Life on Mars

Comparing an island – enclosed by one of the most beautiful seas of Italy and visited every year by thousands of tourists – to Mars could seem weird. But Stromboli, the most savage of Aeolian Islands, is in many ways a place so hostile, that going ashore this island could really give you the impression of being an astronaut who has just set foot on the rocks of “The red planet”.

Even before setting your foot on land, you’ll understand. Disembark from the dinghy (the only way to reach land, Stromboli has no harbors) and you will find yourself on a shore of black lava rocks, parallel to a strip of land on which Bermuda grass grows undisturbed, disappearing only in the zones in which the asphalt and the cement of the houses steal the space. You won’t find street signs, nor cars. The best way to reach San Vincenzo, the main inhabited village of the island, is to follow the tourists or attempt the alleys wedging between houses built next to the sea. Whatever you decide to do, the volcano is there, shadowing upon your head, majestic and threatening.

When you arrive in San Vincenzo, enjoy the small restaurants clinging to the rocks, the houses made of tuff with scraped facades, and the shops balancing incredibly between prongs of rock, populated by lizards. The traffic of Apecars and scooters will give you the impression of being back in civilization, but it fades in just a moment: the feeling of being in an inhospitable place will explode one more time inside you when you reach the slopes of the volcano. It erupts lava gushes continuously, but it can be climbed. The roped parties get on their way when the sun dies down and come back barely before midnight. The island seen from the top, sitting next to the crater, is a sublime spectacle.

The descend will take your last remaining energy. Once down, you’ll discover that Stromboli is dead. Its 400 inhabitants retired in their homes. Restaurants and small shops that just few hours earlier comforted you, are all closed, only few wandering tourists left to occupy the abandoned, pitch black streets; Stromboli has no public illumination. So, the best way to get back to shore is to light the torch of your cellphone, otherwise the return to your dinghy may get trickier that you expected.

Antonio Leggieri – Images Luca di Ciaccio, Nanel, M Aquila, Lars Christensen