The Aeolian Islands are one of 58 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy. The Archipelago of the Aeolian Islands consist of seven exquisite islands off the coast of Sicily - Lipari, Panarea, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi - in addition to smaller islets and giant boulders. They all emerge from an uncontaminated sea, created by still-active volcanoes (Stromboli and Vulcano), and blessed by a savage beauty. The Islands, the destination for tens of thousands of tourists annually, are part of the Province of Messina.
Lipari is the largest island in the chain.
Here the Archaeological Museum is one of the must-see places – it is tucked inside Lipari Castle, which stands out on the island’s eastern bay in between its best docks, Marina Lunga and Marina Corta. There is also a marvelous Greek acropolis and a Norman cathedral. And one of the most exciting activities is to circle the island’s coasts by boat, admiring its splendid inlets (Fico is particularly pretty) and the beaches of Vinci, Valle Muria, Punta della Castagna and Capo Rosso.
Panarea is the smallest and lowest of the Aeolians (421 m/1,381 ft at its highest, at Timpone del Corvo), but it is also the oldest and attracts boatloads of tourists for its clean water, underwater volcanic vents and its nightlife.
Together with the tiny islands of Basiluzzo, Spinazzola, Lisca Bianca, Dattilo, Bottaro, Lisca Nera (of which little still remains) and the boulders of Panarelli and Formiche, Panarea forms its own minuscule archipelago. The touristic port is at the San Pietro crossroads, where visitors can take in characteristic homes, bottegas and shops.
According to Greek mythology, Vulcano was the location of the blacksmiths of Hephaestus, the god of fire, metal work and the fine arts. It is possible to observe numerous volcanic phenomenons here, from smoke clouds, vapor spouts (at both the volcano’s mouth and under the sea) and sulphuric mud holes known for their therapeutic properties.
Stromboli is actually the most active volcano in Europe, and boasts frequent, spectacular eruptions that can be best seen from the Italian Navy Observatory at Punta Labronzo. Lucky visitors might just get to see the Sciara del Fuoco, the lava flow that runs down into the sea.
Other places to visit include San Vincenzo, the medieval borgo surrounded by very particular white house-boats; the isolated fishing village of Ginostra that clings to Stromboli’s rocky side, accessible only via animal trails; and the Strombolicchio, a giant boulder – of course, born from an eruption – which is topped by a large lighthouse.
Salina is the second-largest island, and has the highest reliefs on the archipelago. It is also the home of a beautiful wooded area of ferns (la Fossa delle Felci), located on jagged cliffs above the island’s gorgeous beaches (Pollara being one of the most notable).
Don’t miss a visit to the house where the beloved “Il Postino” (starring Massimo Troisi) was filmed, and be sure to taste the renowned granita, a local crushed-ice treat.
The western-most islands in the Aeolian chain are Alicudi and Filicudi, characterized entirely by craters left by inactive Volcanoes; here, the environment is fabulously wild, with thriving marine life deep under the sea.
Remarkable on Filicudi are the enormous boulder La Canna (approximately 85 m/279 ft), the Scoglio della Fortuna and the Grotta del Bue.
The silent Alicudi (where cars are forbidden), is the island least touched by man, and where natural impressions of the Mediterranean are immediately visible.