The Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie) are a volcanic archipelago located off of the northern coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and are formed by the collision of the African and European continental shelves. Two of the volcanoes, Stromboli and Vulcano, are currently active and thus have contributed to the designation of the archipelago as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both active volcanoes have craters that can be summited easily by hike, resulting in an expansive view of the island chain. The islands were among the first to be inhabited in what is today regarded as Sicily, beginning 6,000 years ago, and were socially active during ruling periods including Magna Grecia, The Roman Empire, and the Phoenicians. Therefore, all around Sicily and these islands have been found scores of shipwrecks, the remains of which are housed in the impressive Archaeological Museum on Lipari, and which can also be visited via scuba diving trips! Today, the quaint local population comprises a community that is incredibly warm and vibrant.
The mildly mountainous terrain of the islands makes them perfectly suited for hiking and mountain biking, while the possibilities for water activities are extensive. The islands are home to hundreds of bays, many of which are only accessible via water entry, creating relaxing areas to swim, kayak, or sail.
The land on the islands was well cultivated until the second half of the 19th century when a parasite arrived on the islands that attacked the roots of the grapevines, which were the overwhelmingly favored commercial crop at the time. Unfortunately, the farmers at the time did not have a cure for the parasite, and this had a destructive impact on the local economy which successively reduced the population of the islands from 20,000 to 14,200. Consequently, a lot of the land that was previously farmed is today abandoned. The combination of this hit to the economy and the devastating 1908 earthquake in Messina preempted massive immigration of Sicilians (not just Aeolians) to Australia, the United States, Venezuela and Argentina. Consequently today only 5% of the land is cultivated, however there is a building recovery effort by locals to reclaim abandoned farmland and to restore the production of locally sustained food systems to the archipelago. For locals and visitors this means fresher, even more delicious food. We love supporting those who are a part of this effort, and we hope you will join us in supporting them!
The principle food resources on the islands are:
- Malvasia, whose vine is native to the Mediterranean is one of the most popular agricultural products of the Aeolian Islands. So deliciously sweet and refreshing, you can drink this wine itself for dessert or opt for pairing it with a local almond cookie!
- Fish. Being an archipelago, the islands are a great place to eat wild and fresh fish, including calamari and swordfish!
- Capers grow wild all around the islands and are creatively paired to create many simple and flavorful dishes such as the typical Aeolian salad that also features fresh tuna, and potatoes.
- Some of the other local products we love are the strawberry tree, tomato, mulberry, olive, prickly pear, citrus fruits, and fresh cheese, and their derivatives including cannoli, granita, and casatieddi and nacatuli (delicate cookies whose history dates back to Magna Grecia), and many, many more.