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The Aeolian Islands or Lipari Islands (Italian: Isole Eolie, Sicilian: Ìsuli Eoli) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Seamarker north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The locals residing on the islands are known as Eolians (Italian: Eoliani). The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to 200,000 visitors annually.

The largest island is Liparimarker. The other islands include Vulcanomarker, Salinamarker, Strombolimarker, Filicudimarker, Alicudi, Panareamarker and Basiluzzomarker.


The Aeolian Islands as seen from space.
The present shape of the Aeolian Islands is the result of volcanic activity over a period of 260,000 years. There are two active volcanoes - Stromboli and Vulcano. The volcanic activity of steaming fumaroles and thermal waters waiting to be tapped are on most of the islands.

Only the one on Stromboli, the northernmost island, is still active and puts on a brightly colored performance on most nights.

Scientifically the archipelago is defined as a "volcanic arc". Geology explains the origin of the Aeolian Islands as a result of continental drift due to movement of the Earth's crust. The African continental shelf is in constant movement towards Europe. The resulting collision has created a volcanic area with ruptures in the Earth's crust with consequent eruptions of magma. The "Eolian Arc" extends for more than 140 kilometres, but the area of geological instability caused by the collision of Africa and Europe is very much larger. It includes Sicily, Calabria, Campania together with Greece and the Aegean islands.

The complex of the eight Aeolian Islands, covering an area of 1,600 square kilometres, originated from a great plain at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian sea. Emissions of lava from depths of up to 3,600 metres resulted in the formation of the Eolian Islands, together with Ustica and a series of submarine volcanoes named Magnani, Vavilov, Marsili and Palinuro, as well as two that are unnamed.


Curbing urban development has been a key to preserving the Aeolian islands in a natural state. New buildings are severely restricted. Existing residences can be bought and restored but must be constructed to resemble its whitewashed houses. Traditional houses consist of modular cubes constructed from indigenous building materials — stone, lava, pumice and tufo. Almost all houses have a large outdoor terrace, usually shaded by grape-vines and flowering vines. The houses, balconies and terraces are mostly decorated with brightly patterned terra-cotta tiles, a throwback to long-ago Spanish conquerors.

Without exception, Aeolian hotels are family affairs with home cooking and friendly service. Smouldering volcanoes, bubbling mud baths and steaming fumaroles make these tiny seven islands, north of Sicily, a truly magical destination. The Aeolian Islands with a total population of approximately 10,000, have very different characters depending on the season. The head count swells to 200,000 during the summer months. Thousands of holiday-makers visit the Aeolian Islands each year seeking a road-free idyll and a close-up view of volcanic fireworks.


4000 - 2500 BC. First evidence of Sicilian migration in Lipari (Castellaro Vecchio). Manufacture and commerce of obsidian highly developed until introduction of metals.

1600 - 1250 BC. During the Bronze Age, the Aeolian prosper by means of maritime commerce in an area extending from Mycenae to the British isles, from where tin was imported. Villages on the Eolian islands flourished in Capo Graziano (Filicudi), Castello (Lipari), Serro dei Cianfi (Salina), Capo Milazzese (Panarea), and Portella (Salina). All these settlements are destroyed by the new Italic invasions in 1250 BC.

1240 - 850 BC. The Aeolian Islands are occupied by the Ausonians led by Liparus. Liparus is succeeded by Aeolus whose house, according to Homer, gave hospitality to Ulysses.

6th - 4th century BC. In In 580 BC Greek exiles from Rhodes and Knidosmarker land at Lipari begin a period of Greek domination, which was known for acts of piracy against Etruscan and Phoenecian shipping. Fine work in the production of vases and other ceramics.

3rd c. BC. - 3rd c. AD. The islanders are allies of the Carthaginians against Rome. The Romans sack Lipari and their domination leads to a period of decadence and poverty.

4th - 10th century AD. At the fall of the Roman empire, the Aeolian Islands come under the sway of the Barbarian Visigoths, the Vandals and the Ostrogoths, followed by the harsh domination of the Byzantine empire. In the year 264, a coffin containing the body of Bartholomew is washed upon the beach of Lipari, with the result that Bartholomew is immediately elected the Patron Saint of the Aeolian Islands. Calogerus the hermit was active in Lipari during the first half of the 4th century and he gave his name to the thermal springs. In 836 the Saracens sack Lipari, massacre the population, and enslave the survivors.

11th - 15th century AD. The Normans liberate Sicily from the Arabs and lay the foundations of a period of good government and renewal. King Ruggero sends the Benedictine monks to Lipari, which gives rise to considerable development on the islands. A cathedral dedicated to Saint Bartholomew is built together with the Benedictine monastery in the castle. Lipari becomes a bishopric and agriculture makes progress in Salina, as well as the smaller islands. In 1208 Frederick the 2nd, of Swabia accedes to the throne of Sicily. The period of prosperity which follows, and is consolidated during the course of his reign, ends with the domination of the Angevins and the rebellion of the Sicilians culminating in the revolt of the Sicilian Vespers. The Aeolians however, remained loyal to Charles of Anjou, and commercial links are established with Naples, the capital of the Angevin kingdom. In 1337 Lipari opens its gates to the French fleet without resistance, and in return obtains various commercial and fiscal benefits. In the middle of the 15th century, Naples and Palermo unite in the Kingdom of the two Sicilies under the crown of Alfonso V of Aragon. The Aeolian privileges are recognized. Aeolian privateers fight with the Spanish against the French.

16th - 20th century AD. On June 30, 1544, a fleet of 180 Turkish vessels under the command of the great corsair Ariadeno Barbarossa occupied Lipari and lay siege to the castle. The desperate defense of Lipari is no match for the terrible havoc caused by the Muslim cannonade, and the defenders surrendered. 9,000 of the 10,000 citizens of Lipari are captured and enslaved. Many were already killed while others were finished off while attempting to escape. The city remains deserted and only after the tragedy do the Spanish authorities turn their attention to Lipari and repopulate the city with Sicilian, Calabrian and Spanish families. The city walls and houses are rebuilt and an Eolian fleet is constructed which is able to successfully defend the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Turks. At the beginning of the year 1693, an earthquake destroyed all town in eastern Sicily causing 140,000 deaths. After the population invoked the protection of Saint Bartholomew during prayers in the Cathedral, there was not a single victim on the Aeolian Islands. The economic conditions of the islands improve greatly during the 17th century with agricultural progress (malvasia grapes, Capers, excellent variety of fruit, vegetables and fishing). With the Bourbons comes the affliction of criminal and political prisoners. This unhappy imposition continues and worsens until the unification of Italy. In 1916, the penal colony is closed but the fascist regime tries to reopen it in 1926 - in vain. The island population reacts by pulling down the remains of the ex-penitentiary in the castle. However, not long after, the castle is converted to accommodate anti-fascist politicals under enforced exile. Liparians fraternized with these exiles until the Liberation. After the war, the same room that had housed the opponents of fascism became the Eolian Archaeological Museum.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Aeolian Islands were visited by Duke Luigi Salvatore of Austria - a friend of the islands and also a man with a profound knowledge of the archipelago.

Between the years 1893-96 he published a work of eight volumes on the Aeolian Islands.

In August 1888 the crater named Fossa in Vulcano erupts and causes many deaths in the sulphur mines.

The eruptions continue for 19 months.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Aeolian Islands are listed by UNESCOmarker as World Heritage Sites. However, inaccuracy, the missing closure of a pumice quarry, and the oncoming building of some four harbours by the shore of the sole town of Liparimarker pose a threat to the islands' place on the list, according to the Italian UNESCO Commission.


  1. Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman mythology By Mike Dixon-Kennedy Page 15 ISBN 1576070948
  2. Eolian Archaelogical Museum. Lipari, Isole Eolie
  3. YouTube - Mega porto: lo scempio di Lipari
  4. - Le Eolie fuori dai siti Unesco

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