The Aeolian Islands, Sicily
The Aeolian Islands are a group of eight small islands off the North eastern coast of Sicily and have been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. They are there because there is a fault line in the earth’s surface making them active volcanoes and the area subject to earthquakes. (The earthquake charts and maps can be found here). All in all it sounded like the ideal place for us to visit before the islands sunk or exploded.
We planned to sail to which ever island the wind or a Tsunami took us. The winds changed so many times on our sail across we actually were headed for every one of the different Aeolian islands at one time or another.
The Vulcano anchorage.
We rounded the bottom of Vulcano, sixteen miles of the Sicilian coast to get shelter from the wind and swell and went to the bay there. The European word Volcano is actually derived from the island of Vulcano. The bay there is sheltered from most directions but it is small and very deep. Even just off the shore it is 30m deep which means that most boats do not have enough anchor chain to be sure that your boat is not going to go walk about. There are buoys there if you are willing to pay 50 euros a night. We did get anchored on the third attempt but it meant we could pass drinks to the boat next to us from the cockpit. That was no bad thing of course as long as they passed some back. Later that evening we joined a French couple for drinks but we could almost just step from boat to boat.
There is always a smell of rotten eggs
The good thing about Vulcano from my point of view is that it is continually leaking sulphur. There is always a smell of bad eggs in the air which meant that I did not have to blame our fictitious invisible dog any more for my own sulphur leaks.
You can walk or should I say hike up to the Grand Creator of the volcano on the island to have a look in which takes about three hours. It is a steep slope and although I wanted to do the long walk my nails needed filing. We didn’t go but in all honesty we wish we had.
Mud bath anyone?
Around the black lava shores of Vulcano on the Aeolian islands there are numerous hot underground springs leading into the sea. This means within the space of a few meters you can be swimming in cool, warm or poach your gonads water. You can also pay a couple of Euros to go on a beach where you can slap black mud warmed by the volcano all over yourself or anyone else if you wish. It is allegedly good for you and therapeutic. My opinion is that the only person to get therapeutic value is the shower owner who charges you another euro to wash it all off.
Vulcano is a doing rather than a seeing Island. You can kill yourself walking up to the creator, make mud pies, poach your testicles or have excessive flatulence without anyone ever knowing. It is worth taking the time out to visit the Aeolian Islands and there are regular quick hydrofoil ferries from Milazzo on Sicily.
The most active Volcano of the Aeolian islands chain is Stromboli which has been erupting continuously for the last 2,000 years. There are actually over 400 nutters that actually live on the volcanic rock. It is easily reached by ferry and the night tour is best to see the continual explosions which give it the nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”. We would like to have gone but there is no real shelter for a boat there and bad weather was closing in.
The Aeolian Island were fascinating and we would like to have spent time exploring them all including Lipari which is the biggest Island. We will go back later this year and spend longer there. I will be able to eat as many baked beans as I want and be able to blame and noise or smell on local eruptions or our invisible dog.
From the Aeolian islands we sailed back to the mainland and Milazzo where we anchored behind the harbour wall.
Milazzo is another large city in Sicily which is a real working city. It is big but in all honesty there is little there to be seen unless you like watching ferries going in and out to the Aeolian Islands. I would like to say something good or bad about the city but we found nothing. It looks far better from the sea than from the land is probably the best compliment I could give it.
Whilst in Milazzo we did get a message from Tinkerbell who had nearly caught up with us. We agreed to meet them in small harbour at Scila on Italy before transiting the dangerous Messina straits.
Scila was the prettiest village we have visited to date and the Messina straits was just downright scary but I will leave them both until the next blog.
We had now transited the North coast of Sicily and the Aeolian islands and it was time leave one volcano to start heading south to a bigger volcano at Etna.