I’m back from a week around the Aeolian Islands and another week on the Sicily mainland. I could make a large number of posts about this trip, but I will try to limit to two (or three…?). After all, this blog is supposed to be about Paris. :-)
We are of course in a very volcanic area. Sicily is on the border between the African and Eurasian megaplates, actually on the African side. The African continental shelf is in constant movement towards Europe. On this map one can see the low water depths between Africa and Sicily (dry land some millions of years ago) and the deep waters of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
Starting with the Aeolian Islands… They are the results of volcanic activity since some 260 000 years. There are still two active volcanoes – Stromboli and Vulcano. We made a lot of boating between five of the islands – Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Panarea and Stromboli.
There are traces of human civilization since some 6000 years. Between the 6th and 4th centuries BC there was a Greek domination. Then the islanders were allies of the Carthaginians against Rome which led to a period of decadence and poverty, later followed by domination by Visigoths and Ostrogoths and by the Byzantine empire. Things improved by the arrival of Normans during the 11th century and links to France and Naples. Then came a Spanish domination via the “Kingdom of the Two Sicilies” (southern present Italy and Sicily). In 1544 a Turkish fleet led by Barbarossa occupied Lipari, the main island, and most of the inhabitants were enslaved. The Spanish then repopulated with Sicilian, Calabrian and Spanish families. Finally came the integration of the unified Italy during the 19th century.
Lipari is the largest of the islands with some 11 000 inhabitants. There have not been any reported eruptions since the 5th century.
The last great eruption on Vulcano took place 1888-90. The main crater is 500 m (1650 ft) above sea level. There is permanently some (partly sulfuric) smoke. Close to the beach you can find a mud (slightly sulfuric) bath.
Salina (the name of course from some previous salt production) is a quiet island – no eruption since some 13 000 years.
Among the islands, the most active volcano is to be found on Stromboli (see top picture). The last major eruption was in 2009, but there are permanently some minor eruptions and a lot of smoke.
The name of Stromboli is of course linked to the 1949 movie by Roberto Rosselini with Ingrid Bergman. You can see the little house where they lived.
I had the intention to climb to the 926 m (3 000 ft) top, but my Gauloise lungs and the recommendations by our guide made me give up half way. I learnt from the people who reached the top that they had seen “nothing” because of clouds. Normally some of the eruptions should be spectacular, but, unfortunately, later in the evening, the only thing I was able to photograph from a moving boat was a vague light among the clouds.
Panarea is the most “chic” island with well paved streets (for walking or for small electric cars, scooters…), white painted buildings and walls… the homes of all kinds of world celebrities who still somehow manage to “hide” here. To be seen are also the rests of a Bronze Age settlement, beautifully situated (Capo Milazzese).