At the end of September 2022, GeoWorld Travel returned to Italy for the first time in three years for our ‘Classic Volcanoes’ tour. We welcomed 12 participants from the UK, the USA and Canada. The itinerary took in the must-see vulcanological sites of Vesuvius, the Phlegrean Fields, the Aeolian Islands and Mount Etna. In addition, we also explored the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and this year, for the first time, we also visited Villa Regina, near Pompeii.
This is a summary description of our tour, as most of the geological aspects of the sites have been described in detail in a previous blog post (Italy 2019).
Our 2022 tour started with three days in Naples – thankfully the torrential rainstorms and apocalyptic thunder were restricted to the night time! We were skilfully transported from site to site, through the notorious Naples traffic, by a local coach company. Our stops were the Phlegrean Fields area (with a hike to Monte Nuovo, a view of Solfatara and a visit to the Temple of Serapsis), the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, a hike up Vesuvius, a visit to Herculaneum, a visit to Pompeii and a visit to the Villa Regina. After a full three days of exploring the Naples area, we headed to the port to board the overnight ferry to Lipari. Many of the group set their alarms early and took the opportunity to view Stromboli erupting in the distance in the early hours of the morning as the ferry passed by. Later on in the morning, the ferry called into the islands of Stromboli, Ginostra, Panarea and Filicudi and we were treated to fabulous views of these islands as the ferry arrived and departed.
We disembarked on the island of Lipari in the late morning and we were straight into a guided tour around the island with our enthusiastic local guide, Gianfranco. We saw pumice mines, obsidian outcrops, kaolin mines and wonderful views of Vulcano. The following morning allowed the group some time to explore the town of Lipari and to visit the excellent archaeological museum, which also has a comprehensive display on vulcanism in the Aeolian Islands. The group reassembled at lunchtime to take a boat trip over to Stromboli – a slightly rougher than average sea made for an ‘interesting’ crossing! Having arrived on the island, we enjoyed some free time before meeting Manuel, an excellent guide from Magmatrek and a Stromboli native, who led us up the volcano to the 400m point. This is currently as far as you can hike up Stromboli with a qualified guide (you can only access the 290m point unaccompanied) following the 2019 eruption when, sadly, a hiker was killed. It seems like this may be the limit for the foreseeable future. Arriving at the 400m point, we were able to spend time enjoying the show put on for us by the volcano, whilst eating our picnic supper! After a couple of hours, we reluctantly left our vantage point and began the descent down the volcano with our headtorches blazing and the group buzzing from the amazing eruptions we had just seen. Our boat then whisked us back to Lipari where we spent another night.
The next morning, we all boarded a ferry to Vulcano and after a short crossing, we disembarked on the small island which is the namesake of all volcanoes. Our group was split into two, with half having a guided tour of the island with the excellent local guide, Santi, while the others explored the town, hiked to Vulcanello, visited the ‘black beach’, the mudpot and witnessed the bubbling sea at Acque Calde, where submarine fumaroles warm the water and create the bubbling effect. The groups then switched over, so everyone got to see all the attractions of the island. One of our group even decided to take the opportunity to do a tandem paragliding flight over the La Fossa cone! As the hiking trail up to the top is not currently open, this was a fabulous opportunity to get a stunning bird’s-eye view of the crater. After all that excitement, our afternoon ferry then took us from Vulcano across to Sicily, where we disembarked in Milazzo.
Our final full touring day saw us transfer from Milazzo to Rifugio Sapienza on Mount Etna. The drive up to this point was impressive in itself, with the sinuous roads gradually taking us up the side of the massive volcano, with many different historical lava flows to be seen. Having arrived at the Rifugio, we took a cable car up the first section and then boarded a 4×4 bus to take us up to approximately 3,000m. From here we could view the four summit craters (up at 3,324m) and then, a short walk downhill, we were able to ascend the Laghetto Crater (at 2,580m) and view a number of active fumaroles. After the cable car ride back down the mountain, we were taken to our hotel in Catania by our local minicoach. The group then headed out into Catania for a farewell meal, with a quick stop to look at the amphitheatre ruins in the city centre en route to our restaurant!
After our farewell meal, some of us headed off to Rome on the overnight train to make our way home from there. This was an exciting adventure in itself, as the train rolls on to a ferry to cross the Strait of Messina and then rolls off again on to the mainland – a slightly surreal feeling to be on a train, on a ferry! Other member of the group stayed in Catania overnight and dispersed the next morning, with some people heading straight home and others heading off for more adventures in Italy! It was a really enjoyable trip, with an excellent group of people and lots of great memories!
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