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by Orient-Express
Villa Sant`Andrea Hotel, Sicily, Italy

Aeolian Islands

The seven (largely extinct) volcanic islands of this archipelago rise out of the aquamarine waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Milazzo. Dramatic rock formations and picture-postcard scenery make the islands a delight for visitors.

The Greeks named the islands after Aeolus, god of the winds, for their rocky faces are constantly buffeted by strong breezes. Salina (greenest of the islands) was mythically home to the sirens who lured Odysseus, while Vulcano was believed to be where the Roman god of fire had his forge.

The Aeolians are a paradise for nature and sea lovers. Fertile, volcanic soil gives rise to abundant vegetation while the waters teem with marine life. Though once the domain of the gods, they now play host to the international jet set, including Robert de Niro and Madonna, who have been known to escape to the isles in the summer.

Each island has its own identity — and some have claims to fame. Distant Stromboli, for example, the most volcanically active island, was the setting for the eponymous 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman, while little, lush Salina was a location for the Oscar-winning film, Il Postino. The largest isle, Lipari, is the most buzzing for visitors, with hotels, restaurants and good transport connections. Brooding Vulcano, closest to Sicily, is known for its therapeutic mud baths. Panarea is small and upmarket with pretty coves and beaches, while Filicudi and Alicudi are wild and sublimely tranquil.

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