Aeolian Islands, Sicilia

The Aeolian Islands are a 200km-long volcanic system off the north-eastern coast of Sicily consisting, in addition to the seven emerged islands - Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano - of the submerged seamounts Alcione, Lametini, Palinuro, Glabro, Marsili, Sisifo, Eolo, Enarete.
Called the "Seven sisters" because they were born from a same mother, Gea, the islands have a rugged, wild landscape. Their name comes from the god of wind, Aeolus, who according to the myth chose this remote location as his abode. And Ulysses probably landed there, where he met the monster Polyphemus, one of the Cyclops, forgers employed by the god of fire Vulcan.
Aeolian Islands

The Territory

The emerged islands were formed in the last million years, while the submerged parts have a slightly older age: the oldest formation - the submarine volcano Sisyphus, located north-west of the island of Alicudi - dates to about 1.3 million years ago.

On Lipari, Vulcano and Stromboli volcanism is still active, while on the other islands it ceased between 5,000 and 20,000 years ago. On Lipari the last eruption occurred in 729 A.D.; on Vulcano in 1890, on Stromboli the activity has gone on continuously for at least 2,000 years. The magmas of the Aeolian Islands are similar to those of the volcanoes of the Pacific "belt of fire": with the passing of time they evolved towards ever more basic compositions, with lower silicon content and more potassium.


Alicudi has an area of 5.2 square kilometers, and was once known as Ericusa, since it was rich of Erica. It is the westernmost in the archipelago, about 34 nautical miles west of Lipari. Dominated by the Filo dell'Arpa mount, an almost perfectly circular, extinct volcano of 5 square kilometers, the island is characterized by rugged, steep cliffs that plunge into the sea to a depth of 1,500 meters and rise up to 675 meters.

It is inhabited only along the eastern coast by about a hundred people. Even today you can see the terracings created by agricultural activities of past centuries; the island is covered with a very beautiful vegetation of agaves, prickly pears, capers, red bougainvilleas, roses, violets, oranges and heathers. Fishing, instead, did not develop much due to the presence of pirates and raiders in those waters. The sea is only accessible through small pebble beaches. Today the main products of the island are olives, grapes, capers and fish.


Filicudi, with a surface area of 9.7 square kilometers, formerly known as Phoenicusa, is rich in ferns and the typical dwarf palm.It is the second island of the archipelago coming from the west, about 24 nautical miles from Lipari. It is dominated by the Fassa Felci mountain, a 774 meters high extinct volcano. There are seven other volcanoes, all extinct for a long time and highly eroded. The main products of the island are capers and figs.


The ancient Meligunis, from the Greek "melos" (sweet), with an area of 37.6 sq km and about 9000 inhabitants, is the largest and most populated among the Aeolian islands. Located south-west of the Calabrian coast and north of Sicily, it includes the villages of Acquacalda, Canneto, Pianoconte and Quattropani.

Under both a geological and volcanological point of view, Lipari is the most complex island. The oldest part, to the west of the island, is made up by relics of stratovolcanoes (Timponi, Monte Rosa, etc.). After a long break in volcanic activity, in a second stage the stratovolcano Monte Sant'Angelo was originated. Then the volcanoes of the third period erupted pumice and formed a series of domes, including the one of Montegalliana. After this third period there was a long pause, then the activity resumed in the north-east with obsidian lava flows. Recent dating established that the last eruption of mount Melato, with the obsidian emission of Rocche Rosse, occurred around 700 A.D.. Today the volcanic activity produces endogenous forms, such as fumaroles, solfatare and hot springs.

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The island of Panarea is the smallest and lowest of the Aeolian islands (421 meters) and with the islets of Basiluzzo, Spinazzola, Lisca Bianca, Dattilo, Bottaro, Lisca Nera and the rocks of Panarelli and Formiche, forms a small archipelago between Lipari and Stromboli, rising on a single submarine basement. From the geological point of view, Panarea is the oldest Aeolian Island. It consists only of the eastern and southern part of the original island; it is divided along its length by a high ridge, and the coastline is characterized by small beaches and wide flatlands, formerly cultivated with vineyards and olive groves, on terracings still visible today. The western and northern sides are characterized by high, inaccessible, rugged coasts, marked by cracks and hardened lava formations.

The main line of the original volcanic complex is located approximately in the sea stretch between two rocks, La Nave and Cacatu. Along the western coast (Cala Bianca), it is possible to see from offshore the remains of a secondary volcanic chimney resembling a big funnel. On the north-east of the island, on the Calcara beach you can see fumarole vapors rising from cracks among the rocks, and these heat sources makes the water boil. Other underwater activity is apparent in the bubbling waters between the island of Bottata and Lisca Bianca.

The Mediterranean maquis on Panarea includes the prickly pear, mastic, broom, caper and century-old olive groves. However, the original vegetation is contaminated by many exogenous plant species imported during the building and tourism boom. Regarding the fauna, there's the Queen falcon, the cormorant and the herring gull that nest on inaccessible rock walls of the western coast, and the gecko, a useful predator of insects.

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With an area of 26.8 square kilometers, it is the second island for surface and population after Lipari. It was formed by six ancient volcanoes, including the highest mountains in the archipelago: the "Fosfa delle Felci", 961 meters, and the "Monte dei Porri", 860 meters. Its ancient Greek name "Didyme" (= twins) derives from these two extinct volcanoes. Instead, the present name comes from a small lake from which salt was extracted. Around the 7th century A.D. , when the volcanoes on Lipari were still active, Salina was one the most populated islands because. It was later abandoned at the time of the Arab invasions, and was inhabited again only starting from the 17th century. It is the most fertile and water-rich among the Aeolian Islands, and capers and fine grapes are grown from which the "Malvasia delle Lipari," a sweet wine, is derived.


Of very recent formation, Stromboli is the last among the Aeolian Islands to have emerged from the sea. Probably its birth was preceded by that of Strombolicchio, a small extinct volcano 1.5 km from the island. Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, with an average eruption every hour from one the three craters at sea level aligned in a north-east / south-west direction within the depression of Sciara del Fuoco. Its outbursts are intermittent and expel small incandescent "bombs", lapilli, ashes and blocks up to a height of a few hundreds of meters. Periods of total inactivity are quite rare, the longest lasted for about two years from 1908 to 1910. The "normal" activity is sometimes interrupted by bursts of higher energy called "major explosions", during which blocks and bombs larger higher than one meter are produced. There are then the so-called "paroxysms",(the last paroxysmal event took place on March 15, 2007), violent and sudden outbursts during which hot slag, cinders, bombs, and stone blocks are emitted to a considerable distance.
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This is the name of one of the most famous volcanoes in the Mediterranean area. It is located on the island of the same name, in the Aeolian archipelago. The word "volcano", used for geologically active mountains, derives from the name of this mountain and island, which in turn owe their name to the Roman god of fire, Vulcan, who resided, based on the classical tradition, on the island.

The volcanic mount reaches an altitude of a few hundred meters and rises at the center of the island. The slope shows various landscapes: sand, porous pumice formations, glassy obsydian relics. The vegetation decreases as the altitude increases: at medium heights only the broom grows, and close to the main crater the ground is completely bare.

The Gran Cratere of the Fossa is the main one, with a diameter of about 500 meters, with the edge at an altitude of 386m, surrounded by slopes of greater height. In the vicinity of this crater there are remains of two more craters: Vulcano Vecchio, to the south, with the two peaks of Monte Saraceno and Monte Aria, which reaches an altitude of about 500m, and is the original volcanic nucleus; and the Lentia crater, to the northwest, much smaller, which originated the originated Gran Cratere of the Fossa.

Next to the island of Vulcano there's a peripheral eruptive complex, the Vulcanello cones, joined by an isthmus to the main island.

In the past few thousand years, Vulcano has produced half a dozen devastating eruptions. The Fossa Crater is active at irregular intervals since ancient times, as documented by classical writers (especially Thucydides in the second century B.C.). The last eruption occurred between 1888 and 1890, and was documented by seismologist Mercalli. Since then, a continuous activity was recorded of fumaroles, volcanic emissions of steam and sulfur gases. The fumaroles activity has been documented for centuries and has continued intermittently to the present day. On the Porto Levante beach, water and sludge are heated by the heat of the sulfur dioxide produced by the weakest fumaroles, which allow to take mud baths, beneficial for the skin.

Aeolian Islands Aeolian Islands
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