Palermo was the starting point of our journey to the Aeolian Islands. O'Scia B&B was chosen for its strategic location near the Stazione Centrale. Plane, Bus, train and boat were the means of transport to reach the islands. Ryanair was on time and yes, you get what you pay. The shuttle bus from airport to Stazione Centrale is stationed few steps on the right side of the airport exit. 6,10 euro per person, paid to the driver. We will have a full day in Palermo on our return so we just found a place for a dinner and went to bed. Our room was spacious and clean, and breakfast tasty and filling. Oner told us not to rely too heavily on the train schedule; we decided to take the 9:10 local to Milazzo but found the 8:05 express still waiting at the station. We boarded it, and when he finally departed 15 min later, we were the only satisfied customers on board. The rest of the crowd expresses their unhappiness in typical italian fashion: loud words and meaningful hand signs. Two and a half hour later the train arrived at the small station above Milazzo, where a bus has to be taken to the port. Don't worry, there is only one bus stop for only one bus line and this ione is directly to the port (btw, it is no.5). There is a schedule posted stating that the is a bus every 30 -45 min. Only 10 min later we arrived at the port. On one side of the street there are offices of the ferry companies. We opted for Siremar; first departure was already sold out so we had an hour to browse the nearby shops and to take a coffee and a canoli. Do not miss the canoli!
Another hour and half on the aliscafo (hydrofoil boat) and we arrived on the island of Lipari with its town of the same name. The Castello with cathedral of St.Bartholomew is dominating this lovely town full of narrow alleys, small shops, bars and restaurants. Main street is Corso V.Emanuelle and is partly pedestrians only. Our home base for next four nights (and three full days) was Hotel Borgo Eolie. Positined 30 min from the castello, this is a newly built hotel, with all the amenities a guest is looking for (minus the wifi yet this supposed to be on top of to do list). Owner Francesco and his wife are running an attractive and very homely small hotel. They are always around but never intrusive. Francesco and his minivan are always ready to drive guests to or from the town. Yet walking slowly it is not a difficult uphill stroll; and also after a late dinner we have a very safe feeling walking back to the hotel.
Castello with its museums was our morning destination on our first full day. Since the season has not started yet the place was almost empty and having a sunny day also the museum was visited only by a few visitors. The exhibition is interesting, covering a wide timespan from neolithic to modern times. A lot of artefacts recovered from under the earth or under the sea are on display. It took us three hours to browse the rooms. Lipari is the only island that has a road that circumnavigates it, so we decided to rent a car and explore it. There are many businesses renting scooters and cars and many of them are waiting for clients in the port. The renting itself is easy; after inspecting the car and negotiating the price the rental agreement was signed on the hood of the car. No CDW or LDW or other extra was offered, just a small deposit and off we drove. All vehicles have Third Party Insurance so a renter is covered if he made damage to another vehicle. Shell gas station is always the first stop. 20 euro bill will give you around 10 l of unleaded, and since the round road is 42 km, we were OK for two rounds. Started counterclockwise the first town was Canneto with its long black pebble beach. This is a really long beach and in the summer it is full of tourists - now only a few of them were scattered around. There is a small square with place to park the car and several restaurants and coffee bars. An espresso and a lemon granita later we continued towards Capo Rosso with its abandoned pumice production plants. The white mountain is a sight for sure. Acquacalda is next village, also with a black beach but much smaller then Canneto. In between there are several so-called white beaches reachable by boat or by narrow path down from the main road. Driving uphill toward Quattropani there are nice views over to Salina where a regatta was on. Quite a sight with almost 50 sailing boats cruising in between the two islands. After a widespread inland settlement of Pianoconte there is an obligatory stop at Quattrocchi where a viewpoint allows for fantastic photos over the ragged coast of Lipari with the crater of Volcano and, weather permitting, Etna as a background. Best time to be there is around 5 pm. Another phenomenal viewpoint is at Observatorio. Its position allows for direct views almost into the crater, and in early May, Etna covered in snow was as majestic as a volcano can be.
Or second full dayon Lipari was Sunday. Late breakfast and then we took our car around the island one more time, now in the clockwise direction. Afterone more stop at Quattroocchi (just to confirm that late afternoon is the right time to be there) we decided to check therme San Calogero, dated back to Greeks. Wewere surprised to find them almost deserted. The fence to the ancient part of therme was locked and the big building nearby abandoned. Luckily an older couple of locals were selling their malvasia wine there and asit happens so many times, they were more then happy to show us around, after smiles and greetings in italian were exchanged. The history and remains were fascinating along with our impromptu guide stories. A greek part and a roman part are easily visible over the low fence, and we took also a short stroll on the old roman road. Nobody but us was there so we took our time and enjoyed the place. The hot water is known for its therapeutical benefits. Strange that at present, the hotel and spa is closed. Back on the road we took many stops, most of them right on the road itself which was almost deserted. Many pictures later we arrived at Canneto for a lunch, and after returning thecar, we have had time for another visit to the castello and the cathedral. Most memorable part of the cathedral is the monastery, reachable from inside the cathedral. If you ask a tomb of a crusader will be pointed for you.
Our last fll day was dedicated to the visit of the island Volcano. Hiking to the crater is the most important thing you can do. Should be one hour up and one hour down, but we spent four and a half hours there. Having a good hiking boots is important, as much as starting this hike as early as possible. Even in beginning of May, it was hot around midday. The aliscafo tooks 10 min from Lipari, for the price of 5,50 €. The activities are those of fumaroles and sulphur gases can be annoying at times. Bright yellow deposits are interesting though, and around fumaroles extravagant photos can be taken. Another place to visit on a one day excursion to Volcano is the mud abth, a large pool of hot water mixed with mud. It contains high level of radioactive radon so read carefully the disclaimer at the entrance. On our way back to Lipari we used nave, a ferry boat, which is slower but also less expensive (4,70 €) and is offering nice views from its open decks.
A number of restaurants from simple pizza a taglio to gourmet dinning is available. Choosing one is not difficult and they all will prepare pasta and fresh seafood dishes.
Below the line Lipari offered a great introduction to Aeolian archipelago, insight into its history and present days living. It is the best home base for daily excursions to other islands with its wide array of accommodations and eating establishments which caters for all tastes and budgets.
Next island Stromboli.