Amazing Things to Do and See at the Aeolian Islands

There’s no shortage of things to see in Italy.

If fact, there’s so many points of interest, that you’ll never be able to see them all and could very well leave dissatisfied.

Whether it’s the Colosseum, the Pantheon or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, much of Italy can be described as a tourist trap. Because of this, these areas are likely to be packed with people, which makes them harder to enjoy.

However, off the coast of Sicily, there’s another place that’s just as awe-inspiring and overflowing with history.

That would be the little-known Aeolian Islands, which just might be one of Italy’s most spectacular spots to visit, and lacking the obnoxious crowds of better known locations.

To help you plan your trip or just fantasize, here’s everything you can both do and see at the islands.

Take in the Natural Wonders

Tyrrhenian Sea

As you might have guessed by the name, the Aeolian Islands are a series of volcanically formed islands, technically referred to as an archipelago. The islands are located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is almost entirely surrounded by Italy.

This archipelago – a chain of small islands, such as Hawaii – consists of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo. Each of these islands, while similar, has its own distinct flavor and its own attractions.

The surrounding waters are, like much of that region, bluer than almost anywhere else. Photographs from the area look almost painterly, as the blues are so blue, the whites so white and the greens so green.

One of the most exciting destinations is the Stromboli Volcano, which can, of course, be found on the island of Stromboli. While there are trails that allow visitors to hike up the volcano, a guide is required once you hit a certain point. To the top of the volcano, the walk will take you about three hours.

Interestingly enough, the Stromboli Volcano actually served as the inspiration for Mount Doom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy series, “The Lord of the Rings.”

Elsewhere, on the largest island, Lipari, you can find Quattrocchi, a famous viewpoint. Aside from being incredibly hard to pronounce, it provides an unbeatable panorama of the coast, the massive cliffs and the ominous smoke coming from the nearby volcanos.

Also on Lipari is one of the Aeolian Islands’ premiere beaches, the Spiaggia Valle I Muria. Here, you’ll find yourself surrounding by nothing but water and cliffsides. This is an ideal place to go swimming or sit back and relax in the Italian sun. There’s also a nearby beach bar owned and operated by a local.

As beautiful as the beaches can be on Lipari, the island of Vulcano is where you can find what is, perhaps, the islands’ most unique feature. Quite the opposite of a volcano, the island has a massive crater in its surface. Truly odd-looking, the crater is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

To form the best picture in your head, just imagine if a giant dropped a mall-sized bowling ball from outer space.

Return to a Bygone Age

Anyone who’s ever cracked open an old, dusty history book knows that the Italian region has been a prominent figure on the world stage for many, many years.

As a companionate experience to a book, visiting the actual soil where history took place can be incredibly rewarding. Besides, there’s reading about the ancient world, and seeing it up close with your own eyes.

One place where you can do just that is the Museo Archeologico Regionale Eoliano, located on the island of Lipari. This museum spotlights ancient artifacts pertaining to the history of the Aeolian Islands.

The said artifacts include tools made from the island’s obsidian, burial urns and a large collection of Greek theatrical masks. For more artsy among you, the museum also has a selection of statues, including the Andromeda con Bambino.

Outside of the confines of a museum, you can freely explore the Prehistoric Village of Capo Graziano on the island of Filicudi. This archeological site dates back to 1700 B.C., as the historical markers are sure to inform you. You’ll find some rounded huts, which scientists believe were for better defense during raids.

For those looking to take a religious journey, there’s the world famous Lipari Cathedral, which was built way back in 1130. As you might guess from its date of origin, this church isn’t anything like your local church.

It’s architecturally flamboyant, from a time when buildings weren’t simply built for utility, but for appearance, as well. To complete the cathedral’s overall look of old-world magnificence, the front of the building is approached by way of a large, imposing staircase.

Aside from appearances, the inside of the cathedral contains relics, one of which is particularly notable. This would be a vessel containing a piece of St. Bartholomew’s skin, which is appreciate, considering the fact that the church is dedicated to him, the saint of shoemakers.

Become Acquainted with the Islands’ Authentic Cuisine

glass of red wine

Malvasia, sometimes referred to as the “wine of the volcanos,” is a wine unique to the Mediterranean region, the Aeolian Islands included. It’s highly sought after and is said to have a unique flavor.

If you’re not much of a drinker, the island of Salina is where you can find Lingua, a small village and popular summer destination. In this village is a restaurant famous across Sicily, Da Alfredo. This is where you can find authentic Italian sandwiches and “granite,” which is an ice treat made with coffee, nuts or fruit.

Another popular destination for food is Ficodindia Pane Cunzato e Sapori Eoliani. The name of the restaurant won’t be the only mouthful, however, as they have an extensive selection of meats and cheeses. To wash it all down, there’s also an impressive wine list.

You some other dining options in Lipari Town, which assumes a relaxed mien. The modest walkways are perfect for admiring the quaint town as you ponder where you should eat next. In addition to restaurants, you’ll also find cafes, delis and bars.

Come for the atmosphere, stay for the food.

Get Ready to Go on an Adventure

village top view

If going out to eat and strolling through museums isn’t quite exciting enough for you, the Aeolian Islands have plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied.

Snorkeling and diving are not only available to visitors, but encouraged. The area’s starkly blue waters are beautiful to look at from afar, but even more so when swimming within them. On the seabed, you’ll come into contact with colorful plant life and animal life, contrasted with the black, volcanic rocks.

In some sections around the island, particularly around the Volcano, you can even see fumaroles while snorkeling. If you don’t know what they are, they’re fissures in the ground where the volcanic gases of nearby volcano shoot out of.

Think of a hole in a dam, except reversed – instead of water leaking out, it’s air.

If you’d like to explore the great outdoors but don’t trust your own legs to carry you through, you’re in luck. The Aeolian Islands come with their very own donkey rides. That’s right. Why walk, when you can ride a donkey?

These fine beasts are particularly useful on the island of Alicudi, as it has no streets for cars. The donkeys will also carry your luggage for you, which will lighten your load even further. It makes you wonder why donkeys aren’t available for transport everywhere.

Unfortunately, donkeys aren’t nearly as effective in water as they are on dry land. For that reason, the islands offer boat rides, which can be very useful when trying to get from one island to the other.

There’s Plenty to Do and See at the Aeolian Islands

Aeolian Islands

While all the other tourists are waiting in line and shoving each other to get the best possible view of the Sistine Chapel, you’re elsewhere.

You’re kicking back on the Aeolian Islands, free from the hustle and bustle of obnoxious tourist traps.

With the gorgeous landscapes, the remnants of an ancient time and the unique selection of authentic Sicilian foods, you’ll always be in a state of discovery.

Relaxation and discovery.

Isn’t that what vacationing is all about?

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