Best Coastal Hikes in Sicily
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands
Start/End: Stromboli town | Length: 8km | Duration: five to six hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding
For sheer excitement, nothing compares to Stromboli. Sicily’s showiest volcanic island has been lighting up the Mediterranean for millennia, spewing out showers of red-hot rock with remarkable regularity since the age of Odysseus.
Set off a couple of hours before sunset for the spectacularly scenic trek (guide required) to Stromboli’s 924m summit. Climbing through a landscape of yellow broom and wild capers, the trail eventually opens onto bare slopes of black volcanic rock, revealing fabulous vistas of Stromboli town, the sparkling sea and the volcanic islet of Strombolicchio below, and a zigzag line of fellow hikers slogging steadily towards the summit above.
Round the last bend and emerge into a surreal panorama of smouldering craters framed by the setting sun. For the next hour you’re treated to full-on views of Stromboli’s pyrotechnics from a perfect vantage point above the craters. The periodic eruptions grow ever brighter against the darkening sky, changing with the waning light from awe-inspiring puffs of grey smoke to fountains of brilliant orange-red, evoking oohs and aahs that mix with the sound of sizzling hot rocks rolling down the mountainside.
Ready for one last moment of magic? Don your headlamp for the descent and begin plunging down Stromboli’s precipitous eastern slope, with the moonlit sea at your feet stretching clear to the twinkling lights of Italy’s mainland.
Fossa delle Felci, Salina, Aeolian Islands
Start/End: Valdichiesa | Length: 4km | Duration: three hours |Difficulty: moderate-demanding
The ancient Greeks dubbed this island Didyme (the twins) for its verdant pair of dormant volcanoes. These days Salina remains theAeolian Islands’ greenest island, dotted with wineries that produce the region’s renowned Malvasia wine. For sweeping views of the vineyards and the surrounding seascape, climb Salina’s highest peak, Fossa delle Felci (962m).
Starting in Valdichiesa, the trail switchbacks steeply up the mountainside, climbing through fern-carpeted evergreen forest to the summit. Up top you’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Salina’s shapely second cone, 860m Monte Porri, backed by the distant volcanic islands of Filicudi and Alicudi.
Pianoconte to Quattropani, Lipari, Aeolian Islands
Start: Pianoconte | End: Quattropani | Length: 8km | Duration: four hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding
Fabled since ancient times for its rich obsidian deposits, Lipari also boasts some of the Aeolians’ most stupendous coastal scenery. This classic hike starts in the highlands around Pianoconte, descending past the ancient Roman baths of San Calogero to reach the cliffs and sea caves of Lipari’s western shoreline.
After levelling out along a series of coastal bluffs – with tantalising perspectives on the neighbouring islands of Salina, Vulcano, Filicudi and Alicudi – the trail climbs steeply inland again to the town of Quattropani, revealing yet more dramatic vistas of flower-covered slopes cascading to the cobalt sea below.
Vulcano, Aeolian Islands
Start/End: Vulcano port | Length: 4km | Duration: two to three hours (return) | Difficulty: moderate
Volcano hikes don’t get much more satisfying than the gradual climb upFossa di Vulcano (391m), the smouldering grayish-orange peak that dominates the island of Vulcano. Belching out a steady stream of noxious sulphurous fumes, the crater – mythologized by the ancient Romans as Vulcan’s forge – is only a 45-minute jaunt up from Vulcano’s port via a wide, signposted path.
Once up top, circumnavigate the rim for spectacular views of the cavernous crater in the foreground, with the Mediterranean, the cliffs of Lipari, and the distant silhouettes of the remaining five Aeolian Islands aligned symmetrically on the horizon.
Start/End: Chiesa di San Antonio | Length: 3km | Duration: one hour | Difficulty: easy-moderate
You couldn’t ask for a more scenic hike than this easy loop around the hook-shaped Capo Milazzo peninsula north of Milazzo. The trail initially passes through a level landscape of olive groves, cactus and stone walls before beginning a steady descent towards the surging sea.
The views get truly dreamy near the peninsula’s northern tip, where you’ll find the Piscina di Venere, an idyllic rock-fringed natural pool that’s perfect for a swim. Loop back along the peninsula’s western shore, stopping en route to visit the cactus-covered ruins of the 13th-centurySantuario Rupestre di San Antonio.
Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro
Start/End: Scopello | Length: 14km | Duration: five hours |Difficulty: moderate
Spanning a sinuous series of coves and steep headlands one hour west of Palermo, the Zingaro was established as Sicily’s first nature reserve in 1986, after local protests cancelled construction of a controversial highway that would have bisected this spectacular shoreline. The result: one of Sicily’s best walking locales, with the would-be highway converted into a 7km trail snaking between bluffs and beaches.
Some 40 bird species (including rare Bonelli eagles) and 700 species of flora can be found here, along with several small museums that celebrate the area’s traditional farming and tuna fishing economy. The trail is most easily hiked as a simple out-and-back from the park’s southern entrance near the pretty hamlet of Scopello.