Emerging out of the blue haze like a menacing maritime pyramid, Stromboli's smoking silhouette conforms perfectly to one's childhood idea of a volcano. In fact, the island of Stromboli is just the tip of a vast underwater volcano that rises from the seabed 1476m below. The most captivating of the Aeolian Islands, it's a hugely popular day-trip destination as well as the summer favourite of designers Dolce and Gabbana, who have a holiday home here. But to best appreciate its primordial beauty, languid pace and the romance that lured Roberto Rossellini and his lover Ingrid Bergman here in 1949, you'll need to give it a few days.
Volcanic activity has scarred and blackened much of the island but the northeastern corner is inhabited and it's here that you'll find the island's famous black beaches (some very good, with excellent sand) and the main settlement sprawled attractively along the volcano's lower slopes. Despite the picture-postcard appearance, life here is tough: food and drinking water have to be ferried in, there are no roads across the island, and until relatively recently there was no electricity in Ginostra, the island's second settlement on the west coast. If the weather turns rough and the sea goes wild, ferries and hydrofoils are cancelled and the island is completely cut off. And if all that isn't enough, there's still the constant possibility of the volcano blowing its top, as it did in February 2007, although fortunately without any harmful consequences.