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GAC Sep 1st, 2004 10:40 AM

Aeolian Island Hopping
Fodorites should be aware that there are three types of public transportation connecting the seven Aeolian Islands to each other and to the Sicilian mainland (mainly Milazzo): "Traditional" car ferries, "Fast" car ferries, and hydrofoils. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages:


This is the most expensive and fastest way to go. The hydrofoil, operated by both SIREMAR and Ustica Lines (SNAV has withdrawn service) carries between 150 and 250 passengers, and no autos. Single or double decked, it is all-enclosed, i.e. no open deck area. This makes it virtually impossible to take good photographs or videos. Moreover, the windows, not much removed from the water line, are often marred, fogged up or simply dirty, making clear views of the water and of the approaching islands very difficult. The hydrofoil is subject to cancellation in bad weather, and is subject to lots of "rocking and rolling", which can cause sea sickness. Consequently, the hydrofoil should be avoided by travellers who desire to appreciate the natural beauty of the islands, or who want to take photos or videos.

Fast Ferry:

From the end of March to the beginning of October, the SIREMAR "traghetto veloce" (fast ferry) "Isola di Stromboli" operates between Milazzo, Lipari and Santa Maria di Salina once or twice a day. At 4,400 tons, it is a large and visually pleasing vessel, so large that it can't dock at most of the Aeolian Islands. It accommodates 800 passengers on two decks and 168 autos, but has no open deck area from which to take photos or videos. It is a little less expensive, and nearly as fast, as the hydrofoils. Once again, not a good choice for taking photos or videos.

Traditional Ferry:

Operated by SIREMAR, the 1,555 ton "Lippi" and "Bellini" carry 800 passengers on two decks and 70 autos at a leisurely speed. The have a large open top deck ideal for taking photos and videos. Two or three runs per day between Milazzo and Lipari, one or two continuing on to Santa Maria di Salina. Four or five runs per week continue on to Rinella, Filicudi and Alicudi, while two per week continue on to Panarea, Ginostra and Stromboli. It is the least expensive and slowest transportation. Much better seaworthiness than the hydrofoil, the ferry is usually not cancelled except in very bad weather.

You don't need reservations on the inter-island hydrofoils or ferries, nor services to Milazzo, Cefalu, Palermo, Messina or Reggio di Calabria.

Resevations on the summer SNAV/Ustica Lines hydrofoils to Naples are suggested, as are reservations for cabins or reclining seats on the year-round SIREMAR overnight car ferry to Naples. On the overnight ferry, once cabins and seats are sold out, you're stuck with "deck passage", which means no guaranteed place to sit!

TIP: Take the traditional ferry at least once, possibly more often. It's a very rewarding way to travel around the islands.

bobthenavigator Sep 1st, 2004 12:47 PM

Grazie GAC--you are awesome !

Elizabeth_S Sep 1st, 2004 01:01 PM

GAC is the best - made our trip to Lipari soooooo easy!

GAC Feb 2nd, 2005 09:41 AM

TIP: want to take an informal, self-directed, comprehensive, and exciting sightseeing circuit tour of the Aeolian Islands?

Take the SIREMAR Lines traditional car ferry from Milazzo all the way to Stromboli and back in one day, on Tuesdays and Fridays only, year-round. Depart Milazzo at 7:00, arrive at Stromboli at 13:00, after calling at Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea and Ginostra. Return from Stromboli at 14:15, with arrival back at Milazzo at 20:00. Round trip fare in high season (Milazzo/Stromboli) is 21 Euros.

On the OTHER days, you can go all the way to Alicudi via Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Rinella and Filicudi, for 25 Euros round trip, departing from and returning to Milazzo at the same times. The ferry stops at Alicudi for 40 minutes before turning around.

Too tiring? Take the ferry in one direction, and the hydrofoil (more frequent and faster) in the other direction.

Make sure you go on a SUNNY day when sea conditions are not bad.

The car ferry is operated by SIREMAR, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tirrenia Lines.

A useful website for current schedules and fares:

mamc Feb 2nd, 2005 09:49 AM

GAC, do you recommend the one day tour for travelers who plan to spend 8 days in Sicily? We want to see as much as possible in the 8 days and I would love to include the Aeolian Islands but there is so much to fit in such a short time.

Patrick Feb 2nd, 2005 01:12 PM

GAC, actually there is another alternative, and that is one of the many privately owned smaller "tour boats". We did a day trip from Lipari to Alicudi and Filicudi with stops in both, plus some nice swimming at a lagoon, and we circled the islands. The total cost was about the same as individual tickets would have been just for transportation to and from the three different islands. They've become pretty competitive. And for the person wanting to see a couple of islands, they really can be a great deal.
We also did one that skimmed along the coast of Lipari, stopping for a swim by the mines, then stopped in Panerea for about four hours so we could sightsee and do lunch on our own, then went on to Stromboli for a few hours, departing there at sunset and hovering off shore for the "volcanic disply" before returning us to Lipari just before midnight. It was a much better deal than trying to work out the regular schedules to visit those two islands in one day.

GAC Feb 2nd, 2005 01:19 PM

mamc: this is a difficult question to answer without knowing more about your background, interests, and itinerary while on Sicily. Is this your first trip to the Island? A repeat trip? If you "happened" to be in or near Milazzo on any particular day, and the weather were good and sunny, I would indeed be very tempted to take this self-directed sightseeing circuit, even though (as formulated by me) it does not afford an opportunity to stop anywhere for much time, nor to visit the fantastic archeological museum on Lipari (unless you shortened the circuit and stopped over on Lipari, which is certainly possible).

On the other hand, if you are particularly interested in art, archeology and architecture, you might not wish to expend one day for essentially seascapes, but instead concentrate on the major sites of Palermo, Siracusa, Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, Taormina, Piazza Armerina, etc.

If you love seascapes and have the heart of a fisherman, sailor or scuba diver, even a short visit to the Aeolian Islands, as highlighted by me, has much to be recommended, indeed.

GAC Feb 2nd, 2005 01:39 PM

Patrick has made a valuable contribution to this discussion by noting the numerous private boat tours which are offered (mainly during the summer) to visit one or more of the Aeolian Islands. Many of these tours originate in Lipari. Far fewer are available out of Milazzo and the other island, however.

The private charters have pros and cons. They allow you to combine sightseeing for more than a single island, they often circle the island itself rather than dock at the port (this is quite significant), they often allow for swimming off the coastlines, and (for Stromboli), they are timed to circle (or to hook up with local tours of) the crater at night. As Patrick correctly notes, prices are not much higher than purchasing a round-trip ferry ticket.

On the other hand, the private charters use fairly smallish boats, which are far less seaworthy than the Siremar ferry (which is about 250 feet in length and displaces 1,555 tons). Persons prone to sea sickness will much prefer the ferry. The expansive panoramas from the top deck of the ferry ship are usually superior to the views afforded from the small decks of these private boats, which are nearly at sea level. On the other hand, people who enjoy being close to the water might actually prefer the private boats.

It is also perfectly reasonable to plan taking both a private boat tour as well as at least one ride on the traditional car ferry.

If pressed for time, the ferry boat circuit noted by me gives one the opportunity to see FIVE out of the seven islands, all in one day. No single private charter does that, to my knowledge.

mamc Feb 2nd, 2005 01:43 PM

CAC: Our plan right now, early in the planning stage is to fly into Palermo, visit Palermo, Monreale, Agrigento, Siracusa, and Taormina at a minimum, and leave from Catania. Because we are considering stops in both the East and West of Sicily, I think we will be pretty busy and the islands may not work out this time. However, I was interested in your one-day circuit and may consider it as our plans gel.

GAC Feb 2nd, 2005 02:24 PM

You could also take a one day guided sightseeing tour of Lipari/Vulcano from Taormina. They take you on a bus to Milazzo, then onto the ferry to Vulcano/Lipari, then back to Milazzo and onwards to Taormina. This tour operates out of Taormina at least twice per week during the spring/summer/autumn. It's a very long day, and the bus departs early in the morning from Taormina.

TeresaJAT Mar 3rd, 2005 08:21 PM

Hi GAC, We are going to Sicily in June for 19 days. As of right now, I am thinking of taking the hydrofoil to Vulcan, to get there quickly. Spend the night there, see the volcanic display at night. We'll take the ferry to Lipari the next day and spend two nights there with a daytrip to Vulcan. We want to snorkel a little, hike a little, see the archeological museum and natural wonders of the islands. Does this sound like a good plan and do you have any hotel recommendations in the moderate to budget category? Any B&B's? Thanks for your help.

Patrick Mar 3rd, 2005 08:28 PM

I read this twice before it dawned on me. I think you meant Stromboli first (not Vulcan) for the first night's stay, right?

We stayed in what was really a budget hotel for us on Lipari -- the Poseidon, which is a very small place. Clean and decent rooms, many with little terraces, nice breakfast. It was one of the few places that didn't require half board in season. It's right in town and very convenient.

TeresaJAT Mar 6th, 2005 06:52 PM

Yes Patrick, I did mean Strombolli. I my mind was a little scrambled after too much input! Thanks for the hotel name.

TeresaJAT Mar 6th, 2005 06:55 PM

Obviously still scramble! Meant "My mind...", not "I my mind..."

GAC Mar 7th, 2005 07:26 AM

Teresa: you will need to carefully plan the ferry schedule between Stromboli and Lipari: it departs in the afternoon only on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is the early morning ferry which originates in Naples as well, but it departs around 5:30 a.m. Finally, there are the N.G.I. Ferries, but these are not as nice as the Siremar ferries. The early morning ferries would be OK during the summer, when the weather is warm and there is a lot of bright sunshine early in the morning.

On Lipari, the Hotel Poseidon which Patrick recommends would be OK, as are several other properties in the same category. The Poseidon is especially convenient because it's only 200 yards from the ferry dock. You might also consider an affittacamera (furnished room rental), which are even less expensive than the small hotels. You'll find them scattered near both the ferry and the hydrofoil docks.

On Stromboli, I'm impressed with the Hotel Stromboli Village, right on the waterfront.

Stromboli and Lipari (and indeed all of the Aeolian Islands) are God's gift to Mediterranean Europe.

TeresaJAT Mar 7th, 2005 08:24 PM

Thanks GAC! As it happens we would be leaving Stombolli on Tues. so this should work out. Thanks for the room and hotel suggestions, I'll check them out. I hope to post my itinerary in a new string. Let me know what you think.

TeresaJAT Mar 7th, 2005 08:33 PM

I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I can't get my new message to post. Couldn't last night either. I guess I'll post it here.

With lots of help from many of you I have an itinerary. How does this sound?
Palermo 4 nights
pick up rental car
Erice 1 night
Agrigento "
Enna "
Regusa "
Siracusa 2 "
Taormina 3 "
Strombolli 1 "
Lipari 2 "
Cefalu 2 "
Palomero 1 "
Rome 2 "
I didn't want to keep the car this long (15 days), especially when we were on the islands but wanted it to drive to Cefelu and in the surrounding area. Is this a good division of our time? Thanks!

GAC Mar 8th, 2005 07:19 AM

Here are my comments:

1. I assume you're planning to stop at Segesta, Selinunte and Piazza Armerina along the way. These are most worthwhile. You might also consider a very brief tour of Trapani, Marsala and Sciacca on the way to Agrigento. Between Ragusa and Siracusa, you'll want to stop in Modica and Noto, briefly.

2. Having a rental car in Taormina is a big liability. I would drop the car in Siracusa. Check drop fees.

3. You can't take a car to Stromboli, and you should not take it to Lipari, either. Moreover, the hydrofoil you're planning to take from Milazzo to Stromboli won't take autos!

4. I would release the car either in Siracusa, or in Milazzo, before boarding the hydrofoil to Stromboli. You won't need the car in Cefalu, and you can take the train to Rome. Two nights in Cefalu are excessive, unless you aim to relax or take side trips to coastal towns by car or by train.

GAC Mar 8th, 2005 07:22 AM

More comments:

On Lipari, there is local bus service around the island, connecting the main towns. I've taken it and it's fine. You can also rent a motor scooter so you can stop and go wherever you wish.

On Stromboli, the larger hotels have three-wheel van service to pick up passengers with luggage at the dock. You will be WALKING (or hiking) everywhere on the island.

TeresaJAT Mar 8th, 2005 06:53 PM

Hi GAC, Yes to Segesta, Selinunte, Trapani, and Marsala. I had actually wanted to spend another day in that area and the stop in Enna was a compromise figuring we could go there in the late afternoon after seeing Agrigento. Hoping to be able to see some of the Zingaro nature preserve near Scopello on our way to Erice. Debated whether to stay in Erice or Trapani. Also had wanted to go to Favignana but couldn't fit it in.
We also plan to stop in Caltagirone. I love ceramics, is it a worthwhile stop? Thanks for the suggestion of Modica, it's not listed in Frommer's and I hadn't gotten to it yet in The Green Guide. Main reason for heading inland is the Piazza Armerina.
As for the car. Had planned to leave it on the mainland while on the islands. We do lots of walking on our vacations so the islands will be fine. Originally thought about turning the car in at Taormina but wanted it to go to Etna although I guess we could do that before Taormina. Gole dell'Alcantara just north of Etna sounds interesting too. Would there be a better place to stay to do the Etna trip before going to Taormina and cut the stay there down to two nights?
I figured we'd need two days in Cefalu, stopping on the way to see Tyndaris and Santo Stefano Di Camastra . We'd us it as a base to explore Himera, Cacamo, Castelbuono and the Parco Naturale Regionale Delle Madonie. We found we enjoyed spending a few hours at the beach relaxing in the heat of the afternoon in between our sightseeing. We'll be there in June so it should be pretty hot. We are taking the plane back to Rome from Palermo. It's just a stop over since we had an early flight back to the states from there and figured we'd make it worth the stop a stay an extra day in one of our favorite cities.
I've spent an hour thinking this through again as I write this. So the question is... what is the more appealing, the sights around Cefula which would probabley necessitate the car or use that day to see the island of Favignana and have a little more time on the west side of the island? I'll think some more about the car. I was thinking of staying at Il Limoneto which is 5 miles outside Siracusa and maybe at Giardini-Nazos at the Villa Mora and take public transport into town. Maybe I'll check into dropping the car off and picking one up for two days from Milazzo. I just figured it'd probably end up costing about the same with drop off charges.
Problem is I always want to see everything. I appreciate all your input and making me think about it from another angle!

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