Aeolian Islands

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Aeolian Islands
Location map of the Aeolian Islands
Location map of the Aeolian Islands
Waters Tyrrhenian Sea
Geographical location 38 ° 35 '  N , 14 ° 59'  E Coordinates: 38 ° 35 '  N , 14 ° 59'  E
Aeolian Islands (Sicily)
Aeolian Islands
Number of islands 7th
Main island Lipari
Total land area 115.4 km²
Residents 13,768 (2009)

The Lipari Islands or Aeolian Islands ( Italian Isole Lipari or Isole Eolie ) are a group of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily . The archipelago with a total area of ​​115.4 km² includes seven inhabited islands with around 13,768 inhabitants (as of December 31, 2009), which politically belong to the metropolitan city of Messina in the Italian region of Sicily.

The islands are of volcanic origin and were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000 on the grounds that “the volcanic landscapes of the islands are classic objects of the ongoing study of volcanology worldwide. Through their scientific exploration at least from the 18th century onwards, the islands have provided the textbooks of geology and volcanology with two types of eruptions ( Vulcano-type and Stromboli-type ) and thus played an important role in the education of all geoscientists for more than 200 years. They also offer a rich field for volcanological studies of ongoing geological processes in the formation of landscapes. "



Lipari harbor and castle hill
View from Vulcano to Lipari and Salina
View from Lipari to Vulcano and the Vulcanello

The Aeolian Islands are between 30 km and 80 km off the north coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea . The closest to the Sicilian coast is Vulcano . Lipari and Salina follow to the north, Filicudi and Alicudi to the west and Panarea and Stromboli to the northeast . In addition to the seven inhabited islands, there are a number of smaller, uninhabited islands and rocky cliffs such as B. Basiluzzo and Strombolicchio .

The seven islands

The largest island with 37.5 km² is Lipari , followed by Salina (26.8 km²), Vulcano (21.2 km²), Stromboli (12.6 km²), Filicudi (9.5 km²) and Alicudi (5.2 km²). The smallest island with 3.4 km² is Panarea . The highest point in the Aeolian Islands is Monte Fossa delle Felci on Salina, which reaches a height of 962 m.


The islands are of volcanic origin . They emerged from the sea in three phases and belong to a volcanic chain that stretches from Vesuvius to Etna . First Filicudi was created, then the islands of Panarea, Salina and parts of Lipari, finally Alicudi. In a second phase, further parts of these islands were formed. Vulcano and Stromboli followed in a third phase. The origin of volcanism in the Aeolian Islands is the subduction of the northern edge of the African plate under the Apulian plate .

Today the Stromboli volcano on the island of the same name is the only constantly active volcano in Europe. The Grande Fossa volcano on the island of Vulcano is dormant and only slightly active, making it the most dangerous volcano in the region.

The islands are rich in sulfur , pumice stone and kaolin . The basalt tubes show the volcanic origin.


The Aeolian Islands have a Mediterranean climate , which roughly corresponds to the climatic data of Messina on the coasts .

The average air temperature is 13 ° C in January, 20 ° C in May and October and 28 ° C in July. In the mountains it is up to 10 ° C cooler than on the coast. The water temperatures fluctuate between 15 ° C in winter and 26 ° C in summer.

The average rainfall of 600 mm per year is lower than in Messina, more than two thirds of it falls in autumn and winter. The prevailing winds include the rather cool Maestrale from the northwest and the dry, hot Scirocco from the southeast.

Flora and fauna


The predominant plants include gorse, wormwood, euphorbia and heather plants, as well as culinary herbs, almost 70 different medicinal plants and, above all, capers .

The tree vegetation consists mainly of pine, carob, fig, almond and olive trees. The eucalyptus, acacia and, in some places, holm oaks have also been planted since the 1960s . A rare tree species is the dwarf palm from the early days of the islands, which has been preserved in stony places. With climate change, dominant plants such as gorse in the past have declined significantly.

The Malvasia di Lipari grape variety is grown on the volcanic soils of the islands . The island with the richest vegetation is the island of Salina due to a fresh water source and environmentally friendly forestry.


Striped dolphins near the Aeolian Islands

The notable animal species include, above all, migratory birds and marine animals . Endemic animal species live on some islands, e. For example, on the rocks of La Canna in front of Filicudi, on Faraglione near Pollara / Salina and on Strombolicchio near Stromboli the unique Aeolian wall lizard ( Podarcis raffoneae ).


The Aeolian Islands have been around since the 5th millennium BC. Inhabited. They were probably settled from Sicily. In the Neolithic the Aeolian Islands were important as a supplier of obsidian . The resulting trade contacts ensured prosperity on the islands. During the Copper Age , the islands' importance declined, the obsidian trade declined and resulted in economic, cultural and demographic decline. In the Bronze Age , which began around 2200 BC. The islands recovered, and villages with round and oval huts emerged on all the main islands, except Vulcano. In the 1st phase of the so-called Capo Graziano culture (named after the place where it was found Capo Graziano on Filicudi) these were unprotected on mostly flat terrain, in the 2nd phase (from around 1700) the villages were naturally well protected relocated. Finds of Mycenaean pottery , most of which date from the 16th and 15th centuries BC. Originate, testify to trade relations with the eastern Mediterranean. The Capo Graziano culture follows around 1430 BC. The Milazzese culture reveals the parallels to the Thapsos culture widespread in Sicily. Settlements of the Capo Graziano culture are mostly still used during this period. Imports of Eastern Mediterranean origin were also found in the layers of the Milazzese culture. Around 1250 BC The settlements on the Aeolian Islands were destroyed - especially on Lipari, traces of fire are attested - some smaller islands were evidently even depopulated and remained uninhabited for a long time. The larger islands were populated by newcomers, whose legacies were clearly different from those of the earlier Aeolian cultures. The ceramics and buildings with wooden support beams have parallels on mainland Italy. According to later legendary tradition, Ausons from central Italy settled on the islands, which may be identical to the newcomers. Therefore, the finds from the time between approx. 1250 and 850 BC. Chr. Referred to in research as " Ausonian ". According to tradition, the leader of the Ausons, King Liparos , is said to have given the island its name.

In the 5th century BC Doric settlers came from Knidos and Rhodes . The Aeolian Islands were allied with Syracuse at that time and were therefore attacked and sacked by armed forces from Athens . In the centuries that followed, the Greeks and Carthaginians fought for supremacy. 252 BC BC the Romans took the islands. In the 3rd century AD, the first Christian church was built on Lipari.

In 416 the islands became an exile for the usurper Priscus Attalus , who was duly housed here until his unknown end of life.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Aeolian Islands served as a hideout for pirates and the population became impoverished. Under the rule of the Arabs in Sicily from the 9th century onwards, they were military outposts for the new conquerors. Prosperity flourished again under the rule of the Normans in the 11th century. On behalf of Roger I , a Benedictine monastery and the church of San Bartolomeo were built on Lipari . Small towns emerged on Salina.

In 1544 the Ottoman navigator Khair ad-Din Barbarossa conquered the Aeolian Islands and deported almost the entire population of Lipari into slavery. In the 17th century, the islands were repopulated under the care of the Catholic Church. In the 19th century, the trade with Sicily and the Italian mainland (fish, wine, ceramics and pumice stone) caused a renewed economic upswing, until the eruption of Vulcano in 1888 destroyed the livelihoods of many islanders. Over a third of the population emigrated to America and Australia between 1900 and 1950.

Like Ponza , Ventotene and the Tremiti Islands , the Aeolian Islands also served as the preferred deportation destination ( confino ) for thousands of anti-fascists during fascism . After Italy entered the war in June 1940, the fascist regime set up an internment camp ( campo di concentramento ) at the same location in 1941 . Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of the Interior ordered the deportation of "communist ex-Yugoslavs ". In November and December 1941, men and some women from Montenegro , Dalmatia , Albania and Slovenia arrived at Lipari. In December 1941 and June 1943 the camp was occupied by 383 and 289 inmates, respectively. A month later the camp was closed.

In 1949 the film Stromboli aroused renewed interest in the Aeolian Islands, and tourism, which began in the mid-20th century, improved the islanders' prosperity. The film The Postman reinforced the trend. Since the 1990s, the residents have lived primarily from tourism and from maintaining the holiday homes of wealthy northern Italians. Personalities from film, photography and literature have settled on the islands of Filicudi and Salina. Alicudi is shaped by German immigrants.


Some Greek and Roman authors saw one of the islands as the seat of the mythical wind god Aeolus ( Greek Ἄιολος Aiolos , Latin Aeolus ), which is why the name Aeolian Islands became naturalized.

Aeolus was appointed steward of the winds by Zeus and lived on the island of Aiolia . He accommodated Odysseus on his wanderings and handed him a sack in which the unfavorable winds were banished before he continued his journey . As Odysseus' companions illegally opened the sack when he was sleeping, they were driven back to Aiolia by heavy storms.


The Aeolian Islands, on which almost 14,000 residents (Liparoten) live, belong to the Italian metropolitan city of Messina .

The three municipalities of Santa Marina Salina , Malfa and Leni are located on the administratively independent island of Salina .

The other six islands Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli and Vulcano together form the municipality of Lipari with the capital of the same name.



Aeolian Islands ferry

Several times a week there is a ferry from Naples to the islands and on to Milazzo . In addition, hydrofoils run to and from Naples twice a day in summer.

Hydrofoils go to Palermo twice a day (June to early September only) . Several times a day there are connections by hydrofoil to Milazzo and in summer to Messina . In the summer season, a Ustica Lines ferry operates between Palermo and the Aeolian Islands.

There is regular bus service on the islands of Lipari, Vulcano and Salina. On the smaller islands, three-wheeled delivery vans and occasionally donkeys and mules serve as means of transport.

As a result of the privatization of the parent company Tirrenia di Navigazione , to which the Siremar's fleet also belongs, called for by the European Union , there was a signature campaign in February 2009.

Energy and drinking water

The electrical energy is generated on all islands by diesel-powered power plants. On Stromboli, the Italian energy supplier Enel built a solar system for the town of Ginostra , which uses photovoltaic technology to generate 150,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. There is a wind turbine on Salina .

There is a seawater desalination plant on Lipari. The drinking water is supplied several times a week by tankers from the mainland.


Pumice quarrying on Lipari

Until the middle of the 20th century, agriculture, fishing and pumice mining were modest main sources of income on the Aeolian Islands.

Due to the fact that the entire archipelago was declared a World Heritage Site, the extraction of pumice stone has been discontinued on Lipari under pressure from UNESCO. As a result, around 300 jobs were lost that were not directly replaced. (Source: WDR television, series Wunderschön from 2014, repeated on March 15, 2015)

Fishing (swordfish, sardines, lobster, mussels), the production of the dessert wine Malvasia delle Lipari and the export of capers mainly to Australia and Japan still play an important economic role .

From 1950 onwards tourism slowly began to develop, which is now the islanders' most important source of income. In the months of July and August, the number of tourists significantly exceeds the number of islanders.


Up until the middle of the last century, up to 90% of the population were illiterate. There are now elementary schools on all the islands and a high school with various branches on Lipari. A dedicated speedboat connection has been set up for students at the University of Messina . However, children from the islands of Alicudi and Filicudi remain cut off from middle school in the winter months.


Amphorae in the Archaeological Museum in Lipari


There is an archaeological museum on Lipari, the Museo Archeologico Eoliano , which documents the history of the islands in a prehistoric and a classical section. There is also a volcanological section that illustrates the geological structure of the islands. On Salina, the Museo dell'Emigrazione Eoliana informs about the fate of the emigrants at the beginning of the last century.


Ludwig Salvator of Austria-Tuscany (1847–1915) traveled to the islands when he was 22 years old. He wrote an extensive documentation with engravings about the Aeolian Islands, which was published between 1893 and 1896. The first volume describes the archipelago in general, the other seven volumes are dedicated to the individual islands. In the 1970s and 1980s, the engraved volumes were brought out in Italian translation. A cultural center on Lipari is called Luigi Salvatore d'Austria .

Roland Zoss , a Swiss author and musician who immigrated in 1975, describes everyday life and the history of the seven islands poetically in the book of stories, Die Insel hinterm Mond .

Peter Amann: Aeolian Islands . Hiking and enjoying between Etna and Vesuvius. A travel companion. Rotpunktverlag , Zurich 2017, ISBN 978-3-85869-730-1


Memorial plaque to the filming of the film Stromboli

The landscape of the Aeolian Islands has served several times as the backdrop for internationally known films.

regional customs

The patron saint of the Aeolian Islands is the Apostle Bartholomew , who is honored with processions several times a year. The arrival of his relics on Lipari is commemorated on February 13th. His official memorial day is celebrated on August 24th. On November 16, processions are held in thanks for the fact that the islands were largely spared in a severe earthquake in 1693 that destroyed large parts of Sicily.

In addition, each of the seven islands has its own events. So z. For example, the Sagra del cappero (caper festival) takes place on Salina on the first weekend in June , and the Sagra del vino e del pane (wine and bread festival) on Lipari in November . Also on Lipari, from July to September, the Estate Eoliana Festival is held with music, theater and dance performances. On August 3rd, Filicudi hosts the festival in honor of Santo Stefano, the island's patron saint.


Coast of the Aeolian Islands

Compared to Sicily and other southern Italian regions, awareness of an intact environment soon developed on the Aeolian Islands. At the beginning of the 1970s, the Comitato Ecologico (Committee for Environmental Protection) was set up to maintain the ecological balance of the islands. More than anywhere else in southern Italy, the Aeolian Islands pay attention to proper waste separation and disposal as well as economical water management. Large nature reserves have been created on the islands of Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano and Salina . A WildLife station has been set up on the island of Filicudi, which takes care of sick sea turtles and dolphins and offers environmental courses and excursions for children in summer.


  • Peter Amann: Aeolian Islands . Hiking and enjoying between Etna and Vesuvius. A travel companion. Rotpunktverlag , Zurich 2017, ISBN 978-3-85869-730-1
  • Otto Gärtner: Sicily. 8th edition, completely revised and redesigned. Baedeker, Ostfildern 2005, ISBN 3-8297-1047-X . ( Baedeker Alliance travel guide ).
  • Eva Gründel, Heinz Tomek: Lipari Islands. DuMont Reiseverlag, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-7701-6028-2 .
  • Hans Pichler: Italian volcanic areas III: Lipari, Vulcano, Stromboli, Tyrrhenian Sea. 2nd Edition. Geological Guide Collection Volume 69, Brothers Borntraeger Verlag Berlin, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-443-15052-7 .
  • Ludwig Salvator <Austria, Archduke>: The Lipari Islands . Mercy, Prague 1893-96.
  • Thomas Schröder: Aeolian Islands. 5th edition. Michael Müller Verlag, Erlangen 2010, ISBN 3-89953-550-2
  • Roland Zoss: The island behind the moon - an Aeolian story. 2nd edition 2015. Available from the author, ISBN 978-3-9524591-0-2 . Also as an e-book in French “L'Île derriere la lune” and English “The Island beyond the Moon”.

Web links

Commons : Aeolian Islands  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Entry on the UNESCO World Heritage Center website ( English and French ).

Individual evidence

  1. Unesco list
  2. Michael Marthaler: The Matterhorn from Africa. The formation of the Alps in the history of the earth. Thun, 2002, p. 14.
  3. This and the following from: Robert Leighton: Sicily Before History. An Archaeological Survey from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age. Cornell University Press, Ithaca - New York 1999, pp. 132 ff.
  4. Reinhard Jung in detail on Mycenaean ceramics found on the Lipari Islands: ΧΡΟΝΟΛΟΓΙΑ COMPARATA. Comparative chronology of southern Greece and southern Italy from approx. 1700/1600 to 1000 BCE Vienna 2006, pp. 59–87; 137-144.
  5. Moses I. Finley, The Ancient Sicily. From prehistory to the Arab conquest , CH Beck Munich (1979), 32f.
  6. Carlo Spartaco Capogreco, I Campi del duce. L'internamento civile nell'Italia fascista (1940-1943) , Torino 2004 (Einaudi), pp. 245-246
  7. Homer , Odyssey 10, 1-79.