Nicole Bono, founder of Bono Events International, and a partner of Travellustre, explored Southern Italy this summer, and is back with this report.
This past summer, with everything in flux due to COVID-19, I decided to spend a full month in Southern Italy, exploring areas I had never been to before, to be able to expand my portfolio of offerings to my clients. Everyone’s heard of Sicily, but you may not have heard of the Aeolian Islands.
After some research, I found that there was a beautiful property from the Small Luxury Hotels collection, which I adore, on the island of Vulcano (Italian for Volcano, as the entire island is one). It was a no-brainer to book the hotel for two nights and head off that weekend with my boyfriend and see what kind of glamorous options the island had to offer. To get there, we departed by hydrofoil from Reggio Calabria; it is possible to do so directly from Messina or Milazzo in Sicily, as well. In retrospect, I would not recommend the hydrofoil, it is not very comfortable and quite crowded. Private boats can be organized, as well as transfers via helicopter.
As soon as we arrived on the island, we could instantly smell sulfur in the air and see the black volcanic sand with crystal clear waters. This island is also known for its natural mud baths.
At the port where our hydrofoil docked, we were generously greeted by the staff of the Therasia Resort Sea and Spa and taken to the property, where check-in was a breeze. Our incredible suite had a terrace with a stunning view of the entire Aeolian archipelago, with the island of Lipari directly in front of us. This view was beyond unique, it was mesmerizing and meditative to stare at, and had all the elements to prepare you for a magical stay.
Nicole Bono, here, was mesmerized by the beauty of the Aeolian Islands during her stay at the Therasia Resort Sea and Spa.
Therasia Resort Sea and Spa was built recently on the newest part of the island of Vulcano, known as Vulcanello, which formed after an eruption in the 11th century. It is an absolute prime location on a promontory, which is what makes Therasia a one-of-a-kind hotel, a gateway to this magical island landscape. The architecture and design of the hotel, with its white-washed tufa walls and traditional, yet elevated, décor are reminiscent of the Greek islands, but definitely stay true to Sicilian traditions with typical embellishing elements and ceramics throughout.
Every location at Therasia offers a world-class view of Lipari’s ‘faraglioni’ (sea stacks) and the other Aeolian islands. The first night, we headed to the open-air bar, I Russuri, and enjoyed a sunset aperitivo of Aperol Spritz accompanied by local Sicilian nibbles, such as capers and almonds, with their trademark breathtaking view as our backdrop. Later that evening, we went for a stroll in the quaint city center of Vulcano’s port. At night, the ambiance is very cozy, as the day tourists leave by then, so you can enjoy a stroll along little artisanal boutiques, gelato bars and food stalls. We stopped at one to eat homemade arancine, a typical Sicilian street food. These deep-fried rice balls are stuffed with different filings. It was well worth it! Try the pistachio filing, you will not be disappointed.
The next day, after a private breakfast on our balcony, we headed back down to the port for a private boat tour of Vulcano and nearby Lipari, organized by Therasia. Their in-house staff can handle and assist with all your excursions and other requests. The boat ride was an incredible experience, seeing the craggy windswept panoramic islands rising straight out of crystal-clear turquoise waters. We were taken on a tour of the various faraglioni and rock formations, each with its own folklore and history. It was reminiscent of Capri, but less crowded and more intimate. We then bathed in the spectacular pool of Venus, aptly named for its beauty, a natural shallow amphitheater of resplendent emerald water.
We returned to Therasia to have a relaxing afternoon by the pool, which, in my mind, is the most spectacular infinity pool I have seen to date, because you are entirely surrounded by the deep Mediterranean blue waters and can gaze endlessly upon the faraglioni and Lipari. As a break, we had a light lunch at their poolside Grusoni Restaurant (socially distanced tables), which serves fresh seasonal fare and has a wood-fired pizza oven. For the rest of the evening, we relaxed by the pool and even went for a dip in the ocean via the hotel’s steps into the water. The atmosphere is so mesmerizing that you really feel relaxed down to your soul.
As a huge foodie, I was extremely excited about our dinner reservation at their Michelin-starred Il Cappero Restaurant. My suggestion? Go on the earlier side, around sunset, to continue to enjoy the breathtaking views as the sun sets directly between the islands of Filicudi and Alicudi and the sky turns every shade of red while you dive into a culinary journey through the tastes and aromas of Sicily and its islands. This meal was truly the cherry on top of an extraordinary stay. Every dish is an homage to the local traditions, with inventive playfulness and surprising new reinterpretations, with equal attention given to the accompanying plates and table settings. Most memorable has to be the eggplant parmesan cannolo — fusing three Sicilian traditional dishes into heavenly bites. The wine pairing allows you to explore unknown vintages of micro-cultivations and varietals from the Aeolian islands and is a must to round out the experience. Chef Giuseppe Biuso, who is incredibly young, is doing something truly commendable at Il Cappero. If we had more days, we would have tried the equally avant-garde vegetarian restaurant, I Tenerumi, with a tasting menu designed by Chef Biuso that takes you on a parallel journey through Sicily’s palate while sitting outside under the stars surrounded by cacti.
As a coda, I want to highlight that Therasia was extremely attentive to all COVID regulations. Social distancing and mask wearing were practiced throughout the property and a couple of their restaurants remained closed to ensure the safety of guests. In addition, Therasia had a doctor on the premises around the clock to service any client needs and offered COVID testing for extra peace of mind. This was the only hotel throughout my travels this summer that offered this.
As an advisor, what I can advise you to do is add the Aeolian Islands to your bucket list. This destination is perfect for a honeymoon, and also for any kind of leisure trip. Therasia also hosts the most fabulous destination weddings, one which I hope to plan in my future for a special client. I cannot recommend a stay at Therasia on the island of Vulcano more highly. It is a one-stop shop for all your needs, which allows you to indulge in total relaxation and get lost in the magical atmosphere. With its variety of panoramic viewpoints, dining options and entertainment you will never want to leave. The islands are named after Aeolus, the God of Wind. Come to these enchanting islands and let yourself be swept away by Aeolus’s windswept beauty and enjoy the experience of lifetime.