Aeolian Islands, discover the secluded beauty of Italy’s best kept secret, just off the coast of Sicily
Italy is a famous and long-time favourite holiday destination for many, and yet the Aeolian Islands are often dismissed despite their unique beauty. Sometimes, it can feel as if tourists from all around the world have already discovered the best of this beautiful country. In fact, the symbolic, postcard-perfect images of the Amalfi Coast can appear to be nothing more than a generic photograph. Well-seasoned lovers of all things Italian may find themselves craving something ineffable, something more. The trend of island-hopping might just hold the answer to discovering the Aeolian Islands in a more exciting way.
The thrill of finding a tucked-away village or secret curve of perfect golden sand can make your trip truly magical. Travelers looking for the perfect holiday destination in southern Italy might initially think of Sicily and Puglia. Thus, their larger neighbors often overshadow the small yet beautiful Aeolian and Egadi Islands. However, a whole new paradise will greet those travelers who venture out to these parts. Here you will find tiny rocky inlets, picturesque fishing villages and some of Italy’s clearest turquoise water. Each island moreover has its own unique personality to discover and fall in love with.
Filicudi House View
This little-known volcanic island is the hidden gem of the Aeolian Islands, set in the lapis lazuli Tyrrhenian Sea. You will find it roughly 40 kilometres northeast of its famous cousin Sicily, making up part of the province of Lipari. Filicudi Port lies at the centre of the island, where the ferry from nearby Palermo docks. Here (unlike on the rest of the island) you’ll also find shops, restaurants and bars. We recommend the gelato at the cute little bar, Santamaria. Within you will discover unusual yet delicious flavours, such as jasmine.
The volcanic flares from Stromboli, another of the Aeolian Islands, on the distant horizon light up this charming little port at night. Here you’ll also find the Delfini rental company, where you can hire boats and transport to get around this remote paradise. They also offer diving equipment for any keen scuba divers. We recommend that you travel by scooter, as public transport doesn’t serve some of the island’s most beautiful sports. Why not immerse yourself in local culture, and rent out one of the traditional gozzo fishing boats? With these you can head off to explore the island’s many secret coves!
You can stop at any point on the island’s coastline to admire the Filicudi’s famously clear waters. Locals, however, all head to the volcanic rocks at Le Punte to soak up the sun and snorkel. To enjoy the most spectacular sunset on the island, head to the Belvedere walkway near Pecorini village. Look out over the volcanic cone of Alicudi and relish the moment the sea turns pink and gold before your eyes.
Those interested in the island’s ancient history, will greatly enjoy a visit to the prehistoric village on Capo Graziano. Here at the hill’s summit you’ll discover the ancient circular bases that formed the base of the dwellings of the island’s first residents. Continue on to the remote and abandoned village of Zucco Grande, another fascinating place of ruins. Those who fall in love with its eerie magic are drawn back again and again.
For an unforgettable meal out, we recommend heading to the most typical restaurant on the island, La Sirena. You will find it in Pecorini village, and can enjoy a taste of traditional local seafood dishes, as well as their speciality, pasta with almond sauce.
Cala de Junco, Panarea
Known as the smallest and most exclusive of the Aeolian Islands, Panarea is even tinier than Filicudi. It is a true paradise for nature lovers. Its stunning landscapes exhibit many natural caves carved out by the waves. Over the years, the elements have created the perfect environment for sea fauna to flourish. This makes Panarea a true snorkelling haven!
The traditional white houses that punctuate the island’s coastline shimmer in the bright sunlight, the glare reflecting on the water. Its most unique aspect is the fact that it is completely pedestrianised, with no roads large enough for cars to cross its interior. While this can initially seem inconvenient, it adds to Panarea’s charm, and exploring on foot or by boat is by far the best way to get around.
Those looking for a scuba diving adventure can take group trips out to dive down to a local shipwreck and explore. Back on dry land, set out to follow one of the nature trails that criss cross the island, taking in panoramic views of the coastline.
Similarly to Filicudi, Panarea has its own fascinating slice of ancient history in the form of a partially-excavated Bronze Age village. Close to Punta Milazzese, this settlement is well worth the 30 minute walk, and you could even stumble upon an undiscovered treasure, given the site’s many unexplored and uncategorised sections.
While options for dining out are somewhat limited, we recommend the fresh seafood dishes and welcoming atmosphere at Trattoria Da Pina.
This volcanic island, located north of Sicily, makes for one of the more fascinating and unusual Aeolian Islands. Here you can witness and marvel at the site of an active volcano, which has been active almost continuously for the last 2000 years. The most recent major eruption took place in 2009. While this may sound off-putting, this island’s unstable nature has created a stunning landscape that is well worth visiting. Black sand beaches are lapped by bright blue seas, and dramatic cliff tops plunge down into the waves. Eruptions are regular but minor, and in general do not affect day-to-day life on the island. The most common occurrence is the emission of tiny spurts of lava up into the night sky. Visitors can relish this harmless and natural firework display. This phenomenon can be witnessed safely and provides an unforgettable backdrop to your Aeolian getaway!
Hiking the volcano is a thrilling holiday experience. There are many certified ‘volcano guides’ that offer tours of the peaks and craters. We recommend calling the island’s tourist information office to find a trusted expert. You can even continue your exploration of Stromboli’s natural history by taking a scuba diving trip down to the underwater volcanic ridge. The plentiful marine life that thrives here will not disappoint! Contact diving club La Sirenetta for more information.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing day out, you can enjoy a therapeutic hot mud treatment. The mineral-rich muds lend themselves perfectly to this, and you’ll leave feeling invigorated and refreshed. Alternatively, head off on foot to explore the unspoiled greenery of the island’s interior. Moreover, no cars are allowed on Stromboli, so you’ll have the tiny roads to yourself. Why not take a break in a tiny village square for lunch in a local restaurant? We also recommend heading down to the sun-drenched cafés that line the harbour for a late breakfast. Try out the delicious Italian coffee and cornetti, before picking up a picnic with you to explore the island.
In the evening make your way to the outdoor terrace of L’Osservatorio, a pizzeria that’s a little out of town but certainly worth the 30 minute walk. Tuck into a tasty pizza and enjoy the best views of the volcano on the island, as your evening meal is lit up by the natural fireworks on Stromboli’s horizon. The Aeolian Islands are unique in offering this beautiful, breathtaking spectacle.
Stromboli: Ferries run to Stromboli from Messina, Naples, Milazzo and Reggio Calabria.
Panarea: Panarea is only accessible by ferry or private boat. There are regular connections from the larger island of Lipari, which in turn can be reached by ferry from Milazzo. Ferries also run from Naples, Reggio Di Calabria, Messina and Palermo.
Filicudi: Daily ferries run across to Filicudi from Palermo or Milazzo, though regularity and timings depend on the season.