Aeolian islands

 

One usually associates volcanic archipelagos with tropical places like Hawaii, but Italy has one too. It is the Aeolian achripelago, just off the northern coast of Sicily, composed of seven islands and a few minor cliffs. One of them, Vulcano, is the very place that gave origin to the word ‘volcano’ – and Stromboli… well you probably saw the Disney version of Pinocchio (but in the original novel that character had another name: Mangiafuoco).

While today the volcanoes have stopped being explosively and dangerous active, there is constant minor activity in the form of suplhuric smoke coming up from the ground (“fumaroles”), and harmless small quakes. In fact, the islands are one of the major world centers for the study of volcanology. The largest island in the archipelago is Vulcano, but the most interesting for a tourist is in fact the smaller, called Panarea. This is also the most varied island in term of vegetation, fauna and terrain. As a matter of fact, the whole archipelago is a coveted destination for birdwatchers and naturalists in general, due to the uniqueness of the combination of climate, terrain, volcanic activity and population.

The easiest island to visit is yet another one: Stromboli, which for centuries has been a fertile ground for malvasia grapes. All the islands show ample traces of their historical past (in example the agricultural terraces of Alicudi, built in Roman times). The peculiar characteristics of the archipelago – including a steep seabed over 200 metres deep – have however conspired to destroy the sort of well-preserved archeology you’d usually associate with Italy. What remain is a beautiful destination for high-end seaside holidays, and the opportunity to explore one of the most unique corners of the most unique country in the world.