A Ventotene Triumvirate: Renzi, Merkel, Hollande
Yesterday afternoon in the main square of Ventotene, a police car and a couple cars of local officials were parked in front of the crenellated ochre Municipio. A group of firemen gathered under a pine tree, conferring. Under a scorching August sun, two sweaty municipal workers scrambled up ladders to change two of the 28 flags wafting in a lazy breezy. That of Germany and that of France came down: new ones of vivid colors replaced the faded ones.
Getting ready for August 22nd: flags to change, too
A European “triumvirate” would be meeting on August 22, 2016 on Ventotene: Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, had invited France’s François Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel to Ventotene because of the island’s role in the European Union’s founding history. During World War II, political opponents of the country’s fascist government were imprisoned here as confinati (literally, “the confined”, i.e.,“detainees”). While here as confinati, inmates Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli co-wrote the “Ventotene Manifesto” (1941- 1944), considered by many to be a key driver behind the European unification movement.
The main topics of the Ventotene summit commemorating the 75th anniversary of the “birth of Europe”? Economic growth, security and defense, immigration, and the future ahead for European youth.
Although Altiero Spinelli died in Rome, he is buried in the walled Ventotene cemetery, perched like a sentinel overlooking the port. We walked there the pre-summit morning to visit Spinelli’s tomb, following the narrow road serpentining upwards along the port, boats rocking at anchor below.
We passed municipal operatore ecologico (“ecological worker,” i.e., “sanitation engineer”), Renato, carefully combing the roadside with a long reed broom, about his height. Although it was just before 8 a.m., he was sweat-soaked with long hours to go. He told us with a smile, “I’m doing this for our visiting vacationers – keeping our island clean – and I’m not doing anything more than I usually do. I always do my best con passione. This is my life.”
We climbed up the steps to the cemetery, passing many a family tomb. Another local municipal worker was planting begonias and marigolds in the dirt plot below Altiero Spinello’s loculo, an embellishment for the upcoming visit of the “European triumvirate.”
Pino asked him why flowers weren’t in the vase on Spinelli’s tomb. The sweaty worker shrugged and kept digging. When Pino asked for a flower, he broke off a marigold.
Pino put the flower in the bronze vase on the loculo – and then watered it.
On the way out, we took photos of the cement helicopter pad outside, just finished for the arrival tomorrow of Renzi, Merkel, and Hollande. We knew we’d probably not see them and few would: a helicopter would fly the three European leaders to the cemetery and then back to the aircraft carrier anchored in the bay. The summit would take place on that aircraft carrier, manned by four hundred men from all branches of the Italian military.
Hundreds more – and most not visible – would be involved in security all over the island. And not only.
Near the bookshop on Piazza del Municipio, Ultima Spiaggia, I had chatted yesterday with a jovial group of elderly “locals” as we watched the new German and French flags going up. “And Merkel and Hollande won’t even see them,” chuckled Bruno. “All this security: they’ve even taken away the waste bins from around the main square. So no one can leave a bomb on August 22nd. Hmph! Imagine. Where will the tourists put all their trash?”
I imagine the Piazza del Municipio will be littered by the morning of August 23rd. But Renato will be back with his reed broom, probably shrugging his shoulders in quiet resignation and then carefully manicuring the square.
Read about the birth of the European Union here
..and more here: http://www.democraticunion.eu/2014/06/spinelli-rossi-forefathers-european-federalism/
Read more on the meeting of Renzi, Merkel, Hollande on Ventotene, August 22, 2016:
and more here: http://www.expatica.com/de/news/Renzi-Merkel-Hollande-to-meet-for-Brexit-talks-on-Monday_751280.html
Read more on Santo Stefano and on Ventotene and why we love it
Click here for more on Fabio’s bookstore on Piazza del Municipio
Read about a favorite Ventotene eating spot
Read about the island bakery
Read why Ventotene captivates
Read about – and see! – pizza goodness (and not only) on Ventotene
Read about one of our first meals at Ristorante Da Verde
Read more about the island bakery
Read about this island of many colors
Read about good eating at the “scooter truck”
Read about “palate poetry” on Ventotene