Aeolian Islands

Looking for shipwrecks off the island of Panarea

The Aeolian Islands are named after Aeolus, the ancient Greek God of the winds. They lie approximately 50 kilometers off the coast of Sicily and due to their height are visible from far out at sea. There are seven main islands: Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli, Vulcano, Alicudi and Filicudi. Of these, Stromboli and Vulcano are active volcanoes with the former often referred to as the lighthouse of the Mediterranean, rising steeply out of the surrounding depths to more than 300 meters. The location and formation of the islands combine to give them a dual role: that of strategic maritime outposts dominating the sea passage to and from the Messina Straits but also as a serious hazard to shipping. The latter is attested by the numerous ancient shipwrecks discovered on the seabed of all of the islands.

The Islands have been inhabited since prehistoric times and obsidian from Lipari has been found in Neolithic sites as far afield as the Maltese Islands. In the Bronze Age, the islands passed through a number of phases and the inhabitants enjoyed, at various phases, overseas links with Sicily, Italy, Sardinia and even the Aegean. In the 3rd century BC, Lipari was attacked and conquered by the Romans who proceed to destroy the city. The remains of villas on Salina and Basiluzzo indicate that at least some of the islands were used for recreational purposes.

Today, tourism forms the backbone of the modern economy.