Travel /
Sicilia

Quiet Paradise in Sicily: Filicudi Diary

 

It is a little simplistic and maybe, all things considered, even somewhat obvious to say that Filicudi is not for everyone. That perspective might change if I said that Filicudi is a good fit for those who already love this island a little bit, even without knowing it.

 

I recently read a short book, Seven Short Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli. The title is much more intimidating than the content. It’s an excellent reminder of what makes up our surroundings, what we are made of, and how little we notice the processes that truly regulate our lives. In the final chapter entitled “In Closing: Ourselves”, I was reminded how much (unexcused) inconsistency can be blamed for my sporadic search for an ongoing relationship with nature, the pristine, and those who govern our whole life.

 

The decision to spend ten days in Filicudi at CasaG, in the only part of reality where we are truly given the opportunity to understand, stems from this: we start again with ourselves.

 

The weather – it’s perhaps a bit premature to already label it a temperature change – flows differently here. It more or less depends on factors that we often forget when we live between concrete and cars. For example, in Filicudi if there is bad weather nobody arrives or leaves. On December 27, we made it just in time. Due to the arrival of the mistral winds there will be no ferries or hydrofoils for the next two days, despite an impending wedding that brought outside guests to the island. By disembarking, we established a new number of inhabitants until New Year’s Day: 68.

 

We enter CasaG through a gate at the end of an alley. You go on foot here, with few cars, many mule trails, lots of sea, and infinite climbs.

 

A few steps and you are facing a picture of Italy. It is all one terrace and here, on the edge of tuff rock, touching the sea, the beauty (and perhaps the mystery) of this part of the world opens up before you, leaving you breathless. Fill your lungs. Open your eyes. Breathe in the smells of this island that changes with each season, and remember that the senses are ready well before you are at Parad’Isola. It’s CasaG and your only view will be the sea.

 

December 28, 2021

It’s raining and the mistrals are blowing. Pino Daniele’s blues are playing in the background and time finally has its own rhythm. Or maybe mine; in essence, the rhythm that I recognize.

 

3:00pm – We visit the church of Santo Stefano (patron saint of the island) in Valdichiesa, formerly Valle del Sole. Everything is ready for the big party and the air is strongly scented with sweet fried dough. 

 

We continue to Zucco Grande, a former agricultural village now (almost) uninhabited were it not for the last princess of Afghanistan, Belquis Zahir. An architect by profession, she decided to renovate a large house, marking the beginning, perhaps, of a recovery that separates its visitors between walkers and non-walkers; the mule path is the only way to get there.

 

Plants of interest: strawberry trees, various types of citrus, carob trees, chamomile, wild mint, wild borage.

 

December 29, 2021

Who knows the connection among Alicudi, hallucinogenic rye bread, and LSD?

 

With the VHF on channel 16, we call the ship Siremar which, against the wind and on rough seas, is heading towards Alicudi, but we get no answer.

 

We heat up lentils and potatoes and continue exploring the island on foot. We search for the island’s only butcher, Gino, well known for the rabbit used in Filicudara style sweet and sour rabbit with raisins, but he is no longer there and neither is his job.

 

A visit to the tomb of Peppino Bonita Calandra (1907-1999) in the parish cemetery of Valdichiesa. Poet and author of the book Filicudi Magical Island, featuring memories and recollections of Filicudi the way it was until a few years ago, which it could be again, if we want it to.

 

We walk all the way to Montagnola and return. We forgot the oil but we remember that bartering still works here. Wine in exchange for Filicudi oil, but this time we are the lucky ones. We also score pumpkin fritters and some stories about the island. Can’t we go back to this type of economy?

 

December 30, 2021

Sun equals swimming. There are no unknowns in this equation. But we forgot about the jellyfish.

 

We meet Antonello and his boat, the Stella Maris shining with its plumb line and gear for fishing garfish and opra (Bluefish? We must document it). He is the only fisherman on the island and Filicudi is in every drop of his blood. Nino and Peppe also join us. The first two leave to throw in the baskets, and we stay with Peppe. He is Neapolitan, married to a Burmese woman and has two children. On this island that combines such different geographies, the same light shines in the eyes of its proud inhabitants. We discover that the cuisine they offer tourists in summer, and to friends in winter within the walls of their home, is straight out of Myanmar. “Go back home, I’ll see you later for the fish” he tells us.

 

Stefano, the amateur fisherman of Pecorini Mare, is missing from the role-call. He is putting his small fishing boat into the water and on his return shortly after, he gives us fresh shrimp for a snack and “a few more for lunch!”

 

1:00pm – It is December 30 and we are eating pasta with shrimp, chickpeas and cherry tomatoes on the terrace of Casa G in a cotton T-shirt, bathed by the sun and overlooking the sea. The Siremar goes by again, and the clear sky suggests a sunny day tomorrow.

 

December 31, 2021

5:30 am wake up. The moon we didn’t see last night is out now and the coffee is on the fire. We have just enough time to look through the telescope we brought before setting off to hunt for the sun.

 

7:19 am – The sun rises behind us over Valdichiesa.

 

7:45 am – We have breakfast in Fossa delle Felci at 775 meters high, together with views of Alicudi and the rock of La Canna.

 

9:45 am – Corsa Smarraturi, Ficarrisi, Siccagni, going through climates and paths of all kinds. Abandoned houses (for more or less years) down to the beach where we have lunch in the sun, waiting for Antonello to pick us up with his Stella Maris and take us back by boat to Pecorini Mare.

 

4:00 pm – We cross the threshold of Casa G with views of snow-covered Idda (Etna) and in this order we see blue, white, pink, yellow, orange. The last sun of 2021 goes down and we have in balance the moon, sun, stars, islands, sea, and sky. An infinite spectrum of colors and scents, wild herbs, very good olives that stain a lot, many kilometers on foot, a snack in the sun, snow, and the sea.

 

On horseback January 1, 2022

1:00 am – New Year’s loot:

 

  1. Mrs. Marianna’s recipe for Badduottole
  2. A trip to collect wild herbs
  3. The history of lupins: “I’m glad you asked”, I’m told. Lupins were once used to stir up the earth around the olive trees, enabling it to absorb water. Today stones are used but that’s not the same thing.

 

In Filicudi, on New Year’s Eve, people have gathered around the table of Casa G’s neighbors, in equal numbers from Filicudi and not. They share a seasonal project (the Sirena Hotel) and the awareness that this island will always be a happy refuge for those who want to escape (even forever) from where they don’t want to be.

 

January 1, 2022

A gloomy and cloudy day. We usher in the new year by lazying around. Sometimes you also have to learn how to do nothing.

 

January 2-3, 2022 

We compile a selection of pretty good movies:

 

  1. The Hand of God
  2. This Must Be the Place
  3. Dear Diary
  4. A Quiet Life
  5. The Consequences of Love

 

We work. We make some bread (which ends up resembling a stone).

 

We cook and eat curry for days and an excellent amatriciana.

 

January 4, 2022

At 4:55 pm we have the hydrofoil going back. 

It is a spectacular day.

But first we must stop by to visit CasaG’s neighbors, who made us fully experience Filicudi a little like our own home. Its a big family and we need some time to tell everyone we’ll be back soon. 

We go to Marianna and Edoaldo, parents of Gisella. Marianna’s mother and Gisella’s sister Sofia also join the table. Over a coffee and various biscuits made with mosto (unfermented grape juice), we plan the sowing of herbs and wheat, we talk about ancient Filicuda recipes, and we realize that we will be back much earlier than expected.

 

It’s just a “see you soon”, Parad’Isola. I see you.