Lipari trip planner

The main island of the Aeolian Islands of Sicily

The largest of the Aeolians is ringed with several small communities and a 16th-century castle complex towering over the main town.

Although it makes a good base and offers some modest sightseeing, Lipari really doesn't offer the same spectacular scenery of the smaller islands.

It's still a pretty spot in the Mediterranean, though, and there are a few stops to lure you away from the main town, including a few beaches with an off-white cast and piercing aquamarine waters from defunct pumice mining operations.

Sights in Lipari Town

The complex of the 16th century Castello—whose jumble of half-excavated foundations date to Neolithic times—today holds a museum (below), several boarded up churches, the visitable cathedral (below), an outdoor theater for summer movies (come to a film if only to get past the gate and see the ranks of ancient sarcophagi behind the seats), a youth hostel, and a few excavations with confusing color-coded plans to try and help make sense out of 35 centuries' worth of rubble and overlapping walls. (tel. +39-090-988-0174 or 090-988-0594, It's open Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm and 3 to 6pm, Sunday 9am to 1pm. (Adm)

Scattered amid several buildings on the castle grounds, the excellent Museo Archeologico Regionale Eoliano Luigi Bernabo' Brea is the only required cultural stop for all you sun-seekers out there, and a must for archeology buffs. The exhibits, placarded in English in some sections, survey the long history of the Aeolian Islands. They include some sarcophagi and reconstructed Millazzese-era burial niches (1400–1250 BC); a stupendous collection of expressive, minature terracotta and stone theater masks from the Hellenistic era (5th to 4th centuries BC) grouped by play, myth, or story; a neat exhibit on vulcanism (in Italian, but great eruption pics); and more amphorae fished from ancient shipwrecks than they know what to do with so they've stacked them up like supermarket tin can displays.

Also inside the castle complex is a Norman cathedral with 18th-century vault frescoes and a tiny reconstructed 12th-century cloister with crudely carved monstrous column capitals.

To get to the castello, enter via the path off Via XXIV Maggio for the ticket office, or take the main stairs up off Via Garibaldi. It's open daily 9am-1pm, 3-7pm (only the classical hall reopens in the afternoons and on Sunday; they may open only mornings in winter).

For ancient tombs that look like prehistoric tract housing at 1/10 scale, turn off Corso V. Emanuele onto Via G. Marconi, where they've excavated part of the vast 5th- to 4th-century BC necropolis on top of which the town of Lipari was built.

Around Lipari Island

South of Lipari, a road climbs to the unsignposted roadside viewpoint of Quattrocchi, with its postcard view over some strategically-placed cacti, down the sheer rocky peninsula of Monte Guardia, and past some sea stacks to the island of Vulcano across the straight.

Just beyond is the hamlet of Pianocorte, nothing much to look at but home to my favorite trattoria on the island. From here a branch road leads down to San Calógero, a thermal establishment since at least 1,500 BC, later favored by the Romans and today exploited by a modern spa hotel.

Heading north of Lipari, after 3.5 km you'll come to Canneto, a modern middle class beach resort fronting a long—and crowded—stretch of pebbly sand.

Sadly, the unique pumice thrills of the beaches north of here that outdated guidebooks describe have become a thing of the past. Most of the pumice mining operations that created and fed the zone's odd attractions have either shut down or moved further up the coast or up the hillside. Pollution and waves have washed most the whiteness to gray along the vaunted Spiaggia Bianca ("White Beach") beyond Canneto, although a glimmer of it's former hoary glory remains, and it still makes a good spot to pitch your beach umbrella—if you can find a place amid the crowds.

Just beyond, the Cave di Pomice is an open chalky scar from pumice strip-mining, dramatic with its chutes and mounds of the stark, powdery, versatile mineral. However, don't expect to go body-surfing 100 feet down on a plume of pumice to plunge into the sea anymore; the powder has all sloughed off, leaving just rocky troughs you do not want to slide down. The waters below are still a piercing aquamarine from the diffused pumice effects, but to enjoy them there are just a few scraps of stony beach to pick your way down to along an old mining road—unless you have a boat to moor off the scenically deteriorating factory docks of the derelict factory town Porticello below the cliffside.

Geology buffs in the mood for some exercise can get a good workout by clambering up Monte Pilato (1570 feet), which rises above the Spiaggia Bianca and the old mining community of Porticello. The white pumice of this extinct volcano is slashed with rich veins of red and black obsidian.

Around the north side of the island is the island only other town, Acquacalda, rather more of a going concern as a community than Porticello, but with little to distract you.

Tips & links


Visitor information: There are permanent tourist offices on Lipari at Corso V. Emanuele 202 (tel. +39-090-988-0095) and in Milazzo on Piazza Caio Duilio (tel. +39-090-922-2865). The provincial website for Lipari and the Aeolian Islands is packed with good info: There also great info on the islands' Pro Loco site ( plus on and the official (but buggy)

For more info:

Hotels on Lipari
Planning your time

The other Aeolian islands are more rewarding than Lipari, and make for more relaxing places to stay, so you should probably spend a maximum of a day here. Some people opt just get off the ferry at Lipari as a day trip—touring the castle and its museum for some Aeolian context—then getting back on the next ferry to head to another island like Panarea. (More tips on spending from one to four days exploring the Aeolian islands)

How to get to Lipari

You can only get to Stromboli by boat—a hydrofoil (aliscafo) will be twice as fast, twice as expensive, and half as romantic as a ferry (traghetto).

Ferry companies to the Aeolians
All boat companies charge pretty much the same prices, so choose based on convenience of departure times. Buy your tickets one-way so you’re free to choose among the companies for the most convenient departures times as you go along, either to the next island or back to the mainland. View current schedules and ticket prices at the websites of the various ferry and hydrofoil lines, listed in the box on the right.

The main Sicilian port for the Aeolians is Milazzo, on a promontory 40km (24 miles) west or Messina—though there are also limited services from Messina, Palermo, Cefalù, and Naples.

Hydrofoils dock at the Marina Corta south of the castle. Ferries arrive at the docks around north of the castle, with ticket offices on Via Ten. M. Amendola. For daytrippers, there are left luggage offices at each port open 8:30am to 8pm and charging 3,000L ($) for three hours or 5,000L ($) up to a full day.

  • How to get to Lipari from Vulcano, Panarea, or Stromboli: Most boats island-hop, stopping at all the major islands (and sometimes at smaller Aeolian islands not detailed on this site). As you'll see below, most boats from any port are also going to stop at the three other Aeolian islands, so you can easily pick them any of them to get from elsewhere in the Aeolians to Lipari.
  • How to get to Lipari from Milazzo: In winter, expect about half as many runs as listed here, and not always daily ferry service to Stromboli (hydrofoils, however, will run daily). (Read how to get to Milazzo here)

    • The hydrofoil from Milazzo—Siremar or Ustica Lines (see box above to right for contact info on all companies)—runs 7 times daily to Vulcano (40–60 min.) and Lipari (55–60 min.), 4 times daily to Panarea (1.5–2 hr.) and Stromboli (1–3 hr.).
    • The ferry from Milazzo—Siremar or N.G.I.—runs 9 times daily to Vulcano (85 min.) and Lipari (2 hr.), 1–2 times daily to Panarea (4–5 hr.) and Stromboli (6–7 hr.).
  • How to get to Lipari from Messina: Ustica Lines runs 5 hydrofoils daily to Lipari (1.5–3.5 hr.), 4 to Vulcano (2–3 hr.), and 3 each to Panarea (2–3.5 hr.) and Stromboli (1.5–3 hr.). [The hours look funny because while some island-hop, others are direct.]
  • How to get to Lipari from Naples: June to early September, there is a 2:30pm SNAV hydrofoil from Naples to Milazzo that stops at Stromboli (5 hr.), Panarea (5.5 hr.) Vulcano (6.5 hr.), and Lipari (7 hr.). In July and August there is a second run Saturdays leaving Naples at 9am (though it skips Vulcano).

    Siremar runs a 8pm ferry from Naples to Milazzo at least twice weekly that stops at Stromboli (9–10 hr.), Panarea (11–12 hr.), Lipari (13.5–15 hr.), and Vulcano (14.5–16 hr.). If you take the ferry, be on deck around 5am to watch Stromboli erupt as the sun rises.
  • How to get to Lipari from Cefalù: Ustica Lines runs one hydrofoil daily that leaves at 8:15am and stops at (among others) Lipari (just over 2 hr.), Vulcano (3.5 hr.), Panarea (just under 4 hr.), and Stromboli (4.5 hr.).
  • How to get to Lipari from Palermo: Ustica Lines runs 2 lines daily that stop in Lipari (4–4.5 hr.), Vulcano (4.5–5 hr.), Panarea (4.5–5 hr.), and Stromboli (5–6 hr.).
  • Getting around on Lipari: Most scooter rental places cluster around the docks and charge daily rates, but for just half a day you can rent one of the oft-patched motorini at Cannizzaro (main office Via F. Mancuso 10, tel. 090-981-1408). As always, you must leave a document and deposit.

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