Aeolian Islands

The stunning Aeolian Archipelago with its eight different volcanic islands (sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands) is located north east off the coast of Sicily, Italy and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus, the islands have a population of circa 15k (2019). In summer the population swells to 200,000 when Island hoppers can discover their unique charms. Panarea becomes a jetset playground and overflows with beauty and wealth and super yachts. The smouldering volcanos of Vulcano and Stromboli offer exciting walks to view the crater rims. Lipari has a sizeable town with the highlight being the scenic coastal footpath. Salina allows you to climb the Monte Fossa delle Felci and to enjoy a glass of sweet Malvasia wine afterwards. Filicuudi is linked to spartan conical Alicudi, where the only form of land transport are donkeys....

STROMBOLI

It has been Paul’s childhood dream to see Stromboli Volcano in action so it was with great excitement that we boarded the Libertylines ferry in Milazzo. (25 sailings a week and takes 1hr10 mins after dropping passengers at the other islands first. Eur 55.99 for two). Named the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ for its steady towering glow having spewed lava almost continuously for 2,500years.

Top Tip: Park your vehicle at Garage delle Isole on Sicily, situated next to Spar supermarket – free shuttle bus to and from Milazzo Port EUR11 / 24hrs. Paid and on shuttle within 5 mins and arrived at port 5mins later. Call on return to be collected.

We were not disappointed, the volcano was puffing gently on arrival. There are no cars on Sromboli so we flagged down a Taxi ( or should we say: golf buggy) who zoomed up and down and through the narrow winding streets and finally dropped us outside our chosen hotel – EUR20 for the transfer.

Hotel La Sciara is a comfortable 4 Star Hotel with a massive pool and bar with great views of the volcano. The hotel offers a shuttle from the ferry – advised until you know your way around, then it is a 25 minute walk from the port or an hour walk from the hotel to the crater of Stromboli and 10min walk to beach.

🙂 Large comfortable room with balcony (Room no. 111).

🙁 Grumpy Barman who also appeared to also be the Waiter and Maintenance Man and Receptionist. Family Business – but too much for one person! Unfortunately none of the delicious cocktails advertised at the pool bar were actually available but we did manage to enjoy an Aperol Spritz.

After a relaxing afternoon by the pool we decided to have a walk and do some exploring. We headed to the port to meet ‘Frank’ who we’d contacted by phone for a morning boat trip to go swimming at secluded spots around the island and a sunset boat trip to view the volcano erupting from sea. Unfortunately due to adverse weather conditions all boat trips were suspended. This is actually a good point to heed – make sure you build in contingency into your schedule as the ferry timetable may also be disrupted.

We decided to stop off and eat on the way back to the hotel – an we were so pleased that we did! Delicious Pina Coladas, good red wine accompanied by mussels, calamari and finished off with decadent chocolate gelato. Headed back to our hotel with the remainder of our red wine only to discover that they had held our table as we had forgotten to cancel our reservation – so we just had to eat all over again!

Up bright and early and headed for breakfast. Not the best so headed back to La Lampara and ordered two Pina Coladas to substantiate breakfast – they were definitely not as strong as the previous evening but the view of Stromboli puffing from a table inside made up for it. Relaxed by pool for the day and then at 6pm we set off to walk to the crater. Measuring 925m tall, we were limited to walk only to the lowest view point at 290m as it was considered to dangerous to venture further due to extreme activity. There are several operators advertising guided walks but we opted to do it ourselves. As we headed on the clear, gently steepening path we were rewarded with stunning views of the ocean, wildflowers and bamboo. We were the first people to arrive at the lookout point – the experience exceeded all our expectations! Sunset was spectacular with searing pebbles and ash raining into the sea below. The volcano is in a constant state of mild activity and this was punctuated by regular larger and more violent eruptions with lava spewing into the air. We remained mesmerised until 8.30pm when we donned our head torches and headed slowly downhill, turning only to respond to the roar of molten lava gushing into the sea. We tried to eat at Osservatorio but sadly it was fully booked so we ordered a bottle of wine and sat on our balcony with pizza for a further hour watching more fiery fountains lighting up the black sky. Amazing.

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