Once in a while you find a little piece of heaven on earth (forgive me for being schmaltzy here, it’s entirely appropriate in this context!). I found my paradise in Salina and because I am nice I shall share it with you.
Salina is one of the Unesco-protected Aolian Islands off the North-Eastern coast of Sicily. With its population of barely 2000 people and a diameter of around 4 km, it’s small and intimate and lovely. There are more famous Aeolian islands, such as Stromboli well-known for its volcano and black beaches, more exclusive and glamorous ones, like Panarea and livelier ones, such as Lipari.
I lost my heart in Salina though, which is the only one of the Aeolian islands that has fresh water and, as a result is lush and green and well-known for a range of agricultural produce. Malvasia, the famous sweet wine, is produced here and Salina is also home to juicy and fat capers that are used ubiquitously in Salina cuisine. As it is quite a pain to get there (take a 2 hour ferry from Milazzo) and it doesn’t boast of beautiful sandy beaches or crazy nightlife, Salina has retained much of its charm with small fishing villages with only few boutique hotels, excellent no fuss dining options and a very laid back atmosphere.
I started to relax as soon as I set food on the ground and after a few days on this tranquil island I felt infused with calm and, at the same time, energised and happy.
Where to sleep:
We stayed in Malfa in a beautiful and charming 3 star boutique hotel which I can’t recommend highly enough. Hotel Ravesi (Via Roma, 66 98050 Malfa Province of Messina, Italy
090 9844385) is family run and has only 14 rooms, partly with their own terrace, and a lovely negative edge pool with stunning views. The rooms are lovely and clean, the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful and, even though no dinner is served at the hotel, antipasti (made by the lady of the house personally) are free with the pre-dinner apéritif. I am certainly going stay at Hotel Ravesi again at my next visit!
Another option, just around the corner from Hotel Ravesi , is Hotel Signum (Via Scalo, 15 98050 Malfa, Salina, Isole Eolie, Italy Tel. 0039 090 9844222), a beautiful and stylish 4-star boutique hotel with a great (but expensive) restaurant and the most gorgeous spa I have ever seen. I had a world-class massage and very relaxing facial there.
Where to eat in Salina:
There is a very good little self-service café just 1 minute from Hotel Ravesi, on the village square. Cafe Malvasia (Via Roma, 33 Malfa, Province of Messina, Italy) is frequented by tourists, school children and Italians doing business lunches alike and they have a good choice of daily changing pasta, vegetables and arancini as well as gargantuan breads with different toppings.
In Malfa itself, there is only Hotel Signum that provides a great dining option. It is just a bit too pricey to eat there every night and if you want to have amazing (I mean AMAZING!) seafood, head to the slightly more touristy village of Santa Marina (take the bus or a cab, around 15 pounds for the cab) and eat at Porto Bello (Via Bianchi 1, 98050 Salina, Italy). In fact Porto Bello was so nice it deserves its own post. Watch this space!
How to get there:
Hydrofoils from Milazzo – Uscita Lines
Milazzo is the main departure point for the Aeolian Islands with several hydrofoils leaving daily throughout the year. Crossings take between 45mins to 3 hours depending on which island you are heading for. It takes about 2 hours to get to Salina. Uscita Line website is very comprehensive.