This guide will tell you everything that you need to know about Salina, one of the most beloved of all the Aeolian Islands. I will guide you on a tour of its beautiful beaches, quality restaurants, and the places that you need to see to get the full experience of this amazing location.
Hey! It’s Nico your Sicilian friend. I have already mentioned in other articles about the Aeolian Islands and that you should make some time when visiting Sicily to see them. I focused most on Panarea and Vulcano so far, but today I want to give you some good information about Salina.
This guide is on the lengthy side, but it has a lot of great facts about the island that you can use to have an authentic experience like the locals do and forego the typical tourist traps.
First, let me give you an overview of the island. (Don’t skip it.) After that, I am going to tell you what you should do, where you should stay, what you should eat, and where you can cut loose at night.
Ready to get started? Let’s get to it.
Overview of Salina Island
As I already mentioned, Salina is part of the chain of Aeolian Islands. In total, the chain consists of seven volcanic islands: Alicudi, Filicudi, Vulcano, Lipari, Panarea, Stromboli, and Salina.
What makes this archipelago so unique is that each of the islands here have a different look, feel, and distinct characteristics that set them apart.
Salina is the second largest of the chain (roughly 26 square kilometers of surface), and is considered with Panarea as the chic options to visit. It has a poetic charm that can entrance visitors. In fact, in 2019, Salina was awarded the title of most beautiful island in Italy by CNN.
It is not just the beaches that attract tourists throughout the year, but also a vast cultural heritage, rich history, and lush natural vistas and sights. It is the greenest of all the islands in the archipelago.
The lush vegetation of Salina is not just a treat for the eyes, however. Here you will find full olive trees and sprawling vineyards that produce some of the finest (and most famous) Italian wines like Zibibbo and Malvasia DOC.
I have written an extensive guide all about Sicilian wines. If you are interested in learning more, you should certainly check it out.
The food and wine here on the island is accentuated by the foundations like freshly caught fish and the famous capers of Salina – recognized as a Slow Food Presidium.
Salina has three main centers: Malfa, Leni, and Santa Marina. The entire island is connected through an intricate road system twisting along its mountain slopes that cross flows of lava with striking patterns. The best ways to visit the island is to rent a car/scooter. If you are traveling during the summer months, the bus system is also reliable.
Spending a few days on the island of Salina can be a relaxing experience on the beach or tasting wines at any number of vineyards.
What To Do When in Salina
With such a considerable sized island, there are many things that you can do and see. You likely do not have several days to spend, so I want to point out the things that you have to do while you are here.
1. Visit 3 Districts: Santa Marina (& Lingua), Malfa, and Leni
The town of Santa Marina is located along the slopes of Monte Fossa delle Felci, which is a massive dormant crater from seemingly ancient times. Now, it is covered with lush vegetation. It is characterized by an interweaving series of beautiful streets where you can find many quality souvenir stores for your travels.
Thanks to its favorable position, Santa Marina is home to two of the marinas of the island.
Let me tell you a small secret: many famous people known around the world prefer this quiet landing place on Salina for absolute privacy. In the month of August, you can meet the designers Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, or international actors and singers like Sting.
If you enjoy a nature trek through the western part of the country, in the area known as ‘Serro dell’Acqua’ you can walk along a gorgeous path complete with olive and fruit trees. Here, you can find the Saracen Caves, a distinct morphological structure dug into the tuff, which were used as a refuge during the invasion of the Saracens in 650 AD.
Approximately 5km from Santa Marina is Lingua, a beautiful, quaint fishing village known most for a natural brackish water lake. Today, this lake is protected as a nature reserve. Bird watching enthusiasts can often be found here when migration periods occur.
One of the most popular activities that you can do when in Lingua is getting a slush from Alfredo. Alfredo in Salina, and really throughout all of Sicily, is an institution known most for its slush. It is revered as one of the best in Sicily.
This is a lovely little village, features many white houses with scattered around the slopes angling down towards the sea.
Its name derives from the maritime Republic of Amalfi, as a group of these immigrants came to the northern coast of Salina during the 12th century.
Among the three districts of the island, this is likely the most beautiful. You will find 5 star hotels with sprawling terraces overlooking the sea, and watch these same places turn into amazing locations for aperitives.
No matter if you are staying here or not, take an evening and have an aperitif at In Sé Natura Lounge Bar. This is an incredible location for a view of the sunset.
Not far from Malfa, you can find a small town known as Leni. It does not offer a lot for tourists, so it is only really worth it to visit the small fishing village Rinella.
You can find charming black sand beaches nestled among caves dug into the rocks long ago. It is one of the most memorable and characteristic locations of Salina.
If you only have a little time to see the island, I advise you not to bother with Leni and instead go to Malfa and Santa Marina.
2. Explore the Many Beaches of the Island
The island of Salina has so many beaches that are relaxing and not at all crowded.
Before mentioning the best beaches that I know on the island, I must confess something. The best way that you can enjoy the beauties of Salina is by boat. There are many places where you can rent one , even without a license, or you might prefer to tour the island under the guidance of a skipper.
With that said, let me introduce you to the most beautiful beaches that Salina has to offer.
Scario Beach, only a 3 minute walk from the town of Malfa, is made of pebbles and rounded stones. It is enclosed in the middle of a green and lush nature area. You will find amenities like a refreshment point where you can rent inflatable mattresses to sunbathe, and have fun in the water with.
Pollara Beach, reached through a seed path that takes about half an hour from Pollara, rises from under a Steve Cliff. It was made famous by the film masterpiece that was set on the island of Salina: Il Postino.
Here it is possible to bathe in the middle of a submerged crater, which dives gently into crystal clear water. The setting is complete with small pebbles and boulders created in part by lava.
You cannot rent sunbeds here. In the afternoon, it is more packed in the mornings. The reason for this is that this beach offers one of the most beautiful views of the sunset available on the island.
One of the interesting things about Rinella beach is that its crescent shape is accentuated by black sand developed over time by the volcanic activity in the area. There are caves here that, up until a few years ago, served as shelters for boats. This is a paradise for those enthusiastic about diving, because the seabed is often rife with activity including jets of gases and vapors. It is very easy to reach, as it is only a stone’s throw from the town of Rinella.
In the small village of Leni, there is a small beach with shallow water. You can immerse yourself in the rich nature surrounding this portion of the island. Much like in Rinella, you can admire the ‘sconcassi,’ or jets of steam rising from beneath the ground.
This beach is located almost against the port, composed of large stones with a smooth appearance. The shore is constantly lapped by a clear, blue sea which allows the seabed to be admired above the surface by the naked eye. It is one of the busiest island beaches here, but it is also one of the best equipped in terms of amenities and offerings.
Bring your reef shoes, a bottle of water, and a mask/snorkel. You are going to need all of this stuff to make the most of the exploration of marine life and activity below the surface.
3. Enjoying Salina Nightlife
Salina is not the most famous island in the chain for its nightlife, but there are plenty of places where you can have a drink, dance, and spend the night until the sun comes back up. There are well kept secrets regarding clubs and dance spots, and a little something in every one of the districts in the island.
Actually, there are excellent restaurants as well, where fish dishes are an excellent choice. At the end of the meal, do not forget to enjoy glass of Malvasia whose vineyards exist here on the island.
The main nightlife activities include:
Aperitifs with a Sea View – On the Aeolian Islands, you must have an aperitif. There are many places with terraces overlooking the sea to allow you to have some excellent Malvasia wine or select cocktails with some ‘pane cunzato’. This is a traditional recipe of Salina consisting of seasons bread with tomato, salted ricotta cheese, basil, olive oil, and anchovies.
Have a Drink After Dinner – There are several bars where you can get a great glass of wine after your delicious fish dinner. Just walk along the main street of Santa Marina or Malfa to come across many cool and trendy bars.
Dancing Until Dawn – The nightclubs here pale in comparison to those of Panarea or Lipari, but you are not out of options. In Salina, there are a couple of clubs where you can spend the night until the sun comes up. The most famous of these is the Hotel Ravesi in Malfa.
Among the various island districts, Malfa and Santa Marina are likely the spots I would go if I was looking to cut loose and have fun.
Getting Over to Salina
You can easily reach the island by hydrofoil or ferry from ports in Palermo, Milazzo, Messina, Naples, and Reggio Calabria.
The ferry company that offers this service is known as Liberty Lines. When traveling from Palermo, you can reach the island of Salina in about four hours and 15 minutes. When coming from Milazzo, which is about a 2 hour drive from Palermo, it is only around 40 minutes.
Especially during the summer, I suggest that you buy your tickets in advance. This means at least two weeks before. But expect it to always be full.
Where To Stay Visiting Salina
You might have guessed that Salina is a very large island. Personally, I would suggest that you stay in either the Santa Marina district, or Malfa.
To make it easier for you, I’ve selected what I believe to be the best places for you to seek accommodations.
Without further ado, here they are.
B&B Le Sette Vele Da Riccardo (Santa Marina)
This BNB is located right in the heart of Salina’s historic center. This is a short walk from the port, meaning that the beach of Santa Marina is accessible as well as its full variety of stores and restaurants along the main strip.
This location is an Aeolian style facility spread across multiple levels, complete with a terrace overlooking the sea. You can see Panarea and Stromboli from this vantage point. On some days of the year if you are lucky you can even see lava eruptions from nearby Stromboli.
It is a short distance from the well-equipped Santa Marina beach. If you want days of relaxation and peace, this is a great option.
In addition, these rooms have well-working air conditioning and Wi-Fi available.
This is one of the most famous hotels on the island of Salina. And is located on the main strip in Malfa. Nearly all of the rooms here have a panoramic view of the sea.
In the past, this hotel was an agricultural building constructed in the 19th century. One of its biggest draws is an infinity pool overlooking the bay of Malfa, and both the islands of Stromboli and Panarea.
350 meters from Scario Beach (the most beautiful on the island.) In the evening, the terrace of the hotel turns into a stylish lounge bar we’re famous DJs from around the world have performed.
Also, all the rooms equipped with Wi-Fi, air conditioning, satellite TV, and their own mini bar.
Casa Bianca (Malfa)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful B&Bs I have ever seen. Casa Bianca offers very spacious accommodations with all of the necessary comforts and amenities from air conditioning to an electric kettle.
The true highlight to this location, however, is the magnificent terrace looking over the sea (so the sunrise is breathtaking. It is accessible to all of the guests staying here.
This structure is about 600 meters from Scario beach and 150 meters from Jalera beach.
All three of these accommodations I listed are incredible places, but if you have a lot of padding in your budget and want to get immersed in luxury and comfort, you should try Tasca Resort. Take a look at the photos and be amazed by its beauty, but know that it comes with a higher price tag.
Where You Should Eat in Salina
Now we have reached the true highlights of the guide where you learn where you should eat when visiting Salina. If you are a lover of great food, you have certainly chosen the right island to visit.
There are multiple places where you can enjoy delicious entrees and unique experiences.
The following are a few of my personal favorites:
I have eaten in all three of these suggested locations. Signum deserves the Michelin star. If you decide to give it a try, I would suggest you book ahead of time. You should certainly lean towards a gastronomic course and not just a single choice a la carte.
Da Alfredo is a must-do when visiting Salina (you HAVE to try to “pane cunzato“.) It is cheap and you can eat so much of it.
Wherever you choose to eat, I really recommend booking in advance. This is especially true if you are visiting in the popular July and August months.
We have reached the end of this guide on Salina. I hope that I was able to give you a bit of useful information and hope your stay on the island is as beautiful and memorable as it can be.
Let’s review for a second – the main reasons to visit this island are:
- Volcanic beaches with crystal-clear waters
- Great cuisine and excellent wines
In my personal opinion, the best places for you to stay are the B&B Le Sette Vele Da Riccardo if you are in Santa Marina or the Hotel Ravesi or the Casa Bianca when you are seeking accommodation in Malfa.
I would suggest this island for anyone looking for relaxation. If you are seeking a great place for a nightlife scene, you should likely go to a different island like Panarea.
Salina is very accessible from Palermo (4 hrs 15 min), Milazzo (40 min), or Messina (50 min.)
If you have any questions or concerns, I am here to help. Leave a comment on this post and I will help you out however I can.
PS – If you want an alternative to Salina, one that might be closer and a little cheaper, I might suggest you try out Vulcano instead.