Climbing Sicily’s Stromboli volcano was absolutely spectacular, and my Italy trip planning clients I’ve sent up the volcano concur: it’s definitely a bucket-list hike. But the logistics are not insignificant. My husband and I climbed the volcano during our two-week Sicily honeymoon. Because it was high season, we booked the hike a few months in advance, which included the guide plus the boat. Happily, the weather was in our favor and the seas were calm, so the tour went ahead as planned. After the boat ride to Stromboli, a safety briefing from our guide, and a quick picnic dinner, our group headed up the steep path, following the guide. It was a 3 hour strenuous hike, and we started walking at dusk. It was the middle of summer and we’d been laying on the beach earlier that day, but for this hike we wore long sleeves and layers. As it got darker and as we climbed higher, it got chillier. We were sweating from the exertion, and every now and then some warm air from the volcano would blow our way, which meant we were constantly adding and removing layers. By the time we reached the summit, it was almost midnight, and the sky was completely dark. Stromboli erupts relatively reliably about every twenty minutes, and the small eruptions against the night sky were beautiful.
Stromboli is indeed a volcano, but it’s also an island way (way!) out in the sea, northeast of Sicily and west of the Italian peninsula across from Calabria. In high season you can get boats from Naples or Calabria, or you can start from Sicily – either from the Sicilian island or from one of the Aeolian islands like Lipari or Salina. We were spending our honeymoon in Sicily so we started from the city of Milazzo, and took an hour-long ferry to the island of Lipari. We stayed in Lipari a few days and enjoyed the beaches before taking another ferry to Stromboli.
Because of safety, the only legal way to go up Stromboli is on a guided tour, and there are a couple companies on the island that run them. When you get to the top you may see people who have climbed up on their own to camp for a night, but it’s dangerous. Beyond the clearly bad idea of camping next to an active volcano, there is also a colony of rats living up there, feeding off tourist garbage. Evidently the route down has some sheer drop cliffs, too, so independent climbers try to follow a group down.
The tours only run in the summer, and they rely on boat schedules. If the sea is too choppy and the boats can’t go out, the tour will be cancelled. Therefore, book your tour for one day but have a backup day just in case the boat can’t run. The boats are pretty reliable in the middle of summer, but during the shoulder seasons of April and October, I recommend having a backup day.
Getting to the top was about 3 hours of strenuous uphill hiking, so we needed proper hiking boots, layers of clothing, and lots of water. Getting down was obviously faster, but it was dark and not fun for the knees. We were back in our bed on the island of Lipari before breakfast, and we spent the next day dozing on the beach.
Climbing Stromboli is one of the best activities I’ve ever done in Italy, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants an active component to their vacation.
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