Aeolian Islands, Italy

December 28, 2011, 6:38 am

The Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands) (38°35’N/14°47’E) make up a World Heritage Site that is located in the Tyrrhenian sea, less than 40 kilometers (km) off the northern coast of Sicily. The group consists of seven islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea) and five small islets (Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera, Bottaro and Lisca Bianca) in the vicinity of Panarea.

caption Source: NormanEinstein/Wikipedia

Date and History of Establishment

The revised nomination encompasses Zone A areas (nature reserves) being those areas of greatest scientific importance and Zone B areas being surrounding natural areas (see Map 2a-2c). Zone C areas are not included in the nomination, however, for the most part act as predominantly human modified landscape buffer zones to Zone A and B areas.

caption A view of the Aeolian Islands, Italy. (Source: Volcano World)

"La Montagne delli Felci e dei Porri" on Salina is a statutory reserve, created by the Region of Palermo in 1984. The small islands of Alicudi (278ha.), Panarea (154ha.), Filicudi (562ha.) and Stromboli (718ha.), plus their islets, have been designated Nature Reserves under Regional law. Vulcano and Lipari do not apparently have any legally defined reserves. (IUCN Evaluation visit).


The total area of the Aeolian Islands is 1,216 hectares (ha). The islands range in size from Panarea which is 34 ha to Lipari which is 376 ha. The area include following islands:

  • Lipari island: 376 ha
  • Vulcano: 210 ha
  • Salina: 268 ha
  • Stromboli: 126 ha
  • Filicudi: 150 ha
  • Alicudi: 52 ha
  • Panarea: 34 ha

Land Tenure



From sea level to 875 meters (m) (Alicudi) and 778.5 m (Filicudi).

Physical Features

The Aeolian Islands belongs to the "Sicilian domain", sensu Arrigoni (1983). They are all of volcanic origin, separated from the Sicilian coast by waters of 200 m deep. It seems that they have never been in contact with the Sicilian Island. The islands have provided two of the types of eruptions (Vulcanian and Strombolian) to vulcanology and geology.


The climate is Mediterranean. Average annual rainfall varies from 600-700 millimeters (mm) and average annual temperature varies between 14-18° Celsius (C).


The vegetation is mainly dominated by species typical of the Mediterranean region. A total of 900 plant species have been recorder in Aeolian islands, including 4 endemic species: Bassia saxicola, Dianthus rupicola, Silene hicesiae, Cytiscus aeolicus and Ophrys lunurata.

Forest climax is characterized by two plant communities: Oleo-Euphorbietum dendroidis and Erico arboreae-Quercetum ilicis or Erico-arboreae virgilianae. In the past Pinus halepensis and Pinus pinaster were found in natural habitats but are only found in plantations today, together with other exotic species such as Eucalypus, Acacia and Alnus. Querus ilex, Quercus virgiliana and Chamaerops humilis are sparse on the islands. Most areas are dominated by a human modified landscape characterized by a steppe vegetation and abandoned olive and vines.


The interesting characteristic of Aeolian archipelago fauna is the presence of continental Europe species reaching the southern limit of their distribution. Nearly 40 bird species have been recorded including 10 species under the Sicilian Red List of threatened bird species. The islands are also important for migrant bird species, and is an Important Bird Area for congregatory species identified by BirdLife International. Mammals include one endemic sub-species Eliomys quercinus leparensis and 7 species of bats have been reported.

Seven species of reptiles are present in the archipelago, including the newly described Lezard Podarcis raffoni. Other reptiles include 4 sub-species of Podarcis raffonei, and 2 sub-species of Podarcis siculus. Invertebrate fauna seems relatively well known, with over 15 endemic species described.

Cultural Heritage

The archaeological importance is shown by the presence of life from the Neolithic period. Different layers showing prehistoric, proto-historic and ancient history of the Mediterranean Sea have been preserved.

The "Acropole of Lipari" with its architecture is the headquarters of the Regional Archaelogical Museum of Lipari.

Local Human Population

There are 10,000 inhabitants inside the site.

Visitors and Visitor Facilities

There are 200,000 visitors per year.

Scientific Research and Facilities

Most of the exiting studies relate to vulcanology of Eolian islands. There is a monitoring of volcanic eruptions at Culvano Island, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Civilian Protection. The Lipari Castle is the Headquarters of the Eolian Museum and contains collections dating from 1946.

Conservation Value

caption Vulcano is one of two active volcanoes on the Aeolian Islands. (Source: Volcano World)

The Eolian Islands have an important value for their geodynamic, volcanic and archaeological natural and ethno-anthropological features. They include a recent volcanic system of seven volcanoes, formed approximately 1 million years ago. This volcanic arc results from a geodynamic process. Two volcanoes are still active today: Vulcano and Stromboli. They both have a typical eruption activity respectively called Vulcanian and Strombolian in the international terminology.

The Islands' volcanic landforms represent classic features in the continuing study of vulcanology world-wide. With their scientific study from at least the 18th Century, the islands have provided two of the types of eruptions (Vulcanian and Strombolian) to vulcanology and geology textbooks and so have featured prominently in the education of all geoscientists for over 200 years. They continue to provide a rich field for vulcanological studies, as significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms. The nominated site provides an interrelated set of volcanic features and phenomena, as noted in Section 44 (b) (i) of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

There are thermal waters resulting from sub-volcanic phenomena which lead to the emanation of gas at the surface, particularly at Vulcano Island.

Conservation Management

Following parameters are controlled to assess the state of conservation of the site: aerial photos, urbanization by local administrations, control of volcanic eruption, erosion control in collaboration with universities, control of tourism by the Departmental Tourism Office. To ensure the conservation of the site, control of vehicle traffic during the high tourism season, and particularly the historical center of Lipari during summer.

The Ministry of Cultural and Environmental Heritage co-operates with Ministry of the Environment in the field of environmental impact assessment. It also has powers concerning landscape protection, which it has used for the protection of the natural as well as the cultural environment. Each region has an environmental or territorial council which is involved in environmental issues at a regional level.

Vulcano and Lipari do not apparently have any legally defined reserves. On both, there is a substantial amount of urban and suburban development in the proposed Zone B, and some also in the proposed Zone A areas.

Management Constraints

The site is mainly affected by geomorphologic factors, particularly cliff erosion. No major developments have occurred in the site during the last 20 years. However, tourism activities constitute the dominant human activity in the Eolian archipelago. Tourism has lead to the abandon of local farming tradition leading to the change in the landscape. Terraces originally built for olive have disappeared today in most of the islands, except in the islands of Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi.

There are risks of volcanic eruptions, particularly in the islands of Vulcano, Stromboli and Lipari. The last eruption in Vulcano was in 1888-90. Seismic activities occur mainly in the north of Salina Island: Pollara and Lalfa, in Stromboli Alicudi and Filicudi islands.

Vulcano and Lipari do not apparently have any legally defined reserves. On both, there is a substantial amount of urban and suburban development in the proposed Zone B and some also in the proposed Zone A areas.


According to IUCN Evaluation visit, there are no reserve staff on any of the designated Nature Reserves of the islands of Alicudi, Panarea, Filicudi, and Stromboli and there is no administration on Alicudi or Filicudi.


No information.

IUCN Management Category


  • IV – Regional Nature Reserve
  • Proposed World Heritage Site – Natural Criteria (i)

Further Reading


A selected number of references accompanying this nomination include:

  • Vulcanology: most published materials in the journal "Acta vulcanologica"
  • Archaeology: Regional Archaeological Museum
  • Publications of Professor Bernabo Brea and Madeleine Cavalier, including the last publication entitled "Meligunis Lipara"

Other documents:

  • Pietro Lo Cascio: Aspects fauniques et zoogéographiques de l’Archipel Eolien. (Supporting document to the nomination) - + important bibliography
  • Salvatore Pasta: Notes synthétiques sur la Flore et la Végétation des Iles Eoliennes. (Supporting document to the nomination) - + important bibliography.


Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.





M, U. (2011). Aeolian Islands, Italy. Retrieved from


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