Off the main shipping routes, with few inhabitants, and untouched by the mass tourism experienced by the other islands, Alicudi still retains its natural charm. When you arrive on Alicudi, you experience a way of life long forgotten elsewhere. Here, not even the large groupers are distrustful and let you observe them freely.
Given the peculiar terrain, there are no roads or carriageable tracks at all and, consequently, no cars, motorbikes or bicycles either.
"Casa Mulino" is a typical Aeolian house overlooking the harbor of Alicudi that offers tourists on holiday homes to rent rooms and apartments, all…
In order to face the lava stairways, which are to be found everywhere, you have to rely on your own feet or the pretty donkeys, which are bred on the island and carry goods and luggage from the port to the houses dotted across the hillside. There are no discotheques, pizzerias, take-aways, pubs, shops, hairdressers’ or amusement arcades, only a hotel with a bar and restaurant, two grocery stores and a newsagent’s and souvenir shop; however, it is a charming place, where you can hide away and enjoy a different kind of holiday.
The ancient name of Alicudi is Ericusa, which comes from ‘erica’ (heather), a plant still to be found flourishing on the hillsides and in the inaccessible valleys of the now extinct volcano. The base of the volcano is situated at 1,500 metres below sea level and it reaches a height of 675 metres on Monte Filo dell’Arpa.
The island is the most westerly of the Eolian islands and the first that you reach, when sailing from Palermo or Ustica.
For this reason, despite being harsh and isolated and completely lacking in sheltered coves and anchorages, it was an important staging-post for mariners in ancient times. Inhabited since prehistoric times and in the Hellenistic period, it preserves a reminder of the past in the remains of an early bronze age settlement (16th and 17th centuries BC.), which was laid out near the Palumba cliff.
On the east coast of the island, scattered fragments of Roman pottery are to be found, perhaps the remains of some shipwreck. Alicudi, like the other islands, suffered centuries of pirate incursions, with raids on both what little the poor inhabitants had and the people themselves, who were sold as slaves. The terror of these ‘visits’ forced the inhabitants to flee and left Alicudi almost uninhabited for the whole of the Middle Ages, until 1600. Bearing witness to these tragedies is the “Timpune delle Femmine“, the name given to a rugged and difficult to reach zone, where the women and children hid during the incursions by marauders and privateers. Re-population, from 1600 onwards, brought a very small number of patronymics to the island, so, as a consequence of intermarrying, it has become very difficult to distinguish the origin of each individual.
Hence the practice of the so-called insults, nicknames which allow the identification of each family in the multitude of Tarantos, Russos and few others: family surnames such as ‘cavaddi’ (horses, from the height of one of their ancestors), ‘mustazzoni’ (from the moustache of a great-grandfather), ‘iatti’ (cats), ‘friscaleddu’ (the whistler) are a few of the nicknames, which give a touch of colour to the local way of speaking.
The population, which is currently under 150, was over 1,200 at the beginning of the century, before the large scale emigration to America and Australia. They exploited the land to such an extent that they managed to export part of the olive oil and caper production. Impressive terracing with dry-stone walls and a network of mule tracks continue to bear witness to the activity and organisation of this essentially farming community, whose principal settlements were high up, near the cultivated areas.
As on the other islands, the principal obstacle to agricultural development was constituted by the lack of water sources. The problem of water, which is exclusively rainwater, was solved thanks to a very elaborate system of water collection in tanks: every house still has its own, often more than one. Some can be found, here and there, in the fields and were fed by the few streams that formed during the rains. The inhabitants, called arcudari, are well known for their physical strength, gentle giants devoted to fishing and farming, which they have now rather neglected, as shown by the overgrown terraces, in order to dedicate their time to the growing number of tourists who choose to visit this isolated place.