Salina, the greenest of the Aeolian Islands
Thanks to its protected central position, Salina, the second largest of the Aeolian islands, is also the richest in vegetation and water of the entire Sicilian archipelago, and certainly the one where volcanic activity is at its quietest.
Known as the Green Island, the ancient volcanic origins of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, testified by the extinct craters of Monte Fossa delle Felci and Monte Porri, two of the six volcanoes that once set it ablaze, are today nestled in a lush Nature Reserve that covers a large part of the territory and hosts several high-altitude routes for trekking enthusiasts.
A scenic tour of the villages
In another fascinating anomaly, Salina is the only Aeolian Island not administratively dependent on Lipari. It has three autonomous municipalities: Malfa, Leni and Santa Marina – well connected centres accessible by car, scooter or an excellent bus service that runs late into the night in summer.
On the slopes of Monte Fossa delle Felci, lively and bustling especially in the evenings, Santa Marina is the place to be, criss-crossed by narrow streets full of bars and boutiques, with its iconic 18th-century church with twin bell towers. Perched on what remains of an ancient volcanic crater, the hamlet of Pollara is also a picture-perfect destination. It is guarded from the sea by an immense sea stack, probably a slab of its own rock that once fell off.
Valdichiesa, an enchanted mountain village
If you prefer the mountains to the sea, you will find cool respite from all the seaside shenanigans in the village of Valdichiesa, a small hamlet in the municipality of Leni, definitely the most “mountainous” on the island: it looks like an enchanted village, framed by mountains and vineyards. Here you will find the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Terzito, a pilgrimage destination, especially during the traditional celebrations on 23rd July: it is said that the Madonna has appeared in this area three times.
A journey through the island's history
Along Salina's historical-artistic itinerary it is worth visiting the Saracen caves, a series of interconnecting tunnels dug into the tuff and used as a refuge during the Saracen invasion in 650 AD. You can also reach them at the end of a rather long and demanding trekking route that starts in Santa Marina, among olive and fruit trees.
Or why not take a journey back in time, visiting the beautiful, well-preserved archaeological site of Portella, between Santa Marina and Capo Faro? The ruins of the village here date back to the Bronze Age, and the Roman baths sit on the promenade from Santa Marina, now partially eroded by sea storms.
An arch with a view
If panoramic views are more your thing, keep an eye out for the “Castello” on the road between Pollara and Malfa, which will lead you to a small World War I fort. The square in front of it is a panoramic terrace overlooking the volcanic crater that houses Pollara, its beach and its private stretch of sea.
Punta Perciato in Salina is undoubtedly the best place to admire the sunset, one of the most beautiful in the world, they say! This spectacular natural volcanic rock arch lets you watch the sun plunge into the sea next to Filicudi and Alicudi against a bright red sky.
Stairway to the beach
The best way to explore the sea of Salina is on board one of the many fishing boats that tour the island daily, though there are at least a couple of beaches accessible by land that are well worth a visit. The first is the beach at Pollara, the setting for many of the scenes in Il Postino, the last film starring Massimo Troisi: a gravel cove, dominated by an imposing cliff, creates a natural amphitheatre of tuff overlooking the sea.
The nearby Punta Scario cove is also a wonderful place to spend a day in the sun. Immersed in the Mediterranean scrubland, at the bottom of another long flight of steps, it is a true paradise, though the pebbles can be a little uncomfortable under a towel after a while. Not to fear, the little cafe at the bottom of the slope is there to come to your rescue with airbeds for hire!