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Stromboli is for thrill-seekers wanting to climb the volcano, though apart from the hike and a boat trip to see eruptions there isn't really that much to do.

Vulcano has famous sulphurous-smelling mud baths, a gently fuming volcano and beaches.

The presence of obsidian put the Aeolian Islands on early trading routes and several Bronze Age settlements have been discovered.

The best discoveries from the islands, and from local shipwrecks, are displayed in an excellent archaeological museum in Lipari's old walled citadel - another 'must' for visitors to the islands.

For this reason I recommend the islands for a longer stay rather than a weekend break, and would advise allowing plenty of time for the journey to and from the airport.

The islands are served by ferries and hydrofoils from a number of Italy's ports.

But although there aren't huge numbers of well-marked footpaths, you will find a variety of walks including less challenging strolls and rambles among flowers, butterflies and traces of the islands' past.

Travel to the Aeolian Islands involves a multi-stage journey, which can be time-consuming and dependent on sea conditions.

The main port of departure for the Aeolian Islands is Milazzo, situated on the northern shore of Sicily.

On my first visit I booked for four nights, and loved it so much on Lipari that I changed my flight to allow for more time and more boat trips to other islands.

I wrote the notes for this page sitting by the little harbour in Lipari town with a glass of the sweet local wine Malvasia - served with - while the evening sunlight illuminated the little chapel beyond the fishing boats and local children played football. This is the largest island with the most to offer - a pretty, reasonable-sized town with a choice of accommodation and the busiest port for hydrofoil and ferry connections.

The islands are grouped together as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although the Aeolian Islands are not particularly well-known to English-speaking tourists, they are wonderful places to spend a relaxed week or fortnight.

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