San Pietro (St. Peter) is a small island on the southwestern coast of Sardinia, Italy. Its main road, crossing the island from north to south, is 12 kilometers long, less than 10 miles! The eastern coast is lined by white sandy beaches, while the western coast is a continuous rocky cliff and it is on one of those rocks that the Capo Sandalo Lighthouse stands.
Fifty-eight year old Bruno Colaci is the lighthouse keeper here. Colaci is an austere, hearty type of individual, a modern hermit, one of those men who can still lead a secluded and silent life in an age of constant rush.
While climbing the 124 steps in the lighthouse to the lantern room at the top, Bruno recounted his life and how he became a keeper of the light. He entered his first lighthouse at the age of four. At the end of WWII, his father, a former seaman, obtained his first lighthouse keeper's job in 1945. As a child, he travelled around Italy and lived at a number of different lighthouses that his father was assigned to. Some of the light stations were on the mainland, however, many were located on small remote islands, where he recalled that in times of storms, they had to wait sometimes up to 15 days for relief and food. On some mainland stations he was required to walk five to six kilometers to attend school.
When it was time for him to enter the work force, he thought it would be nice to find a different type of work than what his father did. But lighthouse living was in his blood, and, apparently, his destiny and he soon accepted a position as a lighthouse keeper. After serving at a variety of different lighthouses, he became the keeper at Capo Sandalo Lighthouse in 1972 and has been here ever since.
Bruno is especially proud of the lantern and lantern room at Capo Sandalo Lighthouse, where he proudly showed off the highly polished Fresnel lens. Although the lighthouse was built in 1864 and shows its age, you can plainly see that he loves his lighthouse and treats it like it is one of his children.
When I ask him about life here at this lonely corner of the world, on this windy isolated rock, Bruno answers that he is happy here, in this small paradise. He speaks slowly, a few words, then a long silence, intermitent words like the light from the lens. He says you become like this living at a lighthouse; he is never in a hurry.
Bruno has a family that he loves deeply, however, they must live in the nearby town of Carloforte. After all the children must attend school and he wants them to be more comfortable than he was as a child. He says he does not feel alone. He visits his family every chance he can, and each summer his wife and children join him at the lighthouse.
Although the lighthouse is now automated, requiring less work, he still climbs the stairs every day and cleans and polishes everything in the lantern room where he enjoys the beautiful view of the sea, rocks and nature. He says that being in the lantern room is like spending every day at the top of the world. As he said that, I could understand how he feels, because I felt like I had climbed not only the 124 steps, but Mount Everest itself.
This story appeared in the
September 1999 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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