I see it emerging from the Tyrrhenian Sea like a mirage, two twin mountains bathed in a light blue haze. A weekend in Salina, one of the beautiful islands of the Aeolian archipelago, is a perfect way to start summer. If you are going too, here are some ideas on what to do.
Excursion to Monte Fossa delle Felci
With its incredibly evocative name (literally the Fern Pit Mountain), this mountain dominates the island with its 962 meters, opposite the Monte dei Porri (this name indicates a variety of garlic, growing on its slopes) which instead rises up to 860 meters. Several paths wind up the sides of the mountain, covered with increasingly dense and luxuriant vegetation. Gorse, mastic trees, and silver tufts of mugwort give way to holm oaks, pines, alders, and centuries-old chestnut trees that grow right on top, around and inside what was once a crater.
The “pit” is in fact the crater of a volcano, extinct for millennia and covered with trees and plants, especially ferns, some of which reach a considerable height of two meters. From the top, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking view on the islands of Lipari and Vulcano, and the Sicilian coastline with the cone of Etna in the background. The islands Alicudi and Filicudi emerge from the sea to the west.
The walk is of medium-high difficulty, for news and info on the reserve you can subscribe to the Facebook group managed by Elio Benenati, a passionate forest ranger who has been taking care of this area for years.
Alfredo’s granita and pane cunzatu
Alfredo is a good reference if you want a sweet or salty snack. You’ll find it on the seafront of Lingua, where Alfredo Olivieri opened in 1968. He has been preparing and serving granitas for decades- His two sons Piero and Angelo have recently taken over, maintaining the same offer but increasing the business. The place is bigger now and includes a restaurant and a pizzeria.
Choose a granita with seasonal fruits – mulberries, almonds, strawberries, and many others, including wild blackberries from Vulcano – accompanied by a soft brioche. The best salty snack is “pane cunzato” (lit. seasoned bread) which, unlike what happens elsewhere, is a thick, round slice of bread with a heap of ingredients on it such as cherry tomatoes, aubergines, capers- and almond pesto, cheese, red onions and much more.
The sunset on the sea of Pollara
The sight of the setting of the sun is so beautiful that a dedicated viewpoint has been created, overlooking the sea just above the hamlet of Pollara. Every evening a small group of people gathers here, always in religious silence in front of the sunset, illuminating the waves and the sky with reflections in gold, pink and red tones.
Speaking of Pollara, a boat trip to this stretch of sea is a must. It is a magical place with emerald green, clear water framed by high rock walls. In one corner of the bay, you can see the “balate” (fishermen’s shelters) carved into the stone, marking the age-old presence of man.
Shopping in via Risorgimento
Although it is a small island, Salina has a good number of artisans and fancy shops. Actually, not only along via Risorgimento, the main street of Santa Marina Salina, the largest town, but also in the other two municipalities, Malfa and Leni. You’ll find clothing, ceramics, bijoux, sarongs, scented candles, and, of course, typical products, such as the fragrant capers.
Malvasia (and the pirates’ absinthe)
Malvasia is the typical wine of this island, produced for many centuries. I wrote about it here. Capers and cucunci (the fruits of the caper plant) are also produced on the island, whereas absinthe is no longer made.
This “romantic” wine, made from the leaves of mugwort, may be poisonous if you drink too much of it. The islanders knew that and, according to a local tradition, used it to get rid of the Turkish pirates. Legend has it that one day the island was attacked by a pirate ship. The inhabitants pretended to surrender and even arranged a welcoming committee, including complacent women and absynthe galore. The next morning, the pirates were dead and the island safe.