Have I ever told you about the time I saw a volcano erupt?
That day started out normal. I was scouting in the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago off the northeast coast of Sicily. I spent that morning checking out a beach where rocky cliffs met sapphire blue waters.
The views were gorgeous, but it was late April and the water was still cold. It didn't matter–I was determined to take a dip in the sea!
After defrosting in the Sicilian sun while munching an arancino, I went back to my apartment. It was easy to miss the old, beat up door that was the entry to my accommodations. I looked for the "For Sale" sign that had been there on my first visit, 5 years earlier.
Inside, my hosts had left me a surprise. Ripe nespole sitting on my windowsill, a fruit less eloquently known as a "loquat" in English. I love nespole, the juicy sweetness reminds me of a floral plum mixed with apricot or peach. Best finished off with an Italian "chef's kiss" for emphasis.
I devoured several, then closed my eyes to let the Italian sounds from the street below lull me to sleep. When I awoke, it was time to meet my friend, Luigi.
I had met Luigi on my first visit to the island of Salina in 2014. He hadn't shown up at the port when my ferry arrived, so I had walked into a shop and asked if anyone happened to know him. Within minutes someone had him on the phone. Gotta love those small town pleasures.
I remember even then, a solid 2 years before starting a career in the travel industry, Luigi's background had sparked my attention. He had been raised on that sweet little island, later becoming a biologist with a passion for boats which he expertly blended into "biocruises", taking visitors around the islands to explain the flora and fauna while revealing hidden splendors.
Finally, I was meeting up with Luigi to test one of these tours. But we wouldn't be looking at plants and animals–we would be looking at fire.
Luigi's boat was a beauty and the ride to the nearby island of Stromboli felt so relaxing and liberating. I let my fingertips reach out and graze the salty water. I watched the light turn to Italy's revered golden hour and felt the gratitude wash over me.
As we approached Stromboli, I reminded myself that what I was really looking at was a volcano–one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Luigi explained that it has been active for the last 2,000-5,000 years, yet people still live there on that island (which, again, is actually an active volcano!).
Myself and the 3 other guests disembarked to take a stroll on the island. There was one tiny store and a path that meandered by several homes–homes that only got electric generators in 1992 and solar power in 2004.
Just as I was taking a photo of the magnificent view, I heard a low, deep rumble. Luigi's girlfriend stopped the conversation and told us to listen. We all stood frozen in excitement..and a bit of concern for our safety, but who's counting? Then we heard it again. That was just the beginning, and already I was amazed!
We returned to the boat and went around to the watch the other side of the island. Instead of a hillside dotted with charming homes, it was all lifeless lava rock, built from ages of eruptions that left lava flowing into the sea.
As the sun began to set, Luigi handed us glasses of Prosecco and set out snacks. Before we could take the first sip, we heard a loud explosion and rumble that took our breath away. Luigi told us it seemed the volcano was pretty active tonight, so we all sat on the edge of our seats cautiously hoping for another boom.
In the meantime, we watched a line of lights along the ridge of the volcano move like ants closer and closer to the rim, the headlights of a group of adventurous (or crazy) hikers determined to see the action up close. (A couple months after this experience, Stromboli had a big eruption that killed such hikers, it's no joke.)
About 20 minutes later, just as the sky turned dark, we heard another boom–this time accompanied by red sparks flying into the air. We all stared in complete awe. I couldn't take my eyes away. It happened about every 15 minutes, each time leaving me speechless and covered in chills. They weren't huge explosions that left trails of lava flowing down the volcano, but it was still surprisingly impactful.
It was the immense power of nature that blew me away. I've seen what the force of water can do, or the destruction of a tornado, but nothing remotely close to the great thunder from deep in the belly of the earth, spewing red hot lava that magnificently lights up the sky.
I didn't want to go, I wanted to stay right there (a safe distance away) next to that energy. It made me feel alive and powerful, it connected me to the magic of the universe.
Staring at that erupting volcano and feeling its power, a message came to me. I realized that we are all made of the same universal stuff. The same undeniable force pulsing through that volcano pulses through each of us. What a beautiful reminder of our innate strength.
As we sped away, I watched the distant silhouette of the volcano grow smaller, and it even erupted one last time as a final goodbye (until next time, hopefully with YOU!).
I began to see specks of light in the water as I gazed out behind the boat. Luigi told me they were bioluminescent jellyfish. Wow! The dark sky blended right into the dark water and I swear, it looked like we were floating across a sea of stars lighting up just for us. It was such a dream!
When we got back to our home island, my companion and I stayed silent for a very long time, letting it all sink in. I know it sounds crazy that I was so moved by a volcano, but it truly was unexpected and life changing for me.
Almost as life changing as the plate of assorted seafood dinner that topped off the night! Believe it or not, this was just whatever the restaurant could "scrounge up" right before closing as we'd walked in so late. This assortment of seafood salad, stuffed swordfish rolls, eggplant parmesan, fried eggplant, and fish balls did not disappoint!
I'd say that was a pretty top notch day in the Aeolian Islands, wouldn't you?
If you want to experience it all yourself, keep an eye out for an upcoming small group trip to Sicily (subscribe here so you don't miss out). Narrowing down all the amazing experiences in Sicily to a week long trip (that doesn't feel rushed) is left to the professionals for good reason–it's really tough!
There are some hard decisions to make, but I will prevail and it will be absolutely unforgettable!
In the meantime, if you want to get to Sicily on your own I can plan a custom trip just for you–including a boat day with Luigi and much, much more (this story barely scratched the surface)!
I just want you to feel like a local, without having to learn Italian, make your own contacts, or deal with logistics. Get in touch for Easy Access to Authentic Italy!⠀
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