Relaxing islands and easy volcano hikes
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The three volcano hikes are all completely different. Vulcano is not very high but delivers superb views as you walk through the sulphur fumaroles on the crater rim. Experienced hikers will be very frustrated at the slow pace on Stromboli because you have to go with a guide in a group of about 20, some of whom will definitely not be hikers but it's all worth it when you see the first eruptions. The summit area of Etna is often closed and the alternative hike with a guide is not worth paying 62 Euros for, instead you can do your own hike by taking the cable-way and then spending a few hours hiking around all the craters that are accessible.
What did you think of your group leader?
Alessandro Viani was the perfect leader: he was organized yet flexible; spoke perfect English and was excellent company; and as a film maker he lives & breathes volcanoes. We were lucky enough to be able to watch his documentary on Etna after dinner at the Sapienza Rifugio. Top leader!
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
There are several periods of free time in between the itinerary activities so bring a mask and snorkel if you plan on going to the beach as the water is perfectly clear but also bring water shoes as not all of the beaches are sandy. For the free day, a boat tour of Salina is a wonderful experience if the weather is good and the sea is calm, with lots of swimming opportunities. Gaiters proved indispensable for the descents of Vulcano, Stromboli and Etna. You will need a headlight/torch for Stromboli as you descend after dark. We experienced mosquitoes at night so bring some counter-measures and anti-itch ointment for when you do get bitten.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The mix of hikes and free time worked for us but some of the hikes could easily be longer and more involving. For example, it would be no problem to take in the highest point on Vulcano as well as the crater itself. For times when the summit of Etna is closed you need an alternate plan as the guided excursions are very poor value and only take 1/2 a day.