You can drive around the island of Lipari in just over an hour by car, motorbike or scooter but it’s much better to take a whole day over it and stop off for a meal, a dip in the sea and a walk.You can take your own car across on the Milazzo ferries (though not on the more frequent, faster hydrofoils). If you get on to one of the first ferries of the day you’ll have the whole day to explore. If you don’t have a vehicle with you no problem. There are lots of car and scooter rental agencies at Lipari’s port (for example: Marcello, Luigi, Pit Stop).
Let’s start by leaving Lipari town in a northward direction. The first place we get to is Canneto a town which was inhabited exclusively by those working in the pumice caves nearby until a few decades ago but which is now almost entirely a tourist town. There’s nothing in particular to see there except the beach which is the biggest on Lipari. Look out to sea and your gaze will be drawn to Panarea and Stromboli on the horizon. A feature of Lipari and the Aeolian islands in general is its view which change continually but there’s always an island or rock stack emerging from the sea.As we continue the road begins to climb and the views of cliffs, bays and the island of Salina are even more spectacular. This is the area where pumice stone was mined until the 1980s. One of the effects of pumice mining was that an enormous amount of white powder ended up on the beaches creating two huge dunes from which, as those who visited Lipari at the time will remember, you could slide all the way down into the sea.
It was this white pumice powder that made these beaches so evocative and lead to them being called Spiagge Bianche, the white beaches. Now that the pumice mines have closed, the sand is no longer white but the beaches are still a great place for a dip in the sea as is Porticello a few kilometres further north.
Another stop off or two to admire the panorama and take a few photos of the northern side of the island and then the road starts to descend once more to the enchanting village of Acquacalda, stretched out on its stony beach, an oasis of white houses and blue sea, of light and serenity. In Ristorante Aurora it feels like you’re in the middle of the sea, the views over the archipelago are superb as is the fresh fish cooked to Eolian recipes.We leave Acquacalda again after lunch. On the western side of the island our road turns inland but continues to supply us with great views. We pass the towns of Quattropani and Pianoconte and the more agricultural side of the island. You can turn off the main road on side roads in a seaward direction one of which takes you to the Terme di San Calogero, one of the oldest thermal baths in the Mediterranean and now largely abandoned.
The views now are eastward towards Salina and south in the direction of the island of Vulcano. On the last stretch of road before we return to Lipari from the west we catch sight of pretty coves reachable only by boat, rock stacks and sulphurous fumes rising from Vulcan’s craters.
We’ll spend the final hours of the afternoon exploring Lipari’s historic town centre, climbing up from the port along Corso Vittorio Emanuele past shops selling local crafts, trattorias and ice cream shops. En route from the Corso to the castle, the old town’s shady alleyways are pleasant to walk in and you can stop off for a water ice and continue beyond the walls to the cathedral and the amphitheatre from which the views down to the sea and Marina Corta are beautiful.
And then we descend to Marina Corta, Lipari’s tourist port, for an aperitif at sunset by the sea, the best way to end a day on Lipari.