Forming a volcanic archipelago off Sicily’s northern coast that bridges the gap between Vesuvius and Etna are the Aeolian Islands; formed a million years ago following a succession of volcanic explosions, there are eight islands in the chain. Witness the incredible and untouched natural landscapes, explore centuries-old fortresses, trek to volcanic craters and swim in some of the clearest seas in the Mediterranean.
Aeolian Islands holiday highlights
Italy is well known for its laid-back pace of life, and this is certainly the case here. The rugged coastline is dotted by black- and white-sand beaches, the sea is beautifully clear – perfect for taking a refreshing dip – and some of the smaller islands are almost completely traffic free. The Aeolian Islands are also more rustic than their more famous neighbour Sicily, with buildings largely built from local materials such as lava and pumice stone. There’s a real sense of place throughout the region.
A stay here is a fantastic addition to a Sicilian holiday as they are easily reached by hydrofoil or ferry from the ‘mainland’. It’s also very easy to hop between the volcanic islands, with regular ferries running from harbour to harbour. Our featured resorts are located on the islands of Lipari and Vulcano.
Lipari is the largest and most populous of the island chain. You’ll arrive by ferry into the bustling main town which has a pretty harbour and an ancient Greek acropolis that has borne witness to centuries of attacks, sieges and conquests. The pretty cobbled alleyways and streets that radiate away from the waterfront are lined by charming old buildings that play host to restaurants, bars and shops catered towards both visitors and locals. One of the town’s most popular attractions, aside from the acropolis, is the Aeolian Archaeological Museum which contains fascinating artefacts from all over the archipelago. Just above the town and harbour you’ll find one of our featured properties, the Hotel Mea Lipari (p84), which has beautiful and far reaching views. Being so close to the harbour, this is a fantastic base from which to head out to the other islands.
The island was known for pumice stone production and today it still bears the scars of mining. The results of this industry have created one of Lipari’s most popular attractions – Spiaggia Bianca – where the seabed is lined with fine white pumice sediment. If it’s even possible, this makes the sea take on an even more spectacular turquoise hue. Many boat trips leave from the harbour in the town and head along the coast to this striking bay.
Slightly smaller than Lipari is the southern-most island of Vulcano which is steeped in Greek and Roman mythology. The name, which was bestowed upon the island by the Romans as they believed it was the chimney of the forge of the God Vulcan, should give you a clue as to the island’s major attraction. An active volcano, which is still smoking and has a very distinctive sulphurous smell, overlooks the island’s only town. It’s a bit of a hike up to the Gran Cratere, but well worth it to witness the steaming fumaroles deep in the crater, as well as the 360-degree views of the Aeolian Islands and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Vulcano’s coast is dotted with untouched and usually deserted black-sand beaches and the incredible cave complex of Grotta del Cavallo, while a little further inland you’ll find mud baths. The most popular of these is Laghetto di Fanghi, where the mud is reputed to have therapeutic properties, however you should be prepared for the rather strong odour! The island is home to the second of our two new properties – the beautifully situated Therasia Resort & Spa (p83).
The tiny island of Stromboli, the furthest island from mainland Sicily, is home to one of Italy’s three active volcanos. Mount Stromboli has the the only crater with permanent eruptive activity and has been continuously erupting for almost 2000 years. One of the most popular activities for those exploring the archipelago is a boat trip to the coast of the island at night – the island has the nickname the ‘lighthouse of the Mediterranean Sea’ and is an incredible sight to behold as lava erupts like fireworks from one of the three active craters.