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Aeolian Islands (ME)

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Aeolian Islands (Messina Province) is the Archipelago of the Aeolian or Lipari Islands (Lipari is the name of the largest of the islands) in the lower Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily, between 20 and 40 km from the coast. The names Aeolian and Lipari are mythical or legendary, as they come from Aeolus, the god of the wind, and Liparus, whose daughter was the wife of Aeolus.

The archipelago is part of the province of Messina. There are seven major islands: Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano; other minor islands (including Basiluzzo, Bottaro, Canna, Datillo, Faraglioni, Le Formiche, Lisca Bianca, Lisca Nera, and Strombolicchio), rocky islets and isolated rocks emerging from the sea characterize the unusual beauty of archipelago. The seven islands, all volcanic, are of very ancient origin. There are solfatare (sulfurous geysers) on Vulcano, and fumaroles on Lipari. The volcano Stromboli is permanently in eruption and is moderately explosive.

Today the economic resources of the Aeolian Islands are tourism, fishing, agriculture, and the pumice-stone industry. The archipelago is reached by ferry and hydrofoil from Milazzo and Messina, and at certain times of the year from Palermo, Cefalu, Sant'Agata di Militello, Capo d'Orlando, Naples, Vibo Valentia, Leghorn and Reggio Calabria.

Immense stretches of unpolluted sea, jagged coastlines of various shapes and unusual colors - the green of the vegetation, the white of the pumice-stone, the black, red and grey of the of the volcanoes, the yellow of the rocks and the beaches - all combine to make these islands a unique attraction, a never-ending series of unforgettable sights.

The climate is generally mild, with an annual temperature range between 13 and 27 degrees celcius. On certain summer days there can even be too many tourists; if possible, it is advisable to visit these islands at other times of the year - autumn and spring are two beautiful seasons. A knowledge of the Aeolian Islands is not just a matter of natural beauty: it is indispensable for anyone interested in getting to know the fundamental elements of the prehistory and history of the Mediterranean, and in seeing first-hand evidence of the more or less remote aspects of the life of this important sea.

History: The history and prehistory of the Aeolian Islands are a succession of colonizations, vicissitudes, cultural facies, trade, battles, occupations, acts of piracy, destructions and fires, reconstructions and repopulations. The Aeolian Islands have in fact been inhabited since the most ancient times, and they offer extremely important evidence which can help us to understand the remotest aspects of human life.

The island of Lipari is the centerpoint of this great cultural heritage, with its archaeological discoveries and is museums. But there are traces of ancient civilizations also on Filicudi, Panarea and Salina, in very picturesque and striking surroundings. As shown by the most ancient material that has come to light, the first inhabitants, starting from the Neolithic Age (4th millenium BC), were populations originating from Sicily and later from Anatolia and Greece, attracted by the commercial prospects offered by obsidian, the lava stone that is present in large quantities on Lipari.

Commerce continued to be intense in prehistoric times because of the archipelago's favorable position along the trade routes between the east and the west of the Mediterranean. The most ancient pottery (known as Stentinello) found on Lipari dates from the first Neolithic Period and is typical of the Sicilian coast; it is thus possible to suppose that from that time there were close commercial and cultural links with the populations of Sicily and the Italic peoples in the mainland, as indicated by the findings of pottery that was certainly imported from the penninsula of Italy. The oldest settlement, Castello di Lipari, dates from the first half of the 4th millennium which is when the first locally produced pottery began to appear. This was later to become increasingly refined and elegant, and was characterized by spiralling and meandering patterns. The town of Lipari began to develop towards the end of the 4th millenium and the first half of the 3rd, and other minor settlements began to form on the smaller islands. Between the 3rd millenium and the beginning of the 2nd there was a critical period, probably due to the discovery of the metals, gradually putting an end to the obsidian trade, which for the Aeolian Islands was one of the greatest sources of income.

In the Bronze Age the obsidian trade gave way to commerce in alum, which was extracted in the island of Vulcano. In this period the Aeolian Islands prospered economically and they strengthened their economic and cultural ties to the Aegean area.

Local excavations have produced much archaeological evidence of this: pottery and various objects, particularly of Aegean origin, together with locally produced items.

Later, in the 13-19th centuries BC (Ausonius I and II), the links with the populations of mainland Italy became more and more intense, particularly with the Ausonians, who are thought to have colonized the Aeolian Islands. Between the 6th and the 3rd centuries BC other populations arrived at Lipari from Greece, mainly Dorians, Cnidians and Rhodians. From this time on Lipari's history, even more than in the past, can be identified with that of all the Aeolian Islands.

Links to other sites about Aeolian Islands include:

Aeolian Islands Photos
Italian Wikipedia
Italian Towns
Italian Postal Codes
Sicily Web
Sicilian Net

My latest book on CD is titled Sicily - A Reference for Researchers and is now available. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns. It contains over 2500 text and photo files and can be ordered at CD order.

Order Italy Kathy Kirkpatrick

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