Lipari – Discovering the Island

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Until 1930 the whole island was covered with pathways for the farmers to reach the fields and the pumice workers to reach the quarries. Then the abandonment of the land to emigrate, or work in the tourist industry, led to their partial loss under thick vegetation. Broom, heather, oleander, rosemary and myrtle colour and scent the island. Walking unhurriedly through untouched wild countryside is probably the best experience the island can offer.
The island has a good network of public transport and the friendly drivers will stop wherever you want. The terminus is at Marina Lunga at the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, but the buses also stop at Marina Corta.

Most of the island, perhaps the most charming parts, are easily reached on horseback. For hiking you just need information on the old pathways. Heading south, after San Nicola, you turn right at the first junction and climb up. Turning right again towards San Salvatore, we find an old naval watchtower, used as a geophysical observatory today. From the little square where the paved road ends there is a spectacular view: the island of Vulcano, with Vulcanello and its crater and cone and the isthmus. Climbing up some steps and following a path of about 200 metres you reach the viewing point of Falcone.
On foot, using a pathway which leaves from San Nicola, or by road passing above San Bartolo, you can reach Monte Guardia (369 metres high). Following the western side of the mountain, a track on the right leads to a lava spike. In front of you there are the sheer cliffs down to the sea, Perciato point, the crags (Pietra Lunga and Pietra Monalda) and, in the background, Vulcano: a delightful view.
It is possible to make a tour of the island in a day but, given the number of interesting places to visit, it is better to plan a number of excursions.
In your own car or by bus you can head for the mountainous part of the island. Following the winding road which leads to Pianoconte, on the right after 4 km you find the small church of the Annunciation with its characteristic staircase. A little further on there is Quattrocchi, with its lovely view of the crags and smoking Vulcano. Before the village of Pianoconte, with a short diversion of two kilometres to the left, you reach the spa of San Calogero. You can also reach the spa by an alternative route which starts from the area of Schiccione at Pianoconte. It is an old stone mule-track which gradually goes down, crossing olive groves. It is a charming route and an easy walk (about 3 hours). At every turn in the track you can admire the ‘Pietra del Bagno’ and the islands of Filicudi and Alicudi. The present spa building was constructed in 1867 and recently restored, but is not yet in use.
The waters have always been used to cure gout and rheumatism. Nearby, as proof of the spa tradition, there are two Graeco-Roman baths and one from the 1800s. Recent digs have revealed a Roman spa pool of the second century AD and a Mycenaean ‘tholos’ 3,500 years old. It is a building with a circular cupola, in igloo shape, built in imitation of Mycenaean princely tombs and used, in Roman times, as a thermal sauna, with water at 60°C from a nearby source and with a bath and circular stone seat inside. From the spa, following some pathways, you can reach Monte Mazzacaruso, so-called because the Greeks used to throw malformed babies from the top. From here you can see in the distance the twin mounts of Salina and also Filicudi and Alicudi. Another breathtaking itinerary, more for the charm of the places it goes through than for the difficulty of the route, is the one that leads from the spa to the kaolin quarries and ‘soffioni’ (at Caolino). The pathway often has sheer drops down to the sea and crosses olive groves and other areas that are extremely wild and lonely, with typical Mediterranean flowers. You can also see the rare dwarf palm.
The path climbs up the hillside, crossing spectacular canyons with sheer multi-coloured rock-faces and eventually reaches the kaolin quarries.
At Pianoconte, it is possible to stop off for lunch in the nearby restaurants: La Ginestra, Al Feudo Pub and Le Macine, and, if you reach Quattropani, after five kilometres of fields and vineyards, the restaurant A Menza Quartara.
Those who love farm holidays can stay at Tivoli, which is nearby in via Quartara and, also at Quattropani, there is a centre for the production of Lipari honey. At Pianoconte the bread and wine festival takes place every year in November, celebrating the life of the farmers: the milling of grain, bread-making, the manufacture of wool, the pressing of grapes. Games, a photographic exhibition, a sausage barbecue and a dance in the square complete the day. Quattropani is a small group of houses scattered across a plateau. From here it is worth making a diversion to the right, at the cemetery, to go to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Chain, a little white Greek-style country church of the 17th century, recently restored. It is called ‘Chiesa Vecchia’ to distinguish it from the one built along the road by the houses. From the Sanctuary you can see Salina with its lighthouse and the village of Lingua. Going down the side of Monte Chirica, you return to sea level and the temperature changes.
You pass by Acquacalda and its beach, with the long jetty used by ships to load pumice. Here we are at the base of one of the two pumice quarrying zones, where eruptions have created steep white gorges.
After the wide curve of Punta Castagna, you arrive at the beach of Porticello and the other vast area of pumice quarries, called Campo Bianco. We are at the foot of Monte Pelato, which in 727 formed a flow of obsidian called Rocche Rosse because of its ochre and brown colouring. More jetties follow in a surreal white environment in which the deep blue of the sea stands out. Further on, at Punta Sparanello, you can make a diversion to Lami and observe an impressive flow of obsidian. It is the flow which provided raw materials in the Eneolithic period, making Lipari a centre of trade. In this area there are the greatest number of extinct volcanoes covered with vegetation. We then arrive at the long village of Canneto, originally born to house those who worked pumice, and later becoming the second largest village on the island. Along the lovely beach, very full in summer, a lot of fishing boats are pulled out of the sea.
You can then return to the coast and, through a tunnel under Monte Rosa, you get back to Lipari after passing Marina Lunga.

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