The oldest settlement of Stromboli dates back to the Neolithic times. The site of San Vincenzo was discovered and excavated for the first time in 1980. The village was located in the northeastern part of the island slopes of the volcano on a large plateau, and it was marked with large oval or round huts made of lava stone.To find evidence on the early history of Stromboli we must go back to Diodorus Siculus and the legends that recount the story of Liparo and Eolo: the islands of Eolo (so it says) were once deserted but then Liparo, in discord with siblings and having long ships and soldiers, fled Ausonia towards the island that bears his name. He founded a city of the same name and he cultivated the other islands. During the reign of Lipari Eolo reaches the islands and marries Liparo’s daughter and he receives from his father-in-law the dominion over Stromboli. In 580 BC the Aeolian islands are re-colonized by the Cnidi of Spartan origin, who will use the islands of Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano as agricultural settlements but without stable population for the concern of attacks by the Etruscans at least until 450 BC. In the following centuries and until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire Stromboli was probably inhabited. With the barbarian invasions and the incursions by the vandals from North Africa all the islands but Lipari were abandoned until the sixteenth century. The first news about Stromboli are the results of the events that took place in the second half of the seventeenth century. The Campis states that in mid-July 1689 the guardian of Stromboli signaled that there was a stationary galley and a corsair brigantine and that the people of Lipari attacked the enemy, managing to capture both ships. The Campis gives further hints saying that the island was used by North African pirates to attack the Christian ships in transit. We can find the first mention about the island population in the course of 1773, through the words of the traveler Joseph-Hermann Riedesel: the inhabitants are industrious and good navigators. The most detailed description is that of Count Friedrich Leopold Stolberg visiting the island on July 18, 1792: when they saw us, some of the inhabitants approached us armed and asked us to see our passports and health certificates, which are called prattica. [...]. They allowed us, however, to climb the mountain and to visit the crater. Despite their wild and ferocious appearance, those few islanders were talkative. We bought from them some good Moscato wine and a type of red wine that was so spirited that the flavor of the Lacryma of Vesuvius and of Posillipo seemed bland in comparison. During the nineteenth century dozens of travelers and scientists visit the island of Stromboli to observe closely the famous volcano and they talk about a very active population, devoted to the cultivation of raisins and malmsey and maritime trade. Already in the nineteenth century the island becomes a place of romantic tales or science fiction and mysterious stories. During the twentieth century two violent volcano eruptions (in 1919 and 1930) cause the total destruction of the vineyards and force the majority of the population to emigrate. For nearly two decades the island suffers a deep state of desertion, until the shooting of director Roberto Rossellini’s movie Stromboli, Land of God begins in 1949, starring the famous Ingrid Bergman. Their love story and the rivalry with Anna Magnani, employed in the nearby Volcano filming the eponymous film make the world discover the Aeolian islands as an international tourist destination. A story that continues to this day. Edited by Giuseppe La Greca
Stromboli, the extreme north-eastern strip of the Aeolian Islands, is the emerged part of a large volcanic complex that rises up from -2000 m to the top of Vancori (924 m MSL). The island started to form 100,000 years ago, while the nearby islet of Strombolicchio, which is what remains of a volcanic edifice largely destroyed by erosion, has an age estimated to be about 200,000 years old. For thousands of years, the activity of the volcano consists of a rhythmic succession of low-energy explosions with the launch of lapilli and fragments of lava that from the summit craters pour into the Sciara del Fuoco. Stromboli is of considerable importance also in terms of biodiversity. Here lives the last great population of the Aeolian laburnum (Cytisus aeolicus), a small tree belonging to the Leguminosae family, now extinct or on the brink of extinction on the other islands of the archipelago. On Strombolicchio, however, you can find the Bassia saxicola, a plant in some ways mysterious, considered one of the rarest and most endangered of the European flora. The island still hosts the Aeolian Wall Lizard (Podarcis raffoneae), the only endemic reptile of the archipelago, now present in only three locations and with a global population estimated to be less than a thousand individuals; its survival is linked to the maintenance of the fragile balances that regulate the small ecosystem of Strombolicchio, whose slightest alteration could lead to dramatic consequences for the future of the species. It might seem a paradox but it is precisely the man the other protagonist of the natural history of Stromboli and its satellite island, both as a direct or indirect cause of loss of biodiversity, both as a sculptor of the plant landscape and of the environmental heritage. Over the last 3,500 years, in fact, the human presence has brought about substantial changes in the original structure and composition of the flora, vegetation and fauna: this happened first through a long process of domestication of the territory, making it fit for agricultural use, and later with the abandonment of the crops. The reeds that occupy the basal end of Stromboli and that go up to 400-500 m AMSL has been in fact spreading starting after the eruption in 1930, when even the last vineyards were abandoned, and a large part of the community left the island for the Americas, and especially for Australia; the wild sugarcane (Saccharum spontaneum ssp. aegyptiacum), as the name suggests, had been introduced to create windbreaks and delimit farms. Together with the reeds, also the Montpellier cistus and Erica, the Euphorbia dendroides formations, the small pacthes of oak (Quercus ilex) that grow behind the residential area represent many stages of a gradual process of expansion of the natural vegetation in the ancient crops. While it does not boast a particularly rich land fauna, Stromboli is involved in the transit of numerous species of birds during migration; for this reason the island was entirely designated as a Natura 2000 site and an oriented nature reserve was established, while Strombolicchio is protected as a nature reserve. The challenge towards a sustainable future must take into account the conservation and preservation of natural resources, which are the primary asset of an island of the World Heritage Site. Texts by www.nesos.org
THINGS TO DO
For the hiking enthusiasts the island is a real amusement park. Numerous routes wind along the slopes of the volcano offering paths for all tastes and levels of difficulty.
A beautiful walk suitable for everyone starts from La Sirenetta and reaches the observatory: the "observatory" of Punta Labronzo can be reached along an easy path that leads in the direction of the Sciara del Fuoco; this is a sort of "fast track" where pyroclastic material produced by the explosions of Stromboli falls for hundreds of meters, a steep slope like a desert of sand and black rock which descends towards the sea and continues under the sea level up to over two thousand meters deep. On the edge, along a border that seems to clearly separate the earth from the fire, plentiful brooms, euphorbias and cornflowers grow, while the gulls nest in the cliffs below. The stone path continues past the old building which now houses a meeting place where you can stop and enjoy the volcano's explosions from the bottom. The path then goes through a series of switchbacks along the northern flank of Sciara; this was once the only access road to the craters, before being replaced - some years ago – with the new path that starts behind the church of San Vincenzo, in the heart of the residential area.
A more challenging but equally fascinating hike is the one along the "naturalistic landscape" path made by the forestry business which manages the nature reserve of Stromboli. The path is entered going up on Soldato Natoli Street (to the left of the church of San Vincenzo); leaving behind the last houses you are surrounded by the Mediterranean, at times interrupted by holm-oak groves and reeds which have slowly conquered the ancient crops. After a few turns, the route skirts the little cemetery in use during the early Twentieth century where some graves are still decorated with majolica tiles. Higher up you reach the junction with the deviation towards the top and towards the craters (to the left): continuing instead along the path it crosses the northern side of the island staying within 300 m of altitude, to arrive then on the deep incision of Vallonazzo, where, in the course of the eruptions that sometimes involved this part of Stromboli, blazing clouds poured down and feared masses of gas and pyroclastic material descended quickly into the valley with an impressive potential impact. Passing the narrow valley the route continues through thick reeds to the Sciara del Fuoco: from here you can go down in the direction of the observatory and complete the loop by returning to the village.
The excursion to the peak of Stromboli is one of the essential things to do during a stay on the island. Of course it requires a minimum of equipment and an adequate physical form – it’s an at least 800 m of difference in altitude - but the effort will be generously rewarded by the extraordinary show of explosions which can be observed by the relief that dominates the craters on the margin of the peak of Sciara del Fuoco. In the first stretch the route runs through the reeds that occupy the vineyards abandoned after the eruption of 1930; then we find ourselves in the middle of a barren environment where piles of sand and debris of volcanic rock interchange with rocky outcrops, interrupted occasionally by "islands of vegetation" formed around the prostrate figs and the beautiful trees of the Aeolian laburnum. Eventually the upper stretch takes the form of a lunar landscape, seemingly devoid of life, where you feel the extraordinary solitude of being in the presence of the most brute and uncontrollable forces of nature: here, for over 5,000 years, the volcano has been manifesting itself by small and frequent explosions, which are particularly evocative by night, sometimes alternating with periods of "abnormal" activities, such as the spectacular lava flow that engulfed the Sciara in the summer of 2014. The return to the village provides a fun ride on the "sabbioni" that cover the Rina Grande valley.
Remember that for the excursion to the craters you’re required to be accompanied by a volcano guide. Please contact our front desk to reserve your hiking!
For the more leisurely or the more romantic the volcano can offer strong emotions even when viewed from the sea. Book your excursion boat at sunset or around the island stopping at Ginostra, an isolated hamlet of the island of Stromboli reachable only by sea, famous for having the smallest port in the world.
If you are a lover of depths do not hesitate to book your dive at our Diving Club!!
Do not miss the opportunity to visit other Aeolian islands! We will give you all the advice and information you’ll need!