Stromboli – Lunch on an Italian Volcano
About 40 miles due north of Milazzo, Sicily lies the island of Stromboli, the setting for the conclusion of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. A member of the Aeolian Islands that sit in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Stromboli is one of Italy’s three active volcanoes. While Stromboli’s last major eruption was in 2009, it has spouted enough minor lava plumes on a regular enough basis over the last 2000 years that it has been nicknamed the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean,” and according to some scholars, was J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Mount Doom.
Accessible via ferry from Naples (ten-hour overnight trip), Tropea and Reggio Calabria on mainland Italy (just shy of four hours), and Messina and Milazzo in Sicily (just over an hour), it is a journey worth making if for no other reason than to be able to say you had lunch on an active volcano.
Most of the ferry lines will leave you off at San Vincenzo’s Ferry Terminal Stromboli, a small pier flanked by black sand beaches lined with fishing boats. There are small stalls and food vendors all along the waterfront if you are looking for a quick souvenir or snack, but the real fun lies up Via Picone, which leads to Piazza San Vincenzo, a plaza overlooking the village and water
front. Leading up to, and splayed out around San Vincenzo Ferreri Church, are numerous shops, clothing stores, and even a trekking shop to buy or rent equipment if you feel like climbing to the volcano’s observation point.
The tours up Stromboli aren’t for the timid. While there are local guides who will take you up and back, it’s about a three hour climb up, and another two back down in the dark should you choose that route. Stromboli lends its name to the type of eruptions you can often see from the waters off the western coast of the volcano. These “Strombolian eruptions” are nearly continuous explosions of lava that are flung a small distance into the air. If the mountain is willing, you’ll see several of these in a rather short amount of time. If you want to get up close and personal, you can view the volcano’s eruptions safely from the rim of the crater normally, but if a route or path is closed, its closed for a reason, so tread with care.
For those who are less adventurous, a late lunch or early dinner can be had with a stunning view of the shoreline before you make your way back down to the ferry terminal for the next leg of your journey. If you have the time, be sure to book one of the ferry tours that brings you around to the western side of the volcano just after sunset. As numerous tour boats stop about a kilometer off the western shore, the volcano will hopefully treat you to several “fire fountains” for your trouble. And while the view isn’t nearly as spectacular as the one you would get from the crater’s rim, seeing red-orange fire explode into the night sky is impressive no matter the vantage point.
Depending on where your journey started, you may want to spend the night in one of the island’s hotels. The other option is to make the night time sail across the Tyrrhenian Sea to Sicily or Tropea. Either way, the visit is well worth the trip.
Written by Mindy Hanson, AlphaPixel Reach for Endless Travel