The Greeks colonized these islands around 580 BC and named them after the mythical figure Aeolus. According to Homer, this local god-king kept the winds bottled up in a cave. When Odysseus came by on his long trip home, he was given a favorable wind, but he accidentally released it from its bag and so was blown off course. All the world's winds do seem to converge here at times, though in summer it's as likely to be still and hot as wild and tempestuous. The difficulties of life in these islands led most of the inhabitants to emigrate to the US a century ago, so you will find them sparsely populated today. Come to the Aeolians to see the extensive Greek ruins on Lipari, but mostly to swim and dive in the crystalline seas and to sunbathe on the myriad beaches and rocky shores. You can get here from Palermo and Messina, but the best connections are the ferries and aliscafi from Milazzo to Lipari. Smaller boats connect Lipari and the other islands daily. Lipari is the main island, and generally offers the widest selection of lodgings, restaurants, shops, and things to do. The people are warm and friendly, and their town's romantic citadel offers an uninterrupted record of its inhabitants from Neolithic times, featuring an extensive acropolis. Even people who hate museums and history will be fascinated spending a couple of hours here, because you start with ruins of the original settlement and proceed through rooms that have something even the Uffizi and Vatican can't boast: interesting explanations in English! If you're feeling energetic, hike to the top of Mount Sant'Angelo: the breathtaking view will greatly repay your efforts. Because the Aeolians are volcanoes, all extinct save one, each island has beaches of a unique character. Lipari is the oldest island, and thus its lidos are covered with the finest white sand, actually the end product of black lava. In earlier days, when this was the talcum capital of the world, there were several mines on Lipari and the owners used to dispose of the finest powder, unusable even to keep baby's posteriors dry, by dumping truckloads of it down the hillsides every evening. So much of it deposited on the sea floor that Lipari's waters are still the palest blue, even though the last of the trucks disappeared decades ago. To have the most fun, hire your own boat and spend the day swimming and sunbathing from its deck.