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Hiking with a cultural historian on the flanks of Mount Etna.
Expansive views over the Aeolian Islands.
Delicious Italian cuisine.
From across the aquamarine waves, their call can be heard for thousands of leagues. Ulysses surely wasn’t the first to hear their sound as he crossed the Adriatic, Aegean, and Tyrrhenian seas on his Odyssey, but he definitely was a notable visitor – Sicily’s Aeolian islands, home of the sirens.
When speaking of Sicily, or the Aeolian Islands, it is impossible to go without speaking about the volcanoes. They are the reason why people first came to the region, and the soil that resulted from their eruption is the reason why everything that grows here has that special, magic quality. The craters and looking down into them has been intriguing to travelers for centuries – in fact, St. Willibald once traveled to the crests of a local volcano to see if he could catch a glimpse of hell.
The characters of the islands are also friendly, bombastic, and oftentimes caricatures of themselves. Although many of the people on the islands have made the shift from agriculture to tourism over the past decade, there are still a few locals living by their old ways, notably a fellow known as “The Viking” on Stromboli, who still makes his living catching fish and shrimp daily with a spear and his hands. Speaking of which, it is also highly doubtful that you would go to Italy without having the food at least be an equal, if not greater reason, than the hiking – and trust us, on this trip, there is no shortage of gastronomical excitement.
After touring all of the islands, you’re sure to dread the prospect of leaving. Perhaps you’ll start looking for the sirens to blame this on, and maybe you’ll be in the right for doing so!
Begin your trip in the Sicilian city of Catania/Taormina. Catania is the airport and Taormina is a nearby town where Greek ruins, Roman walls, and Norman buildings speak of the great history belonging to this land. After one look around, you’ll come to understand why everyone who has ever visited this land tried to invade it. Transfer independently by bus from the airport to Taormina where you will settle into a truly superior and perfectly located hotel. Meet your guides and group for a welcome dinner.
We meet our local historian and tour guide this morning and go on a two-hour tour of the ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina and visit local environs. In the afternoon, we hike to the hilltop village of Castelmola, with splendid views of the Calabrian and Ionian coast topped by Mount Etna. After lunch we descend next to the town’s citadel and back to Taormina for a second night at our lovely hotel.
Distance: 4 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1000 ft.
After a morning transfer, embark on a one-hour ferry ride to the small island of Vulcano, known for its tropical looks, volcanic sand, and the smell of sulfur fumaroles. Hike up to the Grand Crater and enjoy a picnic lunch with stunning views of the Aeolian archipelago, blue Thyrenian sea, and a rugged Calabrian coast. Loop the rim of the crater before descending the sandy slopes for a night at our beachfront property.
Distance: 4 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1100 ft.
After a short ferry ride, we start our hike to the top of Monte Guardia, the old outpost at the southern tip of the Island. The hiking trail takes us by luxurious holiday villas built in classical Aeolian style, and to the Cappero-Osservatorio (Volcano Observatory). After the summit we close the loop with a grand view of Lipari and its 16th-century citadel. Explore the town’s maritime atmosphere and rich heritage before we set out for a Michelin star dining experience at a famous local restaurant. Overnight in Lipari.
Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain: 1500 ft.
Today we hop on a ferry and travel to the island of Santa Marina, known for wine production and as the most fertile and green of all the Aeolian Islands. Santa Marina has entirely escaped the waves of movie stars and VIP tourism that have plagued some of the other islands, leaving the land rural and perfectly pastoral – great for us! After bagging the peak of the resident volcano, we retire for the evening at an excellent hotel with a classic Aeolian exterior and colorful and modern interior, and taste locally grown wines.
Distance: 5 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 ft.
Today, we are off to the fashionable Panarea, the smallest island in the volcanic archipelago. Hike Punta del Corvo, one of the grandest treks in all the islands. This 421 m (1380 ft) peak is the tallest on the island, and its western flank slants sharply out of the sea, while the eastern side slopes more gently as it rises from the pebble beaches below. Tonight, we visit the stunningly beautiful prehistoric village at Capo Milazzaese and stay in an elegant four-star hotel.
Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain: 1500 ft.
Explore this magical island during the day and hike the active volcano of Stromboli at sunset to observe the magnificent eruption. The volcano erupts with precision every night at this time (it is not dangerous). Enjoy our final night on this secluded and dramatic island in an excellent four-star hotel.
Distance: 7 miles. Elevation gain: 2700 ft.