Giusi Murabito left her city and day job to live a slower life in Filicudi, one of the most remote and wild islands in the Aeolian Archipelago, 20 miles from the coast of Sicily. Guisi’s main mission is to live in contact with nature, the sea and island traditions. She founded Walking Eolie to organise experiences that combine hiking and good food in Eastern Sicily. She also published the book La cucina delle donne di Filicudi, with stories and recipes from the island and its women (I Coriandoli, Delos Digital, June 2023). In this article, our insider Giusi will share some of her secrets to a deep knowledge of Filicudi.
A must visit?
Returning to the origins of this Aeolian island’s economy since prehistoric times and therefore to its agricultural being, in Filicudi you should visit the terraces and dry-stone walls and therefore the farm of Annuzza and Lorenzo who still cultivate in an old-fashioned way, by hand, using as little water as possible. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes and capers are plants that struggle with their roots to find water and therefore become interpreters of the soil and of life, struggling to bring the fruits of one’s sowing. As an example, Tirrione, where the Cardillo family has planted 6000 vines between Nero d’Avola and Malvasia, works with mules in one of the most beautiful panoramic points overlooking the south-west of the island.
A stolen secret?
The caves of Filicudi were the first dwellings on the island. A single cave could accommodate up to nine people and it is starting from these very caves the first houses were developed. Those who still live in the caves live in seclusion and enter even more in contact with nature. There are around four people who still live in the caves in Filicudi. Come and see for yourselves.
An unmissable excursion?
Heading west from the Portella mule track you arrive at Piano Sardo, an ancient cultivated plateau between two small hills that overlooks the neighbouring island of Alicudi. It is my magical place, my place where silence reveals its intensity. There is an intense quietude and guests who visit this off the beaten track pace with me will remember the sunset forever.
The best moment of the day?
Nightfall. I always suggest sleeping on the island you choose to visit, because come night time, the island reveals itself fully, for example the magic of when stars light up the sky. Filicudi has a position that allows the light to wrap it in pink and the clouds play with shades from red to blue and from blue to red, uniting the sky and the sea in a chromatic scale that takes your breath away.
A special experience?
When you meet the locals, the natives, with their bizarre faces and extra-bizarre theories on life, they will often tell you about their past, present and perhaps even future projects; this can often make you smile and then later make you reflect. Then the nicknames: the accountant (because he has a theory of reasoning for everything and all his own), the stray (because he always lived around without ever returning home), u pacciu (because he was the son of an extravagant father), and many more. Once I found myself doing a tour of the roots of an American family who brought their elderly grandmother to Filicudi to see where her mother was born, and to see if there were any relatives still living. We found one by simply following the nickname of the family “spurtidda”!
The essence of Filicudi?
Nature. It is so wild, real, firm and overwhelming. It’s so powerful that it tires you but that is just as satisfying because you work with it and then it rewards you: to build a house, to walk along the mule tracks and reach a friend, to cultivate a vegetable garden or to catch fish. But also in the generosity of the earth you recognise nature: from the very colourful flowers: the cystus, the ginestrae, the arvensis anagallis; from the fruits: apricots, prickly pears, figs, but also asparagus and mushrooms in large quantities; and from the wild herbs: fennel, nepetella, dandelion.
An evening of excitement?
When you’re invited to dinner and there are the filicudari who, in addition to entertaining you with daring and adventurous anecdotes of what you think are only in books but actually still happen, take the accordion and start playing, and why not dance? Music has always been a unifying expression of sound, lawful and unlawful; to dance with the girl you liked or the lover you could squeeze for that one last dance.
An unforgettable dish?
You couldn’t summarise the food of Filicudi in one dish. The important culinary experiences are:
Grouper with capers from Antonello, the only fisherman on the island from whom you can buy the freshest catches of the day.
Zin’s Raw Fish at Peppe e Zin, home restaurant
La carrettiera di Maria at Il Boschetto
Stuffed squid with malvasia at Annuzza’s
And for those who stay a little longer, head out on a boat and taste freshly caught raw squid.
The most beautiful landscape?
From Monte Palmieri, where I live.
Homemade preserves, which here are a hobby, a need, a tradition and a pleasure to share. Pickled sea fennel, called spaccasassi because it grows among the stones by the sea; pickled aglioporro from the uninhabited and fascinating area of Siccagni; pickled artichokes; fennel and caper pestos; the caper tops. Blackberry or Filicudi plum jam. All hand-picked in various months of the year and prepared as the grandmothers and mothers used to make them.
Head for an aperitif at Pecorini al Saloon where you’ll meet everyone who comes to Filicudi for a nighter, or those who after a long day of sun and sea simply seek a fresh beer and want to see who’s around.
What to pack for the weekend?
Comfortable shoes: both for the evening and for the beach. Casual clothes and dresses with the right accessory, swimsuit and sarong, straw hat, sunscreen, mosquito spray, torch.
Le Punte. Here, lava has reached the sea creating a natural formation similar to the tips of your fingers and between these inlets, the salt has decorated the lava rock creating sculptures. There’s easy access to the water and above all, taking off your swimsuit here has never scandalised anyone since the 60s, quite the contrary. And this is where the Phoenicians landed when they discovered the island in 3000BC.
Because the whole world is in search of authenticity. Here you look no further, you stop and understand that everything is so essential, authentic and true. Let’s say that Filicudi is like a comb that searches for knots, a cradle that warms you up, a storm that teaches you peace. Filicudi is the essence of Aeolian Island vibes to which, if you embrace it, the island will welcome you with open arms.