Caribbean Sailing Vacations by Ed Hamilton

Sicily and the Aeolian Islands

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Entrance to Messina Harbor, ItalySicily is the island that Italy appears to be “giving the boot,” located at the nation’s southwestern region in the Western Mediterranean Sea. It’s an interesting charter destination in and of itself, but the itinerary improves even more if you add a jaunt to the Aeolian Islands, to Sicily’s north. They’re sometimes called the Lipari Islands, named after the largest island in the archipelago, but they also might as well be known as the Stromboli Islands, since it’s the three active volcanoes on Stromboli that many people charter a yacht to see.

            While this area sounds exotic—and while it’s far from the crowded yacht harbors in much of the rest of Italy—it’s easy to reach. You can start an itinerary in either Sicily or Stromboli, which is the northernmost of the Aeolian Islands. Sicily has its own airport while Stromboli does Stromboli volcanonot, but the latter is easily reached by a 30-mile high-speed ferry ride from the Italian mainland, where the closest airport is in Naples.

            Sicily, like much of the Western Mediterranean, is most crowded in July and August. That’s when you should visit if you want to “see and be seen ” among some of the world’s finest, most luxurious charter yachts, but if your goal is to enjoy the island away from the crowds, then consider chartering a yacht in April, May, September, or October. You’ll still find plenty of local olive oil and red wine, but you won’t find harbors so jam-packed with boats that it’s almost impossible to swim in the midday heat.

Church in MessinaOn Sicily, be sure to visit the towns of Palermo and Catania, where you’ll find locally grown blood oranges and lemons so juicy that you’ll want to ship crates full of them back home. And of course, no charter in Sicily is complete without a day trip onshore to Mount Etna, an active volcano that is the highest in all of Europe.

            The Aeolian Islands to Sicily’s north are all actually the tips of underground volcanoes, as well. Stromboli, the northernmost of the seven islands, is the volcano to see here, but there is much to do on the other islands, too. The island Panera has black, volcanic sand beaches as well as sulfurous mud baths that have been drawing smooth-skin cravers for centuries. Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian Islands, has museums, archaeological sites and historic cathedrals that you Messina mainstreetcan tour onshore.

            To make the most of a charter in this region, consider a one-way itinerary instead of one that is round-trip. Or, if you have two weeks to charter, make Sicily and the Aeolian islands part of a broader itinerary that includes Italy’s mainland Amalfi Coast. Please give me details of suitable yachts.


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Photo credits for this page: All pictures taken by Ed Hamilton
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