Kids on Volcano: Stromboli

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Stromboli is a very decent volcano. It looks like a decent volcano, smokes like one, and like a very decent volcano continually releases a stream of lava. And it erupts regularly every 10-15 minutes! And since these eruptions aren’t particularly scary (strong explosions occur once a few years, most recently in 2002, 2009), you can pretty safely walk on eat. Or climb, or dance… You can eat a very decent pizza on it, too!
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What you cannot do with Stromboli though (as you can for example with Etna), is to get there by car. For this simple reason, that this is an island 🙂 – about 70 kilometers north of Sicily. It lies in the archipelago of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean). Stromboli is inhabited by several hundred people (less off-season). The settlement is hardly a town, but it hosts a few small hotels and restaurants, a helipad, the robust viticulture and the harbor.
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You see, where Stromboli is? 70 km North of Milazzo in Sicily.
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Geo-Fact:
Stromboli is one of the 17 islands of the Aeolian archipelago. 10 of them are tiny (less then 0.3 km2) and uninhabited, but 7 are nice inhabited islands with decent area: Lipari (37.3 km2), Salina (26.1 km2), Vulcano (20.9 km2) , Stromboli (12.2 km2), Filicudi (9.2 km2), Alicudi (5.2 km2) and Panarea (3.4 km2). They are either volcanic cones or fragments of the great old craters. Two of them, Stromboli and Vulcano, are active volcanoes. The Aeolian Islands have  a total area of approx. 117 km2 and are inhabited by approx. 14,000 inhabitants (of which 10.5 thousand live on the island of Lipari).
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For us, the Stromboli adventure started in Milazzo. Milazzo is a sizable town with interesting history, located not far from Messina. However, we came here for a specific reason – it is from Milazzo’s port where cruises go from Sicily to Stromboli. We booked two nights at the hotel on the harbor (nice “La Bussola”), just to embark on the ship in the morning, and be back late at night. As friendly websites recommended, we booked with the cruising company Tarnav and chose a cruise called “Panarea and Stromboli by Night”. And it proved to be a good choice!
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The boat voyage was nice. What is crucial at the beginning is to take a good place. We opted for a “couchette” on the deck, in the shade. We, the kids and us, just spread out comfortably on blankets (our own) and enjoyed the entire trip’s magnificent views in the soothing breeze.
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At points during the cruise, the voice from the boat’s sound-system talked about places we were passing – in English, Italian, German and… Polish! Live commentary was interesting and witty, so, strangely enough, we were happy.
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Facts & Tips
Tarnav Minicrociere specializes in sea cruises to the Aeolian Islands offering 10 different routes . We chose “Panarea and Stromboli by Night”. You can take it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. From Apr 1 to Aug 31 the boats get off the port of Milazzo at 12:00 AM. From Sept 1 to Oct 31: at 11:00 AM.
Prices: €61.50 adults, €45,00 children (advance purchase online is cheaper by 20%).
A nice surprise: the price includes an Eolian meal served on board on the way back (wine, water and bread included! Yum! :).
Stromboli cruises operate also from other Italian towns: Trapani (Sicily), and even Naples!
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Hydro-Riddle:
Guess, how many rivers, brooks, streams and sources there are in total on all 17 of the Aeolian Islands?
The answer is: None.
All the water for the 14,000 people living there and 200,000 visitors a year is either rainwater caught and kept in cisterns, or brought on ships from the Italian mainland.
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Linguistic Double-Trouble:
Stromboli is located in the archipelago that bears two names: ‘Isole Eolie’ (from the ‘Eol’ Greek god of wind) and: ‘Isole Lipari’ (Greek “liparos” = “fertile). None is “more official” than the other… English, as usual, is easy: only one name – “The Aeolian Islands” 🙂
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First stop: Panarea. When you take a sea-cruise you want to experience the calm and leisurely, but also the interesting and exciting, right? And sometimes you need to make a choice. It happened to us when we faced the two-hour stay in the port of San Pietro on the Island of Panarea. We could either just stay around the port, sit comfortably in or in front of a café, have ice-cream and latte, or – Option 2: speed like hell for a trip! With the latter, you again have two sub-options: either you go to see the ruins of the ancient settlement (1200 BC, really!), or you head for the beach. With us… Well, it was simple – the kids spoke and the beach it was! 😉 You can try to take an electric taxi (a golf-cart-like), but for the crowds (there were several boats like ours in the port), you better rush on foot. We did.
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The beach was great! 🙂 But after a bath we had to rush back again, and we got lucky: we hitchhiked! Well, most of us. Some gentlemanly elderly citizen of Panarea, extremely cheerful and smiling but 100-percent silent, offered a lift to the three ladies of the Mereczonthego gang in his super-tiny three-wheeled pick-up. Alas, it was so small that Paweł had no chance to fit in. So the girls drove off with all our fins, towels, bags, whereas Merecz-father ran behind on foot 🙂 We jumped on our boat at the very last minute…
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Stromboli can be seen immediately off Panarea. And it is not to be confused with any other island of the archipelago because it has elegantly symmetrical conical shape. And it fumes.
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Geo-Fact:
Stromboli looks like a perfect cone protruding almost a kilometer above the surface of the sea. This is the above-water part (926 m), whereas the rest of the volcano goes down approx. 2700 m below sea level.
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On the way, we passed several uninhabited islands and huge rocks rising from the sea. On one of them we saw a hi-tech lighthouse built and run by Italian Navy.
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And finally we arrived at Scari – the port of Stromboli. As we landed, we immediately had three different ideas for the next step: Ola wanted to eat, children go to the beach again, and Paweł wanted to fly his drone, which he had carried in the backpack all day. According to the cruise agenda, we had a several hours ahead, so… we decided to do all the three things, one by one. And we started with the beach. No, no, not because the kids rule (they do but…) it was something that enchanted us all – the sand. It was black!
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The beaches of Stromboli are black. Yes, we know, there are black beaches on Iceland, on the Canaries and Hawaii… but it was our first time to see it with our own eyes. Girls immediately put on their fins and jumped into the water. A Merecz-father, however, took his drone and went in search of an empty space for the takeoff. The flight was rather shy – next to zero experience of the pilot (after all, it was only the second flight after Mount Etna) and vicinity of people nearby. Still, he did fly his camera so you can now watch the black beach by yourself – and way from above. Just watch the video below. You will see three funny things. First, the comic clothing match of Paweł and some drone-fascinated kid who accompanied him during the crash-landing! The second is a Lamborghini on the beach. Really! (watch the video above) And the third? Well… lava maybe? 😉
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After the beach-time and drone-flying, there came time for feasting. We picked one of several restaurants in Stromboli vilage. And went for a pizza and delicious desserts. Again. Yummy!
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Gastro-Cinematic Facts:
Do you know ‘stromboli’, a roll-pizza? Its dough, exactly like pizza’s, is rolled into a long, sandwich-like shape with various fillings. Amazingly, ‘stromboli’ wasn’t invnted on Stromboli, not even in Italy. It comes from the States, from the 50s. Its authorship is disputable for two Americans of Italian descent were claimed it. Both, however, admitted to get inspired with the name by Roberto Rossellini’s film “Stromboli” (1950) with Ingmar Bergman in the lead role.
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It’s cooooming! After good time on the island, we embarked again and the captain (you know Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”? cross him with Woody Allen and you’ll see our captain! he is on our film, too:)) gets the boat towards the open sea, then, takes us in a wide arc gently around the island, letting us admire the incredible panorama of the fuming mountain in the light of the setting sun. And when it gets dark, we are approach the opposite side of the island, and there, among the gathering darkness suddenly we see up there, somewhere at the summit… a single drop of fire!
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“Woooow!” – goes across the deck. You know what it’s like to experience something for the first time in life! You know. Everybody’s reacting to the breathtaking phenomenon, people gasp with awe and excitement, on all faces smiles appear… As the ship is moving on, we see more and more of the legendary Sciaria del Fuoco, which means – and is! – “River of Fire” – from the top of the volcano right down to the sea! Woooow again and again!
And this is no small thing. When you see erupting volcano with your own eyes, as it really is there with the melted rock streaming, and you see that it is no film, book or lecture but a real thing… Well, you really feel and understand that we live on a ball of fire with only a thin layer of solidified shell… To see it for oneself, well… That’s big. And this is the illuminating strength of personal experience.
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Trekking tips:
Climbing up this volcano can be really great and rewarding. Stromboli fires often and regularly, so when you climb to the top you are guaranteed to see an eruption and gushing lava! There is one new track and two old ones. Trekking trips last for 5-8 hours. They launch in the afternoon and return at ca. 11PM. In the dark impressions are unforgettable. Trekkers wear helmets.
Treks are organized from April to November.
Prices: €40 in organized groups (up to 20 people); individual treks with private guides – €100-600.
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Literary Facts:
The grand finale of Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864) takes place on Stromboli. It is there, that the expedition led by Otto Lidenbrock emerges from the bowels of the planet.
In turn, Clide S. Cilby maintains that J.R.R. Tolkien identified the Mordor’s Mount Doom with Stromboli. (In Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” it is “doubled” by the New Zealand’s volcano Mount Ngauruhoe.)
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If you like volcanos, take a look at our post about trip to Etna 🙂
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PS
The next day, we visited Milazzo’s incredible fortress built at the highest point around – the historic Castello di Milazzo. At first, we didn’t expect anything overwhelmingly interesting. But the fortress is amazing! It was being built and developed over the centuries and even millennia (the first fortifications were built here back in Neolithic times, 6000 years ago) by various crews (from ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, and later Normans and Germans from Swabia, Spaniards of Aragon, the Austrian Habsburgs, the Bourbons until the Garibaldi Italians!). Amazing citadel, fragments of which were built – of course! – with lava! It is a lively place, too. Art exhibitions and workshops take place there. We were particularly charmed with the teacher running a theater workshop for children, who introduced himself to us as “Magister of Fun”, who vigorously played in front of our girls fragments of the original local legend about a prince and something… In the mask. Have a look at the video 🙂
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Written by mereczonthego

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