All the Aeolian islands are of volcanic origin. The islands were inhabited from the Neolithic period onwards, as evidenced by findings in the Castle of Lipari, the largest island of the archipelago, and also on the island of Panarea where a prehistoric village was found more than 50 years ago. The artefacts found consist of decorated pottery and some obsidian objects.

Obsidian is a glassy rock of volcanic origin which splinters into very sharp blades and was once a flourishing trade among all the countries of the Mediterranean Sea.

Artefacts dating from the Bronze Age, with more advanced types of ceramic and foundations of oval cabins have been discovered in the castle of Lipari, the island of Filicudi, and on Pinarea.

By the early fifth century BC the Greeks (probably Dorians from Rhodes and Cnidus) had settled on the archipelago. In Lipari the settlement of the Dorians was close to the present town of Castello, where the remains of a Greek Acropolis have been found. The necropolis, in which the oldest tombs date from the 6th century, was a short distance away in the town of Saint Lucia di Diana. Much of the excavated material is now found in the Aeolian Museum.

In historical times the islands of Lipari were subject to the Romans, and formed part of the struggles between the Romans and Carthaginians (260 BC).

In the Middle Ages they were occupied first by the Saracens and later by the Normans (11th century).

In the fourteenth century the Aeolian islands passed to the Anjou, then the Spaniards, and finally under the control of the Bourbons of Naples, before entering the Kingdom of Italy after the unification of Italy in 1860-1861.

See also the Aeolian islands visitor information and travel guide.