The Aeolian islands: Stromboli

Stromboli was the key highlight in our visit to the Aeolian archipelago. We knew there was an active volcano there, and ever since the first day on the islands we started seeing the smoke coming from the island. At night, being anchored in any neighboring island, we could see the orange halo at the top of the island and the bursts of lava now and then. Even from a big distance this was an awesome view. Some evenings we were just staying on the boat, staring at Stromboli and exclaiming when big bursts were seen.

So, imagine our enthusiasm to get onto the island and visit the volcano!

Stromboli volcano is a young volcano (100,000 years) and one of the highest in Europe – 2400 meters between the base and the cone. It’s considered unique in the world because of its 3 mouths bursting lava each 15-20 minutes. Stromboli used to be a highly populated island, with a fleet of 65 sailing ships crossing the Mediterranean. But in 1930s severe volcano eruptions and a sea quake with 30 meter high waves caused most of the population to run away.

Il geco (the lizard) and the volcano make up the symbol of Stromboli.

Visiting Stromboli on a boat is definitely a good choice, if you are interested in seeing the volcano. From the water you can see amazing views, even during daytime. However, make sure to keep far off the shore, since the crater throws up big stones and they often end way into the water.

The eruptions during daytime are not clearly visible (though you can see the two mouths throwing up), but when you see the big stones reaching the water you get the picture..

We stopped at one of the two ports (the second possible port was the smallest one in the world, fitting just one boat!) and on we went to investigate the possibilities to climb to the crater. We were kind of disappointed to find out that excursions to the volcano had to be booked the day before, and started until 2-3 pm. The reason is – the trip to the volcano takes 4-5 hours both ways. Most groups try to be there at dusk, so they can watch the lava going down the hill in the dark. If you are an enthusiast for such a trip yourself, have in mind it’s a good walking, part of it on steep terrain and you need to have shoes with thick soles with you. The guides also give you special equipment to put on and register the names of all visitors with the local administration.

Stromboli streets

So, given we couldn’t join an expedition to the lava area, we were advised to go to restaurant L’Osservatoio (the Observatory), which was halfway the road to the crater and where at dark you could enjoy the amazing spectacle.

Watching lava bursts while drinking great wine is an emotion I find hard to explain. I still clearly remember the bubbling sounds of the crater mixed with the exclamations of the people around, the awe mixed with slight fear from the proximity of the view. You can literally feel the heat – the lava bursts were massive and coming really close, though sliding down a neighbouring valley. You can see the tourists at top, wearing helmets and protective equipment and flashing their camera lights at the lava. All this while you comfortably enjoy Italian spaghetti and wine. Simply amazing.

The road back was completely dark and we had to join another group to find our way, but we had light in our hearts. From what we had seen and may hardly be put into words.

Of course most people visit Stromboli because of the volcano, but its main village (also named Stromboli) also has its merits – the amazing views it offers. We did a morning jogging on Stromboli streets, taking the narrow streets and looking at the island houses featuring enormous yards. It was interesting to see many street signs showing how to get out of the port area in case of tidal waves caused by sudden volcano eruptions.

Evacuation signs were quite frequent at the shore

In 2002 a sudden intense activity of the volcano caused a massive rock to fall into the sea, triggering a 10-meter tidal wave and destroying houses just at the shore. So now there are emergency sirens and signs instructing residents what’s the closest option to get 10 meters above shore, in case of emergency sirens.

Getting out of the winding streets – there we were, at the best observatory point of the whole island – a cute cafe with home-made croissants, offering a breathtaking view to the island, the sea, the port – everything. The crispness of the fresh morning air, perfection of the view and strongness of italian espresso aroma is definitely my combination for the best start of the day.

Enjoying the view, while the volcano keeps reminding of itself (see the smoke behind the mountain)

There is no special sightseeing on the island (except the volcano of course, and a cute black lava beach), but there are many village alleys, small shops here and there, colorful houses – it’s a complete pleasure simply strolling around.

Stromboli houses are full of color

And you may happen to come across the house of a celebrity – writer Umberto Eco, president Giorgio Napolitano and others are claimed to have a house on the island. Just remember to bring a torch with you – most streets are not well lit after dark.

Stromboli was the first volcano I was seeing that close in my life, and it made me think a lot about how tiny we are in the face of nature. And how fragile is our existence on the Earth. A starting point for many meditations, as we continued to the next volcano island named.. Volcano! 🙂 More on it and its stinking hot sulfur spring in my next post.

2 Responses to The Aeolian islands: Stromboli

  1. Jenny says:

    Great post thank you. My family and I will be visiting Stromboli in June and trying to learn to as much as I can about the hije. I found a interesting article but it didn’t mention much about the night hike. Do have any opinions about the night hike is it safe for children. Thank you in advance.

    • Svetla says:

      Hi Jenny

      I think i saw some children on the way up, but they were 7-8 at least. The walk to the volcano crater is tough and covered with ashes so – not very suitable for really young kids.

      But even if you reach the observation point only, the point up to which you can go without guides, the views are quite spectacular!

      Have a great trip!

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