Culture /

Sydney Sibilia’s Film “Island of Roses”

*Spoiler Alert*


A hymn to freedom and creative ingenuity: it is all we needed in these months of a life, lived timidly, halfway between forced confinement and the ephemeral joy of a freer “yellow zone,” the lesser of restrictions here in Italy.

In recent months, the Incredible Story of the Isola delle Rose directed by Sydney Sibilia has become one of the most viewed films on Netflix Italy. One of the unconscious reasons for his success, in addition to the unquestionable skill of the Roman actor Elio Germano, may certainly be due to the name it bears. The title, in fact, is almost a challenge to the reader. Any user looking for a movie to watch will have stalled a few seconds on the image of the movie’s “poster”. It certainly not indicative of the plot, but it seems to question the audience:

How do you not know the incredible story of the Island of the Roses?

Isola delle Rose… will it be one of those tiny Caribbean islands almost invisible from satellite? The geography expert will not stand not knowing where this island is situated. “In my opinion it is the name of a new city district”, will reply the urban planner.

The classicist, on the other hand, recovers the etymology of the name and thinks that it is simply the nickname to call the island of Rhodes … the audience was not wrong about one thing: the Island of Roses existed and, in fact, the film tells a true story, albeit with a few embellishments. 

You are about to discover it.

The film tells the story of Giorgio Rosa, an engineer from Bologna, who has a great dream: to see roses bloom on the sea, that is, to build an independent state in the middle of the Adriatic Sea that could simultaneously accommodate fun, revolutions, and ideas, an Eden of youth, that for the sixty-eight of those years soon turned into an act of resistance against a fluctuating state policy. The mythical construction was built in Italy in the late 1960s, more precisely off Romagna’s coast, in front of Rimini and Cesenatico, in a space considered foreign to the Italian state and its legislation as it was 11 km away from Italian territorial waters.

Based on real sources, we know that the engineer, “blond, medium height, blue eyes”, began to formulate his project in 1956 as he himself recounts in his memoirs published by Gruppo Persiani Editore. “You could not do anything that the politicians did not want, and this slavery suffocated you more every day” […] “Here arose the idea of ​​making an island where there was true freedom, where intelligent people could proceed, and where the inept were chased away. And then studying the situation I found the possibility of building an island “. And the song by Edoardo Bennato comes to mind like an echo:


E non è un’invenzione

E neanche un gioco di parole

Se ci credi ti basta, perché

Poi la strada la trovi da te


And it is not an invention

And not even a play on words

If you believe it, that will be enough,

The road you’ll find it by yourself

In fact, the road was found. After investigating the legal possibilities and exploiting a technicality of the law, Giorgio Rosa began to build a steel platform of 400 square meters in the open sea, obviously not without long pauses and interruptions due to bad weather, when the wind generated indomitable breakers that flooded the hard workers. Once he found fresh water, an indispensable element for the success of the project, drilling at a depth of 280 meters, the dream had become reality. It was May 20, 1967. Harbor master and police had repeatedly expressed their distaste for the mysterious island, but the engineer, determined, went on undaunted. Once he completed the work, he made its existence official by opening it to the public of friends and relatives, perhaps aiming to make it one of the coolest tourist attractions on the Rimini coast.

Naturally, it should be noted that as far as the film is concerned, the director deliberately wanted to exaggerate some points of the story to convey the idea of ​​the enormous diffusion of the case in Italy and of the many chroniclers who documented the events with pages and pages of newspapers, some even feeding legends of espionage and conspiracy.

All those interviewed, including the workers who allowed its construction, considered the platform a brilliant idea, the result of a skillful technique, which in itself and due to its characteristics, was a harbinger of revolution.

For greater fidelity to the news, reference can be made to the numerous articles published on the subject or even to the documentary by Stefano Bisulli and Roberto Naccari, who in 2009 filmed “Insulo de la Rozoj. La libertà fa paura”.

The crazy Bolognese genius does not stop there: he has a full project in mind, for which on May 1st 1968 he declared the island to be an Independent Republic. Although it has never been formally recognized as such, the new micro-state hosted its own flag (red roses on a white  background) and had selected its national language: Esperanto, from which “Insulo de la Rozoj” derives. Giorgio minted a coin: the Mill, and gave the island a mailing address and its own stamps. Soon after many Italians even applied for citizenship.

But unfortunately, freedom sometimes also generates enemies, and the Isle of Roses quickly attracted, as we would say today, some fierce haters, especially among the Italian politicians of the time. Not able to find any strong ally to save her lead to its end.

After almost a year, the police managed to organize a naval blockade around the island and the military occupied the surface. On January 22, 1969, the pontoon of the Italian Navy blew up the platform and its marina, Porto Verde. One explosive wasn’t enough.

The island today has become a symbol of hope and resistance against all powers and violence, in spite of those who saw it was only as a gimmick to make money or pay less taxes. The island vaguely recalls the events of another historic island, that of Melo, which, in 416 BC, resisted the attacks of a ruthless Athens until Melo’s own demise.

On February 26, 1969 the waves definitively embraced what remained of the steel island, sinking it like a wrecked ship. And here the mission passes to the most experienced divers, because it is said that the remains are still on the seabed, like a hidden Atlantis.

Giorgio Rosa’s son, on the matter, expressed himself with the following words: “In Italy, the state takes years to demolish an abusive building. Isola delle Rose – which was not even in Italy – was given a lightning execution. For my father it was a blow, I was seven but I remember it well. We never spoke about it: a painful wound remained”.

Curiously, the Italian episode was not the only example of an offshore floating experiment, as shown by the similar adventure of the Principality of Sealand off the south-eastern England. And England too, following this experience, tightened the law on the extension of the territorial sea…

Anyone have any ideas for an island in the skies, like Peter Pan’s?