Stromboli trip planner

Spend the night atop an active volcano: Climbing Stromboli, last of the Aeolian Islands of Sicily

An eruption of the volcano on Stromboli
An eruption of the volcano on Stromboli
The single most incredible Aeolian thrill, and one of Italy's most unforgettable experiences, is climbing to the top of 3,055-foot Stromboli, the last island in the Aeolian chain and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the most active volcano in the world.

It erupts explosively two to three times an hour, spewing lava rocks and ash in a tight cone as high as 3,000 feet into the air.

It is quite dramatic—but you really need to stand up on the lip of the crater to get the full effect, preferably at night.

How to pronounce Stromboli
Unlike the Italian-American snack (which ironically, you can't find on the real Stromboli), the name of the island is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: STROHM-bo-lee. Also, that's a long "o" as in chrome (not a short "o" as in Strom Thurmond).
Stromboli looks very much the part: a forbidding, conical mountain rising suddenly from the azure waters, with smoke trailing from the summit and a tiny, whitewashed community of cube houses clinging to one side where some 400 hardy souls live (primarily off tourism).

Stromboli is immortalized both as the spot where Jules Verne's adventurers popped out at the end of their Journey to the Center of the Earth, and as the site and title of the 1950 Rossellini film Stromboli, during the filming of which the director and his star Ingrid Bergman had a scandalous off-camera love affair.

Climbing the volcano

A view back to the town during the hike up Stromboli
A view back to the main town during the hike up Stromboli.
Officially, you cannot ascend without a guide, but the rule isn’t really enforced unless the volcano is having a particularly dangerous fit, as it does from time to time.

  • In 1998, there were numerous small eruptions.
  • In 2002, a large explosion sent a chunk of the mountain into the sea, creating a 33-foot tsunami that did several millions of Euros worth of damage to Stromboli and Panarea (and closed both islands to tourists for months).
  • In the late winter of 2007, the lava began flowing seriously once again—enough of it to create a brand-new peninsula jutting off the island.

Even the scientists who constantly monitor the belly of this beast have, at best, a few hours' notice before a big eruption. Usually, there is no warning. Just explosions of magma.

In other words: hikers beware.

The hike up is a strenuous three to five hours; follow the red-and-white blazes. In daylight you can't see the glow of lava in the eruptions—it just looks like fountains of mud, really. Against the night sky, however, the fireworks are spectacular.

Most people start up in late afternoon to arrive before sundown, spend the night sitting on top, and descend at first light. Do not attempt to walk back down after dark. Bring at least two liters of water per person, and if you're spending the night, a picnic, all your warm clothes, a poncho with a hood, and a flashlight.

The volcano at dawn
The volcano at dawn
Don't go up if it's going to rain—you’ll be miserable. It gets cold and very windy on top, even in summer, and the pumice dust blows continuously; you'll need to put that poncho on backward and pull the hood over your face if you want to lie down and avoid getting pumice dust in your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stick to the outer ridge of the ancient, enormous crater that surrounds the two smaller, active ones—still a mere couple of hundred feet from the eruptions. Every year a dumb tourist or two gets hurt or killed by raining lava when they venture up on the lip of the active crater.

Descend the way you came.

Guided hikes arrive at the top for sunset, spend about half an hour at the top after dark (time for at least one good eruption), then lead you sliding back down a pumice chute on the back side of the mountain. Do not attempt this unmarked descent without the guide.

The main town on Stromboli
The main town on Stromboli

Tips & links

Details
Hotels on Stromboli
Planning your time

Stromboli is the most difficult of the major Aeolian Islands to get to, but also the most dramatic and potentially rewarding. I'd give it two full days—one to get out here and climb to the top of the crater to spend the night, and a second to get back down and spend relaxing on the beach and recovering from the night spent on top. This, obviously, means a third days need to be budgeted to leave the island and get elsewhere (either another Aeolian or back to the Sicilian mainland). (More tips on spending from one to four days exploring the Aeolian islands).

Note: The island shuts down

The island shuts down from November through Easter. Don't even bother.

How to get to Stromboli

You can only get to Stromboli by boat—a hydrofoil (aliscafo) will be twice as fast, twice as expensive, and half as romantic as a ferry (traghetto).

Ferry companies to the Aeolians
All boat companies charge pretty much the same prices, so choose based on convenience of departure times. Buy your tickets one-way so you’re free to choose among the companies for the most convenient departures times as you go along, either to the next island or back to the mainland. View current schedules and ticket prices at the websites of the various ferry and hydrofoil lines, listed in the box on the right.

The main Sicilian port for the Aeolians is Milazzo, on a promontory 40km (24 miles) west or Messina—though there are also limited services from Messina, Palermo, Cefalù, and Naples.

  • How to get to Stromboli from Vulcano, Lipari, or Panarea: Most boats island-hop, stopping at all the major islands (and sometimes at smaller Aeolian islands not detailed on this site). As you'll see below, most boats from any port are also going to stop at the three other Aeolian islands, so you can easily pick them any of them to get from elsewhere in the Aeolians to Stromboli.
  • How to get to Stromboli from Milazzo: In winter, expect about half as many runs as listed here, and not always daily ferry service to Stromboli (hydrofoils, however, will run daily). (Read how to get to Milazzo here)

    • The hydrofoil from Milazzo—Siremar or Ustica Lines (see box above to right for contact info on all companies)—runs 7 times daily to Vulcano (40–60 min.) and Lipari (55–60 min.), 4 times daily to Panarea (1.5–2 hr.) and Stromboli (1–3 hr.).
    • The ferry from Milazzo—Siremar or N.G.I.—runs 9 times daily to Vulcano (85 min.) and Lipari (2 hr.), 1–2 times daily to Panarea (4–5 hr.) and Stromboli (6–7 hr.).
  • How to get to Stromboli from Messina: Ustica Lines runs 5 hydrofoils daily to Lipari (1.5–3.5 hr.), 4 to Vulcano (2–3 hr.), and 3 each to Panarea (2–3.5 hr.) and Stromboli (1.5–3 hr.). [The hours look funny because while some island-hop, others are direct.]
  • How to get to Stromboli from Naples: June to early September, there is a 2:30pm SNAV hydrofoil from Naples to Milazzo that stops at Stromboli (5 hr.), Panarea (5.5 hr.) Vulcano (6.5 hr.), and Lipari (7 hr.). In July and August there is a second run Saturdays leaving Naples at 9am (though it skips Vulcano).

    Siremar runs a 8pm ferry from Naples to Milazzo at least twice weekly that stops at Stromboli (9–10 hr.), Panarea (11–12 hr.), Lipari (13.5–15 hr.), and Vulcano (14.5–16 hr.). If you take the ferry, be on deck around 5am to watch Stromboli erupt as the sun rises.
  • How to get to Stromboli from Cefalù: Ustica Lines runs one hydrofoil daily that leaves at 8:15am and stops at (among others) Lipari (just over 2 hr.), Vulcano (3.5 hr.), Panarea (just under 4 hr.), and Stromboli (4.5 hr.).
  • How to get to Stromboli from Palermo: Ustica Lines runs 2 lines daily that stop in Lipari (4–4.5 hr.), Vulcano (4.5–5 hr.), Panarea (4.5–5 hr.), and Stromboli (5–6 hr.).

Visitor information

There's no tourist office on Stromboli, but the provincial website for Lipari and the Aeolian Islands is packed with good info: www.comunelipari.it. There also great info on the islands' Pro Loco site (www.eolieproloco.it) plus on www.lipari.com and the official (but buggy) www.aasteolie.191.it.

There are permanent tourist offices on Lipari at Corso V. Emanuele 202 (tel. +39-090-988-0095) and in Milazzo on Piazza Caio Duilio (tel. +39-090-922-2865).

For a vulcanlogists take on Stromboli, try www.geo.mtu.edu/~boris/STROMBOLI-volcano.html. Another good unofficial site is Stromboli on-Line (www.stromboli.net).

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