Like all of the Eolian Islands, Alicudi, too, is of vulcanic origin, having emerged from the seas about 90'000 years ago. Panarea and Alicudi are the oldest of the seven, and no longer active. Stromboli, the best known of the seven islands, is still very much alive.
Humans have lived on these islands since the fourth or fifth millenium B.C. Large deposits of obsidian made the Eolian Islands into important trade centres. Obsidian is a vulcanic material that was not only used for weapons but also for ritual objects like sacrificial knifes and mirrors used in temples. The working of obsidian was a much respected craft.
The Greek tale of Odysseus mentions how the hero comes to visit King Eolo at Lipari. Later, the Greeks colonised the islands and brought their culture with them. Apart from the Greeks, the Etruscans, Arabs, Saracenes, Phoenicians, Jews and Normans also left their traces.
For many centuries, people on the islands lived a self-sufficient life, farming, fishing and trading locally. Pirates were always a danger, and the oldest village on Alicudi is at 600 meters above sea level, to be out of reach of marauding invaders. Only at the beginning of the 20th century, people left the mountain villages in favour of the lower levels. Today, not many of the terraces on which the inhabitants planted wine, olives, fruit, vegetables and grain are still cultivated. Since many people emigrated at the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Alicudi has dwindled from nearly a thousand to round about a hundred. A large part of the formerly agriculturally used land has been converted into a nature reserve.