Italian Adventure 1 – Part 5 Stromboli, Let’s climb a volcano

Destination – Stromboli, Aeolian Islands, Italy

How did we get there?  – We visited Stromboli as part of our first ever Italian Epic trip a few years ago after visiting Rome, Vulcano, Lipari, all of which you can read about here.

How much did it cost to get there? – The ferry that we took from Lipari was about £20 and took about an hour.

Where did we stay? – The fantastic thing about the way we travel is we sometimes just leave things to chance.  Like our previous island Lipari we disembarked from the ferry and there were a few people milling around the quayside offering accommodation.  We spotted this young chap who went running to his mum and after a quick chat we found ourselves staying for 3 nights in her sisters apartment while they were on holiday for about €50 – total bargain and the best bit was that there was a washing machine so we took advantage and got some of our clothes washed.

Did we eat out? – Yes there was a fantastic pizza restaurant  Pizzeria Da Giovanni, which served the biggest pizzas you’ve ever seen.  They were really tasty and cheap too at only €5.

What was the best things about the island – The volcano.   The island is the volcano so there’s no escaping from this.   We could see the plums of smoke from up behind our apartment.  So exciting.

What was the worst thing about the island – The company we booked for the hike up the volcano.   Truly abysmal customer service. (more details below)

Tip of the trip – Make sure you understand your camera’s night settings and take some snacks for your trek up the volcano.

Our story –

Our visit to the island of Stromboli was for one purpose and one purpose only.  To climb it and see the much anticipated lava spurts of a still active volcano.

The island IS the volcano and has 2 small villages, Stromboli & Ginostra, both built into the mountain side on opposite sides of the crater.  There are signs throughout the island that tell you what to do incase of eruption and/or tsunami and the islanders live their lives day to day in the shadow of a lava spurting monster.

Will there be another major eruption, well yes of course their will be, no one knows when………..Behind our little apartment the puffs of smoke every 20 mins or so constantly reminded you of its presence.

We had paid to climb the mountain with a guided tour from Magmatrek as its not permitted to venture up there without a guide but we didnt get off to a great start having been given the wrong time to arrive at the starting point and then having to rush up the fairly steep path to catch up with the group ahead (check with trip advisor before choosing a guide).  The first 20/30 mins of the walk was at a fair pace and in the heat and with the steepness of the path I was just about done in before we’d even really started.  When we’d finally caught up with the group we found they were mainly American with one particular loud mouthed chap in the group who never shut up but talked at a level that all 20 of us could hear.  A bit boastful about his work, the places he’d visited but he was a great distraction from the relentless march up the side of the mountain.  Stromboli is about the hight of Snowdon and we started at sea level.  I’ve climbed Snowdon a couple of times now but never at this pace and never in this heat.  What a challenge.

We made several stops on route, one to taste some figs from a bush that was growing at the side of the path.  I found them delicious (albeit minus the nice bit of melted brie that would have made them perfect) but Chris didnt like them at all really.

The light was beginning to fade and just before the final path to the summit we stopped and layered up before the last of the sun dissapeared behind the horizon.  The last part of the walk would be in darkness and beyond the peak we could already see the rising smoke coming from the crater and the low gutteral boom of the lava spurts.  The boom was something that got you right in your chest.  It was a noise that meant danger but exciting, a noise that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and I only wish I’d taken a recording of it as it was quite indescribable.

Arriving at the top we sat in rows on the top of the mountain and there in front of us was the crater with the sparks, smoke and frequent lava spurts of course always accompanied with that boom.  It was mesmerising and you really had to pinch yourself to remind yourself where you were and what your eyes were witnessing.  This is not a sight I’ll ever forget as long as I live.

We sat there for the best part of an hour watching the show in front of our eyes.  All to quickly it was time to head down.  The path down was a different one to the one we’d come up.  Head torches guiding our way it was a steep march down in quite deep black sand which was being scooped by the bucketload into our boots as we walked.  There was a guide at the front of the group and one at the back and before long the 20 of us were split up over quite a distance.  The lead guide just took off like a rocket and it was quite hard work to keep up.   There were a few people behind us who fell and just couldnt keep up and by the time we arrived back at the start point in the village we could still see the head torches of people still quite a way up the mountain.  A harrowing descent but we got back safely.

After a lovely meal of pizza it took us quite a time to come down from the adrenalin rush that was our Stromboli trek.  A trip to remember and worth every penny, even if our guides weren’t the best the experience was amazing…………

So what next?

Well it was time to leave the Aeolian Islands and make our way back to Naples. To do this we had to be up early to catch the hydrofoil to Milazzo where we’d catch a train over to Messina to catch our train that would take us up to Naples. Now Sicily is an island and never before have I taken a train over water. Yes over water and this is done by putting the train on a ferry, ferrying across the straits of Messina and then driving the train off again at the other side. Absolutely incredible and an experience that we’ll never forget.

So join us for the next blog when we tell you about the big faux pas we made in Naples!

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