I lay on my back in the amethyst water of the Cala Matana on San Domino, looking up at the rim of scraggy sandstone rock just above sea level, at the billowing clouds of Aleppo pines where their tops just caught the evening sun and turned green-gold, and at the illimitable deep blue sky above, and thought ‘This is it. This is why people come here. This is what they come for. Loafing. Idleness. Escape.’
The Adriatic lacks the richness and diversity of islands that the Mediterranean has in such abundance. There are just the Tremeti off the coast of Puglia, and Venice and the islands of its lagoon. But it lacks in numbers, it makes up in simple, sybaritic pleasure.
San Domino, the largest of the Tremiti, is really just one large resort, artfully decked out as an island covered in beautiful pines. You can swim. You can lie in the sun. There are some very nice, easy paced walks. The adventurous can go diving. And that’s about it. Oh, there’s eating, of course. There’re plenty of restaurants, and pretty good they are, too, and a bar or two. But compared to the islands on the Med side of Italy, the shopping opportunities and other diversions are vestigial. People come here to get away from all that stuff. They want to slip in neutral, soak up primal delights and chill, chill, chill.
I don’t suppose Mussolini had this in mind when he used San Domino as a dumping ground for homosexuals between 1938 and 1939. The living conditions may have had more in keeping with a boot camp than a holiday camp, but, ironically, it was the only place in Europe at that time where gays could be openly gay.
So here I am, bobbing about in the sea, thinking about supper and not much else. That’s not quite true. Presently I’ll be heading up the Adriatic coast to Venice, but already I can sense that this wonderful odyssey is beginning to draw to a close. After four months free of cares, the fetters of a more ordered, responsible, humdrum existence are beginning to snap into place. Still, not yet, not yet.