The Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands, also known as the Isole Eolie, are a group of islands of the coast of Sicily. Lipari is the name of the main island and principle town and the archipelago of seven islands is named after Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds. Viewed from afar, the islands that form the Aeolian group appear to be quite different. Yet all inhabitants, irrespective of island of origin, have always considered themselves to represent a single unity. Sharing the same speech and culture, their solidarity is the foundation principle of the SIE.
Lipari town is the biggest centre in the Aeolian Islands. It has always been the commercial and administrative heart, and is dominated by ‘Il Castello’, a cliff top citadel rebuilt by the Spanish in the 16th century as a fortress against hostile invaders and rampaging pirate sieges. Today it houses the world-renowned Aeolian Archaeological Museum which displays classic collections of Aeolian antiquities, going back millennia to times which pre-date the period of Magna Graecia.From ancient times, the island’s economy was based on obsidian, a sharp glass rock of volcanic origin used as a cutting tool.
The island is distinguished by the double humps of its two extinct volcanoes. The landscape is green and lush and unlike the other islands, it has its own woodlands and freshwater springs. Its best-known export is Malvasia wine, first produced by the ancient Greeks and prized for its sweetness and aromatic flavour. Such is its historic importance to the Aeolian economy, the island is administered by three local Councils- the other six islands have only one between them.
This geological wonder land, originally composed of 4 volcanoes, is characterised by sulphur fumes, underwater hot springs and gurgling mud holes. The fine black sands at Porto di Potente and Gelso Beach are as unique as those of Stromboli. The fumaroles and adjoining mud baths of the Laghetto di Fanghi, are the island’s main attraction.
At 924 m above sea level, Stromboli is an island volcano which continues to produce its daily fireworks, spewing fiery rocks down the ‘La Sciara del Fuoco’. Every late-afternoon, guides take trekkers equipped with helmets and climbing boots, to the summit to view the eruptions, which are best viewed at night. The little village of Ginostra (pop. 30), has officially the world’s smallest port, ‘U Pirtusu’- which at best, can only take 2 small boats. The basalt rock Strombolicchio, is the remains of the inner core of an extinct volcano. It is the oldest geological structure in the Aeolians, and it marks the most northern point in the region of Sicily.
The island has only walking tracks and is a hiker’s paradise with no roads or cars. It resembles Ginostra (with which it shares a common fishing culture), For relaxing, it is the Mediterranean’s most serene location. There are only a few dozen permanent residents on Alicudi, yet quite notably, hundreds of its descendants live in Australia. Close to the summit lies Timpone delle Femmine, where women would take refuge and hide during pirate raids.
The Bronze-age huts of Filicudi’s Prehistoric Village, date back to 1,800 BC and its surrounding waters are the graveyard of lost Greek and Roman ships. Famous for its game rabbits, they are served with potatoes as the speciality, ‘Cunigghiu cu ‘i Patati’. The majestic vertical rock formation (fariglione) La Canna is 85 m high and is surrounded by the richest coral fishing grounds in Aeolian waters. La Grotta del Bue Marino (Seal cave) is entered via a spectacular natural rock archway – many similar caves are only accessible from the island’s rocky coastal cliffs.
The Bronze-age Village at Cala Junco dates back to 1,400 BC and pottery indicates that its inhabitants were once trading with the ancient civilisation of Crete. Fragments and archaeological remains are still visible beneath the waterline where bubbles from fumaroles float to the surface. Being the smallest of the Aeolian Islands, Panarea feels overrun at the peak of the summer holiday season, with countless visitors living on yachts and pleasure craft moored around its coast. Panarea has its own (mini) Islands: the uninhabited Dattilo and Lisca Bianca each have their own private beach. The tiny island of Basiluzzo was once inhabited but the occupants were forced to abandon the island after constant attacks from pirates.