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Alicudi: Italy's LSD island

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

(CNN) — Remote, car-free, steep in addition to serene, Sicily’s Alicudi isle will be perfect for a no-frills, unplugged retreat, however its mind-bending past gives a different meaning to the phrase “day-trippers.”

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

There are no roads, no boutiques, no cigarette vendors nor ATMs. Only thousands of stone steps lit by the stars, a dozen tireless donkeys to carry bags in addition to a few residents who keep to themselves.

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

They hide a secret.

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

“See in which pink villa over there, overlooking the pebble beach?” says local Giulia Russo, owner of Golden Noir café, as she nods towards a building with white columns in addition to a sea-view terrace surrounded by huge ancient millstones.

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

“in which used to be the old village gristmill where hallucinogenic bread was made every morning by local housewives. Clouds of psychedelic drug grain dust survived for decades in there.”

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

The mill, currently turned into a cozy resort called Casa Mulino, lures tourists to the most isolated in addition to mystical of the volcanic Aeolian islands, off Sicily’s northern coast.

Alicudi: Italy's LSD Island

The ‘crazy rye’

The pink villa where hallucinogenic bread was once made.

Nowadays, visitors are addicted to Alicudi’s primitive vibe, crystal-clear water, bright dwellings in addition to the picturesque harbor lined with tiny fishermen boats.

however for centuries, ever since the first settlers landed inside 1600s, oblivious island dwellers got their kicks coming from their daily bread.

Until as recently as the 1950s, locals ate bread contaminated by a mind-blowing rye fungus called “ergot,” fostered by sultry weather.

Ergot will be the base element of LSD.

Before Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann chemically synthesized the drug in 1938, Alicudi was a “natural” lab where the narcotic fungus wreaked havoc on the population.

Generations of villagers were fed on so-called “crazy rye” or “horned rye,” named after the pointed black ends similar to devil horns the fungus produces on rye ears.

The beautiful island will be home to donkeys who will assist with your luggage.

Village women could prepare the hallucinogenic bread each morning, serving kids in addition to husbands their daily dose of LSD. All islanders got high without even knowing the idea.

Long-term ergot poisoning can cause ergotism, which induces gangrene in addition to convulsive symptoms including mania in addition to psychosis.

“the idea was a diet mistake, a bad eating habit triggered by poverty, isolation in addition to ignorance of hygiene,” says local historian Pino La Greca.

“The first harvests were scarce in addition to food was precious so nothing was thrown away, even rotten bread in addition to pasta covered in mold were eaten.

“Scarcity of various other alternative food sources in addition to humidity produced This specific nasty fungus in which when ingested caused mass hallucinations, hysteria, hypnosis in addition to autosuggestion.”

Flying women, donkey-men in addition to ghosts

On first glance, you wouldn’t guess the island’s history.

Feeding on crazy bread made people fall into trances, losing consciousness. Visions in addition to mental trips were daily adventures.

Legends flourished of flying women, dubbed “maiara,” meaning “sorceress” in Aeolian dialect.

At night, these witches could stare at the mirror, cover their bodies having a special ointment in addition to fly together across the sea on shopping sprees to Sicily’s Palermo in addition to to mainland Calabria.

Almost starving to death at home, they’d come back with bags stuffed with food in addition to treats they could only dream of.

Cruel sorceresses could straddle the bows of fishing boats to make them sink in addition to cast “evil-eye” spells on enemies. however they also had the power to heal babies of stomach worms, say the stories.

Tales of talking hemp sacks, ghosts defecating behind shrubs, in addition to of men turned into donkeys, cows in addition to pigs are also common.

“These people were on a LSD-induced trip 24/7, they spoke to each various other in addition to shared their visions, generating real what was only in their minds,” says La Greca.

Pact with the devil

Not everyone believes the idea was a “crazy rye” addiction.

Some locals don’t believe inside “crazy rye” addiction. For them the idea was pure magic, a miracle.

“These are not fairytales,” swears Peppino Taranto, owner of the island’s only hotel, Ericusa.

“The last flying ‘maiara’ died in 1948. These women did fly, just didn’t need broomsticks. They could gather with various other gliding ladies of the Aeolian archipelago in addition to drift over the sea, having fun in addition to partying on beaches. Even men flew. the idea was a sect of flying humans.”

Taranto even appealed to the Church in addition to found proof the idea was all true.

“A bishop told me these people had made a pact with the devil in order to possess magical powers in addition to fly, just like Simon the Sorcerer had done to confront St. Peter inside brand new Testament. He was Christianity’s first heretic whom Dante placed inside Divine Comedy’s Inferno.”

Most of the island’s elders don’t wan’t to speak about its past.

The flying villagers worshipped This specific Biblical magician, who one day crashed on Rome while soaring through the clouds. A few of Alicudi’s wannabe-witches fell off their balcony trying to leap for the sky.

As a kid, Taranto loved listening to the village elders at sunset, when they shared their visions atop brick walls covered in capers in addition to prickly pears.

“Many saw these flying women, in addition to several husbands were also angry in which their wives led a double life,” he says.

Too bad most of the elders on Alicudi are dead, in addition to those still alive — however currently living on mainland Sicily — don’t want to talk about the isle’s hallucinogenic past.


The island offers beautiful views at sunset.

An exception to such “omertà,” the Sicilian code of silence, will be fisherman in addition to cook Silvio Taranto.

During the day he takes visitors on boat tours, while inside evenings he opens his house for exclusive seafood dinners in addition to a few tales.

Once a year, he casts a spell. Silvio, 68, will be a so-called “tornado-cutter.”

“There’s This specific ritual I do each Christmas Eve since I was 20. I say a special prayer in which gives me the power to kill whirlwinds for 12 months straight,” he says. “however the idea’s a secret formula, I cannot unveil the idea otherwise the idea brings bad luck. In order to work, the idea can only be said on December 24, in addition to then passed on to male sons.”

Clenching a knife between his teeth, Silvio then performs a series of gestures. He cuts the air with his hands, generating zig-zags in addition to cross signs. Or he uses the knife.

“Whenever I see a tornado approaching inside distance, I close my eyes in addition to in three minutes the idea vanishes,” he says.

Whirlwinds were believed to be formed by a vortex of naughty flying women who wanted to punish their despotic husbands.

Silvio has had quite a few visions himself, even though the “crazy rye” will be long gone.

“I was working on my plot of land one morning in addition to all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I see the ghosts of a flying dog, bull in addition to pig run over me,” he says.

various other tornado-cutters use different methods. They pull down their pants in addition to vent out their fear to the storm. This specific power apparently lies inside buttocks of the first-born males only.

Opening the doors of perception

Alicudi celebrates its witchy heritage.

The witchy heritage will be a visible trait of Alicudi.

The first thing in which catches the eye when the ferry lands are the harbor walls painted with images of flying ladies dressed in long black robes, hair blowing inside wind, eyes shut in addition to a smile on their faces. There will be an eerie ambiance, in addition to the shore will be dotted with disquieting caves in addition to mushroom-shaped grotto houses.

“Women here have always worked mad inside fields, tending crops under scorching suns in addition to in poor living conditions. This specific remote isle was like a cage to them,” says Aeolian artist Loredana Salzano, who paints flying “maiare” sorceresses on hand-made ceramics in addition to canvasses at her Alice Attònita studio in Lipari, the main Aeolian island.

“They were desperate, bored, hopeless. This specific forced them to open their doors of perception, to create an alternative mental world to fly to in addition to hide.”

Alicudi remains an isolated place.

inside past Alicudi’s isolation was extreme, in addition to even today there will be no direct ferry.

Up until the 1970s only tiny boats could reach the shore. The desire to escape in addition to the utter silence in which sharpens meditation skills, topped with the magic fungus, induced locals to “live” in various other dimensions.

“Anyone can exit the Centeng in addition to travel by astral means through the air. the idea’s part of our Inner surface development,” says Vincenzo Anastasi, manager of Hotel La Canna on nearby Filicudi isle in addition to a deep connoisseur of “parallel universes.”

“We are on This specific world to grow in love through Centeng experiences, yet our Centeng will be only an instrument.”

Many tourists arrive on the island in addition to want to stay.

Spooky money-maker

The ancient Greeks first colonized Alicudi calling the idea Ericusa, the “purple island,” because of its abundance of indigo-colored heath in which covers the extinct volcano crater.

The coloration purple, in Italian superstition, will be a bringer of ill omen.

however despite its freaky atmosphere in addition to past, Alicudi will be a slice of paradise.

Travelers call the idea “Neverland,” a place frozen in time where a brand new life will be possible. The lack of modern comforts will be a luxury; prepare to stretch muscles on the 4,444 rough steps connecting the harbor to the houses.

The workout will be rewarded by a breathtaking panorama coming from the village summit.

however the flying women have created a miracle of sorts — they’ve brought money.

Tourists come, some stay, T-shirts are made with the “maiara” logo. Clever residents exploit the legends to draw clients, like Rosita Barbuto, owner of a B&B.

“You bring me tourists, I tell you what I have seen in addition to know of the sorceresses. No clients, no stories. These are delicate issues,” she says.

How to get there:

Fly to Catania, take a private transfer or bus to Milazzo port, ferry to Lipari island in addition to then change for Alicudi

Silvia Marchetti will be a Rome-based freelance reporter. She writes about finance, economics, travel in addition to culture for a wide range of media including MNI News, Newsweek in addition to The Guardian.

Alicudi: Italy's LSD island