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The seven Aeolian Islands are situated off the north-eastern coast of Sicily. They vary in character from being rough and untamed places (like the two most remote islands Filicudi and Alicudi), to being tempered by residents and visitors (Lipari and Panarea), to introverted and solitary (Salina), or lively (Vulcano and Stromboli) which, with timely precision one might say, puff out smoke before relishing the attention paid to them as they toss small incandescent lumps of stone high into the air.

The Greek mythology ascribes the islands to Aeolus, and suggest that Odysseus temporarily sheltered there during his travels. There he would met cyclops Polyphemus.

The history itself of these islands is lost in the mist of time, when tectonic plates moved to create a great chasm in the Tyrrhenian Sea thereby releasing a mass of molten magma that hardened into a great volcanic outrcrop, some 1000-3000m from the ocenan floor, of which only a minute proportion emerges above the water. According to most recent theories, this happened during the Pleistocene era, just under a million of years ago. The earliest islands to be formed were Panarea, Filicudi and Alicudi. The youngest are those which continue to be active today, Vulcano and Stromboli. Eruptions have continued over the millennia resulting in a variety of phenomena. ranging from pumice formation, a material so light that it floats on water, to the great streams of black obsidian, a glassy and friable material with edges so sharp as to be used by ancient peoples to make razor-like cutting tools.

The scanty population of the islands, that in certain periods is almost isolated from the rest of the world, mostly subsists on fishing, farming (especially vines and harvesting of capers), quarrying pumice (as on Lipari, although this is a dying trade), and most particularly, albeit for a short season, on tourism.

The sea is clear and warm, its color ranging from cobalt blue to crystal near the shore; the rocky shoreline nurtures a rich variety of aquatic flora and fauna: sea anemones, sponges, shell-fish, seaweed, crustaceans and molluscs as well as countless species of fish, making it a paradise for bathers, snorkellers, divers and spear-gun-fishing enthusiasts alike.

Those who seek peace and quiet, far removed from the trappings of worldly life, may choose to go to Alicudi and Filicudi, or Salina, which although more populated and crowded by visitors, is still unspoilt. The same goes for Lipari, Panarea and Vulcano, drawing an ever-increasing number of tourists every year but still providing the ideal context for a perfect holiday.

Connections – The main service providers are: Si.Re.Mar (090/9811 312), S.Na.V (090/9880266), Co.Ve.Mar (090/98 13 181) and N.G.I. (090/98 11 955). These are operated by hydrofoil and ferry, which incur inversely proportional costs and times. On average, the hydrofoil (foot-passengers only) costs twice as much as the ferry and takes half the time. The closest port on the main island of Sicily, which logically runs the most frequent sailings, is Milazzo. However, services are also operated out of Messina, San Giovanni (near Reggio Calabria), Palermo, Napoli and Taormina. Bus services also shuttle foot-passengers from the port at Milazzo to several of the major towns in Sicily.

Accommodation – In addition to traditional hotels, rooms and apartments are also available (listed by the Azienda di Turismo 090/98 80 095 and in the annually-updated hotel register). Camp-sites are on Salina and Lipari and youth hostel on Lipari, at the heart of the fortified citadel.

Banking facilities – Beware that the only cashpoints in the Aeolian Islands are on Lipari, in Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Credit cards are not universally accepted.

Boating trips – The best way to explore the islands is by rubber dinghy that you can hire at various points on Lipari. Given the exorbitant cost of hiring one, there is the option of joining an organised excursion by boat from Lipari or Vulcano (from the other islands, the boats are smaller and the services less frequent) which goes to Stromboli (even at night when the so-called Strombolian explosion can be watched from the sea), Filicudi and Alicudi (in the same day); Panarea, Salina, or circumnavigate them (Lipari and Vulcano). The trips usually take in all the islands, making the most interesting approaches from sea to include a view of caves, rock formations, bays and beaches; they sometimes include stops for swimming and for brief visits to the main town. Excursions take place two or three times a week; they can last a whole day (departing around 9am and returning between 5pm and 7pm) or half a day (departing early afternoon and returning late in the evening as for the Stromboli evening trip).

Recreational and sporting activities – The breathtaking clear-like waters and uncontaminated sea beds of the Aeolian Islands make diving the most demanded sporting activity as well as an unforgettable experience. For beginners and those without equipment: Diving Center La Gorgonia (Tel. 090/98 l206O), Diving Center Manta Sub (Tel. 090/98 11 004) and Sud Est Diving Center (Tel. 090/9812510) in Lipari.

THE HOUSES – Houses in Aeolian Islands, all similar in their square shape and white color, are very characteristic. The white color is suitable for protecting against the sun’s heat. They are usually accessed through a portico or a covered terrace (the ‘bagghiu’) bordered by two or three columns (the ‘pulere’). The roofing, usually made of reeds, also protects against heat and humidity (this especially at night). The home roof is terraced to collect rain water.


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