The Aeolian Islands, the “seven sisters”, all share the same Quaternary volcanic origin and were formed as a result of the millenary accumulation of eruptive material and raising of the sea floor. Only two volcanoes of the vast original system are still active today. Vulcano, which last erupted in 1888-90, now limits its activity to the emission of hot sulphurous gases. Stromboli still has a cyclic eruptive activity, accompanied by explosions of scoriae, lava and vaporous which are thrown high into the sky precipitating along paths known a “sciare di fuoco”, like torrents of fire, into the sea. Archaeological investigation has continued ever since 1946 thanks to the Sopraintendenza ai Beni Culturali (Cultural Heritage Authority) of Eastern Sicily. Excavations have suggested that the settlements in Lipari, from the 4th millennium BC onwards, might be the result of migratory flows from the Sicilian coast, on account of the decorated pottery in the style peculiar to the so-called Stentinello culture found on the mountainous spurs of Lipari. After various periods (classified as Milazzese, Ausonius I and II, from 1400 to the 7C BC), Greek civilisation began in 580 BC, when the Cnidians, back from Pentathlus’ unsuccessful expedition, landed at Lipari and founded their colony (Diodorus Siculus).

Until the Roman conquest, Lipari followed the fortunes of Sicily in the wider context of the secular struggles among Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans to gain control of the island. In 836 AD the Arabs destroyed Lipari and it was only under Roger, Norman Count of Sicily from 1083, that the island and the Archipelago revived, also thanks to an active group of Benedictine monks who founded a monastery on the ancient Acropolis by Norman decree.Above: the magnificent view from the edge of the Gran Cratere della Fossa, one of the craters on the island of Vulcano. In the foreground, the “fumaroles” of the Gran Cratere, and the small peninsula of “Vulcanello”, with the secondary volcano risen from the sea in 183 BC, as reported by Pliny.
The eruptive activity ceased in the 1880s. Volcanic activities are now limited to the emission of gas along the edge of the crater and to the boiling sea-water phenomenon and sulphurous vapours which can be seen along the water line facing Porto di Levante, where excellent therapeutic mud baths can be taken. In the background, the mountainous profile of Lipari, the chief town of the Archipelago. Of the extreme interest is a visit to the Castle housing the Aeolian Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Eoliano), with archaeological material from long excavation campaigns displayed in a strictly chronological order from the prehistoric to medieval ages, a testimony to the plurimillenary history of the Archipelago. This includes seven islands: Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Panarea, Filicudi, Alicudi and Stromboli (see photo above) and the emerging uninhabited islets of Strombolicchio, 1500 m far from Stromboli, and Basiluzzo, near Panarea. Stromboli is itself a volcano, which has been active for more than two thousand years, and the youngest island of the Archipelago. Its name derives from the Greek word “Strongyle”, meaning “round”, from the rounded top of the volcano. The island has been inhabited since the Upper Neolithic, some 3000 years ago, as shown by archaeological evidence of settlements dating from that period. Other archaeological finds have been related to the Piano Conte cultural “facies” (2500 BC); an early Bronze Age village has also been discovered, related to the Capo Graziano “facies” and datable from 1500 BC. Tombs dating from the 4C BC and the Roman age have been brought to light at contrada Ficogrande.