Gisbert Lippelt was once a luxury cruise officer, but went off-grid when he landed on a remote Sicilian volcanic island half a century ago.

Since then, he has lived in a cave on the wild isle of Filicudi in Italy, the farthest and most pristine of the Aeolian archipelago, without any modern comforts – except his mobile phone.

The 76-year-old from Göttingen in Lower Saxony, Germany has no running water, gas, electricity, or air conditioning, but confesses he is addicted to his phone, despite the poor connection where he lives.

“I carry it around with me all the time also to shoot photos, let’s say it’s the only modern thing I can’t and don’t want to get rid of. It’s so useful”.

He says it helps him keep connected to modern outside world, talk to friends, surf the web, read the news also in English and use WhatsApp. He regularly uses it throughout the day, defines it a very rudimental phone and says he has no plans of ditching it.

“It was supposed to be just a holiday, but when I first visited the island it captured my soul. I came back several times till I realised I wanted to ditch my old life and move here permanently,” Mr Lippelt tells i.

He carved out the cave from a mountain cliff with his bare hands and a set of excavation tools to turn it into a cosy, comfortable home, built a thatched straw patio and little wooden hut.

On starry nights, he enjoys sleeping outside on a mattress, collects rainwater in a cistern and cuts wood for the fireplace where he cooks his meals.

Mr Lippelt has no nostalgia for modern-day facilities such as supermarkets and barbers. He uses solar energy to make bread, pasta, and jam. The two “must-haves” for his rudimentary cooking are olive oil and wholewheat flour.

“I’ve embraced nature, and nature has embraced me. I am lucky to have found my little corner of paradise. I grow my own veggies, fruits and have learnt to recognise edible shrub cherries and blueberries from the trees around me,” he says.

He defines his “bon sauvage” lifestyle as a “serene and enchanting para-isolation” (isolation in paradise).

Winters he says are even better than summers in his view, when the tourist buzz is gone and silence fills the air.

Mr Lippelt has become something of an island hero and attraction.

He may live like a hermit but he’s not isolated from the community, made up of barely 200 residents. Locals know him well and occasionally invite him over for dinner or give him a lift in the car from the harbour bar to his cave, located in a hilltop offbeat track where mule paths unwind.

Mr Lippelt says he has learnt to live by nature’s clock – he wakes up at dawn and goes to sleep at sunset. When tourists bump into him and ask how he stands life as a hermit, he asks them how they survive in “jammed, foul-smelling cities full of concrete and smog”.

“After many trips around the world, studying navigation and working hard, I had chosen Filicudi to take two or three months of vacation in Europe – an uncontaminated island with an ideal climate, on a human scale, with Mediterranean hospitality and far from so-called civilisation,” he says.

He says his dreams were realised there. He spent time searching for the right place to live, dug a cave in the flank of one of the extinct craters, with a sea view, which he saw as ideal for spending the rest of his life in solitude. He had parents and several girlfriends during his lifetime who occasionally visited him, but says the only woman who has always been totally faithful to him is mother nature.

The spot had been recommended to him by elderly people on the island, who also passed on some tips on survival in “pure nature” and told him how lucky he was that he would be living “on fresh air” for the rest of his life.

Mr Lippelt jokingly describes himself as a “troglodyte living on a rock in the middle of the sea,” while leading an eco-sustainable lifestyle and enjoying the peace and tranquility of Filicudi.

The island has taught him to tap into his inner self, searching for answers on human existence and the “illusion of free will, and that being is worth more than having and that you have to be faithful to yourself.”

It has also inspired his creativity, painting has become his passion.

“I wouldn’t swap going back to living in a city – not even if I were paid €10,000 a month,” he says.

2024-07-01T05:43:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd