We had another adventure – to the Island of Stomboli, which is famous for its volcano that erupts every 20 minutes! We saw and heard it.
We were incredibly lucky to be docked next to an excursion boat that takes tourists to various islands. The boat usually picks up ticket-holders at the town marina, but we got to know the captain, who invited us to just hop on board right from our boat. We could ride with him to the town marina to pick up the tourists. We would spend the day visiting the Islands of Panarea and Stromboli – all for just 35 Euro each. Wow!
So we climbed over the lifelines and onto the tour boat and set off. We got to town and went for coffee while we waited for the tourists, feeling very “yachtie.” I had my sail dress, boat shoes, and pink Lily Pulitzer bag.
Well, we got back to the tour boat and everyone aboard had boots, backpacks, and walking sticks. We were on a tour to CLIMB the volcano! Needless to say, we felt a little overdressed. (We did make sure that it was ok to just hang out in Stromboli – we didn’t actually have to climb – whew.)
That boat sped off and about 45 minutes later, we were approaching a beautiful cove with rock formations and a beach. The captain flung a rope over a rock, and we enjoyed the view, while some people swam. (It was pretty cold, so we just stayed onboard.)
Then we headed to the Island of Panarea. This is the most exclusive of the Aeoilian Islands and where the celebrities all come in the summer. They say the mega-yachts line up, and there is a heli-port for those without a yacht. Our captain announced we had 2 hours to explore. There were only about 20 of us on our little boat, so a perfect shore excursion.
It was lunchtime, so Frank and I spied a restaurant overlooking the water that looked just the place. We had mussels with limone and fritte misto (mixed fried calamari, alice, and shrimp), washed down with Sicilian white wine. With a breathtaking view. It was very romantic.
But we were still waiting for the highlight – the big volcano. Our hikers were getting serious now – changing into other gear, eating their Power Bars, and checking their bags. We blissfully basked in the sunlight.
We docked, and the hikers set out with their guide, who distributed hard hats and flashlights – we were VERY happy we had opted out of the hike. The captain said to meet him back in 4 hours. I had read about a pizzeria that was supposedly a short, easy walk from town but overlooked the volcano. It seemed a good solution – all the view without the work – and pizza too!
We set out and walked. And walked. And walked. We walked past a beach with black sand from the lava and by signs that showed the evacuation route in case of a tsunami (which apparently can happen after an bad eruption).
Soon the road ended and we were on a black road made out of volcanic ash. We climbed up. And up. And up. By this time, Frank was so exasperated that he wasn’t speaking, except to ask me if this really was the right road. I kept thinking (hoping) the pizzeria was around the next corner, but it never was. Finally, a tiny van hurdled up the hill, and we flagged it down to ask. It turns out it was from the restaurant, so we hopped in for the rest of the way.
I have to say, even thought the road was quite a climb (and a messy climb at that since we were in boat shoes ankle deep in volcanic ash) – the restaurant did have a view right up to the volcano. We could hear the rumble and then see the smoke pour out. I think even Frank would admit it was worth our troubles – but we did get the van to take us back down.
Our Own Private Fireworks Show
We returned to the boat, and our captain had a special outing planned, since we were not hiking. He took us around to the other side of the island, turned off the lights, and then poured us a glass of the favorite local wine – Malvasia – a sweet dessert wine. We were the only boat in sight. Then we waited. About 10 minutes later, we heard the rumble and then saw the most spectacular red fireworks display as the volcano erupted right in front of us. Incredible! (Unfortunately, we were so mesmerized that we didn’t take any pictures.)
It took us almost two hours to get home, since we had to pick up the hikers and then drop everyone off at the town dock before going back to our home port. It was midnight before we got back to the boat. We were tired, but couldn’t believe our amazing day.