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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stromboli's Volcano, and other Aeolian Islands

As much as we travel, we still have a snafu every once in a while.  In the Aeolians, we got off the ferry on the wrong island.  The Aeolians are a chain of volcanic islands just north of Sicily.  The best way to get to the islands, assuming you have no private yacht available, is to hop on a hovercraft ferry from the town of Milazzo, which is situated on a peninsula reaching north toward the islands.

[This article is the second in a series on our trip to Sicily.  The previous article is here.]

Yes, we'd bought ferry tickets to Lipari, but we had no idea the ferry would stop on the island of Volcan first.  So, when the ferry arrived at an island, we got off.  We called up our hotel to ask them to pick us up from the port.  When we told them what restaurant we were waiting at, they said "I know that restaurant, but it's not on Lipari, it's on Volcan."  Whaaaaat?!?

No worries, we were already having an excellent lunch on a comfortable terrace with a view of the sea.  I got new tickets from the ferry ticket office right next to the restaurant, and the next ferry arrived a few minutes after we were done with lunch.

The next day we set out on an all-day, multi-island boat excursion.  The big attraction of the trip was to see the volcano on the island of Stromboli erupting at night.  We had some misgivings when we got on the boat, because they said, "We have to warn you it's rough seas today."  Luckily, the seas really weren't that bad.
For most of the trip, we sat on benches on the upper deck.  At times, the boat rolled uncomfortably far to one side and then the other.  A few big, cold sprays slapped us in the face as the boat plowed into crazy waves. When they knew it was about to get really soaking wet up there, the crew suggested we come downstairs.  In this photo, the captain is looking out the windshield on the left and the horizon is seen at a funny angle through the boat cabin door.  The boy was getting his thrills with the waves.

World Cup fever was everywhere.  Boys were playing "football" all over.

We passed this James Bond-ish island on the way from Panarea to Stromboli.  One of the best parts of this whole experience was the color of the water out there.  It was such a pure, luminous blue, not too dark - just a hint of white in it.  Simply seeing that rich, pure color, a corner of nature mankind hasn't yet degraded momentarily lifted the weight of this terribly screwed-up world off my chest.  

The big attraction of the excursion was the hope of seeing Stromboli's volcano erupting at night.  This was the view of Stromboli as we approached.

We disembarked on Stromboli mid-afternoon.  The two of us spent some time on a black sand beach. We lucked into real Italian wood-fired oven pizza for dinner.  After that, it was getting dark enough for lava watching.

Only a minute after the boat pulled up to a good spot for volcano watching, we saw the first spray of glowing orange lava light up the low-hanging clouds.  [Photographic caveat - these photos are embarrassingly bad.  This is a worst-case scenario for taking photos - it's dark, you're rocking back and forth on a boat, AND the lava is in motion!!  Next time, I'll have to hike in with a tripod.  Of course, that would entail a bit more risk.]

Enough excuses.  Finally!  We actually got to see glowing orange lava in real life!  Our first time ever.  Pretty amazing.

The volcano threw lava into the air about every 30 seconds.  We kept watching for about half an hour.

Then the captain pushed the engine to full throttle, and we were on our way home at high speed on choppy water.  We could still see an orange glow of lava lighting up the clouds as Stromboli receded from view.  The boat bucking under us was enough to make a few unfortunate passengers seasick.  We rode on the back deck, outside under the stars.  But what was gross, and also a questionable practice, was that the crew kept squeezing past us to throw bulging white plastic sick bags into the ocean.  Thank goodness our stomachs remained true.  Neither of us got nauseous from the waves, or the sight of those bags!

Finally, we arrived back at the small harbor of Lipari.

Next Sicily trip report - numerous huge Roman mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale.

Previous Sicily trip report - Mount Etna.

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