One month land-bound Part 3: Volcanos Galore in Mount Etna and the Aeolian Islands

This is the third installment in the land-bound series, which has been recounting the time I spent off my boat at the beginning of the fall. In previous chapters, you learned about my love for world-class mountain passes as I raced through Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. In my last post, I spoke about my first impressions of Sicily.

Volcano sightings galore in Aeolian Archipelago

This next chapter picks up as I’m about to go on the second boat excursion I had planned during my time in Sicily. I arrived in Milazzo the night before, and I was eager to go on this next trip.

Milazzo – Off to another boat day, to one of my missing highlights in Europe.

For this trip, we were visiting the volcanic island chain of the Aeolian Islands; they are also sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands or Lipari group, named after their largest island. The isles make up a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily.

If you know me, you know how pumped I get about volcano sightings. Another cause for celebration, this time, the tour was on a much bigger boat, a high-speed catamaran.

I found these islands very interesting; I had always wanted to visit them. The more excited I am to see a place, the more I plan, so I actually had a very strict travel itinerary to see as much of the area as I possibly could during my day trip.

As you may remember I arrived in Milazzo in the night, after having sighted my crew in Capo d’Orlando hours before. By the way, Milazzo is not that worthwhile; it took me ages to find parking and another lifetime to find a restaurant that was open. Eventually, I managed to find something, and the next day I had a full day on the boat exploring some of the most renowned Aeolian Islands.

The trip was great, I enjoyed all of it, but most notably the island of Stromboli, which has Mount Stromboli, one of the three active volcanoes in Italy and the most active volcano in Europe. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands.

I also enjoyed visiting Panarea, an Italian jet-setter island, kind of like Capri. It’s pretty close to Stromboli, in fact, you get some really nice views of Stromboli and its white-house-lined hills from Panarea. On the way to these islands, we stopped at Vulcan and Lipari, the two bigger islands of this archipelago.

I didn’t get out on those stops, but I could see the town from the boat. The islands were looking pretty nice as well, and it would have been a great location to go sailing with my boat, but unfortunately, it couldn’t be done thanks to corona.

We spent about 2-3 hours in Panarea, which is the smallest of the seven inhabited Aeolian Islands. As I briefly touched upon before, the island has become known internationally for its celebrity visitors and jet-setting lifestyle in recent years.

Views from Panarea – Stromboli Volcano – the most active one in Europe.

During our time there, I simply walked the whole island on foot and made my way to a nice viewpoint. It’s a pretty barren island with lots of cacti. We had a lovely lunch there and continued to Stromboli.

The black island with a big active volcano and black sand beaches. Fun Fact: Mount Stromboli has been in almost continuous eruption for the past 2,000–5,000 years.

I rested at the beach in Stromboli for a bit and then I walked through town, went to some viewpoints, saw some churches, and had dinner with the group before going back to the boat for the highlight of the trip. We were to see Stromboli from the sea at sunset or early evening; right when you can see the lava erupting.

A hard Workout for me on the next Volcano

We were lucky, we actually managed to see some big eruptions from Stromboli volcano – fire blazing out and illuminating the night sky, it was really cool. We watched the show for about an hour, waiting about 10 minutes between eruptions; some were little, and some were quite big – but they were all awesome.

Stromboli on Fire

And an even bigger erruption!

A hard Workout for me on the next Volcano

I actually managed to take one nice photo, and after everyone on the ship was happy (the boat was pretty full, everyone wore masks 🙄), we began the journey back to Milazzo.

I stayed one more night in Milazzo, I actually wanted to go to another town, but we got back pretty late, around 10 pm. So, I stayed an extra night at my hotel, and early the next morning began my journey to climb Mount Etna.

Conquering Mount Etna and trekking down a volcano-like a pro 😎

This already marked my last day in Sicily. My flight to Lampedusa was late in the evening, so I still had time for one last bit of effort, reaching the summit of Mount Etna. This mountain is 11,000 feet high. And although I didn’t actually climb the whole way, it was still a trek.

I first began my drive to Etna at the crack of dawn. I was to meet with my tour group at the base of the cable car station at 8 am. It took me just about 2 hours to drive from Milazzo to the cable cart station in Etna, which is about 5,000 feet. From there, we took the cable cart up another 3,000 feet.

Etna Vulcano – Will I make it?

At this point, we got on a four-wheeler that brought us to almost 10,000 feet over all the slopes and from there, our group had another ¼ mile to climb in altitude and then hiking down for a little over a half-mile to the cable cart station without the help of the four-wheelers.

In total, it was about a 6-mile endeavor and a good test of my physical condition, which I endured graciously, despite the cold weather.

It was still very tiring and a lot of effort going up – and we didn’t see much because the weather wasn’t cooperating; we were basically in a cloud the whole time.

So no views, and it was very cold. The most fun part for me was actually going down again. Most people were unable to climb down the volcano, they hadn’t really done it before.

As you know, I’ve climbed quite a few volcanoes, so when going down the side of the volcano, the trick is to *not* go down slowly. Instead, you just have to jump right down the volcano, through the volcano ash. You can basically ski with your feet, and if you know how to do it well, you can go very fast.

Some pictures of the climb. It was just about 6 miles hiking, around 1,500 feet up and 3,000 feet down.

I basically went down half of the volcano in almost no time and I had to wait for about half an hour for the rest of the group to come down. They were being very cautious and careful of every step, and that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.

When you’re going down a volcano you basically have to trust and jump down with very big steps, it can be super fun once you get the hang of it.

Quite windy at the top

Eventually, the group arrived and we had some lunch and played some games before continuing on to the next leg of the hike. Again, I went down much faster than the rest of the group and had to wait for them to catch up.

My group’s guide was super nice, and he was ok with me doing my own thing, he told me he could tell I knew what to do.

We got back to the cable car station at around 3 pm and I had plenty of time before my flight. I must say, it was a really nice trip, being at the very top of Etna; even though I couldn’t really see the lava or have the great views, I was still able to see the smoke from the volcano. Moreover, it was a great achievement for me to enjoy the summit of Mount Etna.

To leave the mountain, we weren’t able to use the cable car, apparently, it had just become out of order. I remember thinking for a milli-second: “oh-no I’m stuck here and I’m going to miss my flight” but we were able to take a bus down from the cable car station to the base where my car was waiting for me.

Etna Crateri Sommitali 3343 M

Last minute ice-cream before flying off to Lampedusa

I drove down to the foot of mount etna to the town of Catania, this time, spending a little more time in the hood since I still had about an hour before having to be at the airport.


So I walked a bit through town, took some pictures and enjoyed the town. It was a very nice city with nice buildings, I wasn’t actually expecting it to be so nice.

Before heading to the airport, I also managed to have my daily ice-cream, and then I was off. I gave my car back at the airport, and shortly after flew straight to Lampedusa. But that my friends, is a tale for another time.

The last short stop was in Catania before ending my Sicily trip. Great island, crazy traffic, beautiful roads and relaxed atmosphere during #Covid1984 autumn – albeit they are very strict about having to wear a mast!