In Alicudi, Jules Brown had to knock on a few doors to find the island's only restaurant
The islet of Alicudi - an extinct volcano off Sicily's north coast - rises out of the Mediterranean, forming an almost perfect cone. Electricity seems only to have arrived three years ago. There are no roads, a couple of hundred inhabitants, and just a few houses. Fruit and veg comes in by boat. So does anything else you might quite fancy, like water. You can climb up a donkey track to the top of Alicudi, which is very hot and very steep. And that's about it as far as entertainment goes.

The one hotel is closed, they say, as I disembark. No, there isn't a restaurant, or even a bar, they chortle, as the hydrofoil speeds off. It's 9.30am. When's the next hydrofoil? 9.30am tomorrow. Great.

The signora in the ticket agency telephone office can help with a room, they think. I catch her as she's locking up: she only sells tickets for 10 minutes before departure, and if the office isn't open when it should be - well, it hardly matters since this is one place where a length of string and a couple of tin cans would constitute a telephone exchange.

A room? Sure, follow her. Am I foreign? Well, yes. What, from ltaly? Now, I speak terrible Italian, so either the signora is deaf or we're talking remote as in the Wicker Man and Deliverance. I'm not reassured.

I sit on the terrace for a bit. It's now 11am. Good Lord, that's paint drying over there. It's time to tackle the signora again about food. She says there's a restaurant in the hotel. Ah, but then she says the hotel is closed. Naturally. It is the middle of the summer tourist season.

Have I tried the signora Giuseppina? She lives in the white house, over there - "there's" a vague wave of the hand. Admittedly, there are only 60 houses or so on Alicudi. It's just that they're all white.

So I simply knock on this woman's door and ask her to cook dinner for me do I? Apparently I do. Signora Giuseppina has a large knife in her hand and is doing something unpleasant to squid. It seems safest to agree to anything she says, so it appears there's spaghetti, squid, salad and wine, served at eight this evening. Or something like that, for a million pounds, or was it a billion lire, and am I from Italy?

It'll be time for dinner in - ooh, let's see - seven hours. I climb up Alicudi, am overtaken regularly by donkeys and sit by a little shrine 500 metres up, looking at the harbour below. Or, more precisely, looking at the passenger ferry pulling into and out of the harbour below. I decide not to get cross with anyone. My Italian is too erratic and I don't want inadvertently to offer to marry the squid mangler's daughter.

I snooze the afternoon away and, having staggered back down and spruced myself up, go to see what this minor member of the Borgia family has actually prepared. Amazingly, it's edible. And the bed is soft. And when I awake, there's the hydrofoil back to civilisation. But I'm not sure I want to go.