Favignana – the liveliest of the Egadi Islands, which I met only 5 years ago, during a holiday in Sicily. An island that has given me so much, where I discovered a boundless love for the sea and its lives, for fishing and its shapes.
It all started at the end of a sunset when I asked for information on where to go for dinner, they recommended two places and I instinctively chose the most exotic and particular one, Formica Osteria, which takes you on a trip of culinary fusion made up of two wonderful and apparently distant souls: the Sicilian one by Federica Figliomeni and the Japanese one by Kokichi Takahashi.
An unexpected encounter, as it was to know their history and their cuisine, which combines the precision of the Rising Sun and Sicilian passion with fresh and genuine ingredients. An experience that I could not do without for the rest of the holiday. One that led me to Paranza: a fishing boat named Osprey, made up of a legendary team of 5 strong, very strong men, from where Formica gets supplies of fresh fish. Intrigued by their history, their adventures and my passion for the sea, I asked for permission to go up to take some photos during their long fishing trip. It took me more than a year to convince them, as a woman in the boat is said to bring “bad luck” or distractions…
These fishermen leave every day (except on weekends) from the port of Favignana, until they arrive after Marettimo, returning more or less at 5 or 6 in the afternoon to then sell the fish they just caught.
I’m talking about men and boys, a family, a great passion, sacrifices, and a lot of willpower – great friends and adventure companions.
Federico, the commander, has two big boyish blue eyes, set in a face marked by the sun and the sea. He has a candid expression that some men keep until the end of their days because they have a simple heart and an upright soul. To him, I owe all this wonderful adventure, made of colors and smells. A unique experience that I would never have missed in the world.
Alessio, dear friend, 25 years old, son of the captain.
An older boy than his age would tell, stronger than a rock. With him I spent more time on the Paranza, it was he who taught me the rules of the sea, and with his stories he made me fall in love more and more with his profession, a great profession.
Enzo, brother of the captain, for me is the Sun God, who often sits on a stool in front of a window overlooking a revered sea.
He also prepares food for the whole team, delicacies you cannot imagine.
Mario, Enzo’s son, taciturn but always with a smile.
And finally, Paolo, nicknamed the red, my favorite.
His face is lined with wrinkles and an apple-red color in winter, his freckles mingle with the orange shades of shrimp, ice-colored eyes, and a heart the size of the sea. My poet, with the cigar always in his mouth and hands salted by the sea.
Mario and Paolo, perhaps do the most tiring work, always vigilant, ready to intervene on any error, familiar with their movements, always identical, but performed with so much dedication and precision.
The First Time
The first time, about 4 years ago, we left at 2:30 am, the water was as dark as the deepest darkness, my eyes were lost in emptiness and my legs were shaking, I still didn’t know what to expect, I was holding my camera in one hand and a tight rope in the other to keep my balance. From 2am to 5pm, when the boat returns to the port, the day is long and we often sleep in turns. During the first outing, I asked them to wake me up and so they did; it was 6:14 and the colors I saw when I opened my eyes were just what I wanted.
I was greeted by a very strong silence and almost felt the tension, that of post adrenaline, we were only at the second “descent” (with this term we mean the moment in which the net sinks into the deepest waters waiting to draw from the sea).
My hands were shaking and the first few shots still rocked.
There was a smell of coffee and seaweed and after the first sip, they arrived; I thought bewilderment was getting harder and harder to attain, but those dolphins made everything even more surreal.
Meanwhile, Paolo on the stern observed that landscape with a conscious gaze, he was surrounded by a purple sky, he seemed immersed in the sea or maybe he was.
His face still carries the light of all that sun caught in the middle of the sea. It is 6:13 and the Paranza returned to the port, I was tired. But that fatigue didn’t stop me from wanting to go up to Osprey several times. I liked to spend the nights on that sea, where it was now difficult to understand where it ended and the sky began. The moon was our lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. How beautiful was that immense silence? The murmur of the sea made it even deeper. And then they came, the dolphins, silvery and lulled by the waves and I didn’t stop smiling.
The Keepers of the Sea
These fishermen are the real keepers of the sea where life can be very hard, full of adventures, smells, nets and sharp ropes, colors, and wonderful creatures. Where the risk is always present. A life of hard work, which does not forget what lies beneath them, respecting it with conscious and targeted fishing, outside the logic of the multinationals.
For me they are myths. I went to look for them with my camera, with that stubborn light that accompanied me while below us was a submerged world. The one where you can find divinities sitting at a table, wonderful and scary creatures, and mermaids that cage souls. This is my story, which intertwines the myth of the sea and stories of men, not legends. A place of enchantment where I will always end up finding myself: on the stretch of water looking out from the boat on myself.