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11-25 Oct 2019: Volcanoes of Italy - the Grand Tour - Southern Italy
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Volcanoes of Italy - the Grand Tour

- 15-days study & walking tour from Vesuvius to Etna -

Itinerary (15 days)

Day 1: Arrival in Naples

The historic center of Naples
The historic center of Naples
Fish on a market in the center of Naples
Fish on a market in the center of Naples
The port of Naples
The port of Naples
On the first day you make your own way to Naples and our hotel with roof terrace in the center of the lively and colorful old town of Naples. Depending on your arrival time you can use the afternoon to have a rest or start exploring the city center. In the evening the group comes together for an aperitif and dinner in a small trattoria (=local restaurant) where excellent food and great ambiance are served.
Acc.: hotel*** in downtown Naples (D: dinner)

Day 2: Vesuvius volcano, wine tasting and Herculaneum

Hike along the summit crater of Vesuvius
Hike along the summit crater of Vesuvius
Italian delicacies and wine at a local vineyard
Italian delicacies and wine at a local vineyard
The ruins of Herculaneum and Vesuvius volcano
The ruins of Herculaneum and Vesuvius volcano
In the morning we drive through the city of Naples and its suburbs to the upper flanks of Mt Vesuvius and then walk (easy hike, ca. 30 min.) to the summit crater of the volcano which last erupted in 1944. A special authorization allows us to hike around the whole summit crater (ca. 1 hr). From the rim, we can look down into its still smoking vent, across the dense urban development that is problematically close to the volcano and take in the unforgettable views over the Gulf of Naples with the city itself and the islands of Capri and Ischia.
On our way back, we stop at the scenic Valle dell'Inferno for a short walk to explore the youngest lava flow from the volcano´s 1944 eruption. Lunch will be in a charming rural setting at a local wine-producer where we'll enjoy delicious Italian cuisine and taste the local wines grown on the slopes of Vesuvius.
In the afternoon, we go on to visit the excavations of the Roman town of Herculaneum, destroyed by hot pyroclastic surges and mud flows from Vesuvius´s famous eruption in 79 A.D. For a typical Napoletarean dinner, we walk to a pizzeria or trattoria at the small fishing harbor of Naples, in a superb setting next to the majestic 11th century castle built on a small promontory at the waterfront.
Acc.: as before (Naples) (B, L, D)

Day 3: Vesuvius volcano observatory and Pompeii

Old monitoring equipment at the historic Vesuvius volcano observatory
Old monitoring equipment at the historic Vesuvius volcano observatory
Walking in the 2000 year old ruins of the roman city of Pompeii
Walking in the 2000 year old ruins of the roman city of Pompeii
Colourful mural decoration in one of the better preserved villas
Colourful mural decoration in one of the better preserved villas
In the morning we return to the slopes of Mt Vesuvius to visit the oldest volcano observatory in the world. Nowadays it is a small but interesting museum offering information on the volcano´s growth, minerals and eruptions as well as the development of volcano monitoring.
The afternoon is dedicated to explore the world's most famous archaeological site, the Roman city of Pompeii, where everyday life came to a sudden halt when in 79 AD Mt Vesuvius violently erupted and buried the city by a heavy fall out of pumice rocks. The visit includes a guided tour of about 1.5 hours as well as extra time to freely explore the ruins of this large historic site. We also program a complementary visit to the fascinating exhibition at the museum Antiquario di Boscoreale where they showcase numerous objects that were found at Pompeii and which illustrate the sophisticated culture and daily life in this city some 2000 years ago.
Acc.: as before (Naples) (B, L, D)

Day 4: Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields) and Pozzuoli

Photographing sulphur deposits and fumaroles at Solfatara volcano
Photographing sulphur deposits and fumaroles at Solfatara volcano
One of the many cinder cones and volcanic craters of the Phlegrean Fields
One of the many cinder cones and volcanic craters of the Phlegrean Fields
Evening light over the Gulf of Naples
Evening light over the Gulf of Naples
This day is dedicated to discover the second major and potentially very dangerous (but much less known) volcanic area near Naples: the Phlegrean Fields. We have a first stop at a viewpoint across the northern part of the Gulf of Naples and towards the island of Ischia. Then we set out to explore the Solfatara volcano which is still active and has many hot fumaroles, bubbling mud pools and sulphur deposits.
After lunch we continue our journey of this area that is dotted with volcanic cones, crater lakes and Roman ruins. Depending on time etc, we can visit the historically born volcano of Monte Nuovo, the large caldera lake Lago di Averna, a medieval castle near the site where a Roman city has sunk beneath water level and the small fishing town of Pozzuoli where evidence of recent tectonic activity (strong ground uplift) is visibly preserved in the historic Roman market square. For a wonderful sunset view over the Bay of Naples, we head to Capo Miseno: the very site from where Plinius observed the eruption of Vesuvius volcano in 79 A.D ! We conclude the day with a delicious dinner of fresh seafood at a local taverna right on the beach.
Acc.: as before (Naples) (B, L, D)

Day 5: Free day and evening departure for Stromboli

View over the city of Naples at the foot of Mt Vesuvius
View over the city of Naples at the foot of Mt Vesuvius
Ruins of Pompeii and Vesuvius volcano in the background
Ruins of Pompeii and Vesuvius volcano in the background
Having an aperitif in a local bar in the center of Naples
Having an aperitif in a local bar in the center of Naples
Our last day in Naples is free for you to discover the city on your own and/or via an optional guided visit to the historic center of town which includes the Greek/Roman catacombs. A second visit to the vast ruins of Pompeii is also an option as the site is easily accessible by train, or a visit of the archeological museum close to the hotel or a short walk and climb by a cable car to the Castel St. Elmo viewpoint from a large medieval castle towering over the city centre.
In the evening we embark on a ferry to the Eolian islands that leaves from Naples around 8pm, but before we do so we enjoy Naples' unrivaled cuisine one last time in a local trattoria or pizzeria. On board the ship, Naples' lights are slowly fading and we spend the night in double-bed cabins.
Acc.: double cabin on ferry (B, D)

Day 6: Arrival on Stromboli Island and eruption viewing from the Sciara del Fuoco

The hotel in Stromboli is build on top of the lava cliffs and has a small private beach
The hotel in Stromboli is build on top of the lava cliffs and has a small private beach
View onto Stromboli´s active summit area and Sciara del Fuoco, the large ash slope from where freshly ejected material rolls into the sea
View onto Stromboli´s active summit area and Sciara del Fuoco, the large ash slope from where freshly ejected material rolls into the sea
Watching the sun set over the Eolian islands from the Sciara del Fuoco viewpoint
Watching the sun set over the Eolian islands from the Sciara del Fuoco viewpoint
As we approach Stromboli around early dawn, most of us will already be up (you can be woken up in time if you wish) in order to observe the red firework-like eruptions from Stromboli - hence its nick name "Lighthouse of the Tyrrhenian Sea". Upon arrival, our luggage will be transferred to a nice hotel at the seafront using the local 3-wheeled "ape" motor-vehicles, whilst we enjoy a well-deserved breakfast at the pier before taking a short walk along the beach road to reach our hotel  (often rated as one of the best by our guests!). The rest of the morning and lunchtime are free for you to relax, swim in the nice sea or explore the unique ambiance of Stromboli. 
In the afternoon, we hike to a beautiful viewpoint on the Sciara del Fuoco, from where we have an excellent view to the active craters and the large ash slope where glowing blocks often roll down into the sea. We conclude the day with dinner at a uniquely located pizzeria nearby from where the eruptions are still visible.
Acc.: beach hotel*** on Stromboli Island (B, D)

Day 7: Climb to Stromboli's summit (if access allowed) and eruption viewing

Hiking to Stromboli volcano´s summit along the old pathway besides the Sciara del Fuoco
Hiking to Stromboli volcano´s summit along the old pathway besides the Sciara del Fuoco
Larger explosion of bursting lava bubble from the NE vent
Larger explosion of bursting lava bubble from the NE vent
Simultaneous eruption from different active vents on Stromboli´s crater terrace
Simultaneous eruption from different active vents on Stromboli´s crater terrace
After breakfast and a free morning (time to swim or stroll around in the picturesque village) we pack our day-packs and prepare for the rarely undertaken and unusual 3-4 hours climb to Stromboli´s summit along the Sciara del Fuoco.
Around sunset we arrive at a natural viewpoint at 918 m asl which is located directly above the active craters. From here, one can (cautiously!) observe the explosions from several active craters from very close range - one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles of nature, so please be warned that this is where you might become addicted to volcanoes… After enjoying Stromboli´s fireworks for about one hour we start the descend via a different route that brings us quickly down a steep sandy slope back to the village of Stromboli (about 1.5 hrs).
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Note:
Depending on the level of the volcanic activity, access to Stromboli's summit can be closed and in such circumstances the excursion can only go to a viewpoint above the Sciara del Fuoco at 400 m asl.
Acc.: as before (Stromboli) (B, L)

Day 8: Boat tour around Stromboli island and free afternoon

Stromboli island and the volcano´s summit seen from the port
Stromboli island and the volcano´s summit seen from the port
Strombolicchio, the volcanic neck from Stromboli´s predecessor
Strombolicchio, the volcanic neck from Stromboli´s predecessor
Lunch on the Eolian islands can be a real feast!
Lunch on the Eolian islands can be a real feast!
After breakfast we embark on a scenic boat tour around the island (ca. 3 hours). We first take a closer look at Strombolicchio, the tiny islet of vertical rock cliffs that is all that remains of the volcano that was the predecessor of Stromboli. We then visit the secluded village of Ginostra on the opposite side of the island before continuing our around-the-clock round trip and sailing right in front of the Sciara del Fuoco.
After a light lunch in the village of Stromboli you have the rest of the day free. Besides swimming, relaxing and enjoying the village atmosphere your options include a second climb to the summit craters, a hike to the viewpoint at the Sciara del Fuoco, or a boat trip at night.
Acc.: as before (Stromboli) (B, L)

Day 9: Sail to Lipari Island: obsidian & pumice

The colorful old town of Lipari
The colorful old town of Lipari
Obsidian with spherolites from Lipari´s historic lava flow
Obsidian with spherolites from Lipari´s historic lava flow
View onto pumice cliffs and old quarry
View onto pumice cliffs and old quarry
After breakfast and perhaps a last swim at the beach we leave Stromboli and travel by speed boat to Lipari Island. We will stay here the next 2 nights in a charming hotel at the waterfront of the lively town. Upon arrival and check-in you have some time to settle in, relax or explore the neighbourhood.
We meet up after lunch for a hike to the island´s world-famous obsidian flow and pumice deposits. These are both text-book examples of spectacular young volcanic features and were intensely used and traded throughout the Mediterranean in historic times. In the evening we walk into the small colourful town of Lipari to enjoy the delicious Eolian cuisine in one of the many small restaurants.
Acc.: seaside hotel in Lipari (B, D)

Day 10: Archeological museum of Lipari and day trip to Vulcano Island

Vulcano´s active "La Fossa" crater with Lipari in the background
Vulcano´s active "La Fossa" crater with Lipari in the background
Sulphur deposits and crystals around an active fumrole vent
Sulphur deposits and crystals around an active fumrole vent
Volcanic "spa" (warm mud pools) on Vulcano Island
Volcanic "spa" (warm mud pools) on Vulcano Island
After breakfast, we visit the highly interesting archaeological museum of Lipari which is situated in the ancient Acropolis of the town.We then take a short hydrofoil ride to neighboring Vulcano island where we'll spend ca. 4-5 hours discovering the volcanic phenomena. First we climb the active crater "La Fossa" which last erupted in 1888 (300m high, ca. 1hr climb), hike around the rim and explore its fumarole fields and sulphur deposits. Upon returning to the port there is the possibility to try out the volcanic hot mud ponds and/or warm fumaroles on the beach. In the afternoon, we return to Lipari where we'll have dinner in one of the island's most acclaimed fish restaurants.
Acc.: as before (Lipari Island) (B, D)

Day 11: Transfer to Etna

A small ash plume drifting away from Etna´s summit area seen from Catania
A small ash plume drifting away from Etna´s summit area seen from Catania
Etna´s southern lower slopes with lava flows and cinder cones at dusk
Etna´s southern lower slopes with lava flows and cinder cones at dusk
First snow covers the upper slopes and summit area of Mt Etna
First snow covers the upper slopes and summit area of Mt Etna
In the morning we take the hydrofoil speedboat to the port of Milazzo on Sicily. From there travel by minibus to Mt Etna where we check in to our comfortable hotel, uniquely located on the volcano´s flanks at an altitude of 1900 m asl.
Depending on the weather and volcanic activity, we can make a short walk on Etna's flanks (easy, ca. 2.5-3 hrs) to start exploring the different volcanic deposits, structures and landscapes of Europe´s most active volcano. The hike will take us to a viewpoint that offers spectacular views both towards Etna´s summit area as the impressive Valle del Bove and its many lava flows.
Acc.: mountain hotel*** on Etna (B, D)

Day 12: Excursion to Etna's summit craters (volcanic activity allowing)

Standing the crater of Bocca Nuova, one of Etna's summit craters
Standing the crater of Bocca Nuova, one of Etna's summit craters
October 2013 view onto Etna´s summit area with different craters and an only 3 day old lava flow coming down in between
October 2013 view onto Etna´s summit area with different craters and an only 3 day old lava flow coming down in between
Descend through a volcanic moonscape of ash, scoria and cinder cones back to the hotel
Descend through a volcanic moonscape of ash, scoria and cinder cones back to the hotel
After a copious breakfast from the buffet we gather at the reception for a long day of hiking. We start our ascend with the cable car and then take special jeeps to quickly reach about 2700 m elevation before we continue on foot. Weather conditions and volcanic activity permitting, we can climb one or several of the summit craters of Etna, explore there fumaroles and sulphur fields and stare down into the smoking vents. From the summit craters we make our way back to the hotel on food, descending along a variety of unique landscapes and vegetation as well as interesting volcanic features, for example the cinder cones that formed in single eruptions in 2001 and 2002-2003 and old lava flow channels. Back at the hotel we restore our energies with a delicious 3-course dinner and local red wine.
Acc.: Acc: as before (Etna) (B, D)

Day 13: Etna excursion to Valle del Bove

View down into the Valle del Bove from Etna´s summit area
View down into the Valle del Bove from Etna´s summit area
Descend into the Valle del Bove (this is great fun!)
Descend into the Valle del Bove (this is great fun!)
Autumn colours on the Valle´s steep cliff faces
Autumn colours on the Valle´s steep cliff faces
This day could be exchanged with the previous day and is again fully dedicated to Etna's upper region and sites of possible volcanic activity (if accessible). Normally this day will be used to discover one of Etna's most spectacular features: the Valle del Bove, a giant depression formed by repeated flank collapses of the volcano. From ca. 2500m altitude we descend into the Valle del Bove, along an extremely steep but soft sandy slope where we can run or slide down as if skiing (great fun and not dangerous!) in order to descend about 1000 m in less than 15 minutes. At the bottom of the giant depression an almost alien and rarely visited landscape awaits us... Surrounded by magnificent volcanic dikes and steep walls of ancient lava rocks, we are on the vast lava fields from the 1991-1993 eruption. Along an unmarked but easy trail we cross the Valle del Bove until we reach one of its lowest points of the SW border where we can easily climb out. From there we take a path downhill through forests, along a giant vertical basalt wall and to one of the very few springs at Etna before arriving at the road from where we are transferred back to the hotel. This evening there we will drive down to the lively village of Nicolosi for an aperitif in a local bar on the lively piazza before having our well-deserved Sicilian dinner in a busy garden restaurant.
Acc.: as before (Etna) (B, D)

Day 14: Lava cave - Alcantara Gorge - Taormina - Catania

The Gorge of the river Alcantara
The Gorge of the river Alcantara
View across the amphitheater in Taormina
View across the amphitheater in Taormina
The historic Sicilian town of Taormina
The historic Sicilian town of Taormina
If we don't choose to return to the summit area of Etna, we have this day to explore some of the many other highlights around the giant volcano. We drive anti-clockwise around Etna´s southern flank along a very scenic route and visit an interesting lava cave where we can walk through. Our journey then continues around the scenic eastern flank of the volcano where we visit one of Etna's natural wonders: the deep lava gorge cut out by the river Alcantara on the NE-side of the mountain. We admire the basaltic columns that make up the gorge´s steep cliffs and take our time for a light lunch and some swimming.
In the afternoon we pay a visit to Taormina, surely one of Sicily's most famous and beautiful towns, where we will walk through its medieval center and visit the still functional Ancient Greek theater. We then continue to the lively town of Catania which we reach in the evening and where we spend our last night in a beautiful hotel**** in the old city center with great views onto the sea. We meet in a typical local restaurant and celebrate our Italian volcano adventure with a delicious farewell dinner.
Acc.: hotel**** in the historic center of Catania (B, L, D)

Day 15: Departure from Catania or own tour extension

One of Catania´s narrow Sicilian streets
One of Catania´s narrow Sicilian streets
There are small markets and stalls all over the city
There are small markets and stalls all over the city
Etna´s eruption and lava flow seen from Catania mid June 2014
Etna´s eruption and lava flow seen from Catania mid June 2014
The tour ends today with a transfer to Catania airport according to your departure time. If you have some time it is definitely worth to explore the lively city of Catania itself as it offers more than enough to visit: the famous local market (especially the fish-market is spectacular!), numerous Ancient relics, baroque architecture, or simply enjoy its buzzing charm from one of the plenty street cafes.
If you have more days to spend, we recommend you extend your stay in Sicily or on the islands as options of things to do and see are nearly unlimited!
Acc.: none (B)
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