In 2009, 12-time WT adventurers Bruce Nelson and Axel Kunzmann traveled to Italy on our Volcanoes of Southern Italy expedition. Guided by beloved trip leader and Tuscany native Stefano Baldi, this is one of Wilderness Travel’s special Repertory Trips that is only offered every two to five years.
Everything you ever wanted to know about volcanoes—and then some, including spectacular scenery and Italian gastronomy—will be yours if you join Stefano Baldi on this tour of the literal “hot spots” of southern Italy.
Our trip began on the gorgeous Bay of Naples, which is dominated by brooding Vesuvius. Many know of its most infamous eruption in 79 AD, when it buried the ancient Roman port city of Pompeii and nearby resort town Herculaneum. While a brief visit to Pompeii is included in the tour, you should go a few days early for a more in-depth exploration of these haunting ruins. Standing on the rim of Vesuvius’s crater, one can’t help but remember its most recent eruption (in 1944) and the sobering fact that it could become active again at any time. There is evidence throughout the region of constant low-level volcanic activity, such as at the Campi Flegrei (“flaming fields”) north of Naples.
Next, we took a trip down to the Aeolian Islands off the “toe” of the Italian boot, where Stromboli never fails to put on a spectacular show. At dusk, we braved a hike to the summit and watched the fireworks. The other islands, such Lipari, Panarea, and Vulcano (see a connection?) offer their own variety of natural treasures, such as the warm bubbles that come up from an undersea vent between the isles, inviting intrepid swimmers.
Our journey came to a close in Sicily, where Mount Etna offers hikers a variety of options. From hiking through the snow to a visually stunning the trickling molten lava, there’s something for everyone!
–Photos and text by 12-time WT adventurers Bruce Nelson and Axel Kunzmann