STROMBOLI, THE DRAMATIC
We started in Stromboli, the smallest island at the foot of a live, active volcano that spurts smoke and orange lava in the air. It looks particularly dramatic at night. It's the most quaint and dramatic-looking island. There are no cars, just mopeds and golf carts. It takes about 15 minutes to walk anywhere on the island, which only has a small handful of hotels and restaurants and a larger residential area where jetsetters like Stefano Dolce and Domenico Gabbana have vacation homes. The intense, lunar-esque landscape and black lava beach have attracted many artists, including Marina Abramovic, who recently sold her house because the island's energy became "too much" for her. This is where neorealist director Roberto Rossellini shot Stromboli, his 1950 film starring Ingrid Bergman.
We stayed at La Sirenetta Park Hotel, a lovely place on the black sand beach, the nicest beach in all of the islands. (The other beaches are rocky). It has a saltwater infinity pool, a slightly strange outdoor gym, and a nice restaurant and coffee bar. The service is great. The rooms are basic but charming and clean and many have sea views.
La Locanda del Barbablù is a fantastic restaurant that only serves a pricey prix fixe menu. It's worth it, but you may want the petite menu, as the regular one is massive. They also have a few rooms that are very pricey but probably very good, although the hotel is not on the beach.
The best thing to do in Stromboli is to hike up to the volcano at night, stopping off for dinner at Ristorante Osservatorio, a restaurant close to the top. People tend to cheer when the lava explodes in the sky. It's like organic dinner theater. The hike, which you can do without a guide, is about three-and-a-half hours up a fairly easy, dusty path. (Wear sneakers and bring a flashlight.) Sometimes they close the top of the the volcano trail if it's too active. In any case, when it is open, you need a guide to get up that high.
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