|My favourite beach of the holiday, Lipari|
The islands are volcanoes and in places potentially dangerous; for many travellers this just adds to their drama. You can watch eruptions on Stromboli from the rim of the volcano's crater - or from a more comfortable pizzeria further down the slope (my choice). You can walk around the rim of the crater of Vulcano, close to steaming fumaroles. Hot gas bubbles up through the sea, and the beaches are littered with chunks of volcanic rocks like obsidian and pumice.
Highlights of the islands include trekking along mule paths with amazing views, eating leisurely pasta lunches by the bluest sea, taking jolly boat excursions around the shorelines, spotting dolphins, enjoying ice-cold fresh-fruit granitas by pretty harbours, and relaxing into an island state of mind: mornings exploring, afternoons on the beach, evenings sipping local wine and watching the passeggiata.
The islands offer all the best of Italy, pumped up to an intense level: sunshine, good food, archaeology, glorious views, wine, warm and friendly people, vivid colours bursting with flowers, sparkling sea and lots of fun.
This time I spent two weeks in the islands, which still didn't seem long enough. But it's a good amount of time to get to know most of the seven islands. My itinerary worked well, with a mixture of smart hotels with pools, island-hopping, and settling-in.
I took an afternoon flight to Catania Airport, which meant spending a night in Catania. If you fly earlier in the day, you can get to the islands the same evening. I spent two nights on Panarea, one night on Stromboli, two on Salina, and then stayed in a holiday flat in Lipari for the last week, making day trips to Filicudi and Vulcano.
|The little fishing hamlet of Pecorini a Mare on the island of Filicudi|
The islands are busiest in July and August, visited by thousands of holidaying Italians. Outside this time they're much quieter, even in the balmy warmth of June, so it's a good idea to travel in May, June or September.
I've travelled all around Italy and there's pretty much nowhere I haven't loved. But when I'm on these islands I really, genuinely, just can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
> More about the Aeolian islands (written after my last trip)
|Slow boat to Stromboli|