Hotel Signum

Salina, Aeolian Islands, Italy Book from

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 lack the contemporary chic of the Capofaro or the party vibe of the Raya, but they're spacious, comfy, elegant (in an old-fashioned, rustic way) - and half the price. It's also family-run, family-friendly and refreshingly unpretentious, with a long 8-month season which appeals to discerning travellers.

Highs

  • Superb home-cooked food in the open-air restaurant - praised by Jamie Oliver after a recent visit
  • 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 Classic 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 it's delicious

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
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Closed: 5 Dec 2016 - 5 Apr 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Suite

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 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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity: Spa

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

  • 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
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Jewellery making
  • 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 Suite with Terrace as all can fit 2 rollaway beds or baby cots and have a living area.

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:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for Hotel Signum