Panarea, the smallest island of the Aeolian Islands
Panarea is the smallest and lowest of the 7 Aeolian islands, but also the oldest, geologically speaking.
With its rocks and islets, it forms a kind of “archipelago within an archipelago” in the stretch of sea between Lipari and Stromboli. An unspoilt paradise in the Sicilian sunlight, at sunset becoming the queen of nightlife, epicentre of Aeolian social life.
Exclusive destination with an ancient heart
Discovered in the 1960s by a large community of artists and intellectuals in search of a lost Eden, a set celebrated by legendary films, over the decades the island has become a popular destination for tourism and the international jet set, attracted by its black beaches, thermal mud baths, whitewashed houses overlooking the sea, amidst patches of bougainvillea, capers and prickly pears.
In the small town of San Pietro, the centre of the archipelago's summer nightlife, among clubs and discos to dance until dawn, among boutiques and restaurants, you can also visit a small branch of the Lipari Archaeological Museum: it preserves artefacts that testify to the island's ancient history, from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, almost all from the prehistoric village of Capo Milazzese.
The fumaroles, the breath of the ancient volcano
Traces of the ancient volcanic activity can still be found in the vapours of a series of fumaroles, which emanate from the cracks between the rocks of the Calcara beach and from the sea, where the gas escaping from the seabed forms columns of bubbles visible on the surface. In contrada San Pietro, a thermal spring also gushes out at a temperature of 50°C, used by the island's inhabitants for therapeutic purposes.
A single concrete strip crosses the island: no cars are allowed here, but scooters, bicycles and Piaggio Ape cars can be hired to get around. Everything is so cosy that you can reach the other two hamlets on the island, Drautto and Ditella, directly on foot or, if you are tired or laden, aboard the Aeolian taxis, charming little gigs on wheels designed to transport people and luggage.
The beaches: beautiful and all to conquer
Most of Panarea's coastline consists of high, jagged cliffs, from which it is difficult to access the sea. The beaches here are few and not all within walking distance; however, they are among the most beautiful in the entire archipelago.
Only a couple are accessible by land: Cala Junco, along the southern coast of the island, an enchanting natural pool with crystal-clear turquoise waters, protected by high cliffs, also famous for the prehistoric village of Punta Milazzese behind it, consisting of the remains of 23 oval huts.
Along the same path, you will also come across Cala degli Zimmari, in a bay backed by a cliff and Mediterranean scrub, the only sandy beach on the entire island, known for its characteristic red colour that, by contrast, gives the sea that washes it a unique cobalt blue hue.
Sea excursions and romantic traditions
In Panarea, the most popular sport is to rent a boat and head out to sea, to discover the many little-visited coves nestled between its cliffs, islets and seascapes.
If you reach Panarea in sweet company, one destination is a must: just 3 kilometres from the east coast is the islet of Lisca Bianca.
Formerly exploited as an alum quarry, it houses among its ravines the famous Lovers' Cave: according to legend, lovers who kiss under its rocky vault will remain united for life.