Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, a dreamy seven island archipelago in the province of Messina. Just off the northeast coast of Sicily, Lipari can be easily reached in one hour with a high speed aliscafo ferry. When planning my trip, I scouted through Instagram (as you do) and found two amazing contacts to help me with my summer adventures: Aeolian Islands expert and generous luxury hotelier, Sarah Tomasello, and Claudio Cafarella, a charming Messina native who owns a group of cozy hillside guest houses overlooking the island of Vulcano. The moment I arrived, I was reminded that like in many holiday destinations, there are two very different types of travelers; those who want the perks and those who want an adventure. I spent the week with both of them and got the inside scoop on the island to be sure to be able to plan the perfect vacation for any type of guest.
Visitors arrive in the port of Lipari either with a sailboat or on the ferry, since it is the main hub of the Aeolian Islands, the largest and liveliest. If you quickly spend just a few hours in the port, grab a granita at Pasticceria D’Ambra, a sandwich from Enopaninoteca Gilberto e Vera or a tried-and-true meal at Ristorante da Filippino, you unfortunately won’t be able to grasp just how wonderful and diverse this island really is. Lipari has a lively buzz in summertime with beach parties and DJ sets at the Coral or White Beach clubs, shopping at small artisan boutiques like Made in Lipari and Mollo Tutto, a cozy night sipping Sicilian natural wines at the brand new Osteria San Bartolo across from the yacht harbor in Marina Lunga, or live music and chic hand-crafted cocktails in the garden of the Giardino di Lipari.
When traveling to Lipari, you’ll need a method of transportation whether it’s a motorino or a rental car. Maybe I need to repeat that again. I spent my week in Lipari without either and guess what, it was not recommended, and after trying it, I agree it was a bad choice. I trekked, sweat, hitch-hiked with local contadini and traversed the island on foot, for a week and although I left with a killer suntan and sore culo, you will be a much happier camper if you have a motor bike. For accommodations, we have to think again about what kind of traveler you might be. Hotel Mea and Villa Enrica are both 4-star hotels under the Aeolian Charme hospitality group, located within walking distance from Lipari’s town center, each with its own swimming pool and panoramic views of the Marina Lunga. Villa Paradiso is a group of mountaintop guest houses with views of Vulcano, Sicily and even Mount Etna, beloved by solo and international travelers who want a peaceful getaway outside of the main town.
This lush green island is also perfect for those looking for a nature escape. I met up with Flavia Grita from the Nesos Association, an expert-led trekking organization that offers hikes, nature walks, birdwatching, and foraging experiences on all of the Aeolian Islands with a base here in Lipari. Flavia and her trusted sidekick, Lucio the donkey, led us on an early evening walk through the old volcanic crater between Monte Guardia and Monte Gallina to check out the terraced vineyards lined with pre-phylloxera corinto nero grape vines, wild blackberry bushes, prickly pear cacti and magenta bougainvillea.
Italians always seem to take their holidays in August, so even if this is the best period to use up a few vacation days out of the office, visiting a small Italian island like Lipari can be even more enjoyable in May, June or September. Whether you take a walk through the dusty white pomice canyons, get lost in the hillside districts of Quattropani and Pianoconte, browse through the Bronze Age and volcanic geology sections of the Bernabò Brea Museum, or catch the perfect sunset at the Tenuta di Castellaro winery, you’ll discover that Lipari has a more diverse range of experiences compared to the other smaller islands.
The Aeolian Islands can best be explored with an island-hopping sailing adventure, and maybe that’s why Lipari is sadly overlooked and just used as a quick stopover. The isolani local islanders are extremely welcoming and friendly, the mix of sand and stone beaches are exceptional, and Lipari’s food and wine scene is starting to evolve in an exciting way. Add it to your bucket list and uncover all that hidden Lipari has to offer.
Liberty Lines – aliscafo fast-ferry service amongst the Aeolian Islands and from Milazzo, Palermo, Messina, Reggio Calabria
Pit Stop Noleggio – motorino and car rentals near the port of Lipari
Noleggio da Lorenzo – motorino rentals in Canneto
Taxi Service da Simone – +39 333 3143066
Cheeky Charter – weeklong Aeolian Island sailing trips
Ristorante da Filippino in Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini
Enopaninoteca Gilberto e Vera
Spiaggia Acquacalda – black stone beach on the north coast overlooking Salina and Panarea
Spiaggia Valle Muria – secluded black stone beach reachable by boat or a 25-minute walking trail down to the sea
Spiagge Bianche – white sand dune beach located just north of the main beach in Canneto
Cave di Pomice – white pumice stone canyons and white sand beaches in Porticello
Nesos – expert-led trekking and geo-volcanic experiences, panoramic nature walks, birdwatching, and foraging excursions
Made in Lipari – Daniela Billi’s chic artisan boutique on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi
Mollo Tutto – casual nautical-themed brand with the carefree motto “throw it all away”, by fashion designer Natalie Rossi
Linda Sarris is a food/wine travel consultant and private chef based in Palermo, Sicily. From her sun-lit kitchen studio above the 1,000 year-old Ballarò food market, Linda works as a freelance writer, social media manager, and culinary communications consultant while still traveling regularly for private chef work with clients in the fashion and music industries. Under her brand, @thecheekychef, she is self-publishing a Sicilian food and wine ‘zine and curates a series of Mediterranean culinary/lifestyle retreats and travel experiences. Her first book will be published in 2021 with Hachette Book Group.