Browse all

Inside the parties of American soldiers in Sicily

The meeting of US soldiers and young people from Catania in the shots of Marco Coniglione

Inside the parties of American soldiers in Sicily
The meeting of US soldiers and young people from Catania in the shots of Marco Coniglione
Pin
3152
Inside the parties of American soldiers in Sicily The meeting of US soldiers and young people from Catania in the shots of Marco Coniglione

When we asked photographer Marco Coniglione what exactly an American Party in Sicily was, he admitted: «It's a bit difficult to describe it to someone who has never experienced one». And in fact, words are not enough to tell their chaotic, vital and somewhat impetuous atmosphere – the images are much better. Just the images, or in this case the photographs of the Ammeri Ca series, are the best tool to find yourself catapulted on those crowded dancefloors, in which «it almost feels like you're in a music video». The photographic series shows what happens during the parties that for many years have been going on near Catania, where the Sigonella Air Base is located, a Sicilian enclave of the American army 15 kilometers from Catania.

Opened in '59, the base is one of the main hubs of the American army in the Mediterranean and hosts over 4000 people including soldiers, civilians and family members of the staff. Inside, you live like in the USA but it would be a mistake to think that the community of Americans living in the base is separate from the outside world: «Those who were teenagers in the 80s and 90s believed that they were all special soldiers who came here not to live and settle in with the local culture», tells us Coniglione. «But a few years later, everyone understood that those soldiers are nothing more than young adults, far from home, who work and train a lot, but who also need to unplug and spread their culture, exchanging ideas and habits with the locals». The base opened its doors to the public for annual anniversaries, such as Halloween, but it also happened that the Americans inside it spread around: «It was not difficult to find small neighborhoods full of Americans in the outskirts of town and if you knew the right people it was easy to get into this or that party».

A meeting of cultures, that of the US soldiers and that of the deep South of Italy, which develops through a small constellation of discos on the beach, sandwich kiosks and clubs scattered between one city and another: «The Banacher was a popular spot around the early 2000s, when I was still a kid. On Saturdays, they had a track only for Americans. The fixed stop after the disco were the sandwich trucks near the Catania station. We ate and then went to the night club to do after – they also brought pizzas and chicken wings with them at the night club. Today the parties are less, they throw them at the Tremors or there's a guy named Gana that organizes them. There were places like Il McIntosh in Catania, then one year the Cucaracha was in fashion, the year after the Capannine, then the Lido Jolly or the Barbara Disco Lab. They changed the premises but the people were good or bad the same. At least the Italians». 

Over the course of twenty years, the relationship between locals and Americans has gone far beyond simple parties, opening up to deeper cultural exchanges but also coloring itself with a certain melancholy: «The ugly side was becoming attached to someone who would leave within three years. Sometimes people fell in love, more often it was just friendships», recounts Coniglione. What seems to emerge from the photographer's words, however, is the sense of a mutual encounter – that of Americans who meet the colorful culture of the South, with its jokes in dialect, its local food and its relaxation; but also that of the Sicilians who in the encounter with that little piece of America that is Sigonella find «a society free from prejudices, at least more than the ancient mentality still so rooted in Sicily».