Italy: Aeolian islands are truly off the beaten track

Rome: The archipelago off the coast of Sicily is relatively undiscovered thanks to its lack of transport links – now is the time to visit before it gets too popular.

With new airports and improved transport links popping up Europe-wide to make travelling ever easier, it’s rare to find destinations truly off the beaten track.

Enter: the Aeolian islands. Off the north east coast of Sicily, the group is made up of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea, alongside a set of minor islands and rocks.

A long time favourite destination of adventurous Italians, they’re becoming ever more accessible to foreign tourists, despite the fact they’re not easy to reach.

In fact, these sublime islands are only accessible by boat, making them far more effort to reach than the majority of Italian destinations. It’s rare to hear a single complaint about them from those who have visited, though. Instead, it’s widely agreed that the extra effort to get to them is absolutely worth it.

With the help of sailing companies helping tourists reach these unspoiled gems, here’s everything you need to know about the Aeolian islands.

“The Aeolian islands seamlessly blend trendy towns with ancient harbour villages, each surrounded by untamed volcanic beauty. From lovely green hills to seething craters, you will find a wide variety of unique natural landscapes in a very small space,” Laura Griffiths of VentureSail tells Euronews Travel.

The seven main islands and their smaller neighbours are all entirely unique, but recognised for their collective beauty. In fact, the archipelago has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000.

Offering frequent volcanic eruptions, Stromboli is a must visit, to see the truly unusual natural phenomenon. Griffiths explains the eruptions are best seen from a boat rather than on the island itself.

“From the safety of a boat”, she says, “you can marvel at the giant plumes of volcanic smoke and ash which shoot up into the skies above.”
Eva de Wilde has recently launched Eco Sailors with her partner Pietro.

The pair met in the archipelago and want to share the destination with guests on their classic, 1977 wooden ketch, a Beaufort 16 named Luna.

Eva won’t be drawn, though, when we ask for details of her favourite of the islands.

“Choosing a favourite island is very difficult because all of the islands are so different from each other and characteristic in their own way, which is one of the reasons that make them so impressive,” she tells Euronews Travel.

“The water in this part of the Mediterranean is uniquely deep blue and clear. There is also a lot of history and mythology. Every village is as different as all of the islands,” she adds, “It’s impossible for us to choose a favourite activity or island because you can not compare them, each has its own special beauty and activities.”
Luckily, there are no end of activities to occupy any visitor to the Aeolian islands.

Aboard the tall ship Florette, VentureSail offers day trips to the islands, including the remote Salina – known as the home of some of the best capers on the planet.

Laura Griffiths also recommends an excursion to Vulcano “where visitors can wallow in sulphur mud before dipping into the bubbling sea.”
Across the entire archipelago, there are also chances, she explains, to “swim, snorkel and kayak in secluded bays with crystal-clear water and dark beaches made of fine, black lava sand where you won’t see another soul.”
Lipari is also a favourite of the VentureSail team. They say it’s “a traditional Sicilian island where obsidian and pumice stone can be found in abundance”.

While not easily accessible to tourists, guests of the company can hire a traditional Italian Vespa and explore the ancient island and its friendly community.