Famous for being the scenario of the romance between Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman in 1949 while filming the film of the same name, Stromboli is the only European island that has not turned off its volcanic fire for at least 2,000 years.

Last Friday I had lunch with friends in a restaurant from which you can see a beautiful view of Donostia. We felt the first breeze of summer and we were starting the second dish, based on fish.


Perhaps it was the mixture of the proximity of the sea and the dish that we had in front of us which made one of us remember the best summers of his life, in the company of the fishermen of Stromboli. His experience was so intense that he has not set foot on the island in 15 years, fearing that now everything might has changed.

Let’s start at the beginning, Stromboli is one of the eight islands in the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily, named after Aeolus the god of the wind. It is a volcano with black sand beaches that about 100,000 years ago emerged from the Tyrrhenian Sea almost 1km.

Its vegetation grows up to 400-500m above sea level, and afterwards it passes to volcanic rock. It takes one hour and a half to reach the mouth of the volcano by foot. It is common to see mules throughout the year on the steep roads.

To get the hole picture, I recommend to visit this interesting Pinterest link from witch I took this photograph.

Its inhabitants are 450 in winter, but can reach 5,000 in summer, and they live only on one side of the island because on the other side lava is still flowing from the volcano. For this reason, instead of two ports there is only one, so if the sea is stormy it complicates the supply of drinking water and other goods from the peninsula.

Among its inhabitants, there are 50 children studying in mixed-level classes and in order to continue the secondary education they have to travel to Lipari (the biggest island in the archipelago) or Millazzo (Sicily).

Ten tanned fishermen with huge calloused hands and wearing thick ancient philosopher’s beards, leave every day on their motorboats, barefoot, before dawn.

Stromboli Fisherman

The ritual is always the same: the fisherman wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning, picks up his equipment and goes to his motorboat. There is only silence, stars and bright red lava falling slowly from the top of the mountain. On its way he finds many types of fish thanks to the wealth of the volcano, including sword fishes or squids. In summer he also sees yachts; later on he will come back to offer them his best catch.

In the afternoon, some fishermen sew their nets on the beach while others attend an improvised market stall. As the sky begins to redden, they have dinner in their rustic white Mediterranean houses, hoping to see the stars again the following night.