06 Jun 10 Reasons To Love The Aeolian Islands
One of Europe’s best kept secrets, protected by UNESCO heritage designation and fiercely guarded from further development, the eight Aeolian Islands off the toe of Italy are home to stylish but discreet small seaside hotels, incredible seafood, and, of course, some of the world’s most beautiful waters for swimming and yachting. Many superyachts pass by these islands en route from the Amalfi Coast to Sicily, or vice versa, so why not add a couple of extra days to your Southern Italian cruising itinerary, and explore…
1 THE SETTING FOR THE CLASSIC FLICK IL POSTINO. Whenever I miss the Aeolian Islands, I download this Italian classic from 1994 to see Salina in all its cinematic glory. This verdant gem of an island, with its small fishing villages and idyllic seaside vistas, is as much the inspiration in this film, as the story of a love struck postman inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poetry.
2 APERITIVO AT THE HOTEL RAYA. Sunset drinks on the terrace of this hip hotel on Panarea with panoramic views is a must and draws a beautiful international crowd. Imagine a glowing sun disappearing into the crystal sea in the shadow of centuries old olive trees. Oh and don’t forget to pick out a Batik print kaftan at the hotel’s treasure trove boutique down by the port. www.hotelraya.it
3 POOL AT THE CAPOFARO RESORT. Surrounded by vineyards and sitting by the sea, Salina’s Capofaro has lots to offer, including a superb restaurant. But the asset I fell most in love with was their swimming pool, a blue oasis with seemingly endless and perfect views of Panarea and Stromboli. After lying in a white day lounger for an hour or two, I find it too hard to go anywhere else. Check them out www.capofaro.it
4 INTO THE DEEP. These waters, particularly near the volcanic island of Stromboli, have some of the best dive sites in Italy thanks to the series of protected reefs – and a quick drop off from the islands. Schedule a rendezvous with dive outfit La Sirenetta and head to the Sciara del Fuoco where a lava wall drops thousands of feet. www.lasirenettadiving.it
5 SEAFOOD AT CAFÉ ’NNI LAUSTA. There is one reason I always head to this portside gem on Salina. For one dish in fact, the delicate tuna tartare with wild island capers, accompanied by a crisp glass of white wine. It’s a taste that is enough to launch a whole voyage.
6 THE UNSPOILED COASTLINE OF FILICUDI. For epic undeveloped stretches, look no further than this island, a hideaway for artists and writers since the 1970s and a refuge where (rumour has it) even Robert de Niro is thinking about buying a holiday home. Don’t miss the Grotta del Bue Marino and the secluded, crystal clear coves on the northwest of the island.
7 HOME GROWN VINTAGE. Around since ancient times, Malvasia di Lipari is a DOC made almost exclusively of Malvasia Bianco grapes (a little Corinto Nero is also allowed but only up to 5%). The result spans from a well-regarded, dry easy drinking
wine to a rich, sweet post-dinner drink.
8 TAKING THE BATHS. Even the Romans knew about the secret powers of natural baths, from beautification to detoxification. Follow their lead on the island of Vulcano, where first you cover yourself with purifying mud from top to toe and then rinse off in the sea nearby. Just ignore the sulphur smell, which permeates the whole island.
9 STEP BACK IN TIME. Alicudi, the westernmost island of the lot is covered with wild heather and has only 120 inhabitants. The whole place seems untouched by modernity. I always reserve a table at the terrace of the unassuming Hotel Ericusa (the only hotel and restaurant on the island) and snack on catch-of-the-day seafood like Aeolian squid or local fish soup. Tel: +39 090 988 9902
10 NATURAL FIREWORKS. One of Italy’s three active volcanoes, Stromboli last blew its top in 2009. Depending on the violence of the frequent eruptions, it is possible to climb up to see the volcanic action with a local guide. Or you can simply see the spectacular show from your yacht – wait until it’s truly dark and sit back to watch the cascade of fire and sparks which have given the island the moniker “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”