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The Aeolian Islands - Sicily

Seven little volcanic islands surrounded by a warm and deep sea in an out-of-time atmosphere recalling a history of sea-adventures going back 5000 years: that's how long man's presence on these islands dates back. Holiday planning offers the chance of an extraordinary range of ideas in a natural and largely untouched environment: the main island Lipari, the green landscapes of Salina, the wild nature of Alicudi and Filicudi, the sophisticated Panarea and the charming Vulcano and Stromboli.

Salina island wiev from Lipari

An excellent ferryboat service connects the islands to Sicily (Milazzo, Palermo and Messina), Reggio Calabria and Naples. 

Alicudi

Alicudi is the island of heather due to the pink blanket that covers its lavic surface in spring- time. This island (5.2 km2) once called "Ericusa" is an extinct volcano that rises out of the sea to reach the summit of Monte Filo dell'Arpa (657 m; also known as Timpone della Montagnola). This is the smallest and western-most of the inhabited Aeolian islands and lies about 67 miles from Milazzo. It is not part of the mass tourism circuit and the only landing area is near the Scoglio della Palomba. Tourists accommodation is only possible in boarding-houses and private homes. Near the village there is a rise called "Timpone delle femmine'. Women used to be hidden in this almost impenetrable location to prevent them from being kidnapped by the pirates during their raids. The boat tour along the 4 kilometres of the island's coast slowly exposes enchanting spots and peculiar red and black rocks separating the little beaches from each other. The completely uninhabited western side of the island shows particularly suggestive walls falling into the water. The stair-shaped eastern side is exactly the opposite. You can see the church of San Bartolomeo rising above the houses of Alicudi and offering a wide panorama. 

 
Basiluzzo

More than an island, Basiluzzo is a 500-meter- long sharp crag boldly emerging out of the sea two miles from Panarea. Its pointed rocks, measuring up to 150 meters, gradually slope towards the east, offering from the sea an almost fairy-tale-vision of the island. The Roman pier is still used as a landing-area. From here you can climb up along a path to the old ruins lying on the upper part of the island and enjoy an unparalleled view of the rest of the islands. During the short but extremely pleasant boat tour around the island a succession of small coves, grottos and steep rocks vertically rising above the sea will unfold before you. The transparency of the water near the landing-area will enable you to spot the ruins of a Roman dockyard swallowed by the sea as a consequence of the bradyseism phenomena. 

 
Filicudi

Once it was called 'Phoenicusa': "rich in ferns", and a major area of the island is still covered with this type of vegetation. This island, measuring just under 10 km2, lies 9 miles from Alicudi and 19 miles from Lipari. It is the most ragged of this group of islands and geologists believe that its conformation is the product of six eruptive mouths, three of which represent today's peaks of the island: Fossa delle Felci (774 m) which is the oldest; Montagnola (333 m) which is probably the most recent; and Torrione (280 m). This ideal holiday island, light-years away from traffic and noise has two villages lying on a small peninsula stretching out towards the south: Filicudi Porto and Pecorini a Mare. The remains of prehistoric settlements from the Bronze Age have been found here. Excavations have also been car- ried out in the upper area and up to the peak of the Montagnola. Subsequent settlements were built here, probably for defence requirements and deserves a visit. The island's only usable road is a mule-path. 

   
Lipari

This isle is the largest of the Aeolian Islands (48 km2). It lies 22 miles from Milazzo, which is its natural link to the mainland. Its volcanic nature is revealed by its dominating colours: the white of the pomice-stones scattered all around the coastline and the black of the obsidian of Castellaccio Vecchio. Thousands of years ago obsidian represented the islands principal export with the continent because it was extremely suitable for the manufacturing of sharp tools and arms. The volcanic phenomenon can also be observed in the island's thermal springs (up to 600), in its solfataras and in its 12 volcanic systems converging towards the 602 metres of Monte Chirica (although this is not the only mountain of Lipari). This elevated and craggy island (once called "Meligunis") has spectacular beaches and breathtaking ragged coasts whose walls rise precipitously from below the sea. Besides the town of Lipari there are four more villages on the island: Canneto, Acquacalda, Quattropiani and Piano Conte.

   
Panarea
 

The ancient island of "Euonimo" has a surface of only 3.5 km2, but it is the island highly admired by élite tourism. The main village, Contrada San Pietro, consists of a group of white houses clustered along the eastern side of the island. The built-up area is crowned with olive trees and protected by huge walls. The other two villages north and south of San Pietro are Dittella and Drauto. The only practicable roads join the centre with Punta Calcara: this kingdom of fumaroles (emissions of hot gas and steam) is situated at the northern tip of the island. The temperature of the soil can reach as high as 100 degrees. In the exact opposite corner (the south-eastern tip of the island) lies the prehistoric village of Punta Milazzese (a hut-village dating back to the Bronze Age), which can be reached from the beach of San Pietro in an hours walk. We recommend a boat tour to the nearby small islands of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca, to the Scoglio Bottaro (with its underwater "fumaroles"), and to the crags Lisca Nera, Panarelli and Le Formiche. Fields of golden corn cover the 420-metre-high peak of Pizzo del Corvo (the island's highest point) while the mountain slopes down towards the sea on the eastern side.

   
Salina
credits Alfonso Picone Chiodo 

This isle is the second largest Aeolian island (26.8 km2). It was named after the little salted lake of Lingua lying at the south-eastern tip of Salma where the inhabitants once used to gather the salt needed to preserve capers and fish. This centrally located isle, lying two miles from Lipari, is the only Aeolian island (out of seven) covered with blooming vegetation suitable for agriculture thanks to its many water sources. More than 400 different types of plants grow here. It is also the island with the highest peaks such as the three volcanoes that originated it: Monte Fossa delle Felci (962 m), which is partially covered by one of the most beautiful strawberry tree woods of the entire Mediterranean; Monte dei Porri (860 m); and Monte Rivi (850 m). Besides the three villages of Santa Marina Salma (the biggest), Malfa and Leni there are also five hamlets: Lingua, Rinella, Valdichiesa, Pollara and Torricella. Salma, too, can take pride in its past during the Bronze Age, which is demon- strated by a grave, found in Malfa, dating back to the third millennium B.C. The remains are exhibited in the Museum of Lipari.

   
Stromboli

This 924 metre high lava mountain (Serra Vancori) which drops abruptly down to 2000 metres below sea-level is Europe's biggest active volcano after Etna. Its area of 12.6 km2 is visually dominated by the crater: a sort of suggestive natural lighthouse situated in the easternmost Aeolian island. During the night, the glittering "sciara" of fire (the red-hot flow descending towards the sea) can be seen from the boats and from Panarea. During the day, the smoke of the peak joins the steam raising up from the water that cools down the red-hot lava detritus which have plunged into the water after sliding down the slope of the coast. The white houses of the little village create a unique contrast with the black lava background dotted with dark-green bushes.

   
Vulcano

It was once called 'Hierà" (the sacred), but also "Termessa" or "Terrasia". Today it is famous for the baths in the warm waters of its submarine springs. This 21 km2, 500 metre high (Monte Aria) isle is the Aeolian island closest to the Sicilian coast. Its name is a clear description of its geography: a land of lava and fumarole, yellow sulphur rocks and black sands all worth a visit. There are three volcanoes on the island: the first extinguished since the prehistoric age; the second is Vulcanello (123 metres high and dormant since 183 B.C.); the last is Fossa di Vulcano (only the fumaroles are still active).

Food & Wine
All sorts of fish delicacies can be found on the local menus. Special attention must be given to the swordfish, a typical fish of these waters, which is caught according to a very ancient and extremely picturesque "rite". Other specialities are : "maccaruni", aubergine rolls, sweet and sour rabbit, smoked
ricotta cheese and the aromatic capers (their flowers are called the 'orchids of the Aeolian Islands") There is also a selection of excellent, strong and spiced local wines.

 

For more information:
AAPIT Messina - Local Tourist Board
Via Calabria, Isolato 301 bis - 98122 Messina ITALY
 
www.comune.messina.it

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