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.
See More: Where To Stay On The Aeolian 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.
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.
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.
If you’re craving pizza, Franco Manca serves the best Neapolitan-style pies on the island, while next-door Da Alfredo makes excellent granita – try specialties like gelsi (mulberry) and prickly pear.
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