If something is worth visiting in life, it is the Aeolian islands. Becasue it makes you think about winter in the south. It makes you think about simplicity of life. And it makes you realise how not to treat the tourists: just some bags of potatoes that need to be shipped from one island to another one.

The islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, said to be named after Aeolus, the mythical ruler of the winds. When the first tour was cancelled, I was curious how come, as on Sicily everything seemed to be calm. The lady from the tourist agency told me on the phone: ”Madam, these are the islands named after a Greek God of the wind. Trust me, you don’t want to be tomorrow on the boat.” – Fair enough. Please re=schedule for the next day. ūüôā

The islands’ inhabitants are known as Aeolians (Italian: Eoliani). The islands had a permanent population of 15,000. The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer and attract up to 600,000 visitors annually. The tourist hop from one ship to another one, being served quickly with the dish and some souvenirs and packed to go on another island.

There are seven significant islands:  Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea, and a set of minor islands and rocks.

We have visited the four of them.

Vulcano

Vulcano is the first port of call for ferries from Milazzo. As well as the spectacular view of the narrow channel between this island and neighbouring Lipari, you’re also greeted with the strange sight of a stack of sulphurous oozings, right by the harbour, with an accompanying smell! It really smells like rotten eggs.

As there are many rocks around Vulcano, the entire place is called Valley of the Monsters. The whole area, covered with fine black sand, is dotted with these ‚Äúmonsters‚ÄĚ. We have passed next to the Lion rock.

Next to the Lion rock is Grotta del Cavallo or the Horse cave. The name is said to originate from the shape of a rock that sits at the end of the natural cave and resembles a horse’s head. However, another version suggests that it might have been due to the presence of numerous seahorses in the past.

Going further but still, along the coast of Vulcano, there is another small rock called Scoglio delle Sirene. This is the resting rock of the mermaids. At late-night, the locals can sometimes hear them calling the sailors.

My favourite one was the rock with the hole. Our guide explained that the sirens are sometimes playing by swimming around and jumping through this hole. I haven’t seen any that day but it triggered my mind ūüôā

Swimming here is a very special experience, because the fumaroles extend right out into the sea, bubbling up hot gas and giving the sensation of being in a jacuzzi, in the blue Mediterranean!

Lipari

The first evidence of Sicilian migration was in Lipari. It is relatively pedestrian in comparison with the exotic Vulcano. Fortunately, it has less exotic prices, and the large main town has a nice old quarter and a decent quota of non-tourist shops. But before arriving there, the rock formation called The Mummy.

Now approaching to Lipari port. Calm, peaceful from the far but hectic and touristy as you arrive. Too many people at one place. Not that much nosy, though. I have witnessed worse.

Here the glimpse of the first impression. We had 2 hours to explore. Our main mission: to find quick food, buy souvenirs and explore as much as possible. Starting point was Marina Piccola.

Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, and was a very important area in the past: in fact, the large amount of obsidian present in its volcanic mountains, and its characteristic quality (hard edge) which led into exportation.

Meanwhile, we found a restaurant. Charming grandpa understood we are in a hurry so he didn’t doubt at all by recommending us aeolian wine: La Cambusa and local squid recipe.

The Aeolian Islands and their surrounding waters nurture a remarkable range of biodiversity. The inshore reefs are home to groupers, lobsters and octopus.

Food was done, shopping was done, now we had to explore a bit more. Running, running like a tourist. The clock was ticking. This is the last time I agree on something like this. I am barely having time to sit and enjoy.

The last 45 min were planned to go up the stairs and visit The Cathedral of San Bartolomeo. It is more than 120 steps after a good lunch. Good luck!

The conversion of the inhabitants of Lipari dates to the middle of the 3rd century AD, from which point a place of prayer has existed on the island. The first cathedral was built in the heart of the acropolis, where a Greek temple had probably existed in the classical period, but it was destroyed by the Arabs in 838.

The fortuitous and undocumented recovery of a lead sarcophagus containing the remains of Bartholomew the Apostle. He was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to legend, he was skinned alive and beheaded, often being depicted holding his flayed skin or the curved flensing knife with which he was skinned; thus, he is remembered and approved as the patron saint of leathermakers. He was spreading the Christianity to the east: Armenia to India. However, notably there is a Saint Bartholomew Church in Baku, Azerbaidjan on the site where the Apostle Bartholomew was believed to have been killed Рin area near the Maiden Tower, by local pagans in 71 AD.

The 6th-century writer in Constantinople,¬†Theodorus Lector, claims that the Byzantine emperor¬†Anastasius I Dicorus¬†gave the body of Bartholomew to the city of¬†Daras, in Mesopotamia. As the Muslims continued to slay the area, many Catholics, including pagans started to pray to his body witnessing miraculous. The local government didn’t like this situation so they got rid of the body. which somehow miraculously washed up in Lipari : a large piece of his skin and many bones.

Of the many miracles claimed to have been performed by Bartholomew before and after his death, two are known by the townsfolk of Lipari. The people of Lipari celebrated his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town, it suddenly became very heavy and had to be set down. When the men carrying the statue regained their strength, they lifted it a second time. After another few seconds, it got even heavier. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all the townspeople would have been killed -as the procession was supposed to go down the hill.

During World War II, the fascist regime looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of Saint Bartholomew and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only a few grams. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many kilograms of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down. Saint Bartholomew is credited with many other miracles having to do with the weight of objects.

Panarea

Panarea is the smallest of the seven inhabited Aeolian Islands, southern Italy. There are currently about 280 residents living on the island year-round; however the population increases dramatically in summer with the influx of tourists especially during the months of July and August. In recent years, the island has become known internationally for its celebrity visitors. Kate Moss is sone of them claiming she enjoys the total privacy of the island.

The island is an active¬†volcano as well. There are¬†thermal springs¬†around asn the sea is super warm. We hooped on a small taxi vehicle and drove ourselves to a beach: Spiaggia di cava Junco. My partner got smashed by a jelly fish – but it didn’t matter. ūüėõ We were still impressed by the tranquility of the place.

Quick refreshments as the boat is coming in 15 mins. -.- Really, a sack of potatoes these tourists. Grab the money from them and send them further.

Geologically the¬†archipelago¬†is defined as a¬†volcanic arc.¬†The origin of the Aeolian Islands is due to movement of the¬†Earth’s crust¬†as a result of¬†plate tectonics. The¬†African continental shelf¬†is in constant movement towards¬†Europe. Its¬†subduction¬†underneath the Eurasian plate generates¬†magma, which rises to the surface to form the¬†volcanoes. The “Aeolian Arc” extends for more than 140¬†km, but the area of geological instability caused by the collision of¬†Africa¬†and¬†Europe¬†is much larger. It includes¬†Sicily,¬†Calabria, and¬†Campania¬†together with Greece and the¬†Aegean islands.

Stromboli

One of the four active¬†volcanoes in Italy. This was the best part of the trip and totally unexpected. The volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

From the moment we have disembarked, I have noticed the strange atmosphere. The sand has been black, the beaches were not so much attractive = not like I am seeing these black beaches for the first time, but still – there was some odd expectation in the air that I could have not explain to myself. Neither did I think about it too much.

Instead we have sit for an early dinner. Starting with the local wine – bianco porticello. Little did I know the the Stromboli¬†is the most spectacular of the islands, as it’s the only one that is volcanically active. In fact, it’s the only volcano in the world that is known to have been continuously active throughout recorded history.

Show time!

The horn from the boat called. We hopped on the boat thinking this was it. The day finished. A trip back to Milazzo in an hour. We have seen the sunset colours as never. The spectacular bliss of the rocks and cliffs around.

My favourite one was the Bottaro as it has the lighthouse on the top with a person living there and a nest of the buzzard bird. True symbiosis of a man and an animal.

We could have seen Stromboli from the different perspective with the smoke coming out. Thinking it is typical. Mount Stromboli has been in almost continuous¬†eruption¬†for the past 2,000‚Äď5,000 years;¬†its last serious one occurred in 1921. The serious one. Since 2019 it is having small occasional eruptions.

Little did I know I will actually see one in front of my face! It exploded 2-3 times. Enough to make me breathless and re-thinking my joie de vivre. Our guide said that the Eruptions from the summit craters typically result in a few short, mild, but energetic bursts, ranging up to a few hundred meters in height, containing ash, incandescent lava fragments and stone blocks.

I was lucky to catch a money. I give that one to San Bartolomeo and to Eol – the God of wind!

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