More than anything, the island of Ustica evokes images of colors: bright intense colors, muted pastel colors. First of all the blues, the greens: The translucent acquamarine and emerald brilliance of the surrounding sea are highlighted by the black volcanic rock of this wondrous island, just off the northwestern coast of Sicily. Maritime pines, the pungent wild fennel, fig trees, date palms and caper vines crawling the lava-rock stone walls blend in varied shades of green. The bright greens of the low-lying vineyards (low-to-the-ground pruning is favored in southern Italy) contrast with the muted greens of the massive olive trees.
The shades of purple, reds, the oranges, the yellows: Fuchsia bougainvillea vines drape the rooftops and rocky walls, flaming red hibiscus plants add color splashes to the gardens.
Red-speckled borlotti beans are sold in baskets at roadside stands. Orange bunches of dates hang from the date palms and orange and yellow prickly pears cling to the rocky cliffs which plunge to the sea. Yellow, too, are the winter melons for sale in crates at the market.
White and black set each other off in a chromatic duel. Most of the island’s houses are of characteristic Mediterranean style: white stucco with flat roofs (to facilitate the placement of cisterns to catch rain water) while garden walls are of lavic rock, black or charcoal gray. Some of the stuccoed houses are painted in pastel colors, enriching the color palette of Ustica.
And in the 1970’s, various artists painted colorful murals on the walls of many shops and homes in the island’s single village. Multi-colored tiles adorn other walls.
For me, these murals and wall tiles embody the rich chromatic range of Ustica’s landscape, underscoring the sense of color this island denotes.
And as I walked through the village of Ustica this visit, I found a sort of symbolic embodiment of the island’s chromatic spectrum: the varied colors of a wash drying on a clothesline were in perfect harmony with the shades of color in the wall mural below.
Click here to read about an Ustica treasure
Click here for more on the island of Ustica (including its food specialties!)
Click here for more about Sicily’s culinary traditions
Click here to read about a Siclian summertime specialty
Click here to read about a Mt. Etna trip (and the pistachio area of Sicily – recipe, too!)
Ustica denotes color