Do you know that I’ve finally made it to La Maddalena? I’ve been wanted to visit the island since the day we have found your war diary and my curiosity has been growing ever since. I still remember the light in your eyes when you read your stories to us with your mind going back to relive those days.
I’m on the ferry now in front of the small port, waiting to dock. I look around and I recall your words and your memories about the day the Americans planes sank the Gorizia and the Trieste, the Italian battle cruisers that were considered up until then the jewels of the Italian Navy.
La Maddalena must have been very different then. Now is a very famous tourist spot. The port is packed with people and along its streets you can find shops, restaurants and several kind of different businesses. We’ve brought the car because I really want to see as many places as possible during this day on the island. We need to make a required stop to Caprera as well, Garibaldi’s island, and the museum that bares his name. There are so many people here and we need to stand in line for two hours in order to see his house, his things and the famous tree he planted when his first daughter was born and that now stands tall and big in the middle of the courtyard of his home in Sardinia. We drive back on the bridge that connects the two islands and start our La Maddalena tour. There are the buildings that used to be the American Navy headquarters and offices; now empty and abandoned since the day somebody decided the NATO presence was not longer necessary, some people agreeing to it, some people regretting this decision. The island has been at the center of controversy in the past few years. The G8 reunion was supposed to take place here and a lot of renovations were started, until the then Prime Minister decided to move the event to L’Aquila, where few days earlier the earthquake had destroyed main part of the city and devastated the entire region. Nothing has been done since and some of the areas seem to belong to a ghost village.
We drive along the east coast. You know very well this is not a big island so we can stop every here and there to enjoy the view. Some parts are still wild and immaculate, that I like to think my eyes see the same things you saw then. Maybe you have been through the very same paths and the very same roads. After a short pit stop in a small bay for a refreshing swim in these magnificent waters, we drive along the road that takes us to the highest point of the island. There’s a spot called “La Guardia Vecchia”, most likely an old lookout post. I still remember you words: when you heard the sound of the bombs falling from the sky and saw the smoke raising high in the air, your commander sent you to check out the situation and report back to him. I ask myself if this is the place where you saw the ships sinking and the lifeless bodies of your comrades floating on the waters between Palau and La Maddalena. I would like to know where the cemetery is, the one where you had to bury your dead companions, some time having to replace the bodies in the graves, since there was very little room available for so many deaths. I’m up here now, in the same place where you can see the entire bay below and tears come to my eyes and I start to choke. This is the same place where my dad has lived one of the most crucial events of his life.
Dad, isn’t it silly I cry just thinking of it? Isn’t it silly I cry because I know you are not longer with me and I can’t come home and tell you about the things I’ve seen today and the emotions that filled my heart knowing you were also here a long time ago? I don’t know where to send this letter. You didn’t leave an address where I could reach you when you left back in July. But you know you still very much alive in my heart and maybe my words will get to you no matter what and no matter where you are.
I love you.