Stromboli: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

In the second part of the film, Caro Diario called “Isole,” director and actor Nanni Moretti and his friend are searching for a peaceful place to work on their research.  They visit 5 of the 8 islands in the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily, including Lipari, Salina, Panarea and Alicudi.  Each island has a unique personality. On Stromboli the two friends find that the environment is hostile, which they attribute to the menacing presence of the volcano.

Of the 3 active volcanoes in Italy (the others are Vesuvius and Aetna), Mount Stromboli is the most active.  In fact, it has been in almost continuous eruption for the past 2,000 to 5,000 years. Known worldwide as the Strombolian eruption, an explosion from the summit craters results in energetic bursts up to a few hundred meters in height, containing ash, incandescent lava fragments and stone blocks.  The eruptions rarely result in lava flows and are not massive, but rather, continuous, fountain-like fiery emissions.  Visible from the surrounding sea, this phenomenon gave rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”  The name “Stromboli” comes from the Greek word for “round” because of the volcano’s round, conical appearance from a distance.

The island’s area is only about 5 square miles (12 square km) and its population today is less than 500.  There are two small villages in the northeast, San Barolo and San Vincenzo.  A smaller village, Ginostra, lies in the southwest.  There are no high schools on the island so students must leave for mainland Sicily to continue their education.  According to the 2019 award-winning documentary, Island of Fire,” many of these students leave the island for good, but others are eventually drawn back to the volcano and the beauty of their ancestral home.

In the early 1900s, Stromboli had far more inhabitants.  About 4,000 people lived on the island until the destructive eruption and tsunami of 1930, which caused many to flee to safer places.  Then in 1950, Roberto Rossellini filmed his movie Stromboli Land of God on location.  The film received much critical acclaim but also negative press in the United States because of the affair between Rossellini and the film’s protagonist, Ingrid Bergman.  The film may also have set in motion the island’s tourist industry.  Today, people in search of tranquility and natural beauty explore the island’s black sand beaches, grottos and caves.  Many visitors hike up 3 miles to witness first-hand the beauty and mystery of the volcano.

Rossellini’s film was also the inspiration for a type of turnover invented by Italian-Americans in Philadelphia around 1950.   A Stromboli is made with bread or pizza dough and filled with various Italian cheeses (typically mozzarella) and Italian meat, such as salami, capicola and bresaola, or vegetables.  Similar to a calzone, a stromboli is rolled or folded into a cylinder, while a calzone is folded into a crescent shape.

Next time you visit the island also known as the Aeolians’ black pearl, pack lots of water and a stromboli and hike up to the summit of Mount Stromboli.

This entry was posted in English, Film, Foto, Italia, Italoamericani, Sicilia, Storia, Vacanze, Viaggio. Bookmark the permalink.

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