Sicily - Aeolian Islands← Back to all destinations
Sicily has always seemed like a separate country. The Italians call their south the mezzogiorno, the land of the midday sun where things are done differently but Sicily is even more distant from the bureaucracy of Rome.
Here is a land midway between North Africa and Europe, of dark people with fiery passions and a disdain for anything not Sicilian. To the north of the island lies the crooking trigger finger of the Milazzo peninsular and scattered like buckshot are the volcanic Aeolian Islands; unique, sculpted by wind and fire, and, until very recently, untouched by the relative sophistication of the mainland.
The natural friendliness of the islanders has been eroded by the influx of tourism but for those on a yacht there are places to visit still caught in a time warp, accessible only by water where an affinity with the sea creates a common bond between yachtsman and locals.
Palermo and Catania are well served by international flights and a short drive north and east takes the guests to the coastal town of Milazzo. With its post-war sprawl and industrial heart, there is little to detain the visitor but the yacht lies close by in the harbour and it is short work to board, meet the crew and settle in. Generally connections from northern Europe arrive later in the day and the first night is frequently spent alongside.
Before leaving Milazzo, it is worth seeking out a traditional Sicilian breakfast of brioche and granita whose intensity of flavour, whether it be almonds or coffee or fruit, makes it an irresistible start to the day. But call of the seven Aeolian sirens is equally commanding and the yacht heads north for the island of Vulcano. The smouldering peak looms up through the morning haze with its regular hat of cloud as the yacht drops anchor off the southern side for a swim. Everywhere on the island evidences constant volcanic activity - in places the sea bubbles creating its own natural jacuzzi, elsewhere geysers belch out tiny eruptions of boiling mud. An afternoon sail to Porto Levante to go ashore.
A morning sail takes the guests to the largest island of the Aeolian chain. In complete contrast to Vulcano, the island of Lipari is lively and sophisticated with a beautiful castle overlooking Lipari town. Anchoring in the buzzing Marina Corta, wedged between the castle walls and a stone mole, close proximity to the church of the “Souls in Purgatory” is no deterrent to enjoying the pleasures of the bars and cafés lining the quayside. Smart shops and a clientele very much composed of beautiful people makes for an amusing wander around the town and a buzzing night scene to satisfy all interests.
An early morning departure for Panarea, smallest and prettiest of the islands, for a day of watersports and exploration. Although the most fashionable of the Aeolians, Panarea is also the most low-key with one paved road and electricity only installed within the last thirty years. Cala Junco is a lovely deep natural rock pool hemmed in by dark cliffs of outlandish volcanic prisms and nearby is Calcara beach, difficult to reach on foot but easy by boat. Here the sea and rocks are hot in places and steam rises from the ground. With its feet firmly in the sea, the island is known for fabulous fish and the catch of the day, simply grilled, is a dining experience not to be missed.
Today the volcanic activity literally hots up with a visit to Stromboli, the only truly active volcano in this otherwise dormant chain. Passing the northwest slopes of the cone, the lava flows directly into the sea. The destination is the capital of the island comprising the twin hamlets of San Bartolo and San Vincenzo. Tiny narrow streets and no vehicles (other than little three-wheeled carts) make this a magical place to wander around before enjoying a pre-prandial aperitivo. After dinner on board, the tenders take guests around to Stromboli’s north-west face where nightly the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” puts on a fabulous display of pyrotechnics.
The yacht sails for Isla Salina, the second largest of the Aeolian Islands and named after the abundance of saltpans once the backbone of the island economy. The island is very peaceful with a pair of tiny ports of which Sta Marina Salina is the destination today. Beautiful swimming coves and sleepy lanes bordered by yellow broom make this island a delightful stopover, its main claim to public fame as the location of the 1994 movie, “Il Postino”. It is renowned for some of the best food in the Mediterranean and glorious views in every direction. Overnight in the splendid bay of Pollara, one of the locations for Michael Radford’s movie.
A morning visit to the Grotta di Basalto, the loveliest cave in the Aeolians precedes a passage to the island of Vulcano where the isolated village of Gelso – almost inaccessible by land – is home to the Maniaci family whose tiny summer-only restaurant serves delicious fish. An afternoon swimming off the twin lighthouses of Faro Vecchio and Faro Nuovo is a fitting end to these unspoiled lands.
A last night in a peaceful anchorage precedes a morning sail returning to Milazzo and a transfer back to the airport.
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