Vulcano is the southernmost of the islands and the first hydrofoil stop of the Aeolian islands when you arrive from mainland Sicily. Named after the Roman God of Fire, Vulcano, this island has given its name to all other geologically active islands (volcanoes) as well as to their study (vulcanology). The last eruption of any note was back in 1888 and lasted a staggering 2 years. Whilst the volcano is now considered to be in a dormant phase, it is famous for the smoking crater of Fossa di Vulcano on the northeastern shores, its hot thermal springs, sulphur mud baths and beautiful black sandy beaches. There are only a few hundred year-round inhabitants on Vulcano and you can drive or ride around the island in a couple of hours.
I didn’t spend very much time on Vulcano, arriving in the afternoon and leaving early the next morning so I only saw the part of the island around the harbour. I booked a last minute room at Casa Genovese through airbnb. I was met at the hydrofoil dock by Zio (Uncle) Tanino and his daughter Cécile. They took me by car to my accommodation which was only a few minutes walk from the port but not easy to find. Casa Genovese is an interesting place – a large hacienda style house on the foothills of the volclano with an enormous porch area surrounded by cacti and other exotic plants with little rooms dotted around the gardens. It even has outdoor thermal showers with naturally hot water.
Zio Tanino took my hand and led me into the kitchen to show me what he was cooking – a nice looking fish stew – he invited me to join the family for lunch (for €10!!). I wasn’t really hungry but I thought it would be fun to spend some time with some local people so I agreed. We ate outside in the porch area – Uncle Tanino, Cécile (who usually lives and works in Paris) and Vladimir, their Ukrainian employee who only spoke limited Italian. Zio Tanino made spaghetti with tomato sauce, then this enormous pan of fish pieces in a tomato sauce served with a side dish of olives and capers and small glasses of red wine. The fish was apparently called Ricciola and is, acccording to Zio Tanino, ‘Regina del Mare’ or Queen of the sea. Tiny but delicious handmade biscuits were served with coffee and then small glasses of icy limoncello. It was all very rustic and family-style but fun and enjoyable. Zio Tanino was very interested to discuss British politics and current world affairs and after lunch a friend of his joined us and they told me stories about the history of Sicilian patisserie and the scandal of the last Pope!
The main draw here in Vulcano is to climb up the large and still smouldering crater of Fossa del Vulcano. Although it is not a tough walk and we were practically at the foot of it, my feet were still not well enough to go trekking so I opted for the beach instead. Cécile gave me directions to the beach and told me to follow the smell – she wasn’t wrong! I had to walk past the thermal mud baths to get to the beach and the smell was truly nauseating! Before smelling it, I had considered having a go but everyone warned me you can’t get the smell out of your skin for days and you have to throw your swimming costume in the bin afterwards so I passed. It was truly horrible!
The beach at Porto di Ponente is lovely. Situated in a natural bay where the smaller vulcano, Vulcanello, is joined to the larger part of the island by an isthmus, it is a wide arc of black sand with a direct view across the sea to Stromboli. Comfortable sunbeds with little sunshades and umbrellas are available from the beach bar for €5 and it is the perfect place to spend the afternoon watching the sun sparkling on the water and the yachties coming in and out on dinghies. Vulcanello is low and green and Lipari’s volcanic peaks can be seen behind it in the distance.
About 6 pm I moved from my sunbed to the beach bar and had a couple of chilled glasses of wine and nibbles at a table in the sand at the back of the beach. Gradually the bar filled up as people gathered to sip an aperitivo and watch the sun setting over the sea. I strolled home slowly as it got dark. Amazingly there were still some people in the mud baths. I walked home to Casa Genovese past shops and restaurants along the main street to find Zio Tanino in the garden tending a bonfire. He chatted in a (very) friendly way and quizzed me about whether I had any money as he was looking for a rich wife. I assured him I was very poor! When it became apparent that Zio Tanino’s intentions were not entirely honourable, I escaped to my room, locked the door and stayed there until the morning!!
After the events of the night before, I decided to leave earlier than planned. Zio Tanino, more gentlemanly by the light of day, had Vladimir make us both a coffee, chatted about Theresa May, then drove me to the port to catch the ferry. He told me I was splendid and welcome back any time. Casa Genovese was a fun place to stay if a little basic. Zio Tanino is very hospitable and welcoming but single women beware (especially if you have any money!) I loved the beach too – fantastic bar, chilled vibe and breathtaking sunset. I was sorry to leave Vulcano without seeing the rest of the island but not sure I’ll be rushing back – that smell is really awful!