'At Alicudi We Bite': The Obscure Italian Island Not All Locals Want You To Visit

"Are you sure you are welcome? Otherwise leave."

Italy is ripe with unplucked earth. From Camogli to Matera, there are a lot of aqua waters and rural escapes locals don’t want you to pollute (see: “Portofino is for the Americans. Camogli is for us Italians”).

In this Bat Kiss ravaged era, one of these offbeat gems been getting quite a bit of press though: Italy’s Aeolian islands.

These include: Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea, Salina, Alicudi, Filicudi and Stromboli.

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These islands are part of a small, lucky group of remote locations, which remain coronavirus-free a year after the pandemic first wrapped up the world, CNN Travel reported in February.

They are part of a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily.

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“Italy, which is in a state of emergency until April 30, was ravaged by the virus last year and currently has one of the highest death tolls in Europe. The destination is now divided into zones, depending on infection levels,” CNN Travel reports.

“However, a handful of its most isolated islands are among the spots that have kept Covid at bay for now.”

Alicudi is the most mysterious and remote of the bunch – and the following photo perfectly sums up its serenity.

Posted to Instagram last week by language learning account @learnsicilian, the image shows Alicudi ‘popping’ with colour and calm.

The image was taken at one of Alicudi’s classic clifftop casas, and packs quite the FOMO.

It’s not the only image that has been posted unthreading Alicud’s charm. An examination of the ‘alicudiisland’ hashtag and ‘Isola Alicudi’ geotag on Instragram show many people are thinking about (if not visiting) Alicudi right now.

As DMARGE recently reported, though Instagram stories by social media users who have frolicked on such islands over the last twelve months paint an idyllic picture, reality is more complex.

Luana Rigolli, a freelance photographer who lives in Rome, Italy, who has visited some of these Covid-free islands, told DMARGE, “Last year in June, when the strongest phase of the lockdown was over, I witnessed the debate of the inhabitants of Linosa who were wondering whether to accept tourists for the summer season or whether it was the case to ‘close’ the island.”

Linosa is not one of the Aeolian islands, but faced a similar situation last year.

“Many elderly people live on the island, and there have been no cases of contagion, fortunately, thanks to the particular isolation of the island. Contagions that would have created a lot of damage, due to the absence of hospitals on the island and the remoteness of the mainland.”

“So it was natural that the inhabitants asked themselves this question: to save the safety of the islanders at the expense of the income guaranteed by tourists (tourism is the main source of income in Linosa), or to open to save the season and hope for the best. Fortunately (for us tourists) the islanders have chosen the second line, obviously respecting all the anti-contagion rules provided for by the regulations.”

“There was an initial distrust of strangers, but then the sense of welcome prevailed.”

“The initial sense of mistrust did not spare even the boys from Linosa who live in Sicily or in the rest of Italy for work or study. Back on the island, they were subjected to swabs and quarantines, to avoid any possibility of contagion.”

A December 2020 Instagram post by Alicudi resident @roberto_di_alicudi suggests this suspicious mindset is evident in Alicudi too. Loosely translated from Italian it reads:

“Alicudi: Hemingway had hung a nice sign outside the gate of his house: ‘Are you sure you are welcome? Otherwise leave.'”

“Without wanting to compare myself to Ernest’s genius, I, at the entrance to Monachedda, drew a nice question mark on the ground: ‘Who are you? Do you really want to turn the corner and risk catching me naked or worse?.’ The island does not allow sudden visits, surprises, self-invitations, early or late arrivals.”

“At Alicudi we bite.”

Despite the challenges, Luana has told DMARGE there is a desire to make the most of the once in a lifetime opportunities brought by this latest global shakeup, and the work from home revolution currently pinging screens all over the world: “I confess to you right away that I am thinking of spending a few weeks in the next few months on an island.”

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“It is a thought that I think many are doing, because it is an opportunity that will never happen again.”

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“We have always lived the islands in a false way, a place is really known when you enter into a relationship with the inhabitants, and only with them, and not with hundreds/thousands of tourists around.”

“I think it is a privilege to be able to experience the islands out of season [and see them authentically].”

As we touched on earlier Instagram posts posted under the Alicudi geotag show various people appearing to enjoy that privilege.

It’s also worth noting that on islands like Alicudi, Covid “is perceived as a very, very distant threat,” CNN Travel reports.

On that note: if you’re polite, locals may also be more willing to embrace tourists than you might think. In fact, some Aeolian Island residents don’t mind tourism at all.

Clarissa Cipicchia, who told DMARGE she was born and raised on one of the Aeolian Islands, said: “Locals are very happy of the economic benefits that tourism gives them, they are not afraid to interact with visitors and introduce them to parts of the island that only those who live there can know.”

“I recommend anyone to come and visit us because the entertainment and attractions vary for each age group. In particular, I recommend [the Aeolian isalnds] as a destination to anyone who wants to disconnect even for a short time from reality and establish direct contact with nature.”

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“There is an organization called ‘Filicudi Wildlife Conservation’ that deals with the protection of sea turtles, sperm whales and above all dolphins, which are a constant presence, especially in Alicudi and Filicudi. Anyone can take part in it by helping these people but also by learning a lot from them. It’s about help in exchange for new knowledge and skills!”

Another source had told DMARGE, “The worst you will get from the Alicudari is a wry smile and the wrong directions as you climb the island in 30°+ heat looking for whichever church you picked out from Trip Advisor.”

“The Aeolian islands need tourism to survive, and like just about any other place worth visiting, if you’re polite, modest and you make the effort to learn a few phrases in the native tongue, you’ll be welcomed by the Isolani.”

If your interest has been piqued, Alicudi is the westernmost island of the entire Aeolian archipelago, 34 nautical miles from Lipari, and very small.

The island’s surface is just 5 square kilometres, and it is characterised by steep, rugged coasts. It is also inhabited exclusively on the southern side and only has about 40 long term residents.

According to @ig_italia, “Among the seven islands [Alicudi] is certainly the most unspoiled, here nature is the only master. There is no street lighting, but to be honest there are no streets either!”

“No cars, here you can move on foot, or on the back of mules!”

“There are no discos, breweries, pubs, but just a bar and a restaurant that closes in mid-September. On the other hand, you will find its inhabitants and their houses always open!”

“Alicudi is the island that doesn’t exist! It is a magical island…”

The above magic remark isn’t just poetic licence. Alicudi has a history of being an ‘LSD island.’ Until as recently as the 1950s, hallucinogenic bread was unknowingly made every morning by local housewives, thanks to a funky fungus problem, CNN Travel reports, leading to all sorts of stories about witches and sorcery, brought on by the widespread – daily – consumption of Ergot, the base element of LSD.

To get to Alicudi, CNN Travel recommends you, “Fly to Catania, take a private transfer or bus to Milazzo port, ferry to Lipari island and then change for Alicudi.”

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