A New York Times travel writer once wrote that in order to get away from it all it was necessary to employ a minimum of three modes of travel. Alicudi, considered the isolated island is accessible by 1: Train or Plane; 2: Ferry; 3: Donkey and 4: Foot, fits the rule. Once having trekked up it’s ancient stone paths, the traveller arrives at Caseta Zanca, an idyllic, tranquil restored farmhouse/cottage situated 400 metres above sea level amongst a garden oasis with panoramic sea views…
LOCATION OF CASETA ZANCA
Caseta Zanca is situated in Valley Zanca, a deeply wooded valley of ash, olive, oak, chestnut and heather/ericusa – the ancient Greek name of the island. It is located in the village of San Bartolo, named after the patron saint of the island. Once a thriving agricultural village, which appears randomly scattered across the mountainside, the village is comprised of clusters of houses with agricultural terraces between and boasts la chiesa San Bartolo, the island’s first church (circa 16th century).
Set on the edge of a national park (further up the mountain), raptors wheeling on the thermals are a common site. Although the owners aren’t classic twitchers, they have been lucky to spot hoopoes, golden orioles, and short-toed eagles only a few of the many migratory birds, which pass through during different seasons.
This, along with ever changing weather patterns, which bring spectacular hues and moods to both sky and sea (sometimes even sitting above the cloud line) together with no light or sound pollution, cooler breezy bright starry evenings and fresh mornings all make Caseta Zanca a unique destination, setting it apart from the lower villages of the island – well worth the walk… what a reward! If you’re lucky you might even spot the white owl that often hoots whilst making it’s nightly rounds in the valley.
The walk to Caseta Zanca - up a wonderfully meandering ancient path of well-worn stone paved steps - takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour (approximately 400 metres above sea level). It’s strongly advised to carry a day backpack for valuables and of course … WATER! There are plenty of shady spots with amazing views along the way. Good walking shoes/sandals with a grip sole and an ankle strap are a must - NO flip-flops!
CASETA ZANCA INTERIOR
Generous double doors lead off Caseta Zanca’s front terrace into an 'open plan' cooking / dining / living area located on the ground floor. All is furnished with an eclectic and curated blend of antique, vintage and contemporary furnishings and objects. The owners are avid flea market junkies.
Situated within a corner of the room the kitchen area is fully equipped with refrigerator/freezer and a 3-burner gas hob. A double window conveniently opens onto the outside dining area (easy to pass things in & out). A second window overlooks the front terrace with views to the sea.
Cosy and intimate, this is furnished with an Indian style sofa/charpoy, Middle-Eastern cushions and stools, table and wardrobe. The sofa extends to a single bed.
Stone steps lead up to a sleeping loft for two (originally a solpacco: traditional storage loft larder) with a window overlooking the upper terrace of the garden and an original restored porthole with views to the sea. At 400 metres, evenings tend to be refreshingly cooler than at sea level - perfect for a good night's sleep!
CASETA ZANCA EXTERIOR
There is an L shaped patio, shaded by a chestnut beamed bamboo pergola, supported upon stone columns. This private outside kitchen/dining area has a traditional stone sink, worktops, cupboard and benches.
Guests can enjoy dining ‘en pleinair’ – classic Mediterranean outside living - with panoramic sea views overlooking the rich flora of the terraced gardens (Cyprus, bougainvillea, mimosa, apricot, prickly pear, cane, lilies, iris and many types of exotic succulents & cacti) and mountainside, Mount Etna, the Aeolian archipelago - as far as Stromboli - and the church of St. Bartolo are all within view.
A stone path leads from the outside kitchen/dining area to the bathroom facilities (smooth barefoot territory).
FLINTSTONE/IGLOO BATHROOM: A fully equipped bathroom is housed in a former mannera – a traditional stone built cave originally used to house animals. Here guests will experience luxury on the mountain: Shower (hot and cold water) and toilet with sea views through a half stable door, as well as a volcanic stone sink. All is well lit. In step with the usual Mediterranean island life, Alicudi’s sanitary system does not allow for guests to dispose of paper/articles down the loo.
This privately enclosed cold-water shower is situated within a curved stonewall with views to Filicudi Island, Mount Etna and the Sicilian coast.
From the patio, stone steps lead down to an olive tree shaded little terrace, with a hammock (formerly the old chicken-run!) Another hammock zone is located under the Apricot tree. All great spots for bird and ferry watching – binoculars provided!
Your host, Julia (a qualified RYT Yoga Teacher) offers private yoga rooftop lessons at sunrise or sunset at Caseta Zanca, which you may opt for dependent on the period of your stay.
During July and August Julia offers group yoga classes at two locations on the island: at the seaside or at Belvedere/Rotunda (The site of a small chapel on a scenic platform overlooking sea and mountain with views to the archipelago and Sicilian coast)
Further information regarding private and group lessons available upon request.
Also referred to as ‘The Seven Sisters’, the Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie) are an archipelago located off the North Coast of Sicily and part of the volcanic chain, which reaches from Vesuvius to Mount Etna. Alicudi, the smallest, most isolated of the seven is remote, relaxed and unspoilt. Without cars, its main form of transport is mules.
Beautiful ancient stone paved paths/steps zigzag around the island. Purchase a map for the trails at one of the shops and be sure to set off with a daypack equipped with water, snacks and torch. Overall, the paths are well maintained. If you opt to explore the peak of the island you will discover smaller, more wild paths - some of which are made by herds of wild, wonderfully twisty horned, long & woolly, mountain goats! There is a carne on the official peak (675 metres).
Alicudi is an inactive volcano (last erupting over 90,000 years ago) and there are the remains of two of its craters. One (Pianura) is easy to access one and it’s the 'right' shape; the other is more shy (Filo Dell’Arpa – the string of the harp) and is a steep climb. Pianura valley is a gentle hike. Situated just above the last village (Montagna) a level path leads past huge pine nut trees. Stretching out ahead, the valley reveals two dry-stone shepherds’ huts (built using the Neolithic system - the oldest found archaeological traces on these islands). An amazing cliff edge drops 500 metres to the sea with a view to Scoglio Galera - marvellous vistas!
These are approximately an hour and a half from Caseta Zanca, initially winding up the wonderful ‘Via Communale’, then moving onto small, mossy stone paved paths/steps, which eventually culminate into little tracks through bracken and wild flowers (dependent on time of year). February/March brings narcissus meadows and terraces shading shy cyclamens. Early summer - plums… late summer - blackberries.
At the mountain summit various colls meet the walker, with a bewildering choice of peaks. Views extend as far as Stromboli and the mountains of Calabria toward the East; Lipari, Vulcano, the Nebrodi mountains and Etna to the South; Cefalu, the Madonie mountains and if very clear the island of Ustica to the East; North it’s the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Take un giro (a tour) around the island with a local guide, stopping midway for a refreshing dip at Scoglio Galera – a volcanic plug that protrudes out of the sea and is one of the renowned sites of the island - a fantastic launching pad for diving aficionados! Sail on to view the Northern wild ‘Jurassic’ side of the island. Go fishing with the Alicudaris – locals who know the waters like the back of their hand –set sail at dusk, post midnight or pre-dawn. (Further information is available upon request).
There are two shops in the Alicudi Porto village both a five-minute walk from the pier, which are well stocked with fruit, vegetables, fresh bread (which arrive daily off the ferries, weather permitting), food pantry basics, wine, beer and paper goods.* Alicudi is renowned for capers – a gourmet specialty - harvested annually from the abundance of wild plants on the island and a must for foodies! These, along with fresh produce, eggs and fish may also be purchased from local farmers/fishermen/women.
One shop has outside tables with a seafront terrace. During the summer season this is widely used by locals and tourists who partake of a cold drink, panini (made up in the shop) and traditional cardgames.
* Cigarettes are not available for purchase on Alicudi.
There are two restaurants and two cafés open during High Season as well as several local households that run private restaurants (year ‘round) mostly serving locally sourced fish and mountain produce. A simple system: pre-bookable with a communal table. Lovely way to meet people!
PASSEGGIATA (Evening promenade)
Although Alicudi is a remote island, between 6- 8 p.m. on a summer’s evening, locals and visitors take their evening promenade passeggiata between scoglio del Perciato (a remarkable craggy volcanic rock formation near the port) and the ferry quay, often perching on the old stone quay overlooking the sea and islands.
Il Mercatino (annually on 15th of August)
A charming local custom, this craft/food market takes place at Alicudi Porto. Increasingly popular it attracts visitors from local islands. Local food stalls, and a wonderfully communal, convivial atmosphere.
San Bartolo Festival (annually around the 24th of August)
The island’s patron saint, San Bartolo has his yearly outing accompanied by a visiting brass band in a procession from the ‘new church’ to Belvedere/Rotunda. The effigy is carried by Alicudari (island locals) up and down the stone paths – an incredible feat –well worth a visit during this time of year.
In the evening the day’s events culminate in further festivities similar to Il Mercatino, which includes live music and dancing at the quay. Fireworks finale!
For those who like a good party, there are several open house parties during August (High Season).
Alicudi Porto, Sicilia, 義大利