Salina – the mountainous green heart of Sicily’s Aeolian Islands
There’s Italy, then there’s Sicily. And there’s Sicily and then there are the Aeolian islands (le isole Eolie). I’ve spent more than 5 summers on the islands and dozens more on the Sicilian ‘mainland’ and I just can’t get enough. The fusion of cultures, the architecture, the people, the landscape, the food. And the desserts. Almonds, pistacchio, ricotta, lemon. I could go on.
I’d been to Salina before (hell I almost broke my leg on the island about 8 years ago which led to a full ankle reconstruction and a delay to my move to Italy. But that’s another story!) but only for day trips. With friends on the bigger and more commercial island of Lipari, we’d usually spend most of our time there. But a long time ago I’d read about Capofaro Locanda and Malvasia Resort on Salina. I added it to my bucket list and finally, finally I’ve ticked it off. Yes – I’m one of those people who choose a destination because of a hotel or resort. Not all the time. But yep, that’s me!
The resort is 5 stars of pure luxury. A vineyard, gourmet restaurant, spectacular pool and decking, views of Stromboli and bespoke rooms and suites. These first few days of my summer holiday (and the first major break since writing I Heart Rome the book) were designed for rest and so we didn’t leave the resort much (well, also because you don’t really have to!) but here are some of my tips if you’re planning on a similar type of visit anytime soon.
We flew Rome to Reggio Calabria. The port is a 25 minute taxi ride away and Liberty Lines run a daily hydrofoil service to the Aeolian islands via Messina. You can also leave from Milazzo.
Capofaro Locanda and Malvasia
I can’t recommend this property enough. The location and setting is spectacular and the service was outstanding. The pool area is where we lounged all day and the restaurant was great at both lunch and dinner, serving refined dishes with the highest quality local ingredients – my favourite was their Aeolian club sandwich with tuna and capers. Golf buggies zip up and down the hill as you need, for transport through the vineyard from your room to reception or the restaurant, pool or relaxation area (complete with a wine installation and lifestyle and other books). There is wine tasting (they produce two labels here, including the renowned Malvasia of course!), massages, organised boat trips, a free shuffle to the port area – you name it and they can arrange it.
The rate for the period of our stay was: €560 / €810 for a junior suite (3 guests).
Martina Caruso is one of Italy’s youngest female Michelin Star chefs and Signum is her family’s playground. This boutique 4 star hotel is in Malfa on Salina and also boasts a luxurious day spa. We feasted on the 9 course tasting menu which is an ode to her roots and family memories. From rabbit stuffed pasta to local beef tartare to rock fish to veal cheeks, we did it all on this culinary journey that really left its mark on me. As usual, the dessert was one of the highlights – milk soup with coffee, chocolate and carob. 9 courses without wine: €130 per person.
With a terrace over looking the main port of Salina, Santa Marina, Porto Bello is unpretentious and outstanding seafood dining that just doesn’t disappoint. We started with the sauté of clams and mussels, a raw seafood platter (prawns with yoghurt, yellowfin tuna, tuna tartare and fish cake with caramelised onion) and fried, crumbed anchovies. Then I chose (on a friend’s recommendation) the involtini di pesce spada – stuffed, crumbed sword fish. To. Die. For. Same goes for the dessert – ricotta topped with locally produced honey and pistacchio. I rest my case. 3 courses with a glass of wine: €45
Sunset at Pollara
About a 20 minute drive from the resort, you’ll find Pollara. You can head here for the beach or do what we did – taxi down at about 8pm and catch the sunset. There’s a tiny kiosk, L’Oasi Snack Bar that serves simple dishes, cocktails and wine. They have a few tables in the garden space right by the church. There is also a caper farm in the area so great to explore during the day.
Walk through Santa Marina
The port area is the main developed part of the island – what you’d imagine, a city centre. It’s small with a main drag that has a a number of clothes, ceramics and accessories boutiques. We walked around at night, but I can only imagine the pretty glimpses of small town life it provides during the day.
Salina – with the trauma of injuring myself here years ago, you could say we didn’t get off to the best start. But I knew I had to come back. And I will, time and time again.
Signing off from Trastevere, but Salina dreaming,