Aeolian Islands

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Destination Information

The allure of the Aeolian Islands is immemorial. A necklace of seven volcanic peaks, rising from the Mediterranean off the northeastern coast of Sicily, they appear in Homer’s “Odyssey,” where Aeolus, the keeper of the winds, offers generous hospitality to Odysseus and his crew, as well as a fair breeze for their return voyage to Ithaca. 

Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina, Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli and Vulcano were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Each has a distinctive and intriguingly different personality: Alicudi — where donkeys are the only means of land transportation — and Filicudi are the quietest islands, Salina has become the most fashionable, and Lipari is the largest and busiest. Pretty Panarea is a long-established favorite of moneyed Italians, which makes it a clubby and rather standoffish place, especially for anyone who doesn’t speak the language. The volcanoes in the middle of Stromboli and Vulcano are still active, while all of the islands have steaming fumaroles or thermal waters. Stromboli is also a favorite island for hikers, who ascend as close to the edge of its crater as they dare.

Discerning international travelers come to the Aeolians because they remain so unspoiled and authentic. Though it is important to note that the Aeolians are not easy to get to. There are no airports on any of the islands, so unless you are prepared to go to the expense of a helicopter transfer, it is necessary to take a ferry from Reggio Calabria or Palermo in season, or from the charmless port of Milazzo on Sicily’s northern coast year-round. When traveling to the Aeolians, it is highly recommended to book ferry tickets in advance, as services sell out during the summer months.

Editor Tips

Getting There

Discerning international travelers come to the Aeolians because they remain so unspoiled and authentic. Though it is important to note that the Aeolians are not easy to get to. There are no airports on any of the islands, so unless you are prepared to go to the expense of a helicopter transfer, it is necessary to take a ferry from Reggio Calabria or Palermo in season, or from the charmless port of Milazzo on Sicily’s northern coast year-round. Book ferry tickets in advance, as services sell out during the summer months.

Wine Tastings

After being decimated at the end of the 19th century by phylloxera, the vineyards of the Aeolian Islands began making a comeback in the 1950s. Some 350 acres of grapes are now being cultivated at 15 wineries, mostly on Lipari and Salina. The late Carlo Hauner is generally considered the father of modern winemaking in the Aeolians. The winery produces elegant and surprisingly refreshing white, red and rosé table wines and three Malvasia delle Lipari DOC wines. There are also several major Sicilian winemakers that have made investments in vineyards on the island, notably the Tasca d’Almerita family on Salina. Other notable producers include Fenech, Caravaglio, Virgona and Marchetta.

Exploring Salina

We recommend booking a full-day tour with Elena Basurto, a friendly young woman who speaks perfect English and has deep knowledge of Salina’s history, geology, architecture and flora and fauna. The island’s main town, lively Santa Marina Salina, which has some excellent art galleries and offers good shopping for pottery, clothing, capers and wine. The salt pans in the seaside village of Lingua, the black-sand beach at Rinella, the Museo Civico di Santa Marina Salina, and finally the charming village of Pollara, famous for its starring role in the 1994 hit movie “Il Postino,” are stops not to be missed.