Chapter No. 2: Alejandra's Guide to the Aeolian Islands
We landed at Catania’s Airport on the Island of Sicily as it was the closest one to Milazzo, the connection point to these magical Islands that were the final destination. I recommend arranging transportation from the Port of Milazzo through your hotel, or for the more adventurous spirits, via a chartered helicopter from Air Panarea.
Below I have curated a guide to my favorite Aeolian Islands, including Panarea, Stromboli and Salina.
Guide to Salina
The first stop on our luxurious Mediterranean journey began on the island of Salina, the biggest Aeolian island after Lipari.
For accommodations, my husband Alejandro and I stayed at the HOTEL SIGNUM in the town of Malfa. This family run Aeolian farmhouse boasts an incredible Chef, Martina Caruso, who uses the island’s agro-food heritage as the protagonist of the menu. The dishes, interpreted with elegance and originality, enclose all the beauty and history of Salina. They vary from season to season, small works of art and taste that enhance the freshness of the ingredients and reveal a great search that starts from tradition.
Before dinner at the hotel, we enjoyed the sunset from the terrace of our hotel room while sipping a decadent Bloody Mary made from their fresh, home-grown tomatoes. If you are looking to escape to a different view of the island, the Santa Isabel lounge is also a great place to watch the sunset.
If you feel like adventuring outside of the hotel, I also recommend these additional restaurants:
The next day, we spent time soaking up the sun alongside the hotel’s beautiful swimming pool, which boasts some of the best views to be seen on Salina. If you are more of a beach person, I loved Pollara Beach.
On the last day in Salina, I recommend a hike for the more daring vacationer. We enjoyed the ~4 hour hike from town to the top of Monte Fossa Delle Felci, the highest peak. So worth it.
Guide to Panarea
Panarea is the definition of bohemian – chic. The white villages and freely growing bougainvillea make this island a special treat. With no cars allowed, only golf carts, and Motorino electric bikes, this island is an ideal escape from the busier islands in the Mediterranean.
For lodging, we stayed at the Hotel Raya, which was built in the 1960s, with a layout specially conceived by Paolo and Myriam. The hotel has a main restaurant, night club and private Beach down in the water. On the highest of the terraces guests can enjoy an exquisite aperitif as they admire the myriad of nuances created by the sun as it sinks down behind the island, its rays glistening on the cliffs in front.
After a restful night, we spent our first day exploring the island caves and calas by boat. My personal favorite was CALA BIANCA; there are some beautiful little uninhabited Islands across from Panarea where you can dock the boat have lunch and swim.
For the boat trip, I bought different food from bakeries and small family owned restaurants nearby. Our spread included items like freshly made slices of pizza, cheese and ragu arancini, as well as fresh cantaloupe melon. If only we could have brought along gelato… that would have made it a perfect day! I recommend the family-owned bakery “Il Forno” (Vila San Pietro 10) to buy the delicious Italian delicacies for on board your private boat.
For boat rental I recommend “SEA PANAREA” (+39 366 45 81 688) they can also arrange transport to go see other Islands for the day, or simply to provide you with great water taxi service.
Eating on Panarea is just as much of a treat as on Salina. As with any Italian village, the towns throughout the Aeolian Islands are peppered with incredible trattorias and restaurants. My recommendations are:
Guide to Stromboli
Alejandro and I spent one day in Stromboli visiting a dear friend. The Volcano and black sand beaches make the landscape of the Island so unique. I recommend getting a villa or a beautiful house on the water here rather than a hotel. All of the houses are white, which is a breathtaking, stark contrast with the nature and black rocks they have as their backdrop. The untouched nature of Stromboli combined with the crystal clear water make this island a special and quasi-hidden gem on the Mediterranean.
If you are a daring soul, there are also daily excursions to visit the active Volcano on the island, where you can view the small spurts and little explosions of red lava, a truly unique experience. You can also rent a boat and go to the uninhabited portion of the island for the Aperitif where the landscape transforms entirely.
Guide to Taormina
On our last day, we decided to stay on the main island of Sicily in the hillside town of Taormina. Located high on Monte Tauro and just one hour away from the Catania airport, this is the perfect stop before leaving the Italian paradise. The views and the ancient Greek Theatre make this village a unique and intimate one.
For accommodations, we stayed at THE GRAND HOTEL TIMEO, which has a privileged location on top of the hill next to the Greek Theatre, boasting the most spectacular views. Their partner hotel is right in the water so they have a private charter to take you to the beach as well.
As with every island in Mediterranean, Sicily boasts their own unique cuisine and special dishes. One of my favorite pasta dishes “Spaghetti alla Norma” is actually from this region. The flavors in Taormina are incredible, and I have curated a list of my favorite spots for this magical town as well: