Sailing in Italy – Aeolian Islands

Aeolian Islands

13,000 people have chosen a somewhat remote place to live. North-east of Sicily you can find the Aeolian Islands, the Islas di Eolias in the original. Seven of the islands are inhabited and they offer a lot of variety, from active volcanoes to celebrity destinations. That’s why in the high season there are more charter boats than fish. But actually it it said that it should be off-season now.

Wind God Eolis

The islands are named after the Greek wind god Aeolus (or Eolis), but are also known as the Lipari Islands, after the largest island Lipari. According to legend, Aeolis gave Odysseus a sack in which he sealed the unfavorable winds. When Odysseus was sleeping, his curious crew opened the sack and that was it with peaceful sailing. If these knuckleheads would not have touched the sack, then sailing would be a lasting pleasure. Obviously the bosses had problems with their staff already at that time.

I find it surprising that these islands were not named something volcanic, because a lot is smoking around us. The vulcano Stomboli is on the easternmost island called Stromboli and is quite active. On the island of Vulcano, the volcanic mountain of the same name gives off scents that take some getting used to. A few miles away, Etna on Sicily’s mainland and, of course, Mount Vesuvius near Naples are both alive.

The Rivercafe is sailing in something like the volcanic center of the Mediterranean. From Cefalu we set off in the morning on the 50 nm way NE, towards Vulcano. On the way our first fish of the Mediterranean bit, but we goofballs lost the heavy and rare bluefin tuna after a long fight 10 cm off the edge of the boat. My left biceps reminded me still two days of the fight, which had a worthy winner.

Isla di Vulcano

The disappointment of the lost feast, was displaced by our arrival at the island of Vulcano. It was a gray, slightly drizzly Saturday, which reminded me very much of those gray autumn afternoons in Luxembourg, when you have no choice but to light the fireplace and open the red wine.

In the northwest of the island we dropped our anchor in Porto Ponente, which despite the “Porto” is not a port, but a bay. At 7 m depth, our ultra anchor lay rather unmotivated on some stones, but there was no wind anyway. The chain wrapped around a few more stones and so we held well. Around us everything was gray. Rocks, black sandy beach, seabed, sky. Not really nice. The Vulcano released sulfurous fumes every now and then and provided the appropriate fug.

Vulcano rock, mud bath, Life in Vulcano

Only towards evening the sun looked over and already the mood changed. It became friendlier and more colorful. And more crowded. The first night we shared the bay with 28 vessels and it seemed quite crowded.

The next morning sun and clear skies greeted us. Ponente was unrecognizable. The water was clear and we could see the mess on the anchorage. Our visit ashore also turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The village is nice. Some guests wallowed in the muddy sulfur bath while others visited the bars and restaurants. This island could have been anywhere in the Caribbean, Union Island with a volcano, came to mind.

Despite the volcano, the sea water was quite fresh for snorkeling. Wetsuite temperature. Again, underwater life was very frugal, as it has been everywhere in the Mediterranean.

Super croweded “off-season

In the afternoon we realized that we seemed to have to redefine the term “off-season”. Or we have no clue what up here in the high season An endless number of boats crowded into the bay to anchor. With us at dawn were 50 vessels at anchor, some very, very close.

50 vessels in a small bay

The Balearic Islands are not more crowded in high season and even here most of these vessels were charter boats. Our anchor then rested at some point under the German vessel “Freya”. A good opportunity to meet the likabale crew with Anna, Andre and Lilly. While we were talking, Lilly happily discovered Ka’s piano and took up the keys. On the morning of our departure, the Freya crew was relaxed and ready with fenders, should we get too close while picking up the anchor.


We took a second island, Isola di Lipari with the city of the same name. It is the largest of the Aeolian Islands. There are no sheltered anchorages and we moved to Marina Pignatoro, a little to the side of the town of Lipari. The most charming welcome from Angela was so overwhelmingly friendly that one could briefly forget the enormous prices of the marina. It is certainly the most sheltered mooring off Lipari and the marina offers a free shuttle service to the center.

Everywhere: Churches, roman theater and porcelain art.  Fantastic views

The “capital” Lipari is nice but nothing special. A vital main street, a fortress and a charming fishing port with many restaurants. In 2-3 hours you have seen everything. We treated ourselves to a shore excursion on the second day and a visit to a winery that produce wine with old and rare grapes.

Salinas and Stromboli would have interested us, the Celebrity island Panarera rather less. But we had to go on, as always. The Strait of Messina with the mythological Scylla and Charybdis lie before us. Odysseus had already his dear trouble here and we have less divine assistance from Olympus to expect. The strait can make life uncomfortable at 5 kn with or against the current if you sail through at the wrong time. More about our fight with the monsters next time. / Holger Binz

1 thought on “Sailing in Italy – Aeolian Islands”

  1. Hat sich doch anscheinend gelohnt, den Abstecher zu machen.
    Dann geht es nun um den Stiefel Italiens herum. Gute Fahrt.

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