The Aeolian Islands, located off the coast of northeastern Sicily, are one of southern Italy’s greatest natural and cultural treasures. Formed by volcanic eruptions over time, the archipelago is made up of seven islands – Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi – each one with its own identity. You’ll need at least two weeks to explore all seven islands but if you’re short on time, here’s an itinerary for a week with highlights of what to see, do and eat on four islands.
Lipari is the largest island in the archipelago and a good place to begin your trip. From scenic hiking paths and pebbled beaches to museums and a vibrant port, Lipari offers something for everyone. The island first attracted settlers thanks to its natural resources, including obsidian rock and pumice stone, so don’t miss the chance to pay homage to Lipari’s geological heritage with a walk through the white-washed Cave di Pomice, a dramatic canyon made up of pumice stone.
The island is also home to an archeological museum that helps retrace the archipelago’s importance as a trade route throughout history. Set within a historic fort above town, the museum houses hundreds of ancient amphorae and the world’s largest collection of miniature Greek masks. Nearby, you can pick up Aeolian-inspired gifts at the La Casa Eoliana, including jewelry, accessories and organic bath products.
High up in the hills of Quattropiani, Sangre Rojo serves some of the best food on the island in a terraced home overlooking the coastline: some stand-outs include pistachio-crusted tuna with red onions and eggplant rolls stuffed with spaghetti. Further south, Le Macine is a cozy trattoria that doubles as a quirky museum filled with historic farm supplies. Everything is made with locally milled wheat, including the restaurant’s specialty Maccheroni alle Macine with vegetable pesto and seasoned breadcrumbs. After dinner, stroll through Lipari’s elegant Marina Corta port and enjoy a nightcap in the romantic Giardino di Lipari cocktail bar set in a pretty garden.
The best way to enjoy the island is by land and sea. Rent a scooter with Pit Stop Noleggio and take a boat ride with Lipari Boat Experience – the sunset tour of Lipari’s faraglioni makes for an unforgettable and romantic evening.
Lipari is also home to Tenuta di Castellaro, one of the archipelago’s most innovative wineries. Founded in 2005 by Massimo Lentsch and Stefania Frattolillo, two entrepreneurs from Bergamo, the winery embraces a philosophy of “contemporary craftsmanship” which is evident from the cultivation of the vines to the sustainable design of the winery.
An ambitious project, the “bioenergy” winery was created to make the most of the island’s natural resources: in addition to solar chimneys which absorb and disperse natural light throughout the complex, Castellaro uses wind towers to cool the evocative barrel room. Built to resemble a Norman church, it features vaulted ceilings supported by dug out pillars that provide insight into the geological evolutions of Lipari – with colors and textures that represent volcanic eruptions that took place over millennia.
Castellaro’s portfolio of wines can be enjoyed during a sunset aperitivo which includes a guided visit of the winery, followed by a scenic tasting on a ledge overlooking the nearby islands of Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi in the distance.
Named after the Roman god of fire, Vulcan, the island of Vulcano is impressive for its dramatic craters with fuming fumaroles, which emit sulphurous gases. Vulcano is a popular destination thanks to its therapeutic mud baths and black sand beaches. With a tropical vibe and a bustling restaurant, Asino Beach is a great place to spend a day relaxing in the sun while enjoying a freshly baked schiacciata – pizza stuffed with ingredients like mozzarella, capers and anchovies.
Get up early to hike up to the Gran Cratere before the summer heat rolls in or take a taxi tour around the island with Taxi Santi to learn about Vulcano’s history and enjoy its panoramic views. Vulcano is particularly stunning from the water thanks to its rocky formations and numerous coves – and a boat ride with Tutta La Vita ensures you’ll sail in style. For the island’s best fresh fish, head over to Da Pina located in Gelso. If you’re interested in more casual food, including the famous Pane Cunzatu, a traditional open-faced sandwich loaded with ingredients, try Ristorante Malvasia in the heart of town.
Located on the fertile slopes of Gelso on the island of Vulcano, Punta Aria is a small winery established in 2000 by the Milanese entrepreneur Francangelo Pollastri and now overseen by his son. Set amongst 4 hectares of vines that nearly touch the sea, Punta Aria houses a small winery in a white cottage, alongside an agritourism where travelers can rent sea-view suites and walk to the nearby Canitello beach. Punta Aria produces a dry Malvasia Secco, a sweet Malvasia Passito and a grappa with the same grape. Visits include a tasting of the property’s capers, olive oil and marmalades.
With two twin peaks, verdant valleys and charming towns, Salina is considered by many to be the prettiest island in the archipelago. It is known as the “Isola Verde” (the green island) and boasts a number of vineyards that produce sweet Malvasia dessert wine. Hike up to Fossa delle Felci, a natural preserve set within an extinct volcano, for fantastic views of the island and nearby Panarea and Stromboli on the horizon.
You should also rent a scooter to reach the crescent-shaped bay of Pollara, one of the film locations for the 1994 romantic comedy Il Postino (The Postman). Don’t miss an aperitivo and dinner at La Locanda del Postino, named for the film, while watching the sun set over the bay. Be sure to explore the island on a private boat tour with Blu Salina: Antonello, an Aeolian seafarer, captains the boat while his partner Elena, an archeologist, shares cultural insights on the island. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins during your ride.
Da Alfredo makes excellent granita – try specialties like gelsi (mulberry) and prickly pear.
Credited with spearheading modern winemaking on the Aeolian Islands, Carlo Hauner is an inadvertent hero in the story of the archipelago’s viticultural evolution. Back when the islands suffered from poor infrastructure, dwindling populations and few economic opportunities, the northern Italian painter bet on the south and purchased a home on Salina to serve as his painting studio.
He quickly became interested in experimenting with viticulture and began to cultivate Malvasia grapes in the hamlet of Lingua where the Hauner Winery is located today. Hauner’s Malvasia delle Lipari was first introduced at Vinitaly, Italy’s leading wine fair, in the 1970s and attracted interest from the acclaimed journalist and wine critic Luigi Veronelli who sealed the fate of the wine’s revival with an enthusiastic review, paving the path for future entrepreneurs to establish new wineries on the island.
Today, Hauner produces 10 labels, including an excellent Iancura, a dry Malvasia and Inzolia blend, Hierà, a velvety red with local Calabrese, Alicante and Nocera grapes, and three aged Malvasia delle Lipari passito wines. With over 120,000 bottles a year, the production is sizable for a small island. The grapes themselves are grown in two vineyards on Salina (in the town of Malfa and the Valdichiesa district) as well as the nearby island of Vulcano. Each evening, Hauner hosts a wine tour and tasting by appointment.
Set upon a promontory with views of Salina’s lush hills and glimmering sea, Capofaro Locanda & Malvasia is a wine boutique hotel that enophiles won’t want to miss during their stay on the Aeolian Islands. Owned by Tasca d’Almerita, a Sicilian noble winemaking family in its 8th generation, the sweeping estate takes its name from the 19th century lighthouse that rises above white-washed buildings and rows of vines that cascade into the sea. Capofaro is part of the Relais & Chateaux collection, promising a luxurious stay with bright suites that combine Aeolian architecture with sustainable design elements and private terraces.
Selected by Wine Enthusiast as the “European Winery of the Year” in 2019 for its commitment to sustainable viticulture, Capofaro is a conscientious ambassador of the Malvasia grape and produces two dry Malvasia wines (Didyme and Vigna di Paola) and a Malvasia delle Lipari passito with grapes grown on the estate and the nearby island of Vulcano. These wines, along with other labels from Tasca d’Almerita’s five estates around Sicily, can be sampled at Capofaro’s Wine Bar, featuring a new outdoor terrace set above the property’s panoramic “amphitheater” vineyard, and Capofaro’s gourmet pool-side restaurant helmed by chef Gabriele Camiolo.
In addition to guided walks through the estate’s vineyards, Capofaro offers thematic wine tastings focused on interpretations of the Grillo grape, rosé wines and single vineyard labels.
Stromboli, home to an active volcano which erupts every 20-30 minutes, is a truly unique destination. The island features black sand beaches, bright white homes and an impressive “Sciara del Fuoco” – a steep slope where lava descends from the crater. You can only admire it from the sea, so take a boat tour with Chez Peulo for a glimpse of this major tourist attraction before sailing over to Strombolicchio, a picturesque sea stack. You’ll also venture over to Ginostra, a charming borgo accessible only by sea, followed by a long flight of stairs into town. Only a dozen locals live here but it’s a popular spot to watch the sunset.
For a scenic lunch in town, grab a table at Bar Ingrid, named after Ingrid Bergman’s famous film Stromboli which spurred tourism on the archipelago in the 1950s. Nearby, artist Salvatore Russo creates expressive sculptures with lava stone in his home workshop. In the evening, make your way over to La Marina del Gabbiano, a boho chic spot where you can enjoy a Spritz with your toes in the sand, before making your way over to l’Osservatorio to admire Stromboli’s spectacular eruptions. Set on a panoramic terrace beneath the volcano, you can enjoy local specialties while Mount Stromboli erupts in the distance. Be sure to book ahead and secure a spot in the restaurant’s shuttle bus so you don’t have to make the trek up to dinner on foot.
See More: Where To Stay On The Aeolian Islands