Have you got some holiday leave left over? Because it is still summer here and now is the time to come and visit some of Sicily’s offshore islands. The crowds have gone home. The locals once again have smiles on their faces and time to talk to you.
The Aeolian Islands, just lying off the northern coastline of Sicily, are 7 little volcanic islands which first made news in Homer’s Odyssey. Aeolus, the god of winds, gave Ulysses a bag of wind to blow him back to Ithaca when he and his fleet were grounded here.
Each of these islands has something to offer all tastes.
Take Alicudi and Filicudi. They are the smallest and least spoilt. If you are an ex-hippy, or wish you had been, you can enjoy the relaxed laid-back atmosphere here, cast off your shoes and pack just a change of swimming gear and a sarong. There are no cars but you can catch a mule back to your accommodation from the harbour area and continue painting that prickly pear cactus or finish writing your novel.
Then there is Salina where that excruciatingly beautiful, heart-wrenching film Il Postino (The Postman) was filmed.
Pollara is where the house of Pablo Neruda (in the film) is located and where he taught the Postman to love and appreciate poetry.
The little island of Vulcano is a semi-dormant volcano which puffs from its fumarole giving off a not particularly pleasant odour of sulphur like rotten eggs. You can however immerse yourself in the mud baths on the sea’s edge, rub the mud all over, sit until it cakes, wash it off in the same mud bath and then dive into the warm sea. Reputed to have strong therapeutical powers, your skin will certainly be smooth after this treatment but you might have people avoiding you for a few days due to the smell emanating from your skin. It is also a good idea to put your swimming gear into an airtight bag afterwards and possibly bin it.
If, instead, you are more at home with the glitterati, you will enjoy the tiny island of Panarea where you can sip aperitifs and guess who all the massive yachts belong to.
Perhaps you are the energetic type in which case Stromboli will appeal to you. Hike the 900 metres up the mountain towards evening and admire the amazing force of nature that spews from the mountain every 15 minutes or so. But even if you are not so physically inclined you can still enjoy watching the explosions from the safety and comfort of an excursion boat which moors out to sea in the evening allowing you to watch mother nature’s show.
And last but not least is the capital island of Lipari where you will arrive either by hydrofoil from Milazzo, by boat from Cefalù or even by helicopter if you are in a real hurry, and then connect up with all the other islands.
Lipari is well worth the visit even if you don’t have time to see all the other islands. A lively town with local handicraft industries, there is an interesting archeological museum inside the castle dominating the town, which is also one of the most important in the Mediterranean. If you are a hiker you can walk some beautiful trails across and round the island. Watch out for the souvenir vendor near the Terme di San Calogero. He is looking for a wife but does not want anyone second hand. Also the taxi driver who will take you all over the island ending up in his own wine cellar to taste the local sweet dessert wine, Malvasia.
The islands are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the continuous study of vulcanology and the pumice stone factories, which were once an important industry here, have all been closed.
But even if you cannot make it this year, you can put it on your list for next year. The photos really speak for themselves.