Capoliveri, Caput Liberi*
Article from 2010 Elbaper2 magazine. Written by Omero Papi, economist
"It certainly isn't an island, the island of Elba. I believed it was, too, for a long time, and that its "islandness" was its charm, the certainty of being able to leave ten kilometers of ocean between you and the world every night. We used to call it the rock to underline this apparent reality. Now though...I realize that it is not just an island...it's my homeland..." .
These profound words express the sentiments of Gaspare Barbiellini Amidei, the now deceased acclaimed writer and journalist (Carovana di carta, Rizzoli publishers, 1978) that evoke the 'strong' bond that ties this land to those who have left it and settled elsewhere in the world.
Capoliveri, this charming village that seems cloaked in blue is my hometown, the place where I lived my first years, where my parents taught me the values of life, where I return to spend my summer, where I seek refuge from my professional commitments, where I rediscover the places, the people and the perfumes of my past. Bartolommeo Sestini, apothecary in Capoliveri from the 1910's to the 1960's, wrote:
"The land of free men, rebel also to Napoleon's will, looking over perhaps the most astonishing panoramas of the island…In all of its vast territory harsh and wild mountains soar, stretching toward marvelous marinas…well known to those who wish to restore their soul in a chaste dialogue with a nature not yet disguised by an insane civilization." (Corriere Elbano Magazine, 1948, n. 432).
Astounding beaches now come to mind, together with bays and inlets, whose names remind us of magical places wrapped in mystery and legend. From Punta Calamita, a former mineral quarry marked by the signs of man's hard labour, the path unrolls along the cliff and eventually weds wild beaches and the turquoise sea. If my readers allow me, though, I would strongly recommend a guided visit to this ancient quarry beside the magical sun blessed beaches. Here you will appreciate the strenuous efforts of man in the extraction of iron. Here you will become acquainted with the tough conditions in which hundreds of miners lived until a just few decades ago.
Then, the wildest part of the Capoliveri land, with the Costa dei Gabbiani (Seagull Coast), with its rugged rocks and chaparral, seagulls gliding above the steep cliffs and the foamy sea, wild goats and wild boars scattered about the woods. This is the place where beautiful beaches have remained untouched for centuries, and their names are synonymous to enchantment and spells: Ginepro, Buzzancone, Calanova, Malpasso, Ferrato and Stagnone.
("To the East, on a velvet sea, among iridescent and turbulent waves, naked cliffs plummet downward and crack like pomegranates onto my fragile boat...Stagnone, without a harbour, has nothing but sea and wind hitting walls of dismay...").
*Caput is Latin for "Chief" or "Capital", while liberi is Latin for "free". Since Capoliveri has always been a land of vineyards and excellent wine, "Free Chief" could be related to the Liberator, also known as Bacchus, the God of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom; otherwise, it could be translated as "Free Capital" since in the middle ages Capoliveri had been the Capital of Elba, and therefore not subject to taxes. But Liber could also be an adjective. Being Capoliveri located on the top of a hill, the translation would be "free peak". But others say that the correct meaning is "free soul" as a tribute to the proud and independent nature of its people.
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