Pliny the Elder wrote : “the third island, six miles east from Lipari, is Stromboli, seat of the kingdom of Aeolus, wich differs from Lipari only because its flames are brighter. It is said that the smoke given off allowed the inhabitants to predict the direction of the winds for the next two days : from this the belief was born that the winds obeyed Aeolus”. This endless spectacle of fire, smoke and lava rain explains the name of “ Lighthouse of theMediterranean” attributed to Stromboli.
For over two thousand years it has had a prevalently explosive activity, called in fact “stromboliana”, which consist of an intermittent expulsion of incandescent fragments of lava.
Alexandre Dumas, in his “Jurney to the Eolian Islands” (Pungitopo ed.), described the phenomenon like this : “ The crater of Stromboli has the shape of a large tunnel. At the end and in the middle of it there is an orifice, through which a man could only just crawl and which is conncted to the internal channel of the volcano. It is this opening, similar to the barrel of a cannon, that shoots out a shower of projectiles that fall back into the crater, taking with them rocks, ash and lava that obstruct this sort of tunnel. The volcano then seems to gather its srenght for a few minutes, compressed by the closure of its valve; but, after a short break, its smoke comes out as if it were gasping and you hear a deafening roar from the sides of the mountain. Finally, the cannon explodes again, shooting new rocks and new lava up to two hundred feet above the summit. These fall back and make a new obstruction of the passage and preparing another eruption.
Seen from high up this spectacle seemed splendid and fightening; at every internal convulsion of the mountain, you feel it shudder, as if it were about to collapse, then there is the explosion, similar to a gigantic tree of flames and smoke which drops its leaves of lava.”
Dumas continues: “It was on Stromboli that Aeolus kept the lucantes ventos tempestatesque sonoras in chains. Undoubtedly at the time of the bard of Aeneas and when it was still called Strongyle, the island was not yet famous for what it is and was preparing in its cavities, those periodical and fiery eruptions that make in the kindest volcano on Earth. With Stromboli, you know what to expect : it is not like Vesuvius or Etna, which make visitors wait three, five, sometimes ten years for a minor eruption. You could reply that this depends on the position they occupy in hierarchy of volcanoes, permitting them to be aristocratic to their disadvantage; this is true. However, we must be grateful to Stromboli for not having abused its social position and for having understood that it is only a minor volcano, which nobody would have paid much attention to if it had put on airs. What it lacks for in quality, it makes up for in quantity”.
The activity of Stromboli can also be effusive, although in both cases the natural outlet for the falling rocks and the lava flow is a depression, formed 5.000 years ago, situated on the north-western side and called Sciara (from the Arabic word for street) del Fuoco.