The Aeolian islands (Sicily)

The lizard and the volcanoes – the symbols of the Aeolian

Have you heard about the Aeolian islands? A year ago, neither had I 🙂 I was having a 6 am breakfast in a lovely Cefalu (Sicily) bed and breakfast, with an amazing view north of Sicily..when I spotted those islands. “These are pretty close to Sicily and to one another, there are several of them… sounds like a good sailing destination, isn’t it?’ was an instant thought. Few months later – there we go with a sailing crew!

In a series of blog post I will cover what we saw when visiting 5 of these 7 islands. Why series? Because there was so much to see. And I’m sure we didn’t cover even half of the best views and sights. Hope you’ll enjoy the posts, but go see these yourself!

The Aeolian islands are named by the Greeks after Aeolus – God of the Winds, because of the constant high winds in the area. There’s even an Aeolian triangle here where bizarre things happen to sailors (similar to the Bermuda triangle). Alas, not to us, though I had dug all possible literature for this phenomenon and was ‘prepared’ 😉

The 7 Aeolian islands -Stromboli, Panarea, Filicudi, Alicudi, Salina, Lipari and Vulcano – have volcanic origin, with 2 active volcanoes on them (on Stromboli and Volcano islands), and volcanic activity of some kind (steaming fumaroles or thermal waters) on the rest of them. Proof of this activity in the area is the small island that emerged in 1955 near Stromboli (and later sank again).

Map of the Aeolian islands (by Wikipedia)

Reaching the islands is easy. There are frequent car ferries and hydrofoils from Milazzo and Messina in Sicily, and Reggio di Calabria on the mainland. Most stop at Lipari first, and then continue to the rest. The Aeolian is a favorite holiday destination for Italians, so especially in the summer ferries are frequent. As with most places, might be better to visit these off the high season. Late April it was already getting crowded.

We spent about a day on each of the islands. I would say, however, that a couple at least are needed to enjoy all amazing view, sip a cup of perfect italian coffee, walk around the small streets and historical sights. Get a guide of the islands, if possible, since most islands have their sights scattered everywhere.


Lipari is the biggest and heaviest populated (~10K population) island. You can’t confuse it – as you approach it, there’s the magnificent Castle Rock visible from everywhere. This is a grand 16th century fortress which currently hosts museums, fortresses, open-air museums and many others.

The Castle Rock in Lipari

Our trip schedule didn’t give us a chance to visit it, but you make sure to go (the archaeological museum in particular seems to be a must-visit).

Our short stroll in the island included the main street – Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which has been the main street since Roman times. I had just recently been in Sicily and expected a similar atmosphere on the islands. It felt however even more cozy, color- and aroma-rich than Sicily. The main street has many clubs, restaurants with lemon-abundant gardens, souvenir shops selling capers and Malmsey (the local sweet wine). As you go away from the crowd, into the small streets, you hear the sounds and smell (sometimes – strong washing powder smell!) coming from the houses, can peak in the windows, now and then come across a family confectionery, little restaurant or gelateria.

Nice colorful restaurants pop up while you stroll the tiny streets

Walk during the evening – the mild light on the small streets gives such a warm and slightly mysterious feel of the place – it’s amazing.

Eventually you reach the seaside street – Marina Corta – which is the main meeting place, with many bars and restaurants with big colorful umbrellas.

Marina Corta in Lipari

There’s also the statue of Saint Bartholomew – the patron of Lipari.

The statue of Saint Bartholomew in Lipari

Just to the side you can see the bell tower of the church of Saint Joseph.

St Joseph church in Lipari

Lipari is definitely a place one should spend more time in. Still, compared to the rest of the islands we saw, I didn’t get that attracted to this one. But – go and judge for yourself 😉 Next coming up is – the island of Salina, where I managed to visit a total of 3 lovely villages!

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