“Pretty country house hotel in the languid village of Malfa, with a big pool, fragrant gardens and inspiring sea views”
Winding paths lead from the main house through fruit-laden citrus groves to a trio of pastel-coloured, 2-storey buildings. Most of them are restored farm buildings, which owners Clara and Michele have gradually acquired and done up. Some have ground-floor terraces fringed with tumbling jasmine and bougainvillea, others have wrought-iron balconies with views as far as Stromboli, and a few have windows onto the breakfast area. But, thanks to the luxuriant vegetation and generous spacing, all feel very private.
Step inside and you could be in a genteel French or Tuscan country house: curling cotto tiles, ancient brass or iron beds with lace-fringed counterpanes, and a few pieces of antique furniture: we slept soundly on soft linen and awoke to birdsong. There's a ceiling fan in case you don't like the noise of the air conditioning, a minibar with Salinese biscuits and fruit juices, and a radiator and satellite TV for rare rainy days.
Bathrooms have retro-Victorian bidets and sinks, curled iron towel rails, shiny tiles and curtained or hinge-paned showers (no tubs). Some have waterfall heads, though as is usual (and understandable) on Salina, water pressure is rarely up to the challenge.
It's worth paying for a Deluxe Room with Terrace or Deluxe Executive Room if you can: you get more space, sea views and a terrace. Classic, Superior and Deluxe Rooms have a smaller terrace or balcony, and views may be of the garden, pool or sea. Some Superior rooms have colourfully majolica'd bench seats facing the internal courtyard; while one of the Deluxe Rooms with Terrace (room 35) has a terrace overlooking the pool - perfect for keeping an eye on the kids. Some of the Deluxe Rooms are surrounded by lemon trees and flourishing geraniums. Families should ask for the Suite or Suites with Terrace which have a double bed and a living room, and can fit up to 2 extra beds.
You don't often see Clara's husband Michele, and that's because he's busy all day preparing truly first-class food - from the wee hours (when he beats the tourists to the market) until sunset (when he pulls the last steaming tray of fish from the oven). In between, he manages to rustle up light lunches and salads, to make a fresh batch of pasta every afternoon - usually cavatelli (fat spaghetti cooked al dente), and to spend time with son Lucca (the head waiter). Salina was the first island to be accredited by the Slow Food movement, Clara explains, so all the ingredients are freshly sourced and healthily cooked ("Michele does not fry!").
Most meals are taken on a cane-shaded dining terrace overlooking the garden, with pretty majolica-covered tables, rustic wooden chairs and (my wife notes) a gorgeous sommelier called Vicenzo, who ceremoniously pours gloopy blonde oil and sprinkles salt crystals onto your sideplate. For a light lunch before an afternoon swim, a simple salad of cherry tomatoes, fat capers and golf balls of buffalo latticini does the trick very nicely. Come dinner (book a table by 10am), you might get soft grilled aubergine with ricotta and tomato sauce, homemade pasta with today's fish, and tender tuna steaks with steamed spinach. From the very promising wine list, we tried (and can thoroughly recommend) the white 'Salina Bianca di Virgona' and the red 'Kiron' from near Ragusa on Sicily. And, after dessert (in our case baigné with tangy ricotta cream and flaked almonds), there's a smooth slug of Malvasia delle Lipari from the Malfa-based Hauner cellars.
If you fancy something simpler, there's a decent pizzeria in town called A Lumaredda, and a fabulous all-white sea-facing terrace at the Santa Isabel, perfect for sunset G&Ts. If you're feeling lazy, room service is available until midnight.
Breakfast is a buffet of cereals, yoghurt, fruit, jams, hard-boiled eggs (or other styles to order) and delicious homemade lemonade - a perfect poolside drink.
Children of all ages are welcome, though bear in mind that this is a tranquil place so they are expected to be reasonably quiet around the pool. Most rooms can take an extra bed or cot, or you can ask for 2 adjacent rooms. Babysitting can be arranged on request.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Book a Suite or Suite with Terrace as all can fit 2 rollaway beds or baby cots and have a living area.
Babysitting can be arranged on request.
Baby cots are available on request.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking