The Aeolian archipelago consists of seven islands (Lipari, Stromboli, Vulcano, Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea and Salina) that emerged from underwater circa 1 million years ago as a result of the shift and sinking of the plateau in the Tyrrhenian Sea due to the final emergence of the Apennine Mountains in central Italy. The magma from the underwater volcanoes leaked through several faults and was able to accumulate in such a manner to emerge from several thousand meters under water and create volcanic chimneys of which several made it to the surfaceÖto become the islands, as we know them today. The first were Panarea, Filicudi and Alicudi, then Salina and Lipari; and finally Vulcano and Stromboli - -only 300,000 years ago!- - which explains why these two are still active. One can find out more in the geological section of the excellent Luigi Bernabo Brea Archaeological museum in Lipari.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands (37km) and was originally known as Meligunis (the gentle one). It is the epicentre of the 7 islands, the seat of the local government as well the center of all the major transportation that comes to the archipelago. The city of Lipari (circa 5,000 inhabitants off season) is the largest urban center.