If I were to say ‘Italian volcano’, you’d probably immediately think of Etna, Vesuvius or Stromboli, right? They are undoubtedly Italy’s most famous active volcanos, which you can visit to see close up for yourself. Etna’s cable cars have re-opened again after the last eruption in 2002 but you can also walk – with or without a guide – or even drive. Stromboli doesn’t have cable cars so walking is the only option, however, you have to walk with a licensed guide. Mount Vesuvius has nine walking trails, of which number five is the most popular.
Now, to walk up any of these volcanos you need to be pretty fit. Stromboli takes around 3 hours just to get to the top – and then you’ve got to come back down again! If you’re looking to experience seeing a volcano up close but don’t want it to be too strenuous, I recommend a visit to the island of Vulcano – where the word volcano gets its name. It’s around 25 kms north of Sicily and is the southernmost of the Eolie (as the Italians call them) or Aeolian islands.
Back in July we holidayed in the Aeolian islands for nine nights, staying in Panarea and then Lipari and we did a day trip from Lipari to Vulcano to climb the volcano. It only took about 20 minutes by boat but you can also get to Vulcano from any of the islands or even from Milazzo by ferry (which takes around an hour).
Vulcano is pretty small but it has another attraction other than the volcano, which is the thermal mud baths. Laghetto di Fanghi is the one right by the where the boats dock and if you do want to experience these, I’d recommend doing it afterwards as it’ll be good for your tired muscles! Be warned though… it has a sulphuric smell and is rather stinky.
It’s very straight-forward to get to the base of the volcano and you can easily walk there from where the ferry or boat drops you off. There is a little shop at the base where you can purchase drinks and snacks. Note there are no toilets…
A few absolute musts for climbing the volcano:
- Appropriate shoes: the sand is very hot so ensure you have closed shoes (preferably trainers or hiking boots) that also have some grip.
- Sunscreen: particularly if you are going in summer. The sun is ferocious!
- Water: even if you’re fairly fit, it takes about 50 minutes to walk up and around 30 to 40 minutes to walk back down so make sure you have enough water on you – especially if it’s really hot. When we climbed up it was around 33 degrees Celsius.
Even though I knew it would take less than an hour to climb up, I was still expecting it to be quite difficult. Other than a few parts where it was really steep, it was actually a fairly pleasant climb. There are also some helpful signs along the way to tell you how many more meters you have left. Towards the top, you’re greeted with a stunning view of the sea.
From this point, it’s only about 100 meters left to get to the top. I have to say, I was so excited when I saw the crater! It’s such a unique experience… how many people can say they have looked into the depths of a volcano? It is an active volcano but it’s at a phase of rest at the moment, which was fine with me! You could see just a little bit of smoke coming off the crater – but not much.
If you choose to, you can actually walk around the volcano. As it was so hot, we decided not to as the view of the crater was enough to satisfy us. The walk down was really pretty easy and in no time we were at the base.
There is a great gelateria called Il Gelato di Antonio, which is about a 10 minute walk from the base towards the town. We stopped and treated ourselves to a well-deserved ice-cream. I highly recommend you do the same!