curled at her back neck and with a kind of magic power. Her big round green eyes were able to hypnotize and, staring at their bottom, someone could see the ancient stories she loved to tell, like a movie. She gave me a small pink wooden box to keep the coins I gained with my precious work. My first tasks were a little more than a serious game: drying carefully forks and spoons ( I was not allowed to dry the knives); folding the napkins to help the first love of my life, a ninety years old uncle – the sweetest of the men - who paid me with chocolate bars. Slowly I passed to peel the garlic, choose the best leaves of arugola, taking off the seeds from bell peppers, go to the below beach to wash the table olive oil bottles with sand and salted water in order to de-grease them.
As high school student – necessary out of the island, as there are, still, not high school here - I used to spend the summer earning some money as waitress in the same “trattoria”: the first time I took a menu order to customers, writing it on a notebook, I was twelve.
I attended the Scientific Liceum and I started a “real” job as employer in a company when I finished it, at nineteen. But my cooking future was waiting for me round the corner. I married a boy from my same isle, whose family owned, and still owns, a restaurant along the promenade. He used to work in bank. We lived far from the island and our holidays were working-vacation in Giglio. I just changed restaurant for my free time.
After some years spent in this way, eight exactly, we decided to go back to the origin.
We had already a child and I was pregnant of my second, the year we left our jobs, bought our own restaurant on the island and moved back home. It was 1985. The same year my sister did the first revolution of her life too: she set up a “paninoteca”, a tiny place to prepare sandwiches at command with the most fancy fillings. I have had the opportunity to experience also that kind of work, when, at the end of the lunch service in my restaurant, often I used to reach my sister and help her for a couple of hours.
For all of us, both restaurant and paninoteca were very hard jobs, working from twelve to eighteen hours a day during the very high tourist season, but the activities were open eight months a year and we could stand it.
We got our good satisfactions. After three years my restaurant and my name as chef were on almost all the restaurant guides in Italy. I knew my fifteen minutes of celebrity and to prove officially what I was, I took my second high school diploma, passing the exam of the State Hospitality Institute.
My husband and I used to fill the “almost free” time, the four winter months the restaurant was closed, with the big cleaning of the restaurant, with food markets and wine fairs, with the practice on new recipes to pair with the fresh-y discovered wines, with travels with cuisine purposes.
We went on for twelve years.
But life changes suddenly, turns many times and, besides pains and sorrows, offers also happiness and opportunities. We sold the restaurants after a series of family disgraces and accidents. We first worked in my husband’s family restaurant, then moved away, worked in other places. My marriage broke. I started a new life in Florence.
The school opened my mind further.
For all my life I has been told that I would have been a good teacher and I have kept on answering – and believing - that I would have never had enough patience for that. I do not know what was the spark that made me to answer to a newspaper advice: a cooking school was looking for chefs able to speak English. I went, talked with the President, a smart woman of my same age. We liked each other. I accepted the job with an un-explainable sensation of security and with the voice of my reason saying “You are mad. You don’t like to teach”.
The first time I entered a class I felt like entering a cage of lions. But this scary emotion lasted the time I crossed the door. When I went out I felt as happy as I would have not thought before. I started to teach with a new joy and with the thought that the real future for humanity is the communication, that is the “real” talking, the kind of talking that gets to know each other and to respect all the people. With this belief I keep teaching, trying at the same time, to learn the most possible from my students.
I have definitely to admit that my friends saw me better than I did.
That was the Who.
The What is going to be done. I mean the real “What”, not just another “What”.
It’s a dream coming true: a project born with the conviction that it will be able to inject a new vital lymph a into the island.
Nowadays Giglio sees crazy chaotic summers, lasting a couple of months, and always longer and more lonely winters. The gap of the seasons involves individual psycho as well as social life. The usual one thousand of resident dwellers become twenty-five thousands in summer with a sudden increase of energy consumes and any sort of service. Most of the jobs are seasonal, which is, together the lack of high schools, one of the reasons why young people keep on abandoning the place, which becomes, year after year, always more desert. Young, and less young people, who still have not lost the sense of their belong-ness and their identity, have anyway lost one big alternative in their life: the possibility to live and work in their place of origin.
My idea is to build an International School on the island, open all the year round, with the exception of august. The matters will be What the island and the islanders are able to offer: Geology, Mineralogy and Archaeology; Music (some internationally famous musicians have elected the island as their “home”, where come back from their “tournè” ); Cuisine; Local tradition and culture. Besides the main programs there will be courses like Theatre, Chorus, Scuba diving, Marine biology, under-water photography, vine cultivation, sport and professional fishing and many others.
I have the psychological support of the many people with this project, who are enthusiastic of it believing that, not only a similar project would lower the exodus from the island, but also, it would avoid to forget Who we are.
The School, but I should call it Cultural Centre, will be a no-profit institution: once paid workers and expenses, all the gain would be utilize to improve the Centre, develop communication and transport system, build up sport fields both for students and dwellers, open other activities connected with the school, buy clean energy sources that would substitute the antiquate gasoline-fed electric factory. In a few words: create a MODEL, able to supply not only “jobs”, but also and mainly, “joyful jobs”, or better, a style of “sustainable life”, which would respect the Nature and the personal attitude of the people.
My task, in this precise time of my life, is travelling, taking around my cuisine - GiglioCooking School in Florence - and spreading my words in order to give my small contribution to not loose a precious jewel of the Mediterranean.
The money will be used to start this "big" project:
- buying (or renting from the municipality hall a building or from the government an old light house no more in use
- hiring professionals for marketing, organizing, administrating, teaching ( for teaching I am already in contact with Archeologist, Marine Biologist, Musicians, Chefs and others)
- Involving all the population of the island: each one would contribute with their knowledge (old fishermen, farmers, wine producers and others)
I know this is a horrible moment for the entire world.
I believe that only maintaining all the beauty that MAN has been able to create in HIS history is the solution for the bad of the world. Beauty can build peace.
I understand that it is hard in such a moment to think about an island in front of Tuscany.
I know also that all the islanders and I will be enormously grateful to all whom believe in us, and believe that saving a "little cell" might mean to start to save the whole.