When I step off the boat that took me from Salina to Alicudi, I immediately notice the difference. I hear the sound of people chatting, I hear the mules hauling heavy boxes up the steep alleys. The absence of noise, of traffic, and of people harassing me for a taxi, hotel or otherwise makes me feel at ease right away. I inquire at the ticket office for the boats about boats to Palermo, and it turns out that they have been suspended a few days before. I ask the ladies about accommodation, and they advise me to try Isabella: just follow the promenade until you see two trees, turn right, and ask around. An old lady with a cane who just came from the same hydrofoil as me offers to guide me, so I follow her and her dog, chatting about her journey, and the island. The room is perfect, with a balcony on the sea side, and I am invited for a drink with the ladies - the woman who accompanied me joins in as well. I then explore the seaside: even here, it is obvious that this island is volcanic, by the black stones on the beach and the lava formations. I am surprised to see a couple of cars, and wonder what they do on an island without roads. I end up having a drink in a small restaurant, and am asked to leave when it fills up with people; there are very few alternatives here. That night, I keep the door of my balcony open, and sleep with the sound of the surf in the background.
The next morning, I enjoy the views from my balcony, walk around town, and have an exquisite lunch at that same restaurant, with the freshest fish possible. I fill up my water bottles, and am off to hike up the mountain of Alicudi. I follow the stone street, following the steep slope up, passing the churches of Carmine and Bartolo, enjoying the views along the way. The only certainty I have, is that there will be an end to all the steps. After I pass the last houses, which appear empty, I find myself on a plateau, with the trail cutting through a landscape of walls and hilltops. I reach a viewpoint on the west side of Alicudi, and find myself on a rock face that rises vertically from the sea, offering spectacular views. I hear a goat, and then spot it, on an impossible rocky outcrop below. Looking at the mountain, I think I can climb it without going back to the official trail. When I make my way up, I see some semblance of a steep trail, and in the sandy part, only see footprints of goats. I reach a rocky ledge, and see a small herd of goat running on the other side, throwing dust into the late afternoon sunlight. When they stop, their silhouettes on top of the mountain stand out. Two of them fight: I can hear their horns clashing. Judging from the horns, these must be Girgentana goats, originally from Afghanistan and Baluchistan. It is time for the final push to the real summit.
There is no trail here, so I jump from boulder to rock, trying to avoid the thistles, see more goats, and then reach Monte Filo dell'Arpa at 675m. There are great views of some of the other Aeolian islands, and also what must be the crater of what once was the Montagnola volcano. Inhabited already a very long time (proof has been found of people settling here 19.000 years ago), the island was for a long time targeted by pirates, which had people build their houses on the slopes of this volcano. Now, I see what look like fields with crops, although I wonder who will come to work and harvest them. I take an official trail down, again consisting of stones. Just imagine the enormous task of paving this trail! I cannot resist trying the juicy and delicious prickly pears, but make the mistake to open them with my teeth and fingers, leaving thin needles in my lips and fingers. It is a steep trail again: the village seems to lie straight below it. The entire hill of this side of the volcano consists of human built terraces. I am down just in time to buy some drinks to replenish all the liquids I have lost. The next morning, I walk a different trail from the Carmine church, towards Bazzina, a small settlement on the northeastern side of the island. I spend a few hours on a flat rock, dipping into the crystal clear sea, giving my legs some well-deserved rest. They take me back to the village again, where buying the ticket back to Milazzo takes a long time because of a slow computer connection. The only existing restaurant turns out to be closed: I will have to give up my idea of a tasty lunch before embarking on the boat trip. It is all part of being on a small, relatively isolated island.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Alicudi (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Alicudi. Read more about this site.