salina 2
4th March 2016

Paradise Isles: Three Italian Getaways You Never Knew Existed

Rugged, windswept beaches. Bubbling thermal pools. Candy coloured villages. These are islands to escape to when you want to relax, rejuvenate or experience something completely different. Best of all? Getting to them isn’t half as tricky as you’d imagine…

 

Pantelleria

Pantelleria

 

Known as ‘The black pearl of the Mediterranean’, Pantelleria is as exotic and mysterious as its pet name suggests. It’s Sicily’s largest island and is separated from the North African coast by just 30 miles of sea. Lava stone houses dot its interior, thermal waters gush from rock pools and sea breezes carry the faint scent of Arabic gardens. With its otherworldly landscapes and low-key island vibes, it’s easy to see why the likes of Sting and Madonna have fallen for Pantelleria’s charms.

Then there’s the food…

Pantescan food equals fresh,  local and above all, simple eats. Arabic and Italian flavours mix and mingle in traditional dishes such as salted capers, ricotta and mint ravioli, pesto pantesco (tomato, garlic, basil and peppers), fish couscous and Sciakiskiuka (a chunky Mediterranean stew with courgettes). The island doesn’t disappoint on the wine front either. Passito di Pantelleria, the locally produced dessert wine has been enjoyed on Pantelleria for over 2,000 years. According to Roman legend, the goddess Tanit is said to have seduced Apollo by serving him Muscat wine from Pantelleria. You know you’re onto something good when the rest of Italy had to wait until the 1800s to get their first taste.

 

 Dammuso Homestays

dammusso collage2

 

Ever dreamt of living in a sleepy Italian village where you can stroll to the square for a coffee, pick up some bread at the market and basically feel like you’re living on the set of Il Postino or Cinema Paradiso?  To fully immerse yourself in Pantelleria’s island-life, arrange to stay in a dammuso, the traditional, dome-roofed homes built from the local lava rock known as ‘tufo’. Not only are these a great budget option if you’re travelling with a group, but most come with their own arabic-style gardens and spectacular sea views.

 Outdoor Spa Experiences

View of Laghetti delle ondine in Pantelleria, Sicily

 

Forget white fluffy bathrobes, face-masks and slippers, Pantelleria’s spa experiences are a much more earthy affair.

There’s the island’s very own outdoor Jacuzzi – Specchio di Venere or Mirror of Venus, a volcanic crater that fizzes with thermal spring water – and close to the village of  Siba, you’ll find the Grotta del Bagno Asciutto, a cave that doubles as a natural steam room. Mixing thermal underground heat with the island’s herbal-infused sea breezes, the cave has been a chill out spot for generations – even after dark, when it’s not unusual to see locals carrying candles as they pick their way across the stony path.

For an invigorating dip, look no further than Laghetto delle Ondine, a natural swimming pool carved out of the lava landscape that’s filled with the sea spray from the incoming surf.

 

Getting there and around

Fly to Trapani in Sicily and catch the hydrofoil which runs daily to Pantelleria and costs around €30. If you’re looking to do a bit of exploring, go for a car over a scooter as roads tend to be steep and unfinished in parts. There’s also a bus service that serves much of the island, with all lines departing from Piazza Cavour in Pantelleria town.

 

Salina

salina collage

Salina made a big splash on cinema screens in 1994, when it played a starring role in Il Postino, the story of a postman and his efforts to woo a local barmaid with the help of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Since then, little has changed and the island has held onto its good looks, especially the beautiful area around Pollara Beach, which provided the backdrop for many of the scenes from the movie. Visit in the first week of June and you’ll be privy to the annual caper festival, where young and old get together for dancing, street games and lashings of caper-studded food.

Getting there and around

There are two main ports in Salina, Rellina and Santa Marina. Regular ferries and hydrofoils depart from Palermo. A bus service connects the towns and the villages on the island.

Stromboli

Eruption of the volcano stromboli at night

 

And now for something COMPLETELY different.  The island of Stromboli with its dark lava rock and black brooding beaches is home to one of the most thrilling sights in Italy, a (still active) volcano that rises almost a kilometre above sea level. For an unforgettable island adventure, take an evening boat cruise and watch the Sciara del Fuoco (Trail of Fire) exploding against the night sky. Hands down, the best fireworks you’ll ever see.

 

Getting there and around

Hydrofoil ferries depart daily from Palermo. You’ll find most of the island’s hotels and guesthouses located on the eastern side in San Vincenzo, San Bartolo and Piscità. If you really want to get away from it all, head to remote villages such as Ginostra, which are only accessible by boat.

 

Have you visited any of these paradise islands on your travels?  Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Fiona Hilliard

Fiona Hilliard

A love of new cultures is what drives Dublin travel writer Fiona Hilliard to explore the cities of Europe and beyond.

16 Comments

  • Isabel Mcilwain

    Does Ryanair do holidays, i.e. Flights and hotels together

    8th April 2016 at 6:25 pm
  • andrew jenkins

    In the Salina description, the poet in IlPostino was the great Pablo Neruda. He was Chilean not Cuban.

    9th April 2016 at 10:43 am
  • Elizabeth Holloway

    Delighted to hear of more Italian destinations.
    Why not have a connection from Dublin to Lamezia Terme or Reggio Calabria?
    Irish tourists are obliged to go from London Stanstead.
    The toe of Italy is an unexplored treasure.
    Lots of history ,great beaches ,lovely food and wine and relatively inexpensive.
    Also possible to journey on to Sicily by ferry.

    10th April 2016 at 4:23 pm
  • Malcolm Snook

    I agree with Elizabeth Holloway, Calabria is the last undiscovered treasure, particularly Italy’s largest national park, The Pollino National Park, where the vast majority of what tourists there are, are Italians.

    11th April 2016 at 8:11 am
  • Richie

    100% agree with those last 2 comments, calabria is such a beautiful and untouched gem of a region with lots of great typically styled Italian towns along the coast such as pizzo and tropea and all within touching distance of lamezia therme. It’s such a pity there is no direct flights,as it makes such a complete different holiday visiting places that are not over commercialised like calabria

    12th April 2016 at 7:45 pm
  • Maria Carolan

    Anyone been to Ischia, absolutely gorgeous! you can get the boat from there to Capri, positano and Almalfi,Heaven! The only downside is Ryanair don’t fly to Naples

    13th April 2016 at 6:57 pm
    • graham patterson.

      Just got back from ischia with my wife. Fantastic, la mortella gardens amazing, thermal spa resorts excellent. Also been to stromboli very quiet not much to do other than go up volcano. Vulcano and lipari more to do.

      23rd April 2016 at 4:57 pm
  • Gerald Needham

    When will Ryan Air fly direct from Dublin to Lamezia?

    22nd April 2016 at 3:28 pm
  • Stephen Bargh

    Terrific reviews and fabulous to hear of destinations like this…. So please do a few more flights to Italy from Scotland!! Pisa and Rome are fine but…
    Bring back Bergamo; how about Sicily? Or Brindisi? Please!!

    22nd April 2016 at 6:18 pm
    • Bernard McDonald

      Edinburgh – Pescara- edinburgh must be worth a look.for Ryanair. Italians love Edinburgh and there is a big Italian community in Edinurgh. Even once a week would work!

      24th April 2016 at 9:10 am
    • Anne Ferreri

      I agree. Bring back Bergamo. Don’t know why these flights from Scotland were stopped. I used the Glasgow to Bergamo flight ofte! And it was always busy. Re-instate please!

      27th April 2016 at 7:33 am
  • Mary

    Anyone interested in Pantelleria should go see the film “A Bigger Splash” which is set on the island. Ralph Fiennes (at his finest) & Tilda Swinton are main characters with Dakota Johnson.

    26th April 2016 at 8:04 pm
  • Angela Holohan

    We live part time in Pizzo Calabria and include a boat trip to Stromboli when we have friends and family visiting us. It’s a small island with some lovely Pizzerias and restaurants. Stromboli by night can be an experience especially when it is erupting. We can see Stromboli from our terrace today even though the weather is mixed at the moment. Ciao

    2nd May 2016 at 1:39 pm
  • Maria Trant

    What about Sardinia??? Please resume direct flights from Dublin!

    31st December 2016 at 12:25 pm
  • Mick Burton

    We did the Stromboli trip from Lipari (a great Island) took all day and evening I had passed it fifty years before on boat and finally stood on it two years ago.The whole set of islands are paradise,and long may they remain so, added to the warmth and never ending generosity of the Sicilian people WONDERFUL!!

    31st December 2016 at 1:31 pm
  • Deirdre

    I 100% agree with the above comments regarding Calabria. It’s a beautiful and unspoiled region of Italy which offers an authentic Italian experience. Please introduce flights from Ireland to Lamazia Terme

    1st January 2017 at 12:56 am

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