Also called the Lipari islands, the Aeolian islands are a Sicilian archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea and are famous for their two active volcanoes: Vulcano and Stromboli. The presence of the volcanoes has created a rich and invaluable atmosphere for the entire Aeolian arch.
It is no coincidence that the Aeolian islands have been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000; their beauty attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. The Aeolians are seven sister-islands that stand out from each other because of the unique characteristics that identify each of them. The islands are Lipari, Panarea, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi.
The archipelago is of volcanic origin and is, therefore, a source of great interest not only for the beauty of its sea and history, but also because of its inestimable natural and geological value. Additionally, the lava and ash that have covered the ground over the centuries have helped to almost perfectly preserve a series of ancient findings. It is therefore no coincidence that the archipelago has remained a receptacle of cultures and a huge open-air archaeological site which, at every turn, leaves its most curious visitors in a state of awe.
We at Costa cruises have selected the most beautiful islands in the Aeolian archipelago, those which are an absolute must for you to visit.
Lipari is certainly the largest and most precious of the Aeolian pearls. This island is a place of continual discovery and breath-taking architectural wonders, but it is the diversity of the attractions that are so striking. This island is an ideal holiday destination not only for families and adventurers but also for young people looking for a lively nightlife. There is an abundance of cloisters, churches, districts and beaches on the island. The Greeks called it "Lipara", meaning bright and fertile. Its coasts were particularly sought after by fortune-hunting fishermen who occasionally approached the coastline to pick the juicy fruit that grew on the shores. The largest city on the island is called Lipari; it rises above Greek and prehistoric ruins and is guarded by the silent beauty of the Castle.
One of the beautiful places that cause tourists to continue daydreaming about their Aeolian holiday long after their return home is the Chiesa della Catena, in the Quattropani district. This is a small and silent little church which surveys the island of Lipari from its cliff-top location, offering visitors an ideal spot for a spiritual retreat. Close to the Cathedral of San Bartolomeo is the imposing beauty of the Norman Cloister, commissioned by King Roger II and part of the monastery for which it was built. Restored in 1978, this site celebrates the Roman era in Lipari most of all.
Those who love the sea will greatly enjoy walks along the bays of Marina Corta and Marina Lunga. The bays offer a dreamy line between the endless expanse of the sea and the beginning of urban Lipari, known as a real city among the Aeolian Islands. Marina Corta is ideal for a walk past the facades of churches that have looked out on the sea for centuries.
During Easter, tourists attend Sicilian church processions, at which statues of Mary and Jesus are carried along travel different routes to meet up at Marina Corta. This bay also provides access to the port, from which you can easily reach the wonderful Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the island's centre for quality shopping. Here, one enters the Marina Lunga, where the bay blends into the picturesque contours of the town.
It should be obligatory to visit the wonderful Belvedere di Quattrocchi, four kilometres from the heart of Lipari. From the hill you can take in one of the most spectacular views of Sicily, admiring the Pietralunga and Petra Menalda faraglioni rock formations, the beach of Valle Muria and the imposing Volcano that towers silently over the entire scene.
To reach the best beaches of Lipari you need to work a little. Crossing the paths and gorges of Pumice Stone mountains, past the Bay of Unci and close to the Pumice stone quarry, you will reach some of Lipari’s most beautiful beaches. Also, worth visiting is the beach of Pietra Liscia, if only for the wonderful walk among the very white rocks.
There are three principal areas on Panarea, pearl of the Aeolians. These are St Peter, the main landing, and Ditella and Drauto. The island is small, but its extraordinary archaeological heritage also makes it the oldest and most characteristic of the seven; it was inhabited as early as the fourteenth century BC. Greek domination has left irrefutable signs on the island. The Greeks were then followed by the Romans, Byzantines and then the Arabs. The island, which has no more than 240 inhabitants in the winter season, is considered a VIP region because it attracts a certain type of clientele and offers marvellous beaches and a luxury nightlife.
The centre of Panarea is a picturesque maze of alleys and districts which, seen from above, form a colourful embroidery on the smooth surface of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Among the things to see in Panarea are the little churches of St Peter and Assunta, each as simple and engaging as the atmosphere in the streets. Also, worth a visit is the prehistoric village of Capo Milazzese, the most important archaeological site on the island.
Beach lovers will find Panarea is the perfect destination for sunny days and relaxation. There are sandy beaches located on the western part of the island and there are the quiet semi-deserted coasts of Basiluzzo and Lisca Bianca. Those who like volcanic beaches will appreciate the rough beauty of Calcara beach, and the evocative red sand of Cala degli Zimmari.
Panarea by night offers great surprises for tourists of all ages, who can enjoy an aperitif on the beach and dine by the sea in one of the many local restaurants. The evening continues until the first light of dawn, with the bathing establishments and various discos opening up for nightlife.
Climb up to the steaming crater of Vulcano and your holiday will be unforgettable. The red earth of the peninsula of Vulcanello marks a path of historical and natural beauty that is simply breath-taking. When the smoke rises from the rock, it will seem like you are walking on another planet.
Firstly, there is the Valley of the Monsters, which takes its name from the shadows projected on the slope after a certain time during the day, taking on the shape of wild beasts and creatures. Not to be missed is Asino Beach, a small tropical oasis of black sand that combines the natural beauty of the place with a crystal-clear sea that invites you to dive in. Spend long days among the groom and prickly pears and enjoy a taste Sicilian relaxation at a lido that becomes a dance floor in the evening.
The thermal baths of Vulcano are among the island’s unmissable sites. Sulphurous areas in the open sea create a unique atmosphere, and it is possible to relax in the centuries-old mud that gushes from the subsoil with its beneficial effects for skin and bone diseases and respiratory disorders.
Arriving at Punta Scari, one is met by the breath-taking rough and rocky beauty of the island of Stromboli, where unique scents and colours create an atmosphere from another world. Splendid and immaculate small houses provide a strong contrast with the broken cliffs and the black sand beach. The island enjoys fertile land, rich in fragrant citrus fruits, guarded by the careful and silent eye of the Stromboli volcano (or Strombolicchio). Stromboli has the only European volcano that is in a state of permanent eruptive activity; at night the volcano’s intermittent glare can be seen even at a great distance. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Stromboli has been referred to as the ‘Lighthouse of the Tyrrhenian Sea’.
A small road leads from the Port area to Piazza San Vincenzo, which takes its name from the church. From here it is possible to climb the volcano. The route is rather easy, up to 450 meters, but becomes more difficult afterward. It is advisable to have a guide to continue.
From Punta Scari you can also visit the Church of San Bartolomeo. Built in 1801, Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman were here during the filming of the movie "Stromboli Land of God" in 1949. From there you can continue to Piscità, bounded by a marvellous black sand beach that leads up to Sciara del Fuoco. The second inhabited centre is that of Ginostra, a village on the south-eastern coast of Stromboli lying on a slope that takes your breath away with its immense beauty.
Diving enthusiasts will find Lazzaro a perfect place to test themselves. The old slipway leads directly to the sea and, in the area in front of the church - about 20 meters deep - you can see the wreck of an old military ship.
Time seems to have stood still here in Alicudi, where the pristine landscape has been preserved for centuries and perhaps even longer. Although the island has been inhabited and sacked countless times in the past, Alicudi shows that nature always triumphs and that coexistence with its extraordinary beauty is possible. Because of its impervious morphology, the island has no roads, but only mule tracks. The only paths on the eastern side that connect it in their entirety are surrounded by arable land. One arrives at Scalo Palumbo, built in 1990, and from there can get to the shops in the city centre. The only accessible beach is within walking distance.
The Tonna district, on the western side of the island, presents a cluster of houses of Aeolian architecture that dates back to the time of the steps built with dry stone walls. At 330 meters from the sea, there is the district of San Bartolo, built around the church of the patron saint of the Aeolian islands. This sacred place, built in 1821 on the remains of an ancient sacristy, can be reached along a paved road that starts from the port. One continues along the mountain to the little church of the Carmine. Another interesting spot is Pianicello, at an altitude of 450 meters, where the population speaks only German but lives here all year.
Its name comes from the ancient "Phoenicusa", so-called because of the rich vegetation that, especially in ancient times, grew there. Together with Alicudi, Filicudi is one of the geologically oldest of the Aeolian islands. It is a small paradise that goes from Capo Graziano to its highest point, the Fossa delle Felci, at 773 meters.
One arrives in the port area, the nerve centre of Filicudi, from which the main commercial activities of the place are carried out. Here there is also a small museum that preserves ancient utensils and tools that were used by peasants and which were found in submerged archaeological sites. In the south-western part of the island, there is the small village of Pecorini, with a pebble beach and a small port for fishing.
Climbing the promontory of Capo Graziano, located about half an hour's walk from the port, one finds an Aeolian treasure and discovers its beauty. Here there are some 30 huts, the remains of the Village of Capo Graziano, and an invaluable heritage of the islands.
Salina, ancient Didyme (twin), is a beautiful Aeolian island whose current name derives from a small coastal lake that was once used as a salt pan. It is second only to Lipari in size, but it is also one of the central hubs of the island arc. Salina is famous for its immense Nature Reserve, which occupies more than half of its territory and is easily reached by naturalistic routes that are perfect for hikers. The sea is so clean that Santa Marina Salina has been awarded the 5 Sails of the Legambiente Blue Guide since 2007.
The municipality of Santa Marina stands on the slopes of the Fossa delle Felci, from which one can admire a crater covered with shrub vegetation. Upon arrival, one’s gaze is drawn to the eighteenth-century church and its imposing bell towers. This area is the liveliest point on the island and is full of small shops and clubs that attract lovers of nightlife in the evening.
At Lingua, 2 kilometres further south, there is the beauty of a rustic fishing village, particularly known for the pebble beach that runs along it. From here one can stop to admire Vallone Zappini, an eighteenth-century stone bridge that is part of the ancient road. This is an excellent location for bird watching and trek enthusiasts too. Also, worth seeing are Malfa, Pollara and Leni, where the beauty of the streets blends with the unspoiled landscape of the mountains that surround them. Enjoy a unique atmosphere that balances churches like the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Terzito with exclusive locations to experience Aeolian nightlife.
Set off on a Costa cruise to the Aeolian islands
Set off with Costa cruises to discover the wonderful Aeolian Islands. Let yourself be captivated by the wonderful Lipari, the picturesque Panarea and the incredible Vulcano, places of unique beauty in the world.
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