Known by the Greeks as Phoenicusa, meaning rich in ferns, uncompromisingly rustic Filicudi has a permanent population of just 200 souls, divided between nine contrade (districts) that occupy the southeastern area of the island. The larger of these are Filicudi Porto and Pecorini a Mare. The population of the island rises during the summer to a couple of thousand, and on the south of the island, to the east of Pecorini a Mare, the locality Stimpagnato is entirely made up of holiday homes. Unless you are feeling intrepid, the uninhabited remainder of the island is best explored by boat. The coastal landscape is characterized by rugged terraces rampant with gorse, stony beaches, and steep cliffs that plunge down into caves, of which the most celebrated is the Grotto del Bue Marino, near Punta Perciato. Sciare, paths carved into the rock by the distant eruptions of the island's volcanoes, run down to the sea. Filicudi is dominated by the extinct volcano of the Fossa Felci (774m/2,540 ft.), the largest -- but by no means the only -- volcano on the island; the other seven are long extinct and largely eroded.

Such is Filicudi's isolation (7 nautical miles west of Salina) that in the early 1970s, 15 members of the Greco Mafia clan from Corleone on the Sicilian "mainland" were interned on the island, far from their criminal empire, much to the chagrin of the Filicudiani. No longer an internment camp, the island is favored by graying members of the literati. The ever-so-slightly eccentric are joined by members of émigré island families who all come for the peace and quiet. And quiet it is . . . electricity first came to the island in 1986, and if you are looking for Wi-Fi, all mod cons, and nightlife, Filicudi is not your choice. But if rustic isolation is your thing, bring lots of books, and you'll be in your element.