Italian islands become ‘sex pilgrimage’ sites

(CNN) — They’re pristine, wild and extremely hot — and not just because of the high temperature and the stunning volcanic landscape with constant little eruptions.

Stromboli and Filicudi, two beautiful islands in Sicily’s Aeolian archipelago, are believed by some to have magical, aphrodisiac powers ideal for those seeking — or desperately trying to recover — the ecstasy of passionate nights.

Which is why they’re often known as the “fertility atolls.”

Not that anyone needs an excuse to travel to what is a beautiful corner of Italy — if they can get there in these tricky times for travel — but for some, a trip here is more than a vacation; it can be a life-changing experience.

Locals say the islands have have become “sex pilgrimage,” sites due to their apparent ability to raise libidos. They also claim, although it’s not clear exactly how they know, that the relaxing environment encourages couples to engage in bedroom experimentation.

The islands’ warm thermal waters, the spectacular lava flow scars, its intriguing grottoes and mysterious flowers are considered an “orgasmic” cocktail that apparently turn people on.

Newlywed couples longing to have a baby are said to flock here from all over the world, while young women hoping to find a man say silent prayers in front of odd-looking sea stacks that thrust into the air like… well, you get the idea.

Lava fireworks

Stromboli eruption smoke rises from crater

Stromboli has been in almost continuous eruption for millennia.

Silvia Marchetti

Stromboli, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, is said to be the most aphrodisiac of the islands.

It can be a little unsettling, even if your mind isn’t on more carnal pursuits. There are frequent eruptions, every 15 minutes or so, with smoky cannonball blasts that make the ground rumble and hearts palpitate.

The volcano’s flanks are patchworks of yellow, red, orange, black and green sand and rocks covered in pink flowers. Former lava flows scorched huge scars on the landscape that are known as “sciare.”

The jet-black scenery contrasts with the translucent aquamarine water and the string of whitewashed houses that runs from the island’s port to its lonely beach of Piscità. There are boat tours at night that let visitors admire the lava fireworks under starry skies.

At each eruption of the Black Giant, as Stromboli is known, heat builds up beneath the ground and is released underwater through tiny air bubbles. At night, when the air temperature cools, roads and sidewalks are hot to the touch and rough stone walls radiate heat.

“It’s a very sensual place, an isle of fire and passion,” says Maria Puglisi, a local wine trader. “You can feel the constant vibrations inside of you each time the pinnacle erupts; it’s like if the volcano explodes in your body. It’s a powerful, aphrodisiac pull.”

‘Naughty boy’

Stromboli 2

Locals say people who climb the volcano often strip naked.

Silvia Marchetti

Many people who embark on an eight-hour trek up to the crater like to strip naked, she says, and lie with their bellies on the trembling soil to better feel the eruptions and vibrations run through their bodies.

“It’s an orgasmic experience, a ritual that ignites passionate sex. The heat and volcanic beat get into your blood and trigger this sexual vibe in the air. The volcano is alive, we call it “Iddu” (him), and he’s guilty of turning folks on. He’s a naughty boy.”

Stromboli’s unique nocturnal scents and pungent air are also blamed for heightening ardor.

The island is also home to an unusual plant that’s said to release a hypnotic fragrance during the night which boosts libido and is believed to help couples conceive.

“It’s called cestrum nocturnum and its greenish-white flowers bloom only when the sun sets,” says Luisa Paduano, owner of Le Terrazza di Eolo, a seafood restaurant with panoramic views over an extinct volcanic crater known as Strombolicchio. “That’s when it does its magic. We call it Lady of the Night or Beauty of the Night.

“Its fragrance is so strong, so overpowering, that it can cause a pleasant dizziness and it lingers until the first hours of the morning. Most dwellings here have this plant on the porch or in front of the main door. It makes you feel good.”

Hypnotic night plant

Stromboli covered in cestrum nocturnum

Cestrum nocturnum, which grows all over Stromboli, is said to be an aphrodisiac.

Silvia Marchetti

Cestrum nocturnum’s aroma apparently relaxes people, combats stress and eases daily tensions. Paduano keeps one at the entrance of her establishment.

“Ever since ancient times, cestrum nocturnum has been considered an aphrodisiac plant; it boosts romance and lovemaking,” she adds. “So many singles who meet here for holidays end up falling in love and return to celebrate their wedding or their child’s birth.”

Aristocrats and lyrical poets composed sonnets in the past hailing the erotic properties of cestrum, which dots every corner of Stromboli.

Belonging to the jasmine species, it may fool the occasional passerby. During the day it appears quite a dull plant, resembling a shrub. It is not strikingly beautiful, but when night falls it comes into its own.

Originally found in more tropical climates, legend has it that Italian explorer Christopher Columbus brought cestrum back from the New World and it found an ideal habitat in extremely hot spots like Stromboli.

But most locals say it is indigenous, a “child of the volcano,” and are proud of their plant’s powers, also said to include Viagra-like properties. They like to joke about their island being “always in heat.”

Erotic sea stacks and caves


La Canna, an 85-meter phallic projection off the coast of Filicudi, is said to bring good luck.

Silvia Marchetti

On the nearby island of Filicudi the “sexy” natural elements include phallic sea stacks and secluded grottoes said to be frequented by couples who, on the pretext of using them to shelter from the sun, often end up conceiving babies.

Sailing on sparkling green waves, local fishermen have been known to drop couples off in so-called “fertility caves.” They also offer a service taking young single ladies on a boat tour that includes touching unusually shaped rocks said to offer luck in the search for love.

Nino Terrano of I Delfini diving center says he often brings women out “to discover the ragged sea stacks that surround the isle, of the weirdest shapes and colors.”

“One such rock, shaped like male genitalia, is said to bring good luck: girls who stroke it will end up finding a guy, get married and have lots of kids.”

The main highlight on the rock-caressing boat tour is La Canna, an 85-meter volcanic protrusion that juts out of the emerald sea off Filicudi’s shore. Some say it resembles the head of a cobra or a rifle, but most see in it the representation of a huge phallus reaching for the sky. Its name means “rod” or “cane,” and you don’t need an Italian dictionary of slang to understand why.

The spot also lures rock-climbing enthusiasts and is home to a unique lizard serpent that also sparks curiosity among visitors.

Filicudi has a primeval vibe that awakens senses and pleasure, locals insist. Older village women have been known to make fertility potions.

“This is the island where you’ll find love, no matter how or where you look for it, even if it comes at a later stage and somewhere else,” says Enzo Anastasi of Hotel La Canna. “This place prepares the ground for whatever passion destiny has in store for you. After all, here’s where I met and married my wife.”

It’s a place of unspoilt nature. There’s only a fishing village, Pecorini a Mare, with pastel-colored houses, two little harbors and one single road that circles the island.

Lovers’ Cave

Lovers' grotto Filicudi

Lovers’ Cave is said to be popular with amorous couples.

Silvia Marchetti

Steep dusty stone paths and old donkey trails connect bright dwellings with thatched terraces covered in bougainvilleas and made of white columns and maiolica benches.

Filicudi’s cliffs are black, green and red with labyrinths of grottoes. Ruins of a prehistoric hamlet and ruined farm huts dot the shore.

Nino Terrano enjoys showing his guests fascinating rock patterns and playing with their imagination. Waves and sand layers have drawn colorful designs in the cliff side that he says resemble gods making love to women and babies being born.

The myriad of sea grottoes are popular spots among couples looking for privacy.

Among them is Lovers’ Cave, where it is said that if a man and a woman enter the cave as two people, they will inevitably succumb to lust and come out as three, with a baby just conceived.

“It’s a mystery, there’s something in that cave that drives hormones wild and blinds people with desire,” says Terrano.

To enhance the experience and further boost libido, Terrano often dives from his boat to fetch raw sea urchins — a major aphrodisiac treat — to serve pronto to his clients on a slice of grilled bruschetta bread.

As if they’d need it.

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