The Aeolian Islands of Sicily
Just off of Sicily’s north-eastern coast Lipari (Lipari Town), Vulcano, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi make up the magical Aeolian Islands of Sicily. This little piece of paradise offers something for everyone; swimmers, divers and sailors can all enjoy the clear cobalt blue waters, whilst land lovers can trek through the stunning scenery and grumbling volcanoes.
Transport around Aeolian Islands is a little slower than the rest of Sicily; there are hydrofoils that connect the 7 islands and there are ferries that run the same route which cost less but take twice as long!
This is the biggest and the busiest of the islands and is the most accessible. If you are visiting from the mainland this will feel like a slower more relaxed pace of life but if you are travelling from any one of the other 6 islands, Lipari can feel like a busting capital city by comparison. Lipari Town is the transport hub, with its busy, pastel coloured port and an abundance of accommodation to choose from. This is a great base if you want to island hop and if you want to venture further out to soak up the typically Mediterranean landscape; dense shrub land, whipping winds on the cliffs and the rich, deep blue water. The Town plays host to the archaeological museum and Cattedrale di San Bartolomeo and retains its historic charm.
As the name suggests, this is everything Volcano! There are no sightseeing opportunities here as such, but visitors can still enjoy swimming on the dark volcanic beaches or climbing the smoking craters. Porto di Levante and Porto di Ponente are the main tourist areas but once you have left these behind you can enjoy the rural feel of the island and its amazing amount of plant life. Looking back, you will be able to see the white trails of smoke rising into the blue sky from the islands ominous peaks. The Roman’s believed this island to be the chimney of Vulcan, the fire god, but now it is celebrated for its hot springs and natural mud baths.
The Island of Salina boasts a lush, verdant landscape. Wildflowers, bright yellow gorse bushes and grape vines carpet the hillside in an array of vibrant colour in stark contrast to some of the more exposed volcanic terrain of the other islands. This is the second largest of the islands and is the only one to enjoy natural freshwater springs. Offering perfect fertile growing conditions, the famous Malvasia wine is produced here and juicy capers flavour local dishes. Salina is protected by two extinct volcanoes, Monte dei Porri and Monte Fossa delle Felci, which divides it from the rest of the world and offers a sense of peaceful remoteness.
This is the smallest yet the most fashionable of the islands, attracting international jet-setters from around the world and the Milanese fashionistas. It is exclusive and incredibly expensive and is home to luxury yachts that grace the waters of the pretty harbour. There is a nice mix of mainland and off-shore activities to be found here and all easily accessible on foot through the traffic free streets and network of trails; many of which offer access to beaches and crystal clear waters.
The volcano of every child’s imagination. Menacing, brooding, dark and magnificently massive, the smoking silhouette of Stromboli does not disappoint. The Island of Stromboli is just the very tip of this gargantuan underwater volcano that lies beneath reaching 1476 metres to the sea bed. This is a hugely popular tourist destination and you would really need a couple of days to appreciate its raw beauty, romance and languid pace. Scarred and blackened by volcanic activity, the north eastern point of Stromboli is the only inhabited part of the island and here is where you will find the famous black beaches. The main settlement is sprawled out over the lower slopes and whilst breath-takingly beautiful, life here is tough. Provisions and fresh drinking water have to be ferried across as there are no roads across the island and should the weather take a turn for the worst and the sea turn rough, all transport and deliveries are stopped, leaving Stromboli’s residents completely cut off.
This has to be one of the prettiest and least developed of the islands. It tectonic history dates back over 700,000 years and boasts a rugged and pitted coastline which is gently lapped by the clear blue waters. There are only several small villages on the island and its small pebble beach offers up a small fishing hamlet where food and accommodation can be found. There are many sight-seeing opportunities to be had here including land-based hikes through the terrain to Fossa Felci and a spectacular diving spot in Capo Graziano where you can see the 9 sunken wrecks of ancient Greek and Roman ships.
This has to be the ultimate ‘getting away from it all’ destination. This is the most isolated place in the whole of the Mediterranean basin. The main village has no roads and very minimalist facilities. If you want to get about your only hope would be a passing mule or a boat at the water’s edge. Apart from strolling through the streets and watching people go about their daily business, or climbing 675 relentless metres to the island’s central peak, there isn’t much to do other than find a comfortable spot on the beach and soak up the sunshine. It may take a bit of effort to find the perfect spot (having to clamber over boulders at the south of the port to reach the beach) but the warm crystal clear waters and sound of the lapping waves and birdsong make it all worthwhile.
There are of course, many great things to discover about each of astonishingly beautiful and extremely varied Aeolian Islands and each one has its own attractions for you to discover. To reach them, the main port for ferries and hydrofoils to the Aeolian Islands is Milazzo in Sicily, but services are reduced outside the peak season. In summer, they also run to and from Messina and Palermo, and Reggio Calabria and Naples on the mainland. There are good bus services all year round on Lipari and Salina and apart from Alicudi, all the islands have taxis; Panarea’s eco-taxis are electric!