I arrived at Vulcano on a windy afternoon of late April. The harbor is small and lovely, framed by local bars and food stalls. The smell of sulphur is strong at first, and the steaming fumaroles of the volcano are visible in the distance. The charming and cozy atmosphere typical of small Mediterranean islands and villages made me feel welcome straight away.
all images by Costanza Casati, cover photo via pinterest
Picturesque sunsets, delicious food, a smoldering crater and the famous mud (well known for its healing properties for the skin) make Vulcano an unforgettable holiday destination. Located in the Thyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, the island is part of the volcanic archipelago of the Aeolian Islands, which also includes Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli, Alicudi and Filicudi.
These seven islands, together with various other uninhabited islets became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2000. Named after the Greek god of the winds, Aeolus, the archipelago is home to two active volcanoes, black-sand beaches and various charms that vary according to each island; from donkeys as the only form of transportation in Alicudi, to the greenery of Salina, where the Italian masterpiece Il Postino (The Postman) was filmed in 1994.
Therasia Resort Sea and Spa
In ancient times Vulcano was known as “Therasia”, meaning “hot”, and now the Therasia Resort is one of the most incredible attractions of the island. Surrounded by colorful and blooming Mediterranean brush and flowers, the hotel is built over a promontory that overlooks the entire Aeolian archipelago.
Aperitif is served close to the beautiful infinity pool of the resort, at the “I Russuri” – the Sicilian word for “sunset” – while the sun sinks into the sea and the sky is painted with orange and pink shades.
The resort explores and experiments with the incredible Sicilian cuisine in three different restaurants. While “I Grusoni” is ideal for a light lunch and a more relaxing atmosphere, “L’Arcipelago” is an explosion of taste with delicious traditional dishes such as the seafood crudité or the spaghetti with sea urchin and little tomatoes. Finally “Il Cappero”, a Michelin starred restaurant that reinterprets traditional Sicilian dishes under the guidance of its chef Giuseppe Biuso, is a gem devoted not only to culinary innovations but also to expressing the local tradition through rich colour combinations and food presentation.
Every week, the Therasia offers cooking, wine and cocktail classes where experienced chefs, sommeliers and barmen forward their passion for a food culture that is invaluable – the Sicilian one. Every room at the Therasia is beautiful with details reflecting the Sicilian land and marine atmosphere, but the Master Suite with its panoramic terrace and private Jacuzzi tub and the Suite Panarea with its three large terraces overlooking Lipari’s sea stacks and the whole archipelago are truly incredible.
Finally, the resort is well equipped with an area of spa and wellness. In addition to the infinity pools and two small seawater pools, there is a heated indoor pool.
Around the Island
The island of Vulcano is small and can be visited in one day. Many people in fact stay in Lipari or Panarea and come to Vulcano by boat within the day. Even though the most popular attractions are the mud baths and the hike to the huge crater of the volcano, renting a scooter or a small car and driving around the island is also worth it. Scooters or quads at Vulcano are the ideal way to explore the island discovering unexpected places and breathtaking views. We decided to rent a mini moke “Da Luigi”, a car and bike rental whose owners moved to Vulcano from Germany twenty years ago and never went back. They suggested that we made two main stops — Capo Grillo and Gelso.
Gelso is a little village on the opposite side of the island. There is a church, a lighthouse and a few white houses hidden among the greenery. When I got there, a young girl was sunbathing on the dock while green-eyed stray cats were walking around, and a family was making coffee at the only bar of Gelso.
Capo Grillo is a fifteen minutes drive from Gelso and has a breathtaking view of the other islands.
The volcano of the island is one of the four active non-submarine volcanoes in Italy. Quiet since the eruption of the Fossa cone between 1888 to 1890, it is characteristic for its fumaroles and Gran Cratere. The ascent to the crater is easy and offers a beautiful view of the island.
Because of its volcano, the island is rich with the centuries old mud. Close to the harbour, a pool of natural mud baths bubble up from deep within the earth. The baths are good not only for the skin, but also to fight bone and respiratory weaknesses, as the bubbles in the muds release sulphuric gasses and salty water. Next to them, there are warm water zones where dozens of underwater fumaroles release vapour.
Boat trip to Panarea and Stromboli
Even though Lipari, Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi are all beautiful, Panarea and Stromboli are the best islands to choose for a one-day visit when staying in Vulcano. We rented a private boat and travelled around the Aeolian archipelago while sunbathing and listening to the stories and anecdotes told by our two young sailors. Our first stop was Panarea with its pastel colors and white houses.
Then, after a drink of Malvasia (a Mediterranean white, sweet white) we moved to Stromboli, where colorful boats were lying on the black-sand beach. We explored the island and jumped back on the boat right in time to watch the sunset from Strombolicchio, a small volcanic rock in front of Stromboli.
As night fell, we relaxed aboard and waited for the Sciara Del Fuoco: “the road of fire”. While the nocturnal eruption of the active volcano can also be enjoyed on the volcano itself (excursions are organized every day), watching it erupt from the boat was dreamlike. We went back to Vulcano as the sky filled with stars.
Finally, here are my top picks:
Best Hotel: Vulcano – Therasia Resort
Best Restaurant: Vulcano – Il Diavolo dei Polli (stuffed squads are highly recommended)
Best Day Trip: watching the sunset and the volcano explosion on boat
Best Adventure: Vulcano – mud baths (when the weather is neither too hot nor too windy)
Best Boutique: Panarea – F**k shop