Vulcano ( -- Italian) is one of the Aeolian Islands. Famous for its mud baths, the island literally smells like rotten eggs (sulfur). Odor or no odor, it's an interesting place to visit for the traveler interested in geology and hiking, not to mention soaking in some rays on the beaches.
Primary access is by boat. The hydrofoil and ferry operators SIREMAR, Ustica Lines, and NGI all connect Vulcano to other points in the Aeolian Islands and to Sicily and the mainland. Access from Milazzo in Sicily is convenient, as Vulcano is the boats' first stop from there as they proceed to the other islands. If you're not bringing a vehicle (there's really not much need for one), try to board a hydrofoil; they're significantly quicker than the ferries, and generally quite comfortable.
Air Panarea offers helicopter flights to Vulcano on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer. However, they're expensive and don't save much time compared to the hydrofoils.
It's a small island, and essentially all points of interest to the visitor can be reached quickly by foot from the dock area. Moped rentals may be available. Do not expect to get much value out of a full-size car, if for some reason you bring one via ferry; most of the island's roads are sized for a golf cart or similar conveyance.
Vulcano is more oriented toward "doing" than "seeing." However, the beaches are agreeable, particularly on the west side, and you get good views of the active volcano from the small harbor.
- Laghetto di Fanghi is a celebrated "mud bath" close to the dock. A small fee (entrance €2, shower €1) is charged to enter this area, which is based on natural hot springs both inland and in shallow offshore waters. Bathers use the former to cover themselves in mud (reputed to have therapeutic powers) and then go into the spring-warmed sea to wash off. Swimsuits are not optional here, and it's a good idea to use a suit that you won't be wearing in more conventional settings for a while (and that you can bag in some airtight container after use), as a sulfurous odor will continue to emanate from the suit for some time after you exit the baths. Due to hydrogen sulfide content your silver jewellery might tarnish, so better remove it before soaking.
- If you're a hiker, the trail to Fossa, the recently (~1890) active volcanic center, should not be missed. The round trip takes about 3 hours from the dock area and involves the gain of about 1300 feet of elevation. Several alternative routes exist once you've reached the top of the cone. The fumarole field on the west side of the crater (Gran Cratere) is fascinating if you can stand the smell (it's one of the few places on the earth's surface where you can view droplets of molten sulfur), but is best avoided if you have respiratory problems.
- Bar Il Castello, Via Messina Salvatore. A small sandwich-and-drinks stand a stone's throw from Laghetto di Fanghi.
- Bar Il Sestante, Porto Levante. More fast lunches and drinks. Pick up some bottled water here for your hike up the volcano.
The two bars listed under "Eat" also serve beverages of your choice. Vulcano is not a hotbed of night life.
Be warned: unlike some of the other Aeolian Islands, Vulcano has mosquitoes, and most of the lodging on the island derives its temperature control from the breezes that give the islands their name, rather than from air conditioning. Accordingly you may have mosquito problems in your room -- but it's just part of the experience.
- Aura Hotel, Via Eucaliptus (Vulcano Porto), ☎ +39 090 9853454.
- Hotel Conti, Via Porto Ponente, ☎ +39 090 9852012. Rates from €38.50, with substantial seasonal variations. On the west coast of the island, a five-minute walk from the dock. They can cart your luggage from the hydrofoil/ferry if you make advance arrangements. Staff speak enough English to get by. May be closed during the winter months. Dinner and breakfast are available on site; nothing special, but acceptable.
- Lipari is the largest and most developed of the Aeolian Islands, and is just a few minutes' hydrofoil ride away from Vulcano.
- Stromboli, with its currently active and fairly visitor-friendly volcano, is also reachable by hydrofoil. You may need to change boats in Lipari.