Feature

This week’s travel dream: The most exotic corner of Italy

Pulling into the harbor of Filicudi is like going back in time.

My first rule of travel is simple: “There is a correlation between distance and excitement,” said Samantha Weinberg in the British Condé Nast Traveller. That’s why I was skeptical when my sister suggested a week on Filicudi, a small island off Sicily. Since I live in England, any one of the Aeolian Islands would have sounded “a bit too…European.” But my sister persisted, so I made the flight with her to Rome, then stuck with her through a second flight, a 90-minute taxi ride, and finally a morning ferry ride to our destination.

As the hydrofoil pulled into the harbor, “my first thought was that we had somehow fallen off the edge of Europe, or been transported back in time.” Aside from a few low buildings on the coastline, “there was nothing: no taxis, no street sellers, no sprawl of hotels.” Belquis Zahir, the owner of the airy, adobe-like villa where we’d be staying, met us at the dock with her car, and “even by road, Filicudi was instantly enchanting.” On either side of us “there were bursts of color—reds, pinks, and purples—interspersed with giant ears of prickly pear.” Wafts of scent from blossoming shrubs filled our noses as we looked out to the sea. It dawned on me that “although we might still be in Europe, we were a long way from home.”

We spent the days eating the “freshest fish imaginable” and hiking on “mule tracks up steep slopes” to “offset these feasts.” Soon, the days felt like a dream: “sleepy, peaceful, geranium-tinted.” One beautiful afternoon, we took a boat tour around the island, observing a volcanic tower rising out of the sea and stopping to snack on delicious seaweed—spaghetti del mare—that the boat owner collected for us from a rocky outcropping. We soon began to fantasize about when—not if—we would take up residence on Filicudi. The island is “a world of its own,” a place of “absolute peace and beauty, and somewhere that makes mincemeat of my first rule of travel.”

At La Canna (lacannahotel.it), which is one of Filicudi’s two hotels, doubles start at $100 a night.

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