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Off the Beaten Path in Italy: The Aeolian Islands

January 7, 2006 By:Mary Winston Nicklin

Aeolian Islands house

I fell asleep on the cold deck of the ferry from Naples, my bag as a cushion for star-gazing at the endless vault above, the night furious with wind, and awoke at dawn to the sight of the looming volcanic island of Stromboli, its conical peak sputtering with ash and red flaming rock. (There are easier and faster means of transportation to these remote islands- namely, the ferry from much-closer Sicily). What a welcome! The Aeolian Islands had long conjured a mythical image in my head; after all, the ancient Greeks described this small string of islands as the home of the God of Wind. (And Homer described the voyage of Odysseus passing through these islands with the help of a favorable wind.) Craggy cliffs covered in vegetation, dotted with white-washed houses draped in brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea, the islands in this volcanic archipelago have a dramatic setting in the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Each island is different, with a distinct personality. And it's easy for visitors to island-hop, as smaller boats and hydrofoils connect between the islands a few times daily. Lipari is the most developed of them-- though hardly bustling-- with a charming town full of cafes and shops. Among the other sites are the ruins of the ancient Greek settlement, the long stretches of beaches, and white cliffs of pumice. On Stromboli, hike to the volcanic crater to see small eruptions of red lava at twilight. Tour the vineyards on the green island of Salina, or escape with the international jet-set to the gorgeous seclusion of Panarea.


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