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Introducing Vulcano

Approaching Vulcano, it's difficult not to feel a slight shiver down your spine as you spot the white trails of smoke rising from the island's ominous peaks. However, any sense of disquiet is quickly supplanted by a more earthy reaction as you get your first whiff of the vile sulphurous gases that infuse the air. Vulcano's volcanic nature has long been impressing visitors – the ancient Romans believed it to be the chimney of the fire god Vulcan's workshop – and the island is today celebrated for its therapeutic mud baths and hot springs. The main drawcard, however, remains the Fossa di Vulcano, or Gran Cratere (Large Crater), the steaming volcano that towers over the island's northeastern shores.

There's no sightseeing as such on Vulcano, but it's a great place to spend a day or two, swimming off the dark volcanic beaches, sailing the wild coast or climbing up to the smoking crater. Most of the action is centred on touristy Porto di Levante and the black beaches at Porto di Ponente, but once you get away from these places, the landscape takes on a quiet, rural aspect with vegetable gardens, birdsong and a surprising amount of greenery.