Duke Luigi Silvestro Camerini

With the news of the end of the war, a young anti-fascist landed in Ischia. He came from the confinement of the nearby island of Ponza, where he had been relegated by the fascist government for having publicly contested Italy's entry into the war alongside Nazi Germany. It was Luigi Silvestro Camerini. The central political register defined him as landowner, born in 1906 and residing in Piazzola sul Brenta, with a degree in literature. In reality he was the son of one of the most enlightened, progressive and wealthy men in the Veneto region, Paolo Camerini, whose commitment to industrial and social progress had profoundly transformed the physiognomy of a small rural town into one of the most industrialized and advanced in the Veneto: power plant, brick kiln, chemical fertilizer factory, cement factory, jute factory and a railway. In the thirties the very young Camerini, who grew up in that environment, had therefore already lived and seen a lot, and above all he had traveled a lot, going as far as Asia, where he had spent a lot of time in India, becoming passionate about botany and landscaping. From Ponza, freed by the allies, led to Ischia, he fell in love with it. He loved the spas and made mud baths at the establishment that drew from the La Rita spring, which was located so high that it could not be polluted by any infiltration. He was staying at the Morgera pension in Casamicciola, where he made friends with Michele Castagna, a young local, who would later be a precious and indispensable mediator with the difficult local reality.

Those were the years where for everyone the islands of the Mediterranean represented the long-dreamed image of peace and freedom and, visiting the island, the young man from Veneto fell in love with a large cove, the bay of San Montano, and dreamed of recreating there the landscape and environment of a bay he had seen on the west coast of the island of Ceylon, then an English colony: the bay of Negombo. He then bought a series of farmer properties that were fragmented by repeated divisions, and he brought plants from all over the world to transform the place into an immense garden.

With his vast humanistic culture - from his father he inherited the love for books and in the residence in Veneto he had a library of forty thousand books - he took care to reconstruct the history of the ancient bath, the balnea Sancti Montani, whose ruins were still visible in the center of the bay and into which several veins of thermal water flowed. In the modern age those baths had been abandoned, perhaps because the nearby springs of Lacco were easier to reach, but their fame had remained, because it was a hyperthermal spring, which despite being close to the sea, was not contaminated by it. In 1975 he collected in a small volume a very accurate bibliographic review dedicated to the baths of San Montano and the bay that was now his property and, in a passage written by him, he told the story of himself in that bay. In the distant 1940s, as soon as he arrived in Ischia, he had paid "handsomely for thirty or more small plots neglected by too many owners" and had set up a company, Cinarime, an anagram of his surname. That company defended the bay by all means from the aggression of tourism development that affected most of the Italian coasts in the 1950s and 1960s. In the years in which the architectural design, prompted by the extraordinary intervention of the Cassa del Mezzogiorno, was projected onto large and devastating hotel complexes, Camerini developed a project, which he called "Residence", which included a series of small pavilions hidden among the vegetation of the bay. It was probably inspired by the holiday villages that were springing up in several parts of the Mediterranean, especially on the French initiative. But his plan was never accepted; as he wrote, "the practice, duly approved in Rome, was covered up by the Region". Meanwhile, the bay was thickened with continuous planting and still defended by Camerini from the aggression of seaside tourism, which asked to reach the beach with a driveway road. But the local resistance to the Negombo project was also of another nature.

Archaeological excavations conducted in the bay had brought to light the remains of a Greek necropolis. In 1955 a small cup was found in a funeral kit, now known as the cup of Nestor, kept on the island in the museum of Villa Arbusto, which presented one of the oldest examples of Greek writing and bore a fragment of poetry contemporary to that of the famous epic poem attributed to Homer.

The protection of the bay in fact imposed an immobility on private initiative and strengthened the resistance also coming from the administrative circles, but between "unspeakable and incredible hostility" in 1971 the Negombo thermal park became a reality. While waiting for the spa concession, a first Olympic seawater swimming pool was set up, followed immediately afterwards by the thermal balneotherapy center, fed by a vein of water between 70 and 80°C (158-176°F) pumped to about six meters (19ft) deep. The Negombo thus began its history spread over eleven hectares (22,24 acres) of greenery, four (9,88 acres) of which in the thermal park.

In the Eighties Negombo was able to intercept the change in tourist culture underway and understand that the demand was beginning to express a need for total well-being. The attention left the beach and moved elsewhere, in the sensual and beneficial relationship with nature. In 1988 Negombo was reworked, and with the intervention of the landscape designer Ermanno Casasco, the design and presence of the natural context was strengthened, looking for every space and opportunity to insert the thermal resource: water cascades, thermal stoves, hot grottos, swimming pools, hot and cold paths.

Since the nineties, the success of Negombo and the thermal parks confirms that if it is possible to talk about the resumption of thermalism, it is because the waters, mud baths, grottos, together with other natural elements are sought as a response to bodies fatigued by aggressiveness and poisoned by artificiality.

The search for total well-being explains the success of many structures that since the 1990s have set up hot pools and thermal paths, wellness and beauty treatments for body care. Many define themselves, of course, improperly, thermal baths and spas, but in fact they use waters that are neither mineral nor thermal, making up for the heating of the water, aromatization, nebulization, hydromassage and much more with technology, in the extreme attempt to reproduce nature.

Una Seconda Natura

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