Cala Gadir

Text by Gianluigi Ricuperati
Photographs by Luca De Santis

The natural range of colours and tones of the vegetation make this garden a miniature of everything that a Volcano can do to reach up to the sky without exploding. Melancholy and tender, the now extinct volcanoes have replaced pinnacles of smoke with the stalks of sculpted flowers, the grace of palm trees, the strangled green strength of succulents, certain pale little roses that don’t seem to fear the sun’s force. Everything resounds sweetly and neatly, but in reality it’s a suffocated and beautiful cry, which leads every atom of the earth towards the valley of stars.

At the beginning of July 2017, I was so lucky as to spend a few days at the splendid Cala Gadir, Giorgio Armani’s property on Pantelleria. Thinking back over those motionless hours, distracted by the wind and the extreme beauty of the place and the house, outside and in, I felt that my words were not enough. So, I’ve woven my words with those of one of my literary heroes, American writer Harold Brodkey, master of prose and the poetic and verbal representation of what it means “to be alive”, to be in the world. The two voices are put together to form a collage of tributes and sensations and therefore complete the text. Because while I was at Cala Gadir I was reading The Runaway Soul, his lifelong opus: I hadn’t picked it up for 20 years, since I was 19 and I had read it out loud in my room to improve my English, as my mother listened in, perhaps feeling a touch of pride, from behind the door. It’s 20 years now since my mother died. I’m always on the move, and every place I go, I take the genetic stamp of her gaze with me. She’s the one who made my way of looking at things. Children carry the shadow of their mothers’ design, to then perhaps pass it on to their children in turn. My parts are in Roman type, Brodkey’s in italics.   

Cala Gadir: a place where the answer to any question is “paradise”.

And the freshness of the air, the near-silence, […]

the great inner hounds are baying with moodedness. All sorts of inner selfhoods are clutching at stillness.

Cala Gadir: everyone stand, because here the Mediterranean is a sudden pause, a dancer who has just expressed herself with a complicated series of steps, as if to say: I’ve spent my life challenging the wind: I’ve spent a lifetime following the wind of details.

Then, all at once, the stuff is just light and shadow. […] I haven’t a life-and-death say with myself, my selves, time-and-mind, time-and-flesh, whatever it is that I am.

Cala Gadir: the sun goes down, after reaching its nadir: but you can’t see it, not from here: it’s a collections of dawns, not sunsets. Dawn requires effort and discipline, or an extreme passion for the night. Like the photographer desperately seeking the light that he once saw but hasn’t come across again, this house asks a lot, 

and gives back twice as much.  

Near the river some of the land was really flat, and the plowed and planted fields were darkish in color, a real brown, and the stuff coming up was really green, or strongly yellowish-green, planted so geometrically that the planting looked like notation of some kind, an idea spelled out stalk by stalk, row after row; that tickled the eye and the mind.

Thinking is a shadow fruit, shadows and weirdness in an electric orchard, blossoming with mirage after mirage, crumbingly real, then shadow paintings, mock photographs in black-and-white, then a mere sickly sense, an exposed underpainting, the overlay lost.  

Cala Gadir: a mother, a sister, a friend of black stone and cool homes. Its female substance allows itself to be accompanied by furniture that seems to move in slow motion, every effort becoming a slow maternal caress: the curtains that separate the patio from the outdoors, the elegant and welcoming sofas, the colonial atmosphere given by certain woods and matt whites: it embraces all, like a boy’s night-time conversation with the women in his family, a tale of fears hopes fantasies symmetries aspirations jokes games. And silences. Because Cala Gadir is a theatre of gifted silence, like the understanding of a love that lets you in.

Light and clouds and the shadows on the water, the birds overhead, their cries and skimming reflections, the boy, the reeds, the shore, the truth, the error—all of it exists here in the many-winged flutter and mutter in the moment.

Cala Gadir is above all Pantelleria, because Cala Gadir wouldn’t exist without Pantelleria: a name whose “panta” includes the whole classification of every living thing. It seems that at Pantelleria, as happens with islands fit for a king, Nature has called together all, or nearly all, of its disguises: the dry heat, the green shade, the black desert, the luxuriant life of flowers, the productive life of the vines that go right up to the shoreline and give man the sombre cheer of sweet passito wine. Pantelleria is a natural oven in the heart of Winter. Pantelleria is a simple harbour in the heart of Europe. Pantelleria is a landing project for military planes and other weird ideas. Pantelleria is a chorus of capers and trees. Pantelleria is the sentence: Cala Gadir is a word. Pantelleria is fixed: Cala Gadir flies.

It moves motionlessly into unexistencehood in actual moments where I am still, like a phonograph needle, noticing the deviations that become the course of argument of the thoughtlight in my mind. It becomes memory—usefulness—a flag, a cloudy thought. 

That’s it. The only thing I can’t swallow, here, in the perfection of the Mediterranean, is the idea of a cloudy thought. It doesn’t rain in Pantelleria’s imagination. It doesn’t rain in Cala Gadir’s imagination. There are shadows, of course there are: but they’re hard, powerful, sharp, no longer raw diamonds of summer light. Nothing is grey. This Paradise is a wave of warm colours hosted by the most elegant king of black and white. Cala Gadir is a chess game between the brightness of the cosmos and its beautiful brutality.