A trip to Vulcano, part of Italy’s exotic Aeolian Islands, is no doubt the most comfortable, safe way to grant every adventurous kid’s wish of climbing to the top of a volcano and peering deep inside its throat. With a nimble trot on mountain hooves children make light work of walking up to the crater mouth of Vulcano’s Fossa, overtaking the plodders and flat-footed as they go.
Aeolian Kid Chase – Vulcano de la Fossa’s Crater
Vulcano de la Fossa is actually 4 volcanoes that fused together and is often described as a pocket-sized volcano. Its last eruption began in 1888 and lasted 2 years which officially still makes it an active volcano. Only those volcanoes which have been inactive since before the last ice age (some 10,000 years ago) are officially classified as dormant.
The climb of 386 m takes approximately an hour and I guarantee it won’t dent your child’s energy levels as much as your own! I think early morning would be preferable than the afternoon walk I did, especially if you want to take photos that really capture the heart-stirring views from the top. Personally I also wouldn’t undertake it in the height of an Aeolian Island summer, you’d feel more like a mule with the amount of water you’d need to take up for all of you.
“It is Solved by Walking”
A wide path zig-zags up the crater with comfortable stopping points that provide dramatic panoramas of the islands; Lipari straight ahead, Salina on the left and Stromboli which you’re guaranteed to catch exploding and smoking, with Etna in the distance, all cradled by the enticing clear blue waters of the Tyrannian Sea. I wish all children aged 4+ could take their toy dinosaurs on this colourful step-back-in-time walk which provides such a rich geography lesson on volcanic arcs.
Vulcano de la Fossa’s Watermelons and Crusty Bread
As you climb you’ll notice the terrain changes in colour and texture from ruddy furrows to a fine black ash that will test your calf muscles, and your eye and leg control as you manoeuvre over large lava bombs which in Italian are nicknamed “crusty bread” (crosta di pane). You’ll see the small endemic watermelons that grow on the crater as well as a vibrant rare broom, la Ginestra Efedroide, the flowering of which Vulcano’s islanders celebrate with a festival in June.
By the Power of Brimstone
There is a large wooden observation platform on the crater’s edge, perfect for sitting and meditating on the epic experience you’ve just had climbing a volcano with your child, as you watch the steaming fumaroles, the volcano’s vents. Around them you’ll see lemon-coloured deposits which are sulphur, the original stinky toxic brimstone in its cooler form. Thankfully there is a strong wind on the crater’s edge that moves along the fumes and makes this walk possible, but it is advisable on the last rocky stage en route to the crater that you don’t take a break until you get to the observation platform. Vulcano de la Fossa’s vents are better enjoyed from a distance, scalding burns or inhalation are not something you’d want to attempt to manage or escort around on the way back down the volcano!
Coming back down you may fancy getting off the zig-zag path for a fun run down the fine black sand like lava dunes which looks lots of giggles, but beware, that mixture of finely ground lava and ash is slippery, as we watched one fit person slide and fall flat on their backs!
Good trainers, sun-cream, a hat, sun-glasses and plenty of water are a must (there is no shade en-route). For those that suffer like me from acrophobia (irrational fear of heights) the wide path helps alleviate that feeling of fear, but you may need a hand at the top stage clambering over the lava bombs, it’s such a feeling of achievement to reach the top and let your imagination marvel at the millennia and force it took to create such an enchanting vista.
Tales to Tell
Locals believed the island of Vulcano was the chimney to Vulcan’s forge under Etna who was the Roman blacksmith god named Hephaestus by the Ancient Greeks. The lava and dust were the results of the thunderbolts for Jupiter and weapons for Mars.
After an early morning walk, reclaim lost salt by taking a trip inland to watch the absolutely delicious goat and cow cheeses being made at La Vecchia Fattoria by Fabrizio Lo Piccolo. They’re flavoured with capers, pistachio, olives, sundried tomatoes or black pepper or just go for the exquisite goat ricotta. It is refreshing to see a dairy on the island, and it makes a great stop to explore Aeolian flavours and take some back to picnic with on the black sand beach at the thermal spa, Terme Vulcano adjacent to the small port. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted in the therapeutic mineral rich mud baths (fanghi) due to the low levels of radiation that can interfere with growth spurts! However parents can take it in turns to pay the small fee of €2 and €1 for a shower to wallow and join the other human hippos as the bubbling mud cures all manner of ailments.
VULCANO’s Volcano Films for Parents
For fans of post-war Italian cinema William Dieterle’s Vulcano was filmed here with Anna Magnani whose former partner Roberto Rossellini was commencing the beginning of his love affair with Ingrid Bergman on neighbouring Stromboli whilst filming Terra di Dio.
How to Get to Vulcano
3 companies enable you to catch a hydrofoil from neighbouring Lipari or from the port of Milazzo on Sicily, journey time approximately 45 minutes, see TripAdvisor.
Vulcano’s vulcano climb was enjoyed as part of the UNESCO Mirabilia2015 blog tour of the Aeolian Islands