Why are the Aeolian islands amongst one of the most beautiful places in the world?
From a purely geological, archaeological, and scenic point of view, it’s not by chance that the Aeolian Islands have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for well over twenty years. What does this mean? It means that the seven islands that make up the Aeolian archipelago represent a heritage not only of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sicily, or Italy, but the whole of humanity. Indeed, it was in the year 2000 when UNESCO included Lipari, Panarea, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi in their list of World Heritage sites …
The Aeolian islands really are special, but perhaps the aspect that stands out most and makes them truly unique is the presence of two active volcanos: Vulcano and Stromboli, from which two of the islands take their names.
It is this volcanic presence that greatly characterises the beauty of these islands, indeed, the lava, ash and dust emitted during the various eruptions have contributed to preserving, in great detail, important historical findings going back to pre-historic times and makes this Aeolian territory a true and proper outdoor archaeological park where it is possible to savour the history of the various people who have dominated and are ingrained in this Tyrrhenian paradise.
A Meeting-place Between Many Cultures and Populations:
Since the II Millenium a.c. the Aeolian islands have been a haven for many cultures, in which various populations gathered. The Ancient Greek period was the most prosperous in this archipelago which represented a crossroads of gatherings between the Greeks, Etruscans and Phoenicians and it is thanks to this Greek influence that its choice of name, which refers to the mythology of the god of wind Eolo, dates back.
After the Greek era, the Roman one began and in the III century D.C., the Romans transformed the Aeolian islands into places where sulphur, salt, alum and wine were traded. In the following periods the Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French passed through these islands until the arrival of the Bourbon domination which preceded the unification of Italy.
The Dwelling Place of the God Eolo:
The name Aeolian, as previously mentioned, comes from the Greek god of wind, Eolo and merits a detailed study apart. Eolo, according to Hellenic mythology, was not at the beginning a god, but a common mortal who, after reaching the islands to which his name is given, succeeded in becoming the ruler of the wind.
According to the myth told by a Greek writer, Eolo escaped to Lipari after being accused along with his brother Beozio of murder, but then received the sovereignty of the island from king Liparo, with whom they had become friends, as a reward for having helped him return to his place of birth for which the old king felt nostalgic. After marrying Ciane, Liparo’s daughter and having six children, Eolo showed great skill in the use of sails and predicting the direction of the wind by observing the smoke from the volcanoes. For this, he achieved fame as the ruler of the wind.
Useful Information and Places to Visit:
A place of such a beautiful nature cannot help but contain idyllic locations and the area of the Aeolian islands represents a true and proper natural paradise characterised by a range of geographic and natural environments. Beaches, mountainous hills, lakes, springs, volcanic paths, coves, cliffs, marine meadows: the seven islands of the Aeolian archipelago truly display a variety of places and landscapes unique in nature. Describing all the things that you can do and see is practically impossible, however, it is possible to provide some general guidelines.
The biggest island is Lipari while the smallest is Panarea. Lipari is also more populated with its characteristic historical centre and has one of the most important archaeological museums in Italy. In addition, Lipari is noted for its white beaches, due to its sea beds composed of pumice stone deposits.
Size-wise, after Lipari comes Salina which contains the first and third highest mountains of the archipelago: Mount “Fossa delle Felci” and “Monte dei Porri” which give their names to their namesake nature reserves established in 1984. However, Salina is famous, above all, for having shot some scenes from the film “Il Postino” by Massimo Troisi. In particular, this masterpiece showed off the beauty of the “Pollara” beach, a natural amphitheatre characterised by cliffs moulded from fire, sea and wind from where it is impossible not to be left amazed by one of the most beautiful sunsets in all the world.
Returning to mythology Vulcano is the island where, according to the Greeks, you can find the forges of Hephaestus, who was a blacksmith and also the god of Fire, renamed Vulcano by the Romans: and from which the island takes its name.
Returning to the present time, the island displays many volcanoes of which underground activity has created natural outcrops where it is possible to benefit from mud and thermal cures, free of charge.
If you want to discuss volcanoes, however, it’s impossible not to talk about Stromboli, of which its namesake is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, as well as being a true and proper paradise for lovers of walking and climbing.
But not only sport, also entertainment and nightlife: for lovers of the night the ideal destination is Panarea, the smallest island but the most exclusive regarding bars, restaurants and fun entertainment.
On the contrary, however, for lovers of privacy, unspoilt nature and tranquillity, the ideal destinations are Filicudi and Alicudi.
All the populations and cultures which have passed through the Aeolian islands could not but have had a great influence on the food, which is one of the most varied in the whole of Italy. Among the most famous typical Aeolian products, there is the glorious caper, an ingredient used in the majority of traditional recipes.
Other great products are the “a pennula” tomatoes, so-called because of their long shape and their sweet taste. You cannot talk about Aeolian food and wine without mentioning the great French writer Guy de Maupassant who defined the volcano wine – the “Malvasia“, a wine produced in three versions, for food, as a sweet (passito), and as a liquor.
How to Reach the Aeolian Islands:
At the end of all this discussion, a question springs to mind: how to get to the Aeolian Islands?
The answer is that there are many ways of getting there. Sicily, Calabria, as well as, Naples are all well connected by ferry or hydrofoil to: Cefalù, Capo d’Orlando, Patti, Vibo Valentia, Messina, Milazzo, Palermo, Sant’Agata di Militello, Reggio Calabria, Tropea, Napoli, Cetraro.
There are many more things to be said about the Aeolian islands but the best way to discover them is not to dwell on the lines of this text but to go in person and enjoy the marvels of one of the most beautiful places in all the world. Trying is believing.