The Aeolian Islands


The seven islands and various islets that make up the Aeolian Archipelago have always remained rather “off the chart”, but in recent years large yachts have been dropping anchor in ever-increasing numbers. The Aeolians have quietly been evolving as an enclave for those escaping the parties, invitations and formalities of elsewhere in favour of an effortless, bohemian kind of chic.

The Aeolians became a world heritage site in 2000, so a superyacht marina is off the cards. Steep, unforgiving terrain has kept development to a minimum, and – apart from the addition of water and electricity in the eighties – little has changed. This has nurtured a laid-back, hippy-intellectual scene where a powerful sense of nature exists. Add to this the great food and wine available, and these islands become even more alluring.

Most choose to arrive by helicopter from Sicily, which can be a high-octane experience. Slaloming between island peaks and hanging in the sulphur-filled air over Stromboli’s crater will no doubt draw gasps and get hearts racing. Consider re-establishing serenity by touching down on the manicured lawn of Capofaro Malvaisa Resort where you can pop in for an open-air massage with Mount Etna brooding in the distance.

The resort is located on Salina Island, a superb central starting point from which to explore the Aeolians (the neighbouring islands lying no more than a couple of hours away in each direction). Salina’s whitewashed buildings and flat, pink roofs are distinctly Aeolian, and so too are the rustic restaurants which serve the simplest, most delicious food. The island is also home to ‘Il Postino’ beach, famed as the setting for that movie’s most poignant moments.

The wild and wonderful island of Filicudi lies to the southeast of Salina; here, you can circumnavigate the island, swim the grottos and head ashore to what’s known as the “Yachting Club”. This easy-going restaurant serves the freshest “crudi di pesca” and fantastic wines. Its tables are perched on decking suspended over the sea, and in the evening this is the perfect spot to enjoy cocktails and music under the stars.

At Stromboli you can hike up the volcano – it’s worth the climb because you get to run down afterwards which is rather like moonwalking. Potter around the island’s village, which has developed an eclectic, bohemian scene of its own, then back onboard at sunset you can whoop and toast the volcano’s explosions. The deckhands, meanwhile, will be praying you don’t choose to spend the night here – it’s likely the yacht will be covered in ash by morning.

Look out for Panarea’s rocky hillsides, which are softened by wild caper bushes, violets, vines and hibiscus. The south is uninhabited, and this is the best place to swim. You can go ashore for coffee or an icy Granita, or just loll near the dark golden beach of Zimmari for a few hours. By sundown Panarea comes into it’s own: the simple, beachy and understated atmosphere found at Hotel Raya, Bridge and Bar Del Porto is reminiscent of St Tropez in its heyday. The owner of Raya has gone to some lengths to maintain the modest 2-star hotel rating, knowing that simplicity and consistency are what define this place.

In short, the Aeolians make you feel closer to the sea, closer to nature and allow you time to think and breathe. Here, the adage that ‘less is more’ is perfectly apt.

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