It was the number one thing I wanted to see on my tour of Sicily, and I decided to head straight to it after my arrival: Stromboli. I arrive too late to catch the last boat in Milazzo, and make sure I am on the first one early next morning. I can see Stromboli from a distance, its unmistakable and classic conical shape rising sharply from the Tyrrhenian Sea, a thin cloud flows from its top. When the boat docks, the sun is shining on the volcano, and I can see it rise directly from the incredibly clear sea. I cannot wait to climb to its peak, and look down into the crater of this very active volcano. I have not booked any accommodation, and it is too early to ask around for hotels, so I end up walking the attractive village at the foot of Stromboli. I see several agencies organising treks up the volcano (you are not allowed to do that independently because of the inherent dangers), and soon have to draw the conclusion that climbing Stromboli is restricted because of heavy eruptions in 2019 (one of which killed a hiker). On the wall of one agency, I find a paper with the latest activity report of the volcano in various qualifications, like the number of seismic events, seismic tremor, thermal anomalies, rockfall activity, and infrasonic activity. combining in a volcanic activity index, which is low according to the report.
As soon as the main agency opens, I make sure to be there, and learn that, indeed, summiting Stromboli is not possible. I am disappointed, of course, and decide to anyway join the only alternative: walking up to a viewpoint on the edge of the Sciara del Fuoco (Stream of Fire), the side of Stromboli where stones come down, and where, in case of eruptions, the magma flows out. There are quite a few people walking up at the end of the afternoon. We walk an upper street of the village, and soon have good views of not just the village, but also Strombolicchio, the rock just off the coast, the old and new cemetery, and the coastline of the northern side of the island. The trail is easy, and the closer we get, the louder the rumblings. We can now clearly see dark grey clouds of smoke billowing up into the air. We now reach a track with black stones: this apparently was built to facilitate the filming of the Stromboli movie in 1949, starring Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. A last steep stretch takes us to the edge of the Sciara, at around 300m (still 600m below the summit) and this is where we will hang around for the next hours. Quite soon, an explosion occurs, and I can see rocks being hurled out of the crater, glowing orange, and after following the rules of gravity which even they have to obey, they end up on the Sciara, tumbling down the steep, grey slope, in a lot of dust, until they tumble into the sea below.
It soon turns out that there is almost a mathematical rhythm in the eruptions: they occur every twenty minutes, but vary greatly in intensity. While we have our eyes fixed on the rim of the volcano crater, the sun is setting: in the distance, we can see Filicudi and Alicudi. Ah, there is another eruption: we cannot really take our eyes away from the volcano. After the sun is really gone, and the volcano is gradually wrapped in darkness, the eruptions get a different look. We cannot see the dark grey smoke, but the orange fountain of magma being spewed into the air becomes always clearer. We now also see how the glowing red-and-orange rocks turn dark while inevitably tumbling down the slope, straight into the dark sea below. It is now easy to understand why Stromboli is nicknamed the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean. After watching this spectacle, it is time to walk back in the darkness. The next morning, I am walking back again in the darkness that is slowly lifting, and find the observation point with just one other person. The activity is different now: the volcano seems to be in a different mood, and has lost its rhythm. As the sun rises above the horizon, the clouds start to be visible again, and the orange fountain is lost. I follow the rocks racing down the slope, all ending with a splash into the morning Mediterranean. I vow to be back when it is allowed again to climb to the summit. I want to look into that crater from closer up.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Stromboli (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Stromboli. Read more about this site.