It had originally been our intention to stay a few days right on the Islands. In my previous visit I stayed in Lipari and I had good memories. Besides, Lipari can be used as a good base for visiting the other islands. However, after some further thought we decided to simply visit the islands to get an overview. In this way if we decided in the future to come back we would know where to stay. And so it was that on July 15th we boarded a small boat for a 1 day tour of the islands, taking in Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli with cruiseby’s of Panarea, Alicudi and Filicudi. It was hot and sunny and being on the boat was the perfect way to go.
Our first stop was Vulcano, an active island that I remember first visiting in 1980. What stuck most in my mind at that time is the mud baths and the fact that you could venture into the ocean and find your own “fumarole” spewing out hot gas and giving you the effect of a jacuzzi right in the Ocean. I had been telling my wife to expect a fantastic experience in the sea. I had forgotten to mention that the Island is still going through growth spasms and that there are many fumaroles spewing out hot gas throughout the Island and that the prevalent smell is of sulphur i.e. rotten eggs. The smell is like hitting a wall as you step off the boat and onto the pier. The strong smell of rotting eggs everywhere. Its pervasive but after a short while you get used to it and it is no longer an issue until you happen to come in proximity of a fissure in the ground spewing out this hot smelly gas.
After a few hours on Vulcano we boarded our boat and headed for the main island in the archipelago, Lipari. This is where I had stayed my first visit. Lipari town is just the right size. It has hotels, restaurants and all kinds of interesting things to do. One of the main exports of the Aeolian Islands is capers and some great Malvasia wine. We took a tour of the island stopping at several locations to enjoy the scenery and the views. We drove through fields where they harvested capers and other crops. At one stop, someone had set up a stall selling local Malvasia wine which we were able to sample and then of course we bought. From the west side you had a great view of the Islands of Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi. Back in port we wandered around the pretty town of Lipari and its interesting little side streets. I didn’t visit the imposing castle in the centre of town. Maybe next time.
After Lipari our schedule took us to the higly active island of Stromboli. This island erupts a few times an hour. It is most spectacular at night and I can attest to this because I saw it at night the last time I visited. In fact today there are night excursions to Stromboli that take you around the Island just to witness the eruptions and red lava flows. Its still impressive during the day as you can see from the photos.
Stromboli is also a vacation destination of the very wealthy. Dolce and Gabbana have a summer villa here as do a number of prominent Italians and non-Italians. When we were there we saw a number of outstanding yachts, including the Athena, one of the longest sailing yachts in the world as well as the Regina D’Italia, the yacht belonging to Dolce and Gabbana.
There is not much on the Island per se. Even the towns are quite small and some are accessible only by water. The dock we landed at had a dark volcanic beach nearby and we spent some time there in the shadow of the Volcano. The beach was not of fine sand but more small rocks of volcanic stone. But the water was exceptional. It was warm but more importantly it was crystal clear. I wish I had brought my snorkel but even without it visibility was phenomenal. It was at least as good as Grand Cayman and other Carribbean dive places I have been.
After a while on the beach it was time to board the boat for the return back to the mainland – about 2 hours. It was a good time to just relax and be lulled to sleep by the movement of the ship. We returned to Capo Vaticano to drop off some of the passengers then headed back out to sea, past the lighthouse at Capo Vaticano and back to Tropea for a fabulous meal and evening wandering around town. What a great way to spend the day!!
Another day in Tropea and then it was off the Rome.