Skimming across the Tyrrhenian sea, one can see the Gran Cratere of Vulcano in the distance. Arriving in this volcanic island was like approaching Jurassic Park, with its steep hills of vines and trees, deserted coastline and smoking crater. Disembarking the ferry that took us here from Milazzo, we walked past a man who resembled a dinosaur, confirming our suspicion. Hurrying to the car park, we were greeted by our host, Luigi, who had graciously offered to pick us up and take us on an introductory tour of this fecund island.
Of course the first attraction on our drive was the fanghi, a sulphurous mud bath which contained radon, famed for its healing properties that had enticed people from the world over to sample it. Not my cup of tea though, the smell of rotten egg knocked the wind out of my system and I made a mental note to give it a miss. Cruising straight through the island touristy centre, where Luigi introduced us to the best pizza, bread, restaurants, massage parlours, car rentals and supermarkets, we were then taken into the heart of the island, meandering hilltop passes until a point at the hilltop where we took in the view of the island just as the sun set.
We arrived at our villa (Cottage Baia di Ponente Vulcano) just before night fell, and was pleasantly surprised by the cosy self catering unit which contained all the cooking utensils we needed for the four days. Before we arrived in the Aeolian islands, we imagined that our day would start with a nice jog to the beach, coming back for a scrumptious Sicilian breakfast with nice bread and locally sourced produce, excellent view, beautiful sea, fresh fish to BBQ, and moments of calm. In Vulcano, we did all that and this charming villa provided the perfect idyllic setting, tucked in a scented garden with colourful flowers to unwind and while away our stresses. The villa is only a minute away from the Black Beach (Baia di Ponente) and a pleasant ten minutes tree-lined walk from the port (Porto di Levante).
We were recommended a car hire place which rented cool vehicles including Quad Bikes and Mini Mokes, and so with an inexpensive car hire rate, a packed picnic, we drove to the south of the island and came across our favourite beach, Punta dell' Asino, a lighthouse, church and trattorias that peppered the beach resorts. We swam, dodged jellyfish and ate an authentic Spaghetti alla Norma, tomato and eggplant pasta. The hard work was yet to come, as we rounded up the busy day with an 800 metre climb up Gran Cratere volcano -- attempting to maintain balance on steep gravel and dust, and avoid the alluring toxic gas wafting from the top. Once atop, we were rewarded with an unparalleled view of the island. It was the perfect end to a great day.
The last day was a sad one. Four days weren't enough here -- we were just beginning to get used to this serene way of life, close to nature as life intended. I was even convinced to sample the island's speciality, a dip in the thick yellow sulphur soup (fanghi). The mud was meant to fix all ailments, but it also gave us a few new ones in the process. Awful stench, hair in the mud and expensive cold showers to finish you off. After a quick dip in the sea, we walked home.
Luckily, we witnessed the fabled pesce cart with fresh fish that were caught in the morning by local fishermen and took two fresh fish home at a Euro each. No doubt they ended up on the BBQ!
A couple of hours later, we boarded the ferry that took us away from this magical island, so as Vulcano vanished in the distance, it left us with memories that turned into dreams of black sand, turquoise sea, scenic drives, delicious fish and rotten eggs.
To get to Vulcano, fly to either Catania or Palermo in Sicily. Get ideas to plan your trip here.