Aeolian Islands: Stromboli, climbing the volcano

Stromboli, Aeolian islandsIt’s impossible to decide whether Stromboli really is the most beautiful of the Aeolian Islands. Many believe so, and not without reason. It’s definitely unique, possessing an undeniable and unusual fascination that has lasted thousands of years. It’s a volcanic island, a huge cone of volcanic rock that rises up from the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coasts of Calabria and Sicily, a natural spectacle of rare beauty and power.

Black beaches, as you’d expect from a volcanic island, meet the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea of Southern Italy in an unlikely tourist resort right on the slopes of an active volcano, one that rumbles constantly, a frequent reminder to the holiday-makers and travellers of its surly nature and its continuous activity with its small and medium eruptions.

It’s a small island with very few roads, a land to explore by foot or boat. It’s an almost unreal place with a setting that necessitates various tours and offers a variety of things to do. Moreover, for those who embark on this mythological island, on this natural lighthouse that has guided navigators for at least two centuries with its lava and eruptions, it offers sights like none before. All in all, if you go to Stromboli, there are things that you must do and views that you simply can’t not see.

The trip to the craters

Stromboli’s volcano is just above nine hundred metres high, and is constantly active. An exploding mountain, a spectacle almost always visible, it’s well worth the effort as you climb the rather steep slopes of the island. The hiking paths are well-signposted and well-trodden. Take a minimum of hiking equipment including sportswear and something warm to cover up with once you get to the top, and a guide to the footpaths of Stromboli to allow you to explore the area of the volcano’s craters. The bridleways and roads are open to the public as far as an altitude of 400 metres. After that you need to get an authorised tourist guide. The island’s tourist offices can provide you with information and associations such as Magmatrek, who will entrust you to their vulcanologists to safely guide you in the observation of the active craters. It’s about a three hour walk from the beach to the summit, amidst the island’s marvelous broom and succulents, as we climb the mountain that grumbles and struggles under our feet, accompanied by the guides’ explanations and hoping to be lucky and see at first hand the tracks of volcanic lapillo and the flows of lava.

Sciara del Fuoco (the stream of fire)

Stromboli, SicilyFor centuries this soot-coloured basin has received the lava from the volcano, accompanying it towards its spectular meeting with the sea in a perfect union of the lifeblood and incandescence of the earth with the waters of the Mediterranean. Today the flow of lava is rocky, a jet of obsidian that from the higher craters shoots into the sea, deep down onto the sea bed and along the constantly evolving underwater ridges, that are enriched and change by every eruption. In order to see the streams of lava and enjoy the spectacle it provides, you need to book a boat trip that reaches the north of the island. Do so at night, and with a bit of luck you can observe what navigators have seen on their journeys for centuries: the fiery waterfall-like outpourings that once functioned as a natural lighthouse and marked out Stromboli and the Italian coast for kilometres. For those of you who love diving, don’t miss the opportunity to follow the underwater trail of the lava leading out into the Tyrrhenian Sea and be amazed by the natural architecture of the lava rock.

Ginostra and the beaches of Stromboli

On the south west side of the island there’s Ginostra, supposedly the smallest port in the world. Reachable only by boat, this hamlet in Stromboli village has no more than about fifty inhabitants and seems a place where time has stopped. There’s a wonderful natural amphiteatre, made of overhanging cliffs of lava rock, and punctuated by the green of broom and prickly pear trees. You can only walk in Ginostra or ride on the backs of the many mules, man’s true best friend in this tiny and fascinating village made up of houses built on the edge of precipices and steep and rocky ascents that climb up the mountain as far as the church of San Vincenzo, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the village and of the nearby beautiful Piscinette beach, a calm and unmissable bay of black sand.

How to get there. Ferries for Stromboli go from Naples, Palermo, Reggio Calabria, Milazzo and Cefalù with Ustica Lines. Siremar hovercrafts leave from Naples and Milazzo, as do N.G.I. ferries.

Where to stay. The Hotel Ossidiana leads straight onto the beach in the old fishermans’ district on the island, Scari. Also near the sea are the splendid views offered by the terraces of the Hotel Villaggio Stromboli. Take a look also at b&b Il Giardino Segreto, with its large garden.