Volcanic sunsets in the Mediterranean: Dreaming of the Aeolian islands during lockdown
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets

YOU THINK you’ve seen a sunset. Until you’ve seen this volcanic sunset with its shades of orange, pink and lemon. I make it just in time to see the sun dip under the horizon on the smoking island of Vulcano.

‘Look!’ someone says pointing, ‘that’s Stromboli over there. There’s Mount Etna. She’s blowing smoke every 15 minutes.’

This is more than I had hoped for. I’ve devoted the last day of my trip in Sicily to make the 45 minutes crossing on the hydrofoil to the island that gives its name to the word volcano, after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. Thankfully there hasn’t been an eruption here since 1888.

Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets

At only 20 miles square there’s a handful of roads and a trail that leads me to the summit. After more than an hour climbing I’m standing on the crater looking across at two of Europe’s active volcanos gently puffing away in the distance. All the Aeolian Islands are laid out below.

Born from the Mediterranean Sea thousands of years ago, this chain of seven volcanic islands is Unesco protected to preserve the historic harbour towns and unique landscapes. Popular with Italian tourists, the 15,000 population can swell to 600,000 in the summer months.

The colours that streak across the sky are an optical trick created by the heat, the haze and the volcanic smoke in the air. It is while looking at this magical view, I vow to visit the other islands in the archipelago: Lipari, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Stromboli. 

The light show doesn’t last long and I make my way down before darkness falls. 

Back at the harbour I stop at Cantine Stevenson, named after a Welshman who planted the first vines on the island in 1870, to order the hot and fiery Vulcano pizza. And now I’m longing for another slice.

Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Chalkmarks: Smoking sunsets
Vulcano and Stromboli pizzas at Cantine Stevenson, Vulcano island
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