The Aeolian Islands or Lipari Islands (Italian: Isole Eolie, Sicilian: Ìsuli Eoli) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea 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 Lipari. The other islands include Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo.
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.
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