This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.
Off Sicily’s north coast we found an island of raw scenic beauty with dramatic volcanic cliffs plunging into the sea, sleepy villages amidst verdant mountains, colourful fishing boats on pebbly beaches, hills covered in wild capers, and vines heavy with grapes for sweet Malvasia wine.
Salina, Italy is one of the Aeolian islands, a cluster of seven volcanic islands off Sicily.
The biggest island Lipari is the most popular, but we chose Salina, a quieter, greener base, its mountains vibrant as the only island with a natural water source.
In mid-September the summer crowds had left and it felt like we had the island to ourselves.
- Video: More Sicily Destinations to Visit
- Malfa: Our Base on Salina Island
- Where to Stay in Salina
- Things to Do in Salina, Italy
- How to Get to Salina Italy
- Salina, Sicily Map
- More Sicily Posts
- More Italy Posts
Video: More Sicily Destinations to Visit
Malfa: Our Base on Salina Island
For our peaceful retreat on Salina we stayed in Malfa, a tranquil village on the wilder north coast that tumbles down a hill towards the cobalt sea, green mountains soaring over it.
It’s small but the sloping maze-like layout meant we always found new alleyways to explore, uncertain whether we would end up in someone’s house rather than our destination.
On our wanderings we passed simple white and pastel cubed houses, bushes of vivid pink bougainvillaea, trees overflowing with figs, lemons and grapefruit, and vines growing the local Malvasia grapes crammed between houses.
We were there at harvest time and saw farmers picking the grapes, piling them into their three-wheeled Ape or leaving them to dry on woven mats.
This concentrates the sweet flavour of the grapes to make the golden honey-like dessert wine, the perfect accompaniment to Sicily’s almond pastries.
At the centre of Malfa village there’s a simple peach church and small piazza next to a few bars where locals down espressos at the counter and buy cones of gelato.
There are only a couple of restaurants in Malfa and our favourite was A’Lumeredda with its lovely garden setting.
Much of the menu features salty capers which are grown on the island and are some of the best in the world.
Malfa plunges down to the sea where you find a small cove. Like most of the beaches on Salina, it’s pebbly, but the bar rents blow up mattresses for comfortable lounging.
On our second visit after a cloudy morning, the bar was closed and there was only one other woman on the beach, catching some rays on her lunch break.
In the shelter of the rocky bay, gazing out at sea, we felt far away from everything.
Where to Stay in Salina
We stayed at Hotel Principe di Salina, which was the perfect base to explore Salina.
It’s located above Malfa just a five-minute walk into the village and 50 metres from the bus stop to get around the island.
The boutique hotel is on multiple levels so has wonderful views of the sea and mountains from the breakfast terrace, infinity pool, and room balconies.
We loved how many areas there were for lounging—the table and chairs on our balcony, the pool and thermal spring-fed jacuzzi, and a number of other common areas including a comfortable lounge with sofas.
A highlight was the extensive breakfast buffet served on the terrace with views of the smoking Stromboli volcano and Panarea island.
It was a blissful start to the day and friendly owners Sara and Gaetano kept Simon stocked with excellent cappuccinos while we planned our day.
We highly recommend this beautiful hotel—you can’t beat the views and hospitality.
Check the latest prices for Hotel Principe di Salina here.
Or search for more places to stay in Malfa here.
For more choice, look for hotels and B&Bs in Santa Marina Salina, the biggest village on the island.
Things to Do in Salina, Italy
Salina lulled us into a languid pace. There are boat trips and hikes and wineries you can visit, but somehow our four days passed in a serene mix of long breakfasts, strolls around the village, and enjoying the views from the pool.
We did hire a scooter one day to explore the rest of the island, which I highly recommend.
We drove along quiet roads past wildflowers and caper bushes, cacti and poplars, through tiny villages and up and down winding roads; the twin extinct volcanoes now covered in lush vegetation dominating the island.
In the port town Santa Marina Salina we meandered past colourful houses and boutiques.
In Lingua we visited the salt lake and indulged in almond granita and huge pane cunzato at famous Da Alfredo’s.
In the bleak, remote village of Pollara, we saw where Il Postino was filmed, following steep steps down to a few fishermen’s homes built into the rock of a cove beneath sheer volcanic cliffs.
In Rinella we perched on rocks at the end of the black sand beach admiring the colourful village, sunbathers lazing amongst the fishing boats.
How to Get to Salina Italy
You can reach Salina by faster hydrofoil (aliscafo) with Liberty Lines or the slower ferry (traghetto) with Siremar.
Santa Marina Salina is the main port on Salina.
The main departure point is Milazzo, although in the summer it’s also possible to get a boat from Palermo and Cefalu on Sicily and from Naples.
From Milazzo to Salina the hydrofoil took about 1.5 hours and cost €24. The crossing can be rough, so if you get seasick take medication and sit at the back of the hydrofoil.
We reached Milazzo by train from Naples, a 6.5-hour journey that involves the interesting experience of taking a train on a ferry for the short crossing from the mainland to Sicily. This trip is often delayed and ours was about an hour late.
Search on Trenitalia for trains to Milazzo. Or ItaliaRail is an easier site to use for English speakers. You can also read our guide to travelling from London to Italy by train.
There is a bus from Milazzo train station to the port, but after waiting quite a while, we had to take a taxi to make our ferry.
The nearest airport on Sicily to Salina is Catania. From June to September, the Giunta Bus runs from Catania airport to Milazzo port, which takes 1 hour 45 minutes and costs €15.
How to Get Around Salina
As we arrived late on Salina we took a taxi from the port at Santa Marina Salina to Malfa (€20), but there is also a bus that connects all the villages.
Hiring a scooter is a great way to explore the island. Moto Noleggio Merlino in Malfa is one of the places you can rent from. Or ask your hotel for the nearest option.
Visiting the Other Aeolian Islands
You can combine a trip to Salina with the other Aeolian Islands.
We travelled from Salina to Stromboli on the Liberty Lines hydrofoil (1 hour, €17) and did the incredible evening climb to watch the volcano erupting as the sun set. It’s well worth spending a night on Stromboli to do this.
You could also visit the rest of Sicily—here are our Western Sicily highlights and our favourite Sicily food.
Salina, Sicily Map
Salina feels remote and peaceful with a relaxed pace, dramatic beauty, and excellent cuisine.
If you visit outside of August, it’s the perfect place to unwind.
More Sicily Posts
- 12 Western Sicily Highlights
- The Best Food in Sicily: 18 Dishes to Try
- A Guide to Hiking Stromboli Volcano
- Exploring Palermo
More Italy Posts
- Eating in Italy: Dos and Don’ts
- Procida: The Secret Island in the Bay of Naples
- Hiking the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast
- 12 Towns Not To Miss in Puglia
- 29 Unusual Things to Do in Rome to Escape the Crowds
If you enjoyed this post, pin it!
Sensational article, thanks for sharing.
We’re just planning a similar trip for next year. Quick question: when you climbed Stromboli for the sunset eruptions, was it possible to get back to Salina on that same night, or did you stay overnight on Stromboli? We’re planning on staying in Salina for most of our stay, but wondering if we need to overnight on Stromboli after the climb.
We did stay in Stromboli for one night after Salina. I don’t think it’s possible to get back to Salina as the hike finishes quite late (in September we were back at 9.20pm). Here’s our Stromboli post: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/stromboli-climbing-the-volcano-island/
Note that it’s not currently possible to climb the volcano due to a massive eruption. By next year that could change though. I would contact Magmatrek who run the hikes for more details.
We just returned from staying in Santa Maria on Salina at Mamma Santini’s, and it was wonderful. The food was delicious and fresh, the bar was lots of fun, the rooms were spacious and lovely, the pool looked delightful! Our room had a patio with a view of the sea over the tops of the lemon grove, and a hammock (I believe all rooms have a hammock on the patio). So peaceful, and just a short uphill hike from town and the port. We were a small group of 7 (4 rooms), so not sure of the room price.
Great post – really gives a sense of the island. We’ve been trying to find a boutique hotel with good beach/sea access. We don’t mind pebbly as long as there is something to sit on. We’re wondering how far the hotel is from the beach and what the beach is like there. Hotel looks great otherwise. Any thoughts?
It was about a 15 minute walk to Malfa beach down a steep hill. It’s a lovely walk though. The beach is small and pebbly but they do rent mattresses. There weren’t any hotels much nearer to the beach so maybe other towns would work out better if being close is important. We did love the hotel and town though.
Could you recommend any other hotels in Salina- Hotel Il Principe di Salina is pretty pricey! Can’t wait to visit, it looks great!
I’m afraid we didn’t look at any others. Prices on Salina do tend to be quite high.
Just beautiful – and so peaceful. Glad you got it without the crowds. And that pane cunzato looks delish!
I know we were lucky. I’m sure it’s a different story in August, like every coastal place in Italy.
That water on the coast looks so blue! I could really use a bit of peace and quiet right now– that’s near impossible to find in Hong Kong!
The water colour was gorgeous.
The most peaceful place we found in Hong Kong was the Chi Lin Nunnery. It’s a nice escape from the city and there’s a great vegetarian restaurant on site too.
I just stumbled into your blogs and I LOVE IT! I just started being a digital nomad myself (my new bf has been one for years) and hopefully, in the months to come, we can embark on more adventures too! :)
Love your photos!
Thanks Aileen and good luck on your new digital nomad life.
ahh that looks like exactly where i need to be right now. goa is starting to get on my nerves with the mass tourists rolling in
Yep, Goa over Christmas is crazy. We found Gokarna further south in Karnataka much quieter, but things might have changed since we were there five years ago. Good luck finding some peace :)
I’m always envious of how slowly and calmly you two seem to be able to enjoy such tranquil places. I love the idea of visiting somewhere sleepy and laid-back like this, but when I get there, I enjoy it for about five minutes before I get anxious to plan the next thing. I’m not very good and sitting still, relaxing and just enjoying where I am!
It always takes a bit of adjustment at first when we’ve come from working on our laptops all the time to having nothing we have to do. At first we feel a bit lost but after a day we are able to relax and enjoy doing nothing. I think it helped in Salina that we were exhausted from a busy month of train travel across Europe and it was just what we needed.