Anne's Blog

Ventotene, the “Literary Island”

Date: August 28, 2014 - categories: - 3 Comments

After you get off the hydrofoil at the Ventotene port, you’ll head up the switchback of inclined ramps, flanked by the typical flat-roofed Mediterraean stuccoed houses of pastel colors. Anchored fishing boats, visiting sailboats rock on the ruffled waters of the Roman port below. The ramps end in Piazza Castello dominated by the imposing four-story mustard-yellow municipio (“city hall”), once the fortress of the Bourbon French, dominating the island in the 18th-century.

castello

Right across the piazza from the bookshop, the 18th c- city hall

Across the piazza, striped awnings shade the outdoor racks of the bookshop where vacationers browse. One of the two island grocery stores is on one side and a ceramic shop on the other of this bookshop right in the center of the main piazza, appropriately, for this libreria is the cultural center of the island of Ventotene, “a literary island.”

The bookstore is the heart of the island in many ways

The bookstore is the heart of the island in many ways

An evening outing at Ventotene: a stop at the bookshop

An evening outing at Ventotene: a stop at the bookshop

Wherever your island meanders take you, you’ll see people reading – books, newspapers and magazines. In the mornings. At the island outdoor cafes, espresso is sipped while turning the pages of a novel or perusing the morning paper. You might see an elderly woman, intent on reading her newspaper, empty gelato cup nearby. Sitting in a plastic armchair under a forest-green shuttered window, a white-haired islander does his crossword puzzles every afternoon. At lunchtime, hungry vacationers back from the sea read under the dangling vines spread out over the tables at Trattoria da Verde, anticipating crab-stuffed ravioli or seafood pasta. Others read at dockside cafes while munching crunchy fried calamari and shrimp in brown paper cones and sipping chilled Falanghina wine.

Reading under shady vines at Ristorante da Verde

Reading under shady vines at Ristorante da Verde

Lots of readers at the outdoor tables of Ristorante Da Verde

Lots of readers at the outdoor tables of Ristorante Da Verde

Near an island hotel, a reader...

Near an island hotel, a reader…

Readers everywhere on Ventotene

Readers everywhere on Ventotene

Ventotene, the literary island

Ventotene, “the literary island”

On the lavic rocks dropping into turquoise seas, sun-tanned women in bikinis stretch out on chaise longues reading while teens sit on a colorful towel nearby, sharing a newspaper.

Youthful beachtime reading

Youthful beachtime reading

leggi1

Reading near the cove where Roman ships docked centuries ago

leggi2

End of day reading near the seaside

leggi3

Ventotene, the island of readers

As a fiery sun sinks into the sea, vacationers pick up masks and snorkels, wrap up their towels, leave the lavic outcrops jutting into the sea and head into the main piazza. For many, a first stop will be the Piazza Castello bookshop of Fabio, called “Ultima Spiaggia” (“the last beach”) where colorful bags of hand-painted Ventotene scenes drape the entryway. Children sit in clutches on little stools reading in the back children’s room while here and there, a young mother sits reading to her toddler. The older children might pause in reading to head into the piazza for a soccer game break or a scooter race. Now and then, a young child might roller skate into the bookstore, owner Fabio, grinning with a twinkle in his eye.

mother

A vacationing mother reads to her children in the bookshop

Fabio, island bookseller - from near Genoa

Fabio, island bookseller – from near Genoa

Older vacationers confer with Fabio on the best book on Ventotene to bring home as a gift or which one best tells the story of the confinati (anti-Fascists forced into exile here – “confined” – during World War II) or which is the best analysis of il confinato Aldo Spinelli’s Federalist treatise (font of inspiration for the European Union). The bookstore stocks, too, various books on the now-closed Santo Stefano prison (on the island of Santo Stefano, just opposite Ventotene, visitable with a fascinating guided tour).

Santo Stefano opposite Venotene, with prison

Santo Stefano opposite Venotene, with prison

 

Surrounded by books, prints, bookmarks, a 19th-c printing press stands in the middle of the store, a gift from an elderly retired printer to Fabio in admiration of his initiative in opening this small – but well-stocked – bookshop on a tiny Mediterrean island. Open from April to October (when Fabio heads back north to his bookshop in Camogli, south of Genoa), Ultima Spiaggia merits a stop if you’re here on Ventotene.

Prints, bookmarks and other art for sale, too

Fine art, artistic bookmarks – and mugs, too – for sale in the bookshop

The emerald/turquoise waters surrounding the island and attracting snorkelers, divers draw many a vacationer. Tasty seafood at a handful of restaurants with outdoor tables, the Roman ruins, the stucco houses of pastel shades and and above all, the tortoise-paced rhythms of this small (1 km long, 700 km wide) island make any vacation here memorable.

Stuccoed houses of pastel shades

Stuccoed houses of pastel shades

And don’t forget the bookstore.

Read more on the island of Ventotene
Read about the island bakery
Read about a favorite eating spot on Ventotene
Read about – and see – Ventotene’s splendid sea
Read about a family run restaurant, not to miss
Read about Ventotene’s many enticements
See the kaleidoscopic colors of Ventotene
Read about – and see! – pizza goodness (and not only) on Ventotene
Read about Ventotene’s bakery
Read about the European summit on the island of Ventotene, Aug. 22, 2016
Read about another favorite Ventotene eating spot
Read why a return to Venotene is like “coming home”
Read about good eating at the “scooter truck”
Read about “palate poetry” on Ventotene

Enticing waters of Ventotene

Enticing waters of Ventotene

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)