AEOLIAN ISLANDS ISOLE EOLIE

AEOLIAN ISLANDS (ISOLE EOLIE)

Homer thought the Aeolian Islands to be the second home of the gods, and indeed, these last few stretches of unspoiled seashore border on the divine. Sparkling seas, smooth beaches, and fiery volcanoes testify to the area’s stunning beauty.

TRANSPORTATION

The archipelago lies off the Sicilian coast, north of Milazzo, the principal and least expensive departure point. Hop off a train from Palermo (3hr. ‚9.20) and onto an orange AST bus for the port (lOmin. every hr. free). Siremar (98 60 11) and Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI; 090 98 30 03) ferries depart for Lipari (2hr. ‚6.20); Stromboli (5hr. ‚9.90); and Vulcano (l4hr. ‚5.70). Hydrofoils (aliscafi) make the trip in half the time, but cost twice as much. Both have ticket offices on V. Dei Mille facing the port in Milazzo. Ferries visit the islands less frequently from Molo Beverello port in Naples.

LIPARI. Lipari, the largest and most developed of the islands, is renowned for its amazing beaches and stunning hillside views. To reach the popular beaches of Spiaggia Blanca and Porticello, take the Lipari-Cavedi bus a few kilometers north to Canneto; Spiaggia Bianca is the spot for topless (and sometimes bottomless) sunbathing. Lipari’s other offerings include a splendidly rebuilt medieval castello, the site of an ancient Greek acropolis. The fortress shares its hill with an archaeological park, the San Bartolo church, and the superb HMuseo Archeologico Eoliano, up the stone steps off V. Garibaldi. (Open May-Oct. daily 9am-l:30pm and 4-7pm; Nov.-Apr. M-Su 9am-l:30pm and 3-6pm. ‚4.50.) The tourist office, C. Vittorio Emanuele 202, is near the ferry dock, (a 090 988 00 95; www.net-net.itaasteolie. Open July-Aug. M-F 8am-2pm and 4:30-9:30pm, Sa 8am-2pm; Sept.-June reduced hours.) Casa Vittorio 0, Vico Sparviero 15, is on a quiet street in the center of town. Rooms range from singles to a five-person penthouse. (090 981 15 23. ‚15-40 per person.) Camp at Baia Unci O, V. Marina Garibaldi 2, 2km from Lipari at the entrance to the hamlet of Canneto. (& 090 981 19 09. www.campeggitalia.itsiciliabaiaunci. Reserve for Aug. Open mid-Mar. to mid-Oct. ‚8-12 per person, with tent.) Stock up at UPIM supermarket, C. Vittorio Emanuele 212. (Open M-Sa 8am-10pm.) 18Da Gilberto , V. Garibaldi 22-24, is known for its sandwiches. (090 981 27 56. Sandwiches from ‚3.50. Open 7am-4am; off-season 7am-2am.) Postal Code: 98050.

VULCANO. Black beaches, bubbling seas, and natural mud spas attract visitors from around the world to Vulcano. A steep lhr. hike to the inactive Gran Cratere (Grand Crater) snakes between the volcano’s noxious yellow fumaroles. On a clear day, you can see all the other islands from the top. The therapeutic Laghetto di Fanghi (Mud Pool) is just up V. Provinciate to the right from the port. If you would prefer not to bathe in sulfuric radioactive mud, you can step gingerly into the scalding waters of the acquacalda, where underwater volcanic outlets make the sea percolate like a jacuzzi, or visit the nearby black sands and clear waters of Sabbie Nere. (Follow the signs off V. Ponente.) To get to Vulcano, take the lOmin. hydrofoil from the port at nearby Lipari (lOmin. 8 per day, ‚2.50). For more info, see the tourist office at V. Provinciate 41. (090 985 20 28. Open July-Aug. daily 8am-l:30pm and 3-5pm.) For private rooms (affittacamere), call 090 985 21 42. The Lipari tourist office also has information on Vulcano. Postal Code: 98050.

STR0MB0LI. If you find luscious beaches and hot springs a bit tame, a visit to Stromboli’s active volcano, which spews orange cascades of lava and molten rock about every lOmin. each night, will quench your thirst for adventure. Hiking the vulcano on your own is illegal and dangerous, but Magmatrek offers tours, which also should be taken at your own risk. The group runs a 4hr. afternoon trek to the lower craters which emerged December 2002 from a new subterranean magma tunnel that broke through the volcano’s crust along the side. As of summer 2003, treks to the top are illegal, but once the situation stabilizes, Magmatrek will resume their 6-7 hour excursions to the pinnacle. (fax 090 986 57 68. Tours depart from V. Vittorio Emanuele. ‚13.50.) Bring sturdy shoes, a flashlight, snacks, water, and warm clothes; don’t wear contact lenses, as the wind sweeps ash and dust everywhere. Siremar (090 98 60 11) runs an infrequent ferry from Milazzo to Stromboli, and boat rentals are readily available. From July to September, you won’t find a room without a reservation; your best bet may be one of the non-reservable affittacamere. Expect to pay ‚ 15-30 for a room. The best value is iiCasa del Sole 0, on V. Giuseppe Cincotta, off V. Regina at the end of town. At the church of St-Bartholomew, take a right down the stairs and go straight down the alley. Large rooms face a shared terrace. ( 090 986 017. Open Mar.-Oct. ‚23, off-season reduced prices.) Postal Code: 98050.

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