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Aeolian Islands beaches
Named after Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds, the Aeolian Islands are one of Italy's best kept secrets. The group is made up of seven volcanic islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea: Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano, Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi. Each island has a slightly different character. Lipari, for instance, the main transport hub, is the busiest while smoking Stromboli is one of Europe's most active volcanoes. Panarea is chic and exclusive, Vulcano is noted for its mud baths, while Salina is quiet and green. A holiday on the Aeolian Islands is ideal for anyone wanting a stylish hideaway in the sun, clear seas and dramatic scenery.
Being volcanic, the Aeolian Islands are not noted for their beaches. Lipari has the most popular sandy beach of all the Aeolian Islands, Spiaggia Bianca (the White Beach), which is near the village of Canneto. Stromboli has beaches around Ficogrande and Piscita, and there is a black sand beach at Gelso, on Vulcano. The quietest beaches are on remote Filicui and Alicudi.
Lipari Town, the island's main hub, is a picturesque place to stroll and has an ancient fortress. The Museo Eoliano (Via del Castello) inside the citadel is filled with archaeological finds from the island. Lava from Stromboli's ever erupting volcano, can be seen from a boat trip round the island, while experienced walkers can hike (with a local guide) up to the crater (depending on conditions at the time). On Vulcano, you can take one of the famous outdoor mud baths, just a short distance from the ferry landing. The islands are also very popular with divers and snorkellers.
The Aeolian Islands are not particularly geared towards those seeking a family holiday and attractions here are all low key. However children should enjoy a boat trip to see the eruptions from Stromboli, which continually spurts forth smoke and lava. They can swim in clear seas to their hearts' content, and will enjoy island hopping trips.
Most visitors spend their time on the islands that are closest to Sicily and the mainland coast. However the more remote islands Filicudi and Alicudi offer a quiet, and largely undeveloped, retreat. Or to really get away from it all, visit the hamlet of Ginostra on Stromboli. It has the smallest port in the world, can only be reached by boat, and has no running water or electricity.
Treat yourself to a stay at the celebrities' favourite hotel the Hotel Raya (Via San Pietro) (www.hotelraya.it) on exclusive Panarea. Many of the rooms have terraces that look across to Stromboli.