This is a story about Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. But it’s also a story about slowing down and learning to enjoy ‘being’ in a place rather than ‘doing’ a place.
I’d been wanting to visit the Aeolian islands for many years, ever since an ex-boyfriend (also Italian) sent me a postcard from Lipari.
When I was planning the trip I thought long and hard about whether to stay on Lipari (more to do) or Salina (more laid back). I consulted the trip advisor forums for the islands whose advice steered me in the direction of Salina, but truth be told it was this photo that did it, simply because it reminded me of Procida, a tiny island in the gulf of Naples that I’d fallen in love with the year before.Read more about Procida here.
First impressions were good. It’s pretty, quiet and quaint, and it did look a bit like Procida.White washed houses splashed with colour and decorated with tiles line tiny laneways. They all feature deep verandas, rattan shades and breezy curtains, and many have kitchens/dining rooms completely open to the street (and my beady eye), and are also blessed with a beautiful sea view.
As soon as I arrive in a new place I can’t wait to explore, so after we met our host family and dumped our bags we set off on foot to explore our village, Santa Marina Salina.
Town consists of one long-ish street, and there’s not much to it, but it’s nice to wander through and look in the shops, and of course poke your nose into the church.
A bit further along there’s a pebbly beach, with (surprisingly expensive) sunbeds and umbrellas.But to see anything else you need a car or scooter. So on day two we hired a car and set off to explore the rest of the island. This is a map of our travels.
1 – Lingua. There’s not much there apart from a rocky port, some salt pans, an abandoned lighthouse, and a few cafes. We stopped in at the famous da Alfredo for granita which was OK but not worth raving about in my book.2 – Malfa. A few interesting shops but that’s about it. We didn’t spend long here.(NB Other people rave about Malfa if they’re staying in one of the fancy hotels, so don’t write it off if that’s your thing).
3 – Rinella consists of a quaint collection of houses that tumble down to the sea, with fishing boats on the black sand beach. We stopped off for a swim and a brush with the medusa**The waters around the island, while clear and inviting, are also home to ‘medusa’, little stinging jellyfish with red legs. We later learnt people tend to swim wearing masks so they can avoid them. We also saw people scooping them out with small fishing nets but didn’t realise why until I was stung by one which sent everyone else sprinting for the sand. Wear goggles if you’re going for a swim!
Strangely, we didn’t see many people around, even though it’s Sunday. Maybe they’re all in church. Although if there had been one, I’m sure I would have found it.
After our swim (and once the pain subsided from the medusa sting) we lucked out on finding a tiny bar serving home-made food. One free table. Just us and the locals. Delicious.
4 – Pollara. On the way there we stopped at what we thought was a castle – which turned out to be an abandoned lighthouse which you can walk right up close to.
And go inside… looks like someone’s set up a bar in here!The lookout nearby has spectacular views down the very steep cliff to the famous beach from the film Il Postino, which we admired from above. No way were we going down (and back up) all that way in the heat.It was at this point we realised we’d already seen just about everything there is to see on Salina, and we had five more days here.
How were we going to fill in the time?
Normally I’d just change plans and cut it short but we’d already paid for the accommodation and the ferry back to Palermo. What to do?
Plan B – leaving the island on day trips
So what we decided to do was venture further afield, and did two day trips to Lipari on the ferry and a day-long boat trip to the outer islands of Filicudi and Alicudi. You can read a short version of our trip here in My Sicily Top 10
We also tried to do an evening trip to Stromboli to see the volcano erupting at night, but it was cancelled due to the windy weather and choppy seas.
Plan C – not doing much at all
Plan C wasn’t really a plan as such, because it wasn’t done consciously – it just happened. We stopped needing to see and do things and just enjoyed the ambiance. We strolled places, looked in shops, went for swims, people watched, chatted to locals, had cocktails and sat on our gorgeous deck and admired the view.Chatting to the locals turned out to be a lot of fun because in Salina there’s a strong connection to Australia. In the 1890s an epidemic of phylloxera devastated over 90% of Salina’s vineyards, ruining livelihoods and pushing many to migrate to Australia. So when someone asks where you’re from and you say Australia, they say ‘Sydney or Melbourne?’ In fact the owner of a bar we frequented grew up in Leichhardt, where I lived for many years!
So in the end, Salina was just what we needed at the end of a long trip. Just being.
We hired a car from Rent Bongiorno, Via Risorgimento, 240, S. Marina Salina
We did boat trips to Filicudi and Alicudi with Salina Relax Boats
We stayed at B&B Barbaro, Via Rotabile Lingua 10, 98050 Santa Marina Salina
Where we ate
We had some great meals on Salina, here are some of the places we visited
A Cannata, via Umberto I, 13 Lingua
Da Alfredo, via Marina Garibaldi, Lingua
La Vela, via Fusorgimento 135/139 S. Marina Salina
Porto Bello, Via Lungomare 2, S. Marina Salina +390909843125 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mamma Santina, Via Santina 40, S. Marina Salina
Bars we frequented
La Vela, via Fusorgimento 135/139 S. Marina Salina
I Cinque Balcone, Via Risorgimento, 36, 98050 S. Marina Salina. Also a hotel.
Until next time, happy travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni