Who: Walden viaggi a piedi and the women on the island of Capraia
A network of twelve female innovators, who lead the way to increasing employment and nature-based/cultural tourism
Overlooking the sea, we follow Elisabetta Stella- an environmental hiking guide, well adapted to the mountains, a botanical expert- between seasonal flowers, and her itineraries, going in places where women have joined forces, to share their knowledge of nature, culture, food and wine, all year round. On one thing they agree: "Capraia is an island of women ".
The women of the island meet at Franca Cerri's: the only workshop and bakery, where the locals and the visitors buy bread, honey, wine, local oil, all selected with passion. Then they go to the piazza, to Marida Bessi's. While Elisabetta was the one who had the idea of installing women in her itineraries of the most beautiful trails of the island, Marida, long-term events organizer, initiated the network, which grew by word of mouth. Antonella Vito is the link to the naturalistic Capraia through the Agenzia Viaggi Parco, where books are distributed, information on itineraries is offered, organizing from where to sleep to rentals, from boat taxis to excursions. And it is where the works of Rossella Faleni who defines herself as a marine artist and a travelling craftswoman, can be found.
In winter, the rocks are covered in tufts of daffodils, Violet Romulea and Daucus Carota. From the fields, one returns with white flowers from the trine garlic plant for frittatas, and at sea, one navigates within the protected Marine Reserve, where the islet of Peraiola stands out, already yellow with broom in February.
The trails lead up to Mortola, to the Punta del Teja at Monte Le Penne, and descend down to the Cala di Porto Vecchio, passing by the Valle di Portovecchio, an agritourism farm.
This is Rossana Chierichetti's kingdom: a lovely room for the guests, an allotment to cultivate, fruit and olive trees to prune, traditional recipes to savour such as Fecolino, a dessert or a tuscan soup with cauliflowers and seasonal vegetables. When Elisabetta arrives here with her group of hikers, the owners of the house offer books on the history of Capraia, information on fishing boats, maps of hiking paths and recipes. At night, under the stars, one can go down to the valley by the sea.
From March to May, one can go between the towers, the fortresses and the surrounding walls of the city, coloured purple from wallflowers and yellow from
Euphorbia, herbs used in the potions of the witch Circe, and go to Monte Le Penne amongst the asphodels, to the Sella Dell'Acciatorre or Stagnone, the white lake of buttercups. Helichrysums, myrtle, arbutus and rosemary line the trails on the way to Punta dello Zenobito, a protected oasis for the nesting grounds of the rare Ardouin Gull. Above, the migratory birds fly pass: this is the ideal time to see Bee-Eaters, Marsh Harriers, Red Throated Pipit as they stop to rest undisturbed on their way between Africa and the north.
Down in the town, near the castle, there is an obligatory gastronomical stop, at the Carabottino, otherwise known as the pinnacle of ichthyic tourism. From her husband's boat to the table, Siria Petrucci prepares the fish for the few highly sought after tables under the pergola, in an expression of fish carpaccio, pate, tuna in oil, ray wings, sauces to accompany homemade pasta, octopus stew (barracuda is Elisabetta's favourite dish). And then, not to be missed, pop by the boutique l'Astracu, decorated with white beams, driftwood and old breadboxes, owned by Scilla Maltinti, who chose to live here because " Capraia is emotion". Or browse through vintage clothing by Rossella Corsi in the magical space known as Kirke. From April to May, all the women on the island dust off their grandmother's recipes and go to the piazza, to the Sagra dei Sapori (Festival of Tastes), an event of gastronomic specialities from the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.
During the hot days of summer, Elisabetta recommends trips amongst the millstones and the fortresses up to Punta Bella Vista. And then, descending down to the bay of San Francesco, or, renting a boat and going snorkeling in the turquoise depths of Mortola, or in the cobalt blue of Cala Rossa, covered in tiny golden yellow flowers.
The extra hint? The sounds of the night. By boat to the cliffs, where, by day, one can witness the peregrine falcons in flight and the European shags busy fishing for their food, but at night, without the moonlight, the air is filled with the calls of the shearwater seabirds. Or, back on land, before the crack of dawn, music therapy by Rossana Galasso: three hours of pure energy "feeling" perfumes, colours, silence, Tibetan bells, singing, and no-touch massage. Or, arriving at the top of Portovecchio, breakfast at the agrotourism farm with jams, bread, honey and homemade butter.
In the village, after a dip in the bays of Zurletto or under the castle, one can enjoy books and art. In the summer evenings, piers and piazzas become cultural focal points, thanks to I Portatori di Libri, a cultural association run mainly by women. Rosella is the creator of vintage wear, Sonia Severi is the director of Porto, Rossana Galasso is a music therapist. Because of their intellectual passion and desire to generate work, they gathered organizers, librarians and artists from the island to organize exhibitions, children's workshops, reading sessions with authors, libraries, secondhand book markets, bookcrossing and nights in the libraries.
As the fruit mature, Elisabetta takes us on walks along the trails of birds and animals. Rossana's garden is awash with colours, Siria cooks sea breams and snappers, and tablecloths are laid out to savour wines and old recipes. Myrtle, mastic and strawberry trees are heavy with berries for the migratory birds that fly in large numbers over the archipelago. From October to December, during the mating season of the mouflon sheep, the air is filled with the echoes of the male sheep as they fight amongst themselves by butting their horns.
At the beginning of November, the ship from Livorno arrives carrying enthusiasts ready for the walking festival and those ready to savour the delights to be found at the largest squid festival in the world, with fishing competitions, parties at the port and gastronomic tasting of delectable dishes, all boasting squid as the main ingredient.
Meanwhile, everywhere myrtle is collected: at the agrotourism farm Valle Di Porto Vecchio, the visitors join in to pick the myrtle and Rossana explains how to distill the liquor and to make jam, in an authentic food laboratory with tidbits to try.
But the most coveted wine tasting is that made from the precious aleatico grape. It is made all year round, ascending the terraces covered in bush and redeveloped environmentally. Alice Bollani directs the agronomists, enologists and harvesters of the Azienda Vinicola La Piano, which she passionately inherited. Here, under the Holm oaks in the vineyards, thirsty travelers are treated to a lesson on the vine's life cycle, accompanied by passito and vermentino wines, laid out on tables, for them to try. Or she organises food tasting at Rossana's agrotourism farm, or visit to old wells, walls and churches, the first settlements on the island, among oleanders, roses and hedgerows, where time seems to have stood still.
Elisabetta Stella: www.waldenviaggiapiedi.it
Marida Bessi: Agenzia Viaggi Parco www.isoladicapraia.it , tel 0586 905071
Rossella Faleni: www.rossellafaleni.it
Rossana Chierichetti: www.isoladicapraia.it/vallediportovecchio/ tel. 0586905242
Siria Petrucci: Il Carabottino tel. 0586 905037 333 3938002
Scilla Maltinti, fb Astracù
Sonia Severi, Rossana Galasso, Rossella Corsi: fb I portatori di Libri , tel. 3383301427
Alice Bollani: Azienda Vinicola La Piana www.lapianacapraia.it/ tel. 392 0592988
Foto di Fabio Guidi