Italy’s Aeolian Islands – Dazzling Pearls in the Ocean
The gorgeous Aeolian Islands are perhaps more famous because Giorgio Armani had a villa on one of them! Panarea was the island where the celebrated fashion designer resided. This is the smallest in the group of the seven islands, viz. Lipari (the largest), Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Alicudi, Filicudi, Basiluzzo and Panarea, which are off the Sicilian Coast. This island has lanes studded with boutiques and the villa of Armani has witnessed numerous photo shoots of high fashion types. But even if the villa had not been there, the island would still be famous for its relaxing atmosphere, seclusion and privacy, cool breezes and all-night nightclubs, like that of Hotel Raya!
Actually Panarea personifies the seven islands though they have some or the other feature of their own. E.g. the neighboring Stromboli is famous for its constantly erupting volcano, sometimes even every 15 minutes and attracting visitors at night to see its currents of red lava flowing from its sides. This island too has a celebrity-story attached to it, when years back a film with the same name was shot there and its director Roberto Rossellini and star Ingrid Bergman fell in love with each other! The house shared by the couple and the nearby Café Bergman are the witnesses of the romance. The café offers fantastic views of the harbor and also a great ‘pizza fantastica’! Again, Stromboli too has a fashion link in form of the villa and yacht of Dolce and Gabbana, who don’t seem to be concerned about being destroyed by the volcano!
Salina on the other hand has ample greenery, agriculture, mountains and vineyards, hot springs and also its locally made sweet wine Malvasia and caper fields. You need to travel through extremely winding mountain roads to explore this island. But if you keep on enjoying the luxuries presented by one of the hotels on the island, like Hotel Signum, located just ear the hot springs, with its spa pools, restaurant serving mouthwatering dishes and a beautiful ambience to give excellent views from your balcony, you may laze around there itself, rather than exploring the island!
Vulcano is the southernmost of the seven islands and comes first after you start from Sicily’s mainland in a ferry. There are some hotels here, the locations of which are amazing. E.g. hotel Theresia sits on a peninsula, overlooking freestanding rock formations, the faraglioni, that are just off the island of Lipari. Hotel Theresia’s specialty is the natural materials used to build it, like lava rocks from Mt. Etna, local olivewood and Sicilian terra cotta. Its rooms are made from cedar wood and have huge terraces offering panoramas of sea. It has a swimming pool and a helipad too. The hotel has many restaurants, serving amazing grilled seafood, linguine of mussels and sweet clams, variety of mixed salads and pizzas that make your day.
Spa treatments offered on the islands use local stuff like black sand scrub from the beaches and Lipari’s farm honey. But the most remarkable is a sulfur-containing mud which you can avail in a community pond located in the main town.
The resorts also offer boats to take a ride around the island and admire the coves, grottoes and other volcano-induced islands.
You can access these dreamland-like islands, if not in a helicopter, in a ferry from Sicily’s mainland. You should necessarily stop at least overnight at Taormina. There are some hotels and restaurants here which will certainly delight you. E.g. Hotel Imperiale is a roof restaurant located high on the hill and offering breathtaking panoramas of the sea. Another very special hotel is Grand Hotel Timeo, which is 140 year old. It is located near the Greek amphitheatre. It has amazing rooms full of antiques and a restaurant which will astound you with its ambience and delicious dishes.