‘I’ve lived on this remote Italian isle for half a century. I love my hermit life’

For almost half a century, Pietro Anastasi ran the local post office on the remote island of Filicudi, off Sicily’s northern coast. Today, at 89, he is the oldest resident and lives alone on the island, long after the summer crowds have gone.

Filicudi, the most pristine and farthest of the Aeolian archipelago, has 200 officially registered residents but Mr Anastasi is the only one living there year round, alone.

Everyone else comes and goes. In the summer, islanders return to make the most of the tourist trade – renting rooms, running restaurants, organising boat tours – but in the winter Filicudi is nearly deserted.

Mr Anastasi arrived back in the 60s, when there was still a handful of semi-permanent locals as well as a few donkeys.

Mr Anastasi spends his solitary days on Filicudi looking after his orchard where he grows tomatoes and onions (Photo: Supplied)

Mr Anastasi was born on Sicily in the town of Rometta near Messina in the north-east, but has spent decades in charge of the tiny post office on Filicudi, handling the delivery of letters and packages. However, nowadays he enjoys blissful days living as a hermit.

“I’ve lived and worked for Sicily’s postal service on nearly all the Aeolian islands, but Filicudi instantly stole my heart the first day I landed here in 1964. It’s wild and uncontaminated. I’d never leave, nor go anywhere, I want to die here”, Mr Anastasi tells i.

Mr Anastasi has fond, nostalgic memories of the bygone days when it was hard to reach the island during storms. For weeks the island was totally cut off from the rest of the world. The ferry could hardly dock because of the waves, and passengers had to be transported on to fishermen’s boats to reach the shore.

Letters and packages of all kinds might arrive after long delays. In an era when the internet and mobile phones were yet to be invented, mail was the only way islanders could communicate with the mainland.

“The only means of transportation and delivery of letters was by donkey-back along steep, rocky, dusty paths. Everything was so quiet and slow-paced, and it is still like this today for me,” says Mr Anastasi.

The “hermit postman” lives in a panoramic, seafront, typical Aeolian-style white-washed dwelling, with painted majolica columns and patios covered in bright bougainvillea. The property, which sits on a hilltop, used to be the post office headquarters, which he bought out from the state-owned postal company when he retired in 1994.

“I first purchased just one part of the building when I moved here in 1964. Workplace and home have always been attached; from my bedroom I could walk straight to my desk to sort out the incoming letters,” he says.

Pietro Anastasi, 89, for almost half a century ran the local post office on the remote island of Filicudi, off Sicily?s coast
Today Mr Anastasi spends his summer days on his small boat catching fish, which he cooks for dinner at the hotel for his guests

His wife, who passed away in 2015, worked as a midwife on Filicudi and the other islands. Just like her husband, she loved the island.

Mr Anastasi, who stayed on Filicudi after he retired, says he is lucky to have no idea what a hectic, stressful life in the rat-race is like, and says he never endured the hassle of owning and driving a car in traffic.

Nowadays there is still just a single road that circles Filicudi, connecting the harbour to a traditional fishing village.

In the late 70s, when island tourism was booming in Sicily, Mr Anastasi decided to turn part of his house into a hotel with a few guest rooms. He later restyled the building, adding an infinity pool and seafood restaurant serving fresh catch from the net.

His sons and nephews occasionally visit him during winter, but he likes to spend the cold days alone and says he is grateful that Filicudi’s isolation has gifted him so far with a healthy, long life.

“Covid never reached this island, and I hardly ever catch a cold living here. I have been spared the hassle of having to wear a muzzle during the four years of the pandemic,” he adds.

Mr Anastasi spends his time looking after his orchard where he grows succulent baby tomatoes, miniature pears called “perettes”, and onions which he artistically braids to hang on walls. Each morning he likes to go out in the garden to caress and inspect his fig and olive trees.

But his favorite activity is fishing. After a lifetime of free-diving in the aquamarine waters off Filicudi, he spends his summer days out on his small boat. And whatever he catches – cuttlefish, squids, barracudas – he cooks for dinner at the hotel for his guests.

Although Mr Anastasi feels lonelier without his wife, he describes himself as a happy, fulfilled man who leads a peaceful life, surrounded by nature and the luxury of meditation. The only modern comfort he treats himself to is watching television once in a while.