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.
Planning an escape to the Aeolian Islands in Sicily may conjure up images of sailboats, skippers and yacht charters. But for those who prefer to explore the islands by day – and sleep on dry land by night – the archipelago offers an array of charming hotels, resorts and catered apartments that will entice even the most discerning seafarers.
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.
where to stay: Aeolian Charme Collection
For a perfect introduction to the archipelago, don’t miss the chance to stay with the Aeolian Charme Collection: a group of 4 hotels, restaurants and event spaces on the island of Lipari. Owned and operated by Sarah Tomasello and her husband Emanuele Carnevale, two locals and true hospitality experts, the properties are located in some of the most alluring parts of the island.
Hotel Mea, an elegant property within walking distance of the centro storico, is home to Ristorante Chimera where you can enjoy authentic Sicilian flavors in a romantic setting. Start with an Aeolian antipasto platter for a taste of the islands and order the make-your-own-cannolo for dessert. Hotel Villa Enrica, a popular place for weddings and events, has a panoramic infinity pool that looks out onto Lipari’s impressive medieval castle. And for those who prefer to be steps from the beach, Hotel Cutimare is a haven of solitude close to the island’s pumice-stone canyons.
An added benefit of staying with the Aeolian Charm Collection? You’ll have access to Sarah Tomasello, a true ambassador of the archipelago who is passionate about sharing her wealth of knowledge with guests in person and on Instagram.
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.
where to stay: Therasia resort
Watching the sun set from the Therasia Resort, a luxurious hideaway on the island of Vulcano, is reason enough to visit the Aeolian islands. With a picturesque infinity pool, access to the beach and terrace suites with private hot tubs, it makes for an unforgettable stay. The Therasia Resort has four restaurants, including Michelin-starred Il Cappero, helmed by the ambitious young chef Giuseppe Biuso who reinterprets local dishes in a creative way. For a fun evening, dine at I Tenerumi, the resort’s new vegetarian restaurant that serves its dishes in a gourmet picnic style, seated on cushions overlooking the sea. Each course is paired with a cocktail, craft beer, or sake. I wouldn’t be surprised if I Tenerumi earns its own star in the future.
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.
where to stay: hotel signum
Hotel Signum, located in the lush hills of Salina, is certainly one of the most curated properties in the archipelago. The family-owned property was born in 1988 when Clara Rametta and Michele Caruso began to renovate a group of old homes. Today, the hotel is managed by their children, Luca and Martina. You can really feel the Sicilianità – the spirit of Sicily – throughout the hamlet.
Clara sources unique furnishings for the hotel’s suites and quirky common areas, while Luca manages the property and oversees its remarkable wine cellar (home to over 1,000 labels). Martina, one of Italy’s youngest Michelin-starred chefs, is behind the hotel’s excellent Ristorante Signum which serves garden-to-table dishes on the property’s outdoor terrace. Breakfast is also a stand-out. Everything from the freshly-made granita with sweet brioche, to the omelets and cheese plates, is delicious – especially when served in the comfort of your own private terrace.
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.
where to stay: Il Gabbiano Relais
With serviced apartments, rooftop terraces and a tropical pool, Relais Il Gabbiano is a stylish oasis 5-minutes from the sea in Stromboli. Billed as an “ApartHotel”, it’s a novel accommodation where you can enjoy the luxury of space (and a fully-equipped kitchenette) along with the services and amenities of a hotel – including daily cleaning and breakfast delivered to your door. Il Gabbiano has an on-site chef available for meals, so you can arrange for a private dinner by the pool during your stay. The communal setting also lends itself to celebrations and retreats.
The property is owned and managed by Federica Masin and her husband Vito Russo, two innovators and consummate hosts who have launched numerous enterprises on the island. Their latest addition, Il Gabbiano Mare, is a fun hangout near the beach that comes alive during aperitivo hour. Like the Relais, it features bohemian vibes with elegant details – and striking paintings of Stromboli’s volcanic eruptions created by Federica herself.