When Alby Rondina moved to Sicily to embrace a change of lifestyle and set up a kite school, he fell in love with the place. He waxes lyrical about the virtues of the island, which is technically Italian, but culturally unique as well as being globally recognized as a true culinary nirvana. After digesting this little feature, we’re pretty sure it will be high on your list of places to visit.
Photos: Laci Kobulsky and Prokite Alby Rondina
Sicily is officially part of Italy, but I barely consider it so. The weather, the places, the people… everything is different and unique down here. It’s my sixth year now being based pretty much permanently down here in Sicily and I couldn’t be happier to have made this move. The chance to kite and surf all year round, as many can only dream about, is something pretty special. All around Italy, and indeed most of Europe, you can get in the water in winter, but there is a big difference when you can do that without boots, gloves or freezing your nose! Temperatures very rarely drop below 15 degrees Celsius in winter, and on a nice Scirocco day (south east wind) in December you can easily get up to 25 degrees and enjoy a sunny day on the water. The closest point of Africa is only 250 kilometers away and we can totally see that on a strong south wind day when the sand from the desert is flying all around here! You can definitely see some African influence over here too, for example one of the typical foods of the area is cous cous, and Mazara del Vallo, a close town to Marsala where I live, has a proper African suburb.
When you fly in and look through your plane window you can get a good taste of what Sicily has to offer: mountains, volcano, lakes, wineries, beautiful beaches, small islands and clear blue water surrounding this little heaven. Out of all that is on offer here, I chose to be on the northwest corner, the most exposed to wind and waves you can be. It is here that the Romans decided to have a base because of the beauty and richness of the place. On top of that they were able to park their boats and rest in a big and safe lagoon. That’s exactly where we are, Lo Stagnone. It’s such a unique place from so many points of view. It has plenty of history with Roman, Greek and Etruschi ruins all over the place – there are museums and temples to visit that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It is one of the biggest natural reserves in Italy, with more than four thousand hectares of unpolluted and pristine water, and flamingos and unique bird species enjoy the life down here as much as we do. The lagoon is a perfect place for extracting salt out of the seawater, something that local people have been doing for decades. The salt lakes give an extra taste of exotic to the place, adding a bright pink to the crazy amount of colors already going on.
The richness of the air with salt, spices and a nice daily breeze is the perfect mix to create and taste some of the best wines and liquors in Italy. The Grillo white wine, the Nero D’avola red and the famous Marsala are just some of the many wine grapes you see right next to the water of Lo Stagnone lagoon.
On top of all this, we are out there enjoying the consistent and steady summer thermal wind that arrives like clockwork at lunchtime, and the strong Big Air days in spring and autumn. Not many places have such a continuous and long windy season and I’m stoked to be in one of them! Conditions for kiting are pretty unique too – just imagine the biggest lagoon ever in Brazil surrounded by all that Italy can offer. The wind comes mostly from the north, but the beauty of the spot is that every wind direction works. The south wind days provide the best conditions for Big Air as the Scirocco wind is very lifty and normally comes in strong, often over 35 knots in spring and autumn. The water stays flat no matter the wind; whether it’s 15 knots or 35, it’s always the same and that’s the beauty of it. The depth doesn’t get deeper than chest high in our part of the lagoon, and the seaweed helps in keeping the water nice and flat even on the strong wind days. The ability to always walk back is a massive security point in the mind of any beginner, so you can commit 100 percent to learning or improving tricks, knowing that if things go wrong, you’ll never have to swim or be rescued. I personally think it’s one of the best and easiest places to learn how to kite, and this is part of the reason I moved to Sicily to set up a kite school.
Being in a natural reserve and in Sicily is not an easy mix to develop your business, but we focus every year on improving our services. We are proud of our beach set up – it’s hard work maintaining it, but having more than 10 thousand square meters of grass is the dream scenario to pump your kite and chill on the beach! The Pe’ahi shacks are right there too, so you can enjoy a glass of wine or some local food in between sessions without deflating your kite while keeping a close eye on the conditions.
Autumn is on its way here, and the swells keep coming in every week. I feel like I need to take a look outside the lagoon and go and foil, wing, surf or kite in the waves. The possibilities here are endless, and the number of kite and surf spots around Lo Stagnone is pretty unbelievable. After six years I’m just getting to know some of them and the search keeps going…. ■
This feature originally appeared in TheKiteMag #44. To read the full issue, subscribe here.