As we sit and wonder where to wander when travel begins again, put the both booming, yet low-key Aeolian Islands at the top of your list.
For the travelers out there, this quarantine has been stifling, stripping us of the love that drives our curiosity, learning, and exploration. So now, as we eagerly await official word about when and where borders will re-open, it’s time to start planning!
Realistically, many of us have already mapped out in our minds to hop on the first Air France flight to Paris and may even know the exact spot on Rue Montaigne where we will be sipping sancerre. However, what if France isn’t an option? Or what if in the post-COVID world we’re inspired to wander somewhere new? Then Isole Eolie just might be for you.
As azure waters sparkle off the sea floor, and smells of citrus fill the salty air, it will become apparent as to why the Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie in Italian), although tough to get to, will be even tougher to leave.
The Aeolian Islands, the pearls of Sicily, remain relatively unknown outside of Italy and Europe. It’s as if Italians have kept this destination a secret, holding these unspoiled, authentic treasures for themselves. And who could blame ’em? The Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily. Probably the most impressive archipelago in the Mediterranean, which takes into account world-class islands in Spain, Greece, and elsewhere in Italy, the Aeolian Islands received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2000. The Islands include: Lipari (the largest), Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, and (my favorite, the posh) Panarea. Accessible from the mainland via ferry from the town of Milazzo, the Aeolian Islands are most certainly considered off-the-beaten-path, but therein lies the charm.
So why the Aeolian Islands?
I first visited the Aeolian Islands in 2009 for spring break while studying in Siena, Italy. I wanted to trade in misty hillsides for beaches, soups and stews for seafood. Somehow I stumbled across the Aeolian Islands, and before I knew it I had booked planes, trains, and traghetti (‘ferries’) to get us to paradise.
I went with three close friends in April, which is still a very down time for the Aeolian Islands. When booking your trip, I would recommend looking to September (travel willing) as many of the tourists are gone but you still have some fantastic weather and the attractions, restaurants, bars, shops, beaches, and of course, volcanoes, are still bustling.
And just when you think you’ve seen enough of Italy, the Aeolian Islands will surprise you. There won’t be the catcalls and speeding vespas that have become synonymous with the Italian stereotype. No, these islanders enjoy a slow pace and keep to themselves, which is just fine by me. You’re left to explore the black sand beaches, climb the active volcanoes, and take a dip in the sulfur springs undisturbed. If you’re more of the Ibiza-type who enjoys nightlife, WIFI, and a ‘be-seen’ culture, the Aeolian Islands are probably not for you. Rather, this is a place to escape from reality, simplify for a few days, and enjoy nature’s greatest wonders. The Aeolian Islands possess a calm that’s truly mystifying and magnificent. As I said, magic.