They must have been exaggerating! Surely I don’t need to throw away my bikini after visiting the mudbaths of Laghetto di Fanghi on the Aeolian island of Vulcano. Do I?
I start with this note of warning as I made the mistake of ignoring this advice and have been washing the same load of clothes for four weeks. My washing machine has had to have a deep clean and everything has a faint odour of ‘egg de toilette’.
Was it worth it? Definitely.
We came to the island to climb Fossa di Vulcano, the 391m volcano that dominates the island. We follow the zig zag path up to the crater rim, skirt around the hot sulphurous vents and look across the inviting blue waters to the other islands. Stromboli, with its distinctive classically volcano shape, steams in the distance.
Our treat after this is to relax in Laghetto di Fanghi mudbaths. Ignoring the smell of rotten eggs, we wallow in the shallow pool of fudge-coloured sulphurous sludge. The feel of gloopy mud oozing through my fingers takes me back to my childhood.
The 28-degree mire is allegedly an excellent treatment for rheumatic pains and skin diseases. I watch old ladies applying the miracle mud to creaky joints. I am not convinced – but it feels nice.
A gate leads from the mud pool to a small beach and the sea. We paddle out to wash off the mud and discover the sea is warm. Hot vents bubble amid the waves. We float around, paddling from one bubbling hotspot to the next (not generated by people!).
The final element of this not-quite-five-star health spa is the €1 shower. Blink and you’ll miss it, and it is out in the open – so you will not get all the sulphur off. So, be prepared to smell eggy until you get back to a decent shower. In fact, be prepared to smell eggy for a few days after this too.
But most of all – if you are planning to visit Laghetto di Fanghi do not ignore the following advice:
- Wear an old cozzy and throw it away after. No, really!
- If you insist on keeping it – do not wash it with the rest of your laundry!
- If you missed points one and two – prepare to be washing your clothes and your machine for weeks to come! You will need to leave the smelly garments sealed in a bag with bicarbonate of soda for a week, soaked in a bath of bicarbonate of soda, soaked in a bath of vinegar, washed and washed again.
How to get here
Off the north coast of Sicily, Vulcano is the closest Aeolian Island to the mainland. Ferries run regularly from Milazzo and Messina to Porto di Levante in the north-east of the island. The mud pools are right by the port.
Cost: €3 entry + €1 for a shower
Pen’s top tips for the mud baths
- Don’t stay longer than 15 minutes as the mud is slightly radioactive
- Don’t use your favourite fluffy towel – this will also stink
- Remove your watch and jewellery and keep the mud away from your eyes
- Don’t burn your bum on the scalding vents