Pardini’s Hermitage

“Disembark on the right, ask for Alberto at the yellow boatmen box”. It is early in the morning, the sky is clear, the sea is calm. The journey from Giglio Porto to Cala degli Alberi takes twenty minutes on the blue, just long enough to go back seventy years. The engine is switched off, the colours fade. We have arrived. This story begins in 1950, a father and son, Frediano and Federigo, a sailing boat and an island.

Cala degli Alberi at that time had nothing apparently precious, only land, rocks, sea and a few stables for animals, but in that piece of land Frediano saw everything, above all his dream of freedom. He bought the land, planted the trees, built a holiday home for his family, far from everything and everyone, and so Federigo grew up together with those rocks, those trees and that freedom. A few years later the house began to welcome paying guests, who returned year after year, accepting the compromise of family hospitality in exchange for privacy, silence and a starry sky. Not much has changed during these years, the house has remained the same, intact. The guests, no more than thirty at a time, spread out during the day on the terraces by the sea and in the evening they meet in the lounge and on the terraces to talk about life. The gong rings and dinner is served, natural products from the family garden, cheese and milk from the animals that have their own name and live and grow a few metres away. Marcella, Federigo’s daughter, cooks with her team and under the careful and precious supervision of her mother Barbara, Veronica, the other daughter, welcomes guests and follows them scrupulously during their stay. In summer the team expands and is enriched by the arrival of cousins and grandchildren, each with their own role at the Pardini: they spend the summer together, working and preserving this unspoilt place. Federigo, whom everyone now calls Ghigo, has grown up, he is an 80 years old gentleman who has realised his father’s dream, he has preserved his land and his memories, he has hands worned by work and afaded tattoos, he has the eyes of a child and the temperament of a young boy. Plaid shirt tied in a knot at the waist and tools in hand, he looks after his treasure every day. He wakes up early, before everyone else, just as he retires early to sleep, to rest, because every day at home there is something to do, something to repair, something still to build.

Words and photographs Francesca Romana Fontana.

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