There is a group of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea that embodies Italian culture with its ancient Greek past.
Reaching the Aeolian Islands is pretty straightforward if departing from Sicily. International flights to Palermo and Catania operate daily but fare prices vary depending on the time of travel ie summer. Flying to Catania shortens the journey in order to reach the ferry port at Milazzo (approximately one hour by boat). From Palermo, the ferry ride takes around four hours.
There are a few carriers available from Milazzo to Lipari – I took Liberty Lines – but I found little difference between them when it came to price. An important thing to note is the timetable when travelling during public holidays. Every year on 15 August is a public holiday called Ferragosto, where transport services are either reduced or closed. There is the occasional bus or train that still operates on Ferrogosto, but be prepared for long waits and unreliable timetables. Taxis are expensive in Sicily, so plan ahead, or better yet avoid, wherever possible.
Where to stay
August is traditionally holiday time for many Italians, meaning that accommodation (particularly the popular places) will be booked in advance. Renting self-catering apartments in areas such as Acquacalda is quite popular – particularly if they’re in close proximity to a beach. Busy places like Taormina tend to get booked up fairly quickly, so you need to be quick if you see something you want. Alternative accommodation sites like Airbnb and Homeandaway are also worth checking out for a local, and pocket-friendly deal.
What can I see/do?
The name ‘Aeolian’ is Greek in heritage, in honour of the first settlers that came to call the island their home. That said, you’ll probably spot the classic white dome stone houses commonly found on a Greek island on your travels around Lipari. Exploring Lipari can be divided into two parts: land and sea. For the former, I suggest renting a moped or another form of motor vehicle. The costs are reasonable depending on what you choose, and it gives you the freedom to explore Lipari at your own leisure.
Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani
Scooting around Lipari by bike/car is in itself a perfect day trip. Head towards Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani, an old church situated high in the north of Lipari. This old yet beautiful church sits high in the hilltops, but it’s the surrounding views that steal the show. It’s the ‘wow’ effect that forces you to stop and pay attention. Word to the wise: the view is best enjoyed with a big slice of quiet married with clear blue skies.
Lipari Osservatorio Geofisico
My other must see is the Lipari Osservatorio Geofisico. The building is, as the name suggests, an observatory, meaning that the viewing point should be impressive – and it is. The observatory is the highest point of the island, and offers a tranquil if windy side of Lipari. It is the ideal place to grab a moment of peace and clarity, but more importantly, to take in the magnificent sights of the neighbouring Aeolian Islands.
Town centre: Lipari
There is absolutely no question that you must visit the historical town centre. Walking through the narrow colourful streets and finding hidden passages is one of the simplest yet most enjoyable things to do.
The residential streets are full of historical churches and apartment buildings with Baroque-style architecture. Pay particular attention to the buildings where they have tried to recreate the historic style (eg the pillars) – but with far less authenticity.
Lipari town centre has everything you’d expect from a small island: restaurants, bars, cafes, and a new found love of mine, rosticcerias.
Mancia E Fui
You can only find rosticcerias in Sicily, so don’t pass by without paying a visit. Mancia E Fui is a good place to start. Try a traditional Arancini with Ragu (stuffed rice ball with tomato-based meat sauce and cheese). Alternatively, the focaccia (the Sicilian version of pizza) is superb and is worthy of a slice or two.
A short walk from the town centre is Marina Corta. You can easily identify the marina from the large statue of Saint Bartholomew (San Bartolomeo) as you enter the piazza. The piazza is home to many restaurants and cafes overlooking the sea. At night, the area lights up with market stalls on the steps leading to the church called Chiesa delle Anime del Purgatorio. Marina Corta is perfect for warm summer evenings, sipping on a chilled glass of vino and enjoying the view.