Capofaro

Salina, Aeolian Islands, Italy Book from

An original concept: a boutique resort in a working vineyard with an old lighthouse, whose beam mingles with sparks from distant Stromboli
A huddle of low white buildings with cane-shaded terraces, draped armchairs and carpets of purple flowers looks out past 7 hectares of vineyards and a flaking lighthouse to a deep blue sea. It could be Santorini without the crowds. But this is the Tyrrhenian Sea so, instead of the caldera, you get the distant volcano of Stromboli; behind you loom the lush pyramids of Salina's mountains.

By day, guests tan by the decked pool, the sea shimmers below, bamboos wave, and grapes grow. At night Stromboli throws sparks into the sky, and the poolside restaurant-bar comes alive with chilled music and beautiful people. This is the new hotspot, aiming to topple the Raya (from whom it stole the GM and 2 staff) from its perch of cool. Bedrooms are pared-down white cubes with the slickest of fittings and pampering bathrooms. The cuisine is ultra-refined Aeolian with a twist. Salina is tiny but repays exploration by boat, moped or foot: crystal waters, smooth-stoned beaches, twisting paths through semi-tropical flora. Come in spring or autumn and you'll have it almost to yourself.

Highs

  • A chilled-out, informal vibe - like the party island of Panarea but a bit more grown-up - with chatty staff and bronzed guests
  • The all-white rooms have exemplary minimalism, with shady terraces looking across indigo seas to still-active Stromboli
  • The Aeolian architecture - low buildings, cannizzi roofs, thick walls - has shades of Bali and the Cyclades inside
  • A lovely decked swimming pool with white sunbeds and parasols, plus a groovy cocktail bar and upscale terrace dining
  • Salina is lusher, larger and less touristy than other Aeolian islands, but has the same volcanic seascapes

Lows

  • No beach, apart from a small stretch of pebbles a 15-minute walk away; Salina’s coast is generally steep and rocky
  • If you fancy eating out you'll have to head into Santa Marina, 5km away
  • Getting here isn't easy: there are hydrofoils from Milazzo and Messina on Sicily and, in summer, from Naples and Palermo
  • You’ll be lucky to find a room in July or August, and will pay handsomely for it if you do

Best time to go

Summer is extremely busy - in July and August you'll be lucky to find a room as they get booked up months in advance. It's also very hot. Much better to come in spring (April to early June) or autumn (September and October) if you can: temperatures are balmy (both swimming and hiking are comfortable), and prices are much more reasonable. You'll also have the island almost to yourself: when we visited in mid-April, there were perhaps a dozen other tourists. The hotel is normally closed from late October to early April.

Our top tips

Most guests stay for 4-6 nights, which is about right for a leisurely exploration of the island, a couple of boat or hydrofoil trips, perhaps a hike or a cruise around the other islands, and some down-time. Don't even contemplate staying for less than 3 nights: the journey from anywhere outside Italy, even using helicopter transfers, takes a full day - which only leaves 2 days on the island.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 18
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 10 Dec 2016 - 30 Apr 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
Room: Superior Room

Rooms

Half a dozen low, white buildings are generously spaced among the rolling vineyards - so generously as to warrant a golf cart for you and your bags upon arrival. Between them, grouped in 2's and 3's, are 8 Standard Rooms, 6 larger Superior Rooms, 2 Junior Suites Deluxe (distinguished by their ample indoor and outdoor sitting areas) and 2 Exclusive Suites with Jacuzzis.

All rooms get a terrace of some sort, with a cannizzi (woven cane) roof on bulging columns, a muslin screen (if you or your neighbours want more privacy), and a pair of wicker or linen-clad easy chairs where, if you’re anything like us, you’ll spend a large chunk of each evening, glass of chilled Malvasia in hand, watching the yellow vines darken and distant Stromboli glow red in the setting sun.

Inside, all is white, smooth and blissfully uncluttered. Whitewashed walls are broken up with arches and niches in which sit decorative vases and flatscreen TVs. Small white-shuttered and netted windows reveal square parcels of vineyard and sea. The only furniture is a lovely wooden storage unit with wicker pull-out baskets, and a stack of woven reed bowls for your bedside stuff. And the only colours - a muted ochre, a warm terracotta - come from a silky spread on the queensize bed. If you look, you’ll find air conditioning, heating, a phone and a minibar, but it’s the simplicity that impresses most.

Bathrooms are yin to the bedrooms’ yang, with black floor and wall tiling, sleek chrome cross-tube taps, stacks of robes and towels, and a platter of aloe vera-based toiletries. Glass-walled wetrooms have pancake-sized shower heads and an additional hand-held jet.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

There’s a very romantic, lamp-lit dining terrace by the pool, serving delicate portions of beautifully cooked seafood and local produce. The menu is fresh and varied (it changes every day), but not overly so, with 3 starters and 4 mains - perfect. Service is friendly too: young staff, swishing past in white linens, stop to introduce themselves before lighting your paraffin lamp and aligning your silver cutlery with a smile. All in all, there’s little incentive to drive the 5km to Santa Marina, and you’ll probably end up eating in more often than not.

Portions are smallish but beautifully presented and full of prime ingredients. We experimented with a trio of tasters: an involtino of swordfish sushi filled with fennel (superb - why do we cook it so much?), a slice of tender-baked aubergine with tomatoes and capers (all grown within 0.5km), and some tongue-like sardines wrapped around sultanas and breadcrumbs for that salty-sweet yumminess. Pasta came very al dente but full of flavour - fresh basil, flaked almonds and green olive oil in this case. Which left just enough room for the mackerel gratin and orange sorbet (now you know why portions aren't larger…). There’s a decent wine list, with a plug - not undeserved - for the Leone, as it’s from the owners’ tenuta on Sicily. And of course there’s a gulp of honeyed Malvasia from last year’s harvest to finish with.

For breakfast, there’s an excellent buffet with beautifully arranged fresh fruit (interspersed with flowers), jam tarts, cold cuts, cheeses, croissants, yoghurt and mini jams (all the way from Wilkins of Tiptree) - and sun-drenched views from the poolside terrace to Panarea and the smoking cone of Stromboli.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Hire a scooter and a lightweight helmet and zip along the island’s 2 roads: one to Pollara, where you can walk down to the cliff-backed pebble cove which featured in Il Postino (keep your helmet on, as there are falling stones!), and the other to Leni, with seaside cafés and boat excursions

  • Or retrace the road - there are hourly buses - past the main port of Santa Marina to the lagoonside village of Lingua, where you'll find the best granita (sorbet) in the Aeolians, and arguably in all Sicily, at Al Fredo's

  • Explore the rocky, lava-sculpted coastline by boat: the hotel can hook you up with a fisherman, or you can (at a price) charter its own 1970s wooden boat. The sea is crystal-clear and ideal for snorkelling; don't miss the perciato (pierced) rock near Pollara

  • Cruise to neighbouring islands: from June to September, the hotel's boat offers a choice of 3 join-in day trips: to Filicudi (the remotest island), to Panarea and Stromboli (the party island and the active volcano), and to Lipari and Vulcano

  • Salina has twin volcanic peaks - hence the Greek name of Didyme ('twins') - which you can climb with or without a guide; there's a map at reception, but don't underestimate the ascent of 900m in the heat

  • Follow some of the Aeolian Islands' other 18 marked trails - the 4-hour hike from the abandoned building above Pollara round to Leni is relatively flat and lined with exotic maquis

  • Take a hydrofoil to Lipari (a journey of around 30 minutes), the most visited and developed Aeolian island, to visit its excellent archaeological museum and part-ruined Spanish castle

  • Kick back at the resort with a game of tennis on the hard court, a dip in the pool, a massage, a stroll down to the little beach, a cooking lesson, or one of the twice-weekly wine tastings

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are welcome, but bear in mind that the vibe is party-chic vibe and there's generally a tranquil atmosphere so it's best for calm, well-behaved children.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
7/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Capofaro