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Bays, coves, active volcanoes, isolated reefs; the Aeolian islands have everything to make of a holiday an unforgettable event

Article by
Paolo Venanzangeli

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Nautica Magazine 414, October 1996


Aeolian Islands

Generated by the fire springing out from the sea depths, this lava conic islands reach to the sky for more than one thousand meters. The original nine mouths, nowadays reduced to two only albeit very active and violent outlets, were the home of the most active Greek gods like Volcano, the mythological weapon's forger and Jupiter's lethal arrows and Aeolus, the archipelago ruler, that here, mythology again tell us, hid here its wind goatskin bag.

Aeolian Islands

Today these islands, so close one to another and yet so peculiarly different, are a well sought after tourist location offering a full range of options: from the Alicudi and Filicudi simple life style still governed by centuries old traditions, to the exclusive and fashionable Panarea, to the rich and exotic Salina's vegetation, to the relaxed Lipari atmosphere: a world on its own resembling planets simultaneously influencing and rejecting one another and yet, capable of delivering in their totality, unsuspecting sensations.

Mountainous Lipari is the larger and the archipelago's capital; the centrally positioned Chirica mountain is the highest, flanked by the lesser Guardia, Rosa and Sant Angelo, its peak offer an enviable view of the entire archipelago. Mount Pelato instead, is completely covered with pumice rock which after being properly polished is exported the world over.

There are several inhabited conglomerates: Lipari itself the most important, is placed between Marina Lunga and Marina Corta coves with the Acropolis, converted into a fortress in the fifteen century, in between. There is a beautiful Norman cathedral and a visit to the Aeolian Museum cannot be missed; there in twenty five rooms, the complete documentation on the various civilizations that have influenced the archipelago development, is neatly displayed; it will tell, among other interesting things, of the strategically important role these islands played with their barycentre position in the western Mediterranean.

Lipari does not have a proper port but various places offer an acceptably safe mooring like Marina Corta cove where yachts can moor, stern first, at a quay whose head is reserved to the ferries and hydrofoils: 25 meters of this dock are reserved to yachting. Main south easterly winds strongly influence this facility which is subject to heavy swell. Sottomaestro has 30 berths at the Yachting dock and some additional ones at the commercial quay very well sheltered from third and fourth quadrant. The best refuge is at Pignataro with shelter from first and second quadrant provided by a breakwater with depths from 3 to 5 meters where, besides commercial and fishing crafts, about 40 yachts can lay at moorings. Canneto is sheltered from the third and fourth quadrants and has a pier used by ferries.

A channel only 800 meters wide separate Lipari from Volcano island and its steep crags. The island is divided in three parts: Vulcano Piano 400 meters high, with a rich, colored vegetation predominantly made of broom flowers,; Vulcano Porto, flat and plain with the port installation over which the crater generated by the last eruption that changed the island outlay in 1888/1890 overhangs and, lastly, Vulcanello an islet sprung from the water on 183 B.C. and over which various craters formed up and later on, gave way to the isthmus connecting today the two islands via the two main coves. With an ensemble of very fine sand, rocky formations, sulphureous lakes and hot boiling waters, the island present a unique view.

Aeolian Islands

At Porto Levante there is a massive breakwater 85 meters long and fitter with mooring facilities where yachts can dock leaving space for the public ferries and hydrofoils. The landing at Gelso, between Punta dei Porci and Punta Bandiera, is exclusively dedicated to the emergency island's evacuation in case of volcanic explosions.

Further to the north and about 2 miles away, lies Salina island whose outline displays two mountains, Fossa dei Felci being the higher at 963 meters; further down the two mountain sides join together forming the Valdichiesa valley. Capers and Malvasia grapes cultures with their products renowned the world over, are located here and picturesque little towns like Santa Marina and Malfa or the fishing village of Rinella will extend a warm hospitality to the visitors.

Aeolian Islands

The island has four landings: S. Maria, the most important, is protected by with two wharfs with the one to the windward heading to the south east with, at the head, the docking slipway for the ferries. Between the two wharfs there is the hydrofoils pier which divides the quay in two; the northern side is allotted to the fishing fleet while the southern one is given to yachting. Rinella has a pier where mooring is possible only on the eastern side in water depth varying from 0.5 to 4 meters. Malfa has a landing only fitter for smaller crafts and even these should pay attention to several surfacing reefs.

Panarea and its nearby islets (Basiluzzo, the Dattilo reefs, the Formiche) all lay on a common coastal platform 70 meters deep, all of them the result of one volcanic eruption later crystallized in these geological formations. The island, whose highest mountain rises to 421 meters with the Pizzo del Corvo, is inhabited and the villages of Ditella, San Pietro and Dauto are well known tourist resorts. The natural port of Cala Junco with the flat Milazzese Cape overhanging it, lies to the south west; here the archipelago most ancient archeological findings, a hamlet dating back to 1500 years B.C., were brought to the light. A small cove, in front of San Pietro islet and named Ditella, has a concrete pier 100 meters long with water depth from 0.5 to 8 meters. The southern side has been reserved for the hydrofoils and the northern one is used by fishboats and yachts.

Stromboli is the northernmost archipelago island, the most spectacular for its continuously active volcano. The volcano's three mouths continuously belch white hot rocks and steamy lapillus lighting up the night and noisily falling down to the sea along Sciarra del Fuoco, one of the mountain's sides. The unique and frightful sight is a reminiscence of what the past eruptions might have been, generating the deeply broken coasts and the nearby Strmbolicchio reef from the top of which the finest archipelago view can be enjoyed. The typical square houses are mostly grouped at the villages of San Vincenzo, San Bartolomeo and Ginostra. Stromboli is 926 meters high and has two landings; the one at Ficogrande reserved to the ferries, is actually partially destroyed by the rough seas frequent here; the other available mooring can be found at Scari where the dock head is customarily reserved to the ferries. Other steel piers are also reserved for the hydrofoils frequently calling here while the rest of the quay is accessible to yachts.

Filicudi, taking its name from the rich fern vegetation growing here, displays a monition appropriately named Fern Mountain 774 meters high and peninsula ending with Graziano Cape to the south east. The high walled coast profile is intermingled with subsidence and caves, notable among them and commanding a visit is the one named the Sea Bull cave. The island's soil is characteristically arranged in terraces growing capers, the industrial mainstay together with fishing in particularily generous grounds. Worth watching from the sea is the 85 meters high Canna reef: a true obelisk impressively springing out from the sea. Two places offer mooring facilities here: to the north of Graziano Cape and in a cove named Porto, a concrete finger pier, 55 meters long and fitted with cleats and fenders, accommodate the ferry and hydrofoils at the head while yachting has moorings towards the wall. The other location, Pecorini a Mare, has a dock 43 meters long only; the main space is taken by the usual ferries and hydrofoils the balance is left to small size pleasure craft.

Alicudi reminds an hermitage both for the difficulties to approach and dock and the secluded position relative to the rest of the archipelago. The highest peak, the Montagnola, is 666 meters high and the side steeply falling to the sea is typically spangled with small houses where the inhabitants would take refuge at the time of the Saracen pirates raids. Anchoring is permitted between Punta Fucile and the Palomba reef close to a T shaped concrete pier recently built for ferries' use. Yachting has only a small, 10 meters long pier with 1.5 meters depth at the head.

Aeolian Islands IIM Nautical Chart on Pagine Azzurre

Docking difficulties aside, the Aeolian islands certainly merit a visit in the hope that the God whose domain this islands once were, keep its winds goatskin bag tightly closed and well under control.

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