Pier Paolo Pasolini and Philippe Séclier on the “long road of sand”

Pier Paolo Pasolini-Philippe Séclier,

Lerici © Philippe Séclier

In 1959, writer Pier Paolo Pasolini drove his Fiat Millecento along Italy’s coastline, starting from Ventimiglia in June and reaching Trieste in August.

During his lay pilgrimage, he touched on every famous seaside resort – Sanremo, Livorno, Fregene, Naples, Taranto, Syracuse, Pescara, Ancona, Venice, and many more – and wrote a travel journal, published in three installments by “Successo” magazine between July and September. Thus what Pasolini had described as a “little, stenographed ‘Reisebilder’” became “The Long Road of Sand”.

In 2001, forty-two years later, French photographer Philippe Séclier decided to “see what [Pasolini] had seen, understood and heard, traveling along the same road, in his company, just like he had described it.”

In 2015, forty years after Pasolini’s tragic death on November 2nd 1975, publishing house Contrasto produced a new edition of his travel diary – including new sections that had previously been edited out – under the same title of the original reportage (“La lunga strada di sabbia” in Italian) and with the addition of beautiful photographs by Séclier – who has said, “I hope each picture I take has an echo of his words”.

And finally, for the first time this incredible portrait of Italy will be also accessible to a foreign audience thanks to the English translation, edited by publishing house Contrasto.

Here are a few select fragments of Pasolini’s words and a small gallery of Séclier’s beautiful shots.

“That night in Naples I did not go to sleep, and just went all over like crazy. Some loafed about in the gardens, others opened a new café – all red, called Caffè del Sole –, over there some sailors made their arrangements with women […], over here some middle-class men rocked on shiny bars’ lounge chairs. I went to Posillipo and back for three or four times. I stayed up until down, saw the Vesuvius so close I could almost touch it, so red and flared up against the sky – as if it could not hide Paradise any longer” (Naples, July).

“I travel along the same coastline that Boccaccio described as the most beautiful in the world, in a short story of his seven hundred years ago. He was right. Stunned by the sun, it has remained the same for centuries, physically exuding beauty as if beauty were some kind of frothing, halo, or ray. This is the only place in the world where beauty directly creates wealth, so people here live in some kind of tranquil comfort, letting beauty do all the work for them” (from Naples to Vallo Lucano, July).

“Ravello is like a spur suspended over a void, with hills overlooking the sea right below. You realize it only at the end, when you reach Villa Cimbrone, which is Ravello’s highest spot. At the end of the road, a small door appears in front of you. You go in and cannot hold back a shriek of wonder: there is a splendid cloister immediately at the left, then a charming palace, and straight ahead a tree-lined road that leads you across a fabulously neo-classical garden, ending abruptly against the sky” (from Naples to Vallo Lucano, July).

“I walk along the small, desert beach at the town’s foot. And in the silence that is both inside of me and outside, I feel some long, voiceless collapse. The entire Apulian coastline dissolves in this quiet, after flaring up in my eyes and ears for mornings and afternoons of pre-human, sub-human chaos. Salento is lost, stern like a northern land, with its Greek-like towns on a centuries-old strike; Brindisi is an explosion: the most chaotic, furious, regurgitating of Italian beaches; the wonderful Otranto and Ostuni are the South’s cities of silence; Bari is every city’s marine model; finally, Gargano: with its cathedral of supreme beauty, over the sea, right above the black and blond naked rascals among the rocks” (Rodi Garganico, July).

“Grado is a stone’s throw from Aquileia, past the new thin bridge, flat among the flat islands and flat lagoon water. The gray-blue of its sky and the green of Friuli’s trees, the softened vermilion and cobalt of its small port, and the gold of its youths’ hair make it a place of the soul” (from Venice to Trieste, August).

“I leave a small, bleeding part of my heart every time I leave a place, even when I’ve been there only a few hours – and my friends laugh about it.”

Photographs by Philippe Séclier are taken from “La lunga strada di sabbia” (Contrasto, Rome 2015).

February 15, 2016