Vulcano – Discovering the island

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Ferries and hydrofoils arrive at Porto di Levante, but before attempting to climb the volcano, perhaps it is better to get an idea of the place. It is a good idea to reach the top of the Faraglione di Levante (36 metres high), a crag to the right of the quay. From here you can see Vulcanello, which emerged from the sea in 183 BC following underwater eruptions. It is connected to the island by an isthmus of sand and lava which has created two bays.

To the East, you can see the natural mud baths, famous even in Roman times for curing rheumatism, arthrosis and skin diseases. It is difficult to resist taking a dip, despite the strong smell. Near the baths the sea water is heated by underwater ‘fumaroles’ and the bottom is hot. It is better to go into the water with beach shoes to avoid burning your feet.
‘Lying immersed in the bubbling water is a unique experience and gives you a great feeling’.

The fine black volcanic sand distinguishes the eastern beach, which is full of bathers and boats. The sabbie nere beach is bordered by the Mermaids’ Rock to the left and to the right Vulcanello, in which there is the Valley of Monsters. It takes its name from the strange rock forms shaped by the wind and sea, among the black sand dunes. Vulcanello has two extinct craters and thick vegetation.

From Porto di Levante, a tarmacked road leads to the Piano and Gelso. On the right, after 2 km there is Monte Lentia, an extinct volcano, from the top of which you can admire the beautiful, rugged coast from Caposecco to Cala del Formaggio. After 7 km, you arrive on the high plateau formed by the filling in of the older large crater of the island, along a road surrounded by trees, brooms, vines and pastures in contrast to the barren volcano. Here, in neat white houses, live most of the residents. Following a steep path, among capers and vines, you go down to the hamlet of Gelso. This is the quietest part of the island, with the Old Lighthouse and the lovely beach Spiaggia dell’Asino.

The inhabitants, farmers and fishermen, have lived for almost a century cultivating black grapes and capers and fishing.
In the characteristic restaurants of the hamlet, simple but excellent meals are served. Two more interesting destinations are: Roja gorge, a lava abyss which drops straight down to the sea, accessible along a path on the left at Passo del Piano; Capo Grillo, accessible on foot along a path from Piano di Luccia, after leaving the houses of Piano. From here there is a unique view and you can lunch well in the nearby trattorias.

The Climb to the Crater

A visitor who arrives at the port of Vulcano can’t help noticing the close contact between the crater and the built-up areas.
The contact is not only physical, the development of a town on the slopes of an active volcano, but much deeper and even spiritual.

The livelihood of the islanders and their very lives depend on that volcanic cone, so close and so quiet for more than a century. An excursion to the crater is a walk not to be missed. It is a unique sensation and lets you discover a completely different world.

From Porto di Levante you walk along the road to Piano and on the left, after 150 metres, there is a path which leads to the crater.

The climb, easy at first, continues with bends among high red rocks and broom plants.
The path gets more difficult and uneven and crosses a barren landscape, leading to a large dark area of level ground.
You climb up gradually and, as you go up, your sensations and the scenery change considerably and, one by one, you catch sight of all the other islands.

You discover that Vulcano is an island rich in vegetation, with deep valleys caused by volcanic activity, and covered with scented brooms, the first plants able to take root on recent volcanic soil.

Your arrival on the edge of the crater gives you a series of strong sensations, which are repeated even in someone who comes here often in the course of his work.

It is difficult to imagine, and even more difficult to explain, how you feel on a narrow path, with a view of the sea and islands on one side and on the other the heart of a living mountain, coloured with sulphur and giving off steam, heat and hisses.

The awareness that, in the past, forces of nature capable of changing the shape of the landscape have broken out from the crater makes you respect and fear this place pulsating with life.

Dr. Franco Italiano

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