Hotel Signum

Salina (Aeolian Islands), Sicily, Italy
Book from GBP Book from £169 per night

Hotel Signum

Salina (Aeolian Islands), Sicily, Italy

Pretty country house hotel in the languid village of Malfa, with a big pool, fragrant gardens and inspiring sea views

Pretty country house hotel in the languid village of Malfa, with a big pool, fragrant gardens and inspiring sea views

If you thought the Aeolian Islands were all about summer crowds, noisy parties and arid landscapes, then think again. Tucked away on the quiet side of Salina, the largest and greenest of the 7 islands, Hotel Signum lies half-hidden among Malfa's citrus groves, flowery fields and winding lanes. From its jasmine-scented gardens and sunset-facing terrace, you look up to looming peaks and down over indigo seas - which are 10 minutes away, if you fancy a dip.

The hotel itself (a restored residence with newer pastel-coloured extensions) has something of the French country house in its sofa'd drawing room, oil paintings, fer forgé beds and balconies opening onto blossom and birdsong. Bedrooms may not be the most contemporary in style, but they're spacious, comfy, and elegant (in an old-fashioned, rustic way). It's also family-run, family-friendly and refreshingly unpretentious, with a long 8-month season which appeals to discerning travellers.

Highs

  • Superb Sicilian food in the Michelin-starred restaurant
  • Welcoming family owners and good service from 20+ young staff
  • A secluded retreat from the summer crowds, and well-placed for boat trips, hikes and the gorgeous Pollara beach (the cast stayed here when filming Il Postino)
  • Beautiful gardens, plus a big (though rather enclosed) pool and a terrace-bar with views to Stromboli
  • Spa with thermal steam baths, mineral-rich hydrotherapy and intoxicating beauty treatments

Lows

  • Rooms, though charming, are quite simple and rustic; some are a little dark
  • The pool gets busy in summer
  • Most Superior Rooms have garden views; for sea views you need to pay extra
  • There are occasional (small) groups, and some rooms get noise from the breakfast area
  • Food can be pricey - but the Michelin star proves it's worth it

Best time to go

Summer is extremely busy: you need to book 2-3 months ahead to be sure of finding a room, and prices shoot up for the Italian holiday month of August. It's also very hot. It's much better to come in spring (April to early June) or autumn (September or October) if you can: temperatures are balmy (both swimming and hiking are comfortable) and prices are lower. If you come in late March or early October, you will also have the island almost to yourself - though be prepared for some rain and for some shops and restaurants to be closed. The hotel is closed from mid-November to mid-March.

Our top tips

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...

Beach
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 30 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

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 gradually acquired and renovated. 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. Some have waterfall heads, though as is usual (and understandable) on Salina, water pressure is rarely up to the challenge. The only rooms with baths are the suites in the villa, where antique tubs add an extra touch of romance to the master bedrooms.

It's worth paying for an Executive Room if you can: you get more space, sea views and a terrace. Superior and Deluxe Rooms have a smaller terrace or balcony, with views of the garden, pool or sea. Some Superior rooms have colourfully majolica'd bench seats facing the internal courtyard. Some of the Deluxe Rooms are surrounded by lemon trees and flourishing geraniums. Families should ask for a Suite or the Villa Suites which have a double bed and a living room, and can fit up to 2 extra beds.

Features include:

  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar
  • Safe box

Eating

This is a real heart-stopper destination for foodies. The Michelin-starred restaurant experience begins on one of the terraces; either the shaded, sea-facing patio overlooking the nearby islands of Panarea and Stromboli, or on the sunkissed garden veranda in the spring and autumn months. Often the trope goes that the better the view the poorer the food, but Signum Restaurant has set out to debunk that myth.

Crafted by Martina, daughter of the owners and a leading light in Italy's chef scene, expect traditional and simple Sicilian dishes executed to the highest standards, with flavour combinations that let local ingredients sing. The menu may include the likes of lamb tortelli with smoked herbs, a punchy plate of octopus and nduja, or pasta in a spicy fish and tomato broth. Make sure to save room for dessert, if only to gaze in wonder at the delicate and painstakingly precise presentations; almost too perfect to spoil by eating... almost.

The bar offers a creative selection of aperitifs, from original and classic cocktails to a comprehensive list of wines, beers and spirits. The cocktails are designed to be drunk alongside the chef's dishes, but taste equally as good beside the pool before dinner, or as a post-meal palette cleanser.

If you fancy something simpler, or a change of scene, the team will be happy to offer recommendations for top spots nearby. If you're feeling lazy, room service is available until midnight.

Breakfast is an a la carte selection of Italian staples: homemade cakes and cannoli, spreads of cheese and cured meat cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, jams, eggs your way, and a wide array of fruit juices.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Indulge in a steam bath, beauty treatment or massage in the hotel's idyllic spa, designed to follow the mineral-rich Aeolian thermal waters
  • Learn Sicilian cuisine from the very best by taking a cooking class with Martina Caruso, the Michelin-starred mastermind behind the exquisite menu
  • 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, too) past the main port of Santa Marina to the lagoonside village of Lingua, where you'll find the best granita (fruit ice) 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. The sea is crystal-clear and ideal for snorkelling; don't miss the perciato (pierced) rock near Pollara
  • Take a hydrofoil to neighbouring islands: Panarea and Lipari are both within half an hour and feasible as day trips. The former boasts a cliff-ringed fjord with a prehistoric settlement above, while the latter has a fine archaeological museum and decent shopping
  • Salina has twin volcanic peaks - hence its Greek name of Didyme ('twins') - which you can climb with or without a guide; you can start from the ex-sanctuary (now nursing home) of Madonna del Terzito, but it's still a 700m climb to the top
  • Follow some of the 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
  • Ask the hotel about diving excursions from Malfa's port; or about the 4-day jewellery-making courses which Clara runs (and which, if the crinkled silver spiral on her finger is anything to go by, are big, bold and successful)
  • Wander down to Malfa's pebbly beach at Scario (10 minutes' walk), or relax in the gardens or by the large pool with a good book and some chilled Malvasia

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting

Kids

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.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Book a Suite or Villa Suite as all can fit 2 rollaway beds, baby cots or have a sofabed in the living area.

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Location

Hotel Signum is in the village of Malfa on Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands, near Sicily.

By Air:
The nearest airport is Catania (120km away) on Sicily. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving it.

By Hydrofoil/Ferry:
There are 3 hydrofoil / ferry companies operating in the Aeolian Islands (navi means ferries, aliscafi are hydrofoils): Ustica Lines, Siremar and SNAV (Naples-Salina) - see below for more details. Once on Salina, the hotel will arrange a minibus / taxi to take you from the port at Santa Marina up to the hotel.

From Milazzo
It's easiest (especially outside midsummer) to fly to Catania and then take a taxi/bus/hire car to Milazzo (2 hours away), from where there are 5-10 daily hydrofoils crossing to Salina in 90 minutes, and a slow ferry which takes 3-4 hours.

From Messina
Another option is to take the hydrofoil from Messina on Sicily (there are fewer sailings and a longer journey time), which is closer to Catania and to the Italian mainland, should you be coming from there.

From Palermo, Naples and other ports
In summer (July to September) you can take the hydrofoil straight from Palermo (half a day's journey) or Naples (a day), both of which have regular flights from around Europe. Or, throughout the year, there is an overnight ferry once a week from Naples. But bear in mind that both of these are more susceptible to bad weather. There are also sporadic sailings to Salina from Cefalù and Santa Agata Militello on Sicily, and from Reggio di Calabria on the mainland.

By Hydroplane:
There is a hydroplane service from Palermo and Catania several times a week - see EOLNET for more info.

By Bus:
Two bus companies link Milazzo / Messina with Catania: SAIS and Giuntabus. However, you may find it's easier and not much more expensive to hire a car and leave it in Milazzo, even if it's only for this trip; Europcar, Hertz and Alamo have offices in Milazzo.

By Helicopter:
The hotel can arrange helicopter transfers.

Detailed directions will be sent to you once your booking is confirmed.

More on getting to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands and getting around

Airports:

  • Catania 130.0 km CTA

Other:

  • Beach 0.2 km
  • Shops 0.2 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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Rates for Hotel Signum

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