Lipari, Province of Messina, Sicily

Lipari (Roman Lipara, ancient Greek Meligunis) with its 37.6 square km is the largest of the seven Aeolian Islands (Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Alicudi, Filicudi, Vulcano, Stromboli) in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 24 miles off the north coast of Sicily, and also the island's main town. During the tourist season (May-September) its population reaches up to 200,000.
Besides the main town, most of the year the population resides in one of the four main villages: Pianoconte, west across the island, Quattropani in the northwest, Acquacalda along the northern coast, and Canneto on the eastern shore north of the main town, Lipari, which is located on an inlet along the southern coast. The island is included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites.


  • Population: about 11,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 98055
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 090
  • Patron Saint: St. Bartolo, celebrated on 24 August
  • Frazioni & Localities: the other five islands, Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano, and on Lipari: Canneto, Acquacalda, Quattropani, Pianoconte.

The Territory

It is generally accepted that the island was created by four volcanic movements, the most important of which was the third one, presumably lasting from 20,000 BC to 13,000 BC. The last recorded eruptions occurred in the fifth century AD when airborne pumice covered Roman villages on the island.

The volcanoes are now considered inactive, though steaming fumaroles may still be seen. As a result of the volcanic origins, the island is covered with pumice and obsidian. Pumice mining has become a large industry on the island, and the pale pumice from Lipari is shipped internationally.

History - Antiquity

Its strategic position made Lipari an important harbor since antiquity. In Neolithic times Lipari was, with Sardinia, one of the few centers of the commerce of obsidian, a hard black volcanic glass prized by Neolithic peoples. Excavations have unearthed several necropolis and other archaeological items, showing that the island was already inhabited in 5,000 BC. This early Ausonian civilization was destroyed in the late 9th century BC.

Greek colonists from Cnidia arrived at Lipara in 580 BCE and settled on the site now known as Castello. The colony successfully fought the Etruscans for control of the Tyrrhenian, and later allied with Syracuse against the Athenians.

Lipara prospered, but in 304 Agathokles took the town by treachery but is said to have lost pillage from it in a storm at sea; objects recovered from wrecks are now in the Aeolian Museum at Lipari. Lipara became a Carthaginian naval base during the first Punic War, but fell to Roman forces in 252-251, and again to Agrippa in Octavian's campaign against Pompey. Under the Roman Empire, it was a place of retreat, baths (its thermal waters are still used as a spa) and exile.

History - The Middle Ages

In the Early Middle Ages the riots made by Arabic pirates decimated the local population, and the island was eventually abandoned. The Normans conquered the Arabs throughout Sicily between 1060 and 1090 AD, and repopulated the island. Though still plagued by pirate raids, the island was continually populated from this point onward, and its history followed the events of Sicily.

In 1544, Tunisian pirate leader Kairedin Barbarossa ransacked Lipari and deported the entire population as slaves. Charles V then had his Spanish subjects repopulate the island and build a mighty fortress over the walls of the ancient Greek acropolis in 1556, so as to offer a safe haven for the populace in the event of a raid.

What to see

    the faraglione in Lipari
  • The Archaeological Park in Contrada Diana, with remains of Greek buildings, vaulted tombs and sepulchral monuments from the Roman era.
  • The Aeolian Museum of Archaeology, whose collection includes the 'Lipari group' (c. 320-300 bc), pots typical for the use of bright colors (red, blue, green, yellow and white); the many sections of the museum relate the human history of the entire Aeolian Islands from prehistoric to classical times, and also cover vulcanology, marine history, and the paleontology of the western Mediterranean. Among the most famous items are those found inside the Bothros of Eolo, over 30 ft deep and 10 wide, covered with a lava stone surmounted by the statue of a small lion, where in Greek times offers to the wind god were thrown.
  • The Castello, a fortress existing probably for over 4000 years, but in its present state mostly built by Charles V of Spain in the 16th century, though amid the more recent fortifications it is possible to see Norman towers and also a Greek tower of the 4th century BC, built in reddish stone from the Monte Rosa.
  • The cathedral of San Bartolomeo, which until 1916 was the central church of the Aeolian islands, existed though in a smaller form since the early centuries of the Christian era. Destroyed in 838 when the whole of Sicily fell under Arab rule, it was reestablished in the 11th century, when Roger of Altavilla defeated the Arabs, and in 1131 became a cathedral, and the abbot of the attached monastery Giovanni di Pergana, was appointed bishop.

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