Lipari, Province of Messina, Sicily, Italy
The volcanoes are now considered inactive, though steaming fumaroles may still be seen. As a result of the volcanic origins, the island is covered with pumice and obsidian. Pumice mining has become a large industry on the island, and the pale pumice from Lipari is shipped internationally.
What to see
- The Archaeological Park in Contrada Diana, with remains of Greek buildings, vaulted tombs and sepulchral monuments from the Roman era.
- The Aeolian Museum of Archaeology, whose collection includes the 'Lipari group' (c. 320-300 bc), pots typical for the use of bright colors (red, blue, green, yellow and white); the many sections of the museum relate the human history of the entire Aeolian Islands from prehistoric to classical times, and also cover vulcanology, marine history, and the paleontology of the western Mediterranean. Among the most famous items are those found inside the Bothros of Eolo, over 30 ft deep and 10 wide, covered with a lava stone surmounted by the statue of a small lion, where in Greek times offers to the wind god were thrown.
- The Castello, a fortress existing probably for over 4000 years, but in its present state mostly built by Charles V of Spain in the 16th century, though amid the more recent fortifications it is possible to see Norman towers and also a Greek tower of the 4th century BC, built in reddish stone from the Monte Rosa.
- The cathedral of San Bartolomeo, which until 1916 was the central church of the Aeolian islands, existed though in a smaller form since the early centuries of the Christian era. Destroyed in 838 when the whole of Sicily fell under Arab rule, it was reestablished in the 11th century, when Roger of Altavilla defeated the Arabs, and in 1131 became a cathedral, and the abbot of the attached monastery Giovanni di Pergana, was appointed bishop.
Where to stay
Lipara prospered, but in 304 Agathokles took the town by treachery but is said to have lost pillage from it in a storm at sea; objects recovered from wrecks are now in the Aeolian Museum at Lipari. Lipara became a Carthaginian naval base during the first Punic War, but fell to Roman forces in 252-251, and again to Agrippa in Octavian's campaign against Pompey. Under the Roman Empire, it was a place of retreat, baths (its thermal waters are still used as a spa) and exile.
In the Early Middle Ages the riots made by Arabic pirates decimated the local population, and the island was eventually abandoned. The Normans conquered the Arabs throughout Sicily between 1060 and 1090 AD, and repopulated the island. Though still plagued by pirate raids, the island was continually populated from this point onward, and its history followed the events of Sicily.
In 1544, Tunisian pirate leader Kairedin Barbarossa ransacked Lipari and deported the entire population as slaves. Charles V then had his Spanish subjects repopulate the island and build a mighty fortress over the walls of the ancient Greek acropolis in 1556, so as to offer a safe haven for the populace in the event of a raid.