How to put in words the magical love of Palma & Pierre, the #TwoPsUnderTheVolcano of this incredible journey/wedding on the island of Stromboli? Tough task, I must say. Yet I adore challenges. But allow me to jump a little back in time. Sit. Read. Enjoy. So here we go…
About fourteen years ago, on my enchanted volcanic island of Stromboli, and precisely at Locanda Barbablù, a sort of local Palma’s, I heard loud and clear a miscellaneous group of New Yorkers driving the monolingual staff crazy for miscommunication on the menu. I immediately snooped in to see how I could help. I have always loved speaking English, or I better say, just ‘speaking’. Plus these people were from New York, the city I have always loved. They turned out to be a wonderful and bizarre group of people, who nowadays are my family in New York: Palma, Pierre, Chloe-Rose and Amber. Real New Yorkers made of heart, soul and guts. Welcoming, generous, giving and true. And every year I have the pleasure of spending time with my American-Italian-French family in their beautiful and magic nest at Palma’s on 28 Cornelia Street right in the heart of the Village. The love they pour into everything they do is truly palpable and it shines on souls vibrating on the same wavelength.
Being the peculiar couple they are, of course Palma & Pierre would not have chosen an ordinary setting to celebrate their extraordinary love affair, already sealed 34 years ago by a civil ceremony. When Palma & Pierre decided to finally tie the knot in a church, it had to be the Chiesa Rosa di San Bartolo, the romantic pink church in the Piscità section of the island of Stromboli. Quite a journey for them and their closest friends to embark upon and it really was a journey, with a few hiccups on the way. Guests lost their luggage in different European cities, the boat ride was tough, the climate sizzling hot, the impact with the volcano intense and incandescent. But they all made it on the island safe and sound. And the three-day-wedding was about to begin …
Palma & Pierre had wanted for the longest time to have Neva & Andrea, another spectacular and peculiar couple, taking care of their celebrations. So they organized an aperitif with ‘piccoli piatti’ at Locanda del Barbablù on the eve of the wedding, Friday June 23rd. All their friends joined in sipping Sicilian wine, toasting the happy couple and tasting Neva’s renowned pasta fritta, melanzane alla parmigiana, insalatina di totani … It was a tribute not only to the TwoPs but also to Neva & Andrea, since it was the very last time they allowed an event on their premises. But saying no to Palma & Pierre was not an option and the evening, lit by candle lights and scented by the wonderful flower arrangements made by the lovely David and Jules, was intimate and just-the-way-they-wanted-it. Palma & Pierre were amazing hosts as they always are: adorable, chatty, funny and heartfelt. We were all washed over by their incredible loving spell and thus we spent the rest of the days, enraptured by their charm, even more so on such an intriguing Mediterranean island. The majority of guests had never been to Stromboli before and they were in awe of the magic surrounding this island everywhere: from the rocky beaches to the black sand, from the powerful dawns to the melancholic sunsets, from the triumph of flowers to the mighty nature and of course to the supreme Iddu, Him, how the locals call the active volcano spreading its ashes and its almighty energy all over the island and the islanders, while also driving people nuts. That’s why Stromboli is called the island of lunatics and proof to that it has been my haven for over 20 years. An incredible loony-bin where human instincts, even the most trapped and buried, simply burst out and flow. Iddu is our geophysical shrink, a whirlpool for our deepest emotions, finally freed to erupt in all their forces. There’s no place like this on earth. And this is where our TwoPs decided, of all the places in the world, to join their beautiful souls into holy matrimony. To say it was quite powerful sounds understated. Their love and its setting was not.
Saturday was the big TwoPs day. The night before the bride had to stitch the wedding dress and she was so relaxed and casual about it. Only Palma could muster such coolness. Because she knows what really matters. Details are important, yet not essential.
At five pm we all headed toward the Chiesa Rosa in the heat of a Sicilian late June afternoon. The chubby priest, Don Giuseppe, was already frantic and I, along with Barbara and another guest, were summoned for the readings, which had to be in Italian and English. Of course I told the delightful and proper Barbara that there was no way José that I was going to read the most religious parts, it will snow in hell before that. So she had to take them. Take that. And it was hilarious as there were a few translation “stumble” and everyone was just laughing because after all a wedding must be something jolly. That’s Amore.
The ceremony, blessed by the charming Amber singing Amazing Grace and by a formidable violinist, was intimate and romantic. Our happy couple was blissful as their guests delighted to be here celebrating their true love. There were flowers, rice, music, friends, wine and an amazing Sicilian singer with local musicians when they exited the church. Everyone started dancing to the popular tunes, embracing each other and sharing their gratitude for being part of such an amazing and unique event. The venue selected for the wedding dinner, the outdoor space of Parco Parco, had been fitted with small lights and candles, flowers and painted stones (thank you Melody and Paola), and it welcomed the arrival of the TwoPs and their friends. And again there was music, food, wine, nature, magic and above all, love. Yes, I know love is a recurring word. But I am writing about the TwoPs under the volcano, so love is a given with these twos …
How blessed and lucky I felt being a part of it because just bathing in their powerful sentiment is a blessing. Trust me, my eyes as I am writing are watery. This is the how emotional this wedding was on such a unique and explosive island. And then comes Sunday. The day of rest. Every guest was on its own for the day until 6pm when everyone was summoned to the dock. Dress code: comfortable shoes, windbreaker but most of all pioneer spirit. Everyone showed up… From the unforgettable Dina, a true force of nature (and I know what I am writing about), a D’Orazio doc, and btw what a family this D’Orazio tribe is, to the impossibly beautiful Chloe-Rose and Amber, to the bizarre Barbara and the incredible Alexandra, to the lovely Linda and the wonderful Jennifer (sorry guys, I am a woman’s woman, but yes also the men were fabulous. A certain R in particular for me …) Six zodiacs were awaiting to bring us to the other side of the moon, or in this case of the island. Ginostra, a tiny fraction inhabited by thirty people and a donkey. It was magic. We docked at the harbor and we all climbed the mulattiera (the donkey trail) to reach the Lilliputian square with a rundown pink church and a single drogheria providing you with all you need: wine, cheese, salami, tomatoes and capers (because, in truth, what the f… do you need more on the Aeolian islands?). We all enjoyed aperitivo and then from winding roads we reached the peak of the island and of the three days … La Stella restaurant, niched in a remote area of Ginostra. And then it was absolute bliss. I worked behind the lines of this wedding and before the bliss happened there was quite a storm going on. But when the day came, every little thing just fell into the right place, even when it was not, it was just right. We arrived at La Stella in time to sip in the sun merging into water – yes someone calls it simply sunset but on Stromboli nothing is quite simple – with the restaurant staff in such a trepid and anxious wait. Expectations were high. And they were met and satisfied. Candle lighting, the other islands looming on the horizon, Palma & Pierre and everyone else just in tune and in love with everything and everyone. On such an energetic island, emotions run vivid. Sunday night at La Stella was the peak. And if I write about peaks, it’s because I know about heights and highs.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better than this, it did. Jeez it really did. While still enraptured by the ‘sun dipping in the sea’, Francesco d’Orazio, Dina’s son, out of nowhere picked up a violin… Well, not a violin, a Stradivarious. And he began playing Bach. Forgive my absolute ignorance about classic music but I can only report in words what my body and soul, and all the others’, felt… Bliss, Enchantment, Gratitude … Francesco d’Orazio is a renowned solo violinist. Here we were in Ginostra in the middle of the Mediterranean, lulled by sea waves and struck by Iddu, permeated by an enviable love affair, precisely what every human being searches for in life. And TwoPs had, have and will have it. Better still: they own it. Yet they don’t inspire envy; they just inspire love. How rare and precious. Francesco charmed us and all the thirty inhabitants (also the donkey) by playing Bach, in a totally silent and resilient haven. My body reaction was and still is goose-spots whenever I mention it. And then we had the dancing with the kids, the arising moon and the walk descending in the semi-darkness to reach our sailors escorting us back to Stromboli. And to top off an already perfectly tasty, succulent and rich adventure, Iddu, HIM the volcano as they call it down under here, participated in the joy and happiness by sprouting and exciting all its excitement. At the Sciara Del Fuoco, we all stopped with the zodiacs to await in awe and cherish our pagan GOD: Iddu. No wonder, our beloveds chose this forsaken, awfully difficult to reach island, to celebrate their religious wedding: Iddu called them here. I met them here. I met you guys here.
How much more love can one handle?
I humbly give thanks to my, our, TwoPs for everything and now … let’s go with the funnies.
As when 72 hours before the Sunday trip to the fraction of Ginostra, on the other side of the island, I got a frantic call from Pasqualino, our fabulous wedding planner, because he needed me to accompany the happy couple along with the divine Vanina and Anne-Marie, Alexandra and John, to have a sort of rehearse dinner. Rumors, in fact, around the island were saying that the cook had changed and the food wasn’t that good. We had to go and try for ourselves. So we went with a zodiac, breeze in our hair, frantic as you can only be 48 hours before a wedding. The La Stella staff was panicking. I was too. And then the island did what it does best: it swept away the worries and provided the beauty. Settled, we loved it.
All the guests became friends with each other. Coming from different worlds, backgrounds, ages, we all developed a profound and sincere relationship between us. It was so much fun for me to see them bathing in the magic spell of “my” (now yours too) Stromboli. To feel you felt it too. To perceive how this wonderful world and above all this wonderful couple managed to bring us together and tie an emotional knot among us. Again, we are blessed.
I did “work” behind the scenes and I am Italian so I saw the locals truly panicking, the chef arguing with the “waiters” (not very professional but still they tried their best), the florist going bananas because the flowers were not as expected, Andrea screaming to Neva and Neva telling him “vaffanculo” in her Venetian accent, I sensed the turmoil going on before the Big Day. Strombolians are quite peculiar to say the least. They were about to explode à la Iddu. So much fun to watch it because they, we, are all lunatics. But with a good heart.
Being “set up” with a very decent and adorable man who could not see it coming. Volcano Robbie, a force of nature, erupting all her jolly and folly energy on him. Bestowing lightness where darkness resided. Taking him out of his comfort zone many many times. Almost killing him on the rocky beach, screaming at him “run faster” to catch the ferry, embarrassing him with my untamable self. But mostly loving every minute of it, together. I met a wonderful soul. And I know we will know each other for the rest of our lives. Again, blessed.
As usual, I poured out a lava of words, but that’s me. I wanted to give you the gift of a written memory of what you gave us all: love. When we needed it the most, you TwoPs-Under-The-Volcano brought us together and the circle of love is widened. We all came back from Stromboli, from the dream, with a solid reality: we have each other and new amazing friends. Again, my eyes are watery. I truly feel you are my family.
We Are Family I Got All My Sisters (and Brothers and … Daddy) With Me.