Lipari is the name of an island and also the only major town in the archipelago of the Aeolian Islands, off the north coast of Sicily. Lipari has been occupied for at least 6000 years and the people of the Neolithic, Bronze and Hellenistic Ages each settled here (see history of Lipari).
It is the liveliest of these islands, and its attractive harbour area and wide choice of cafes and bars make it a popular base for exploring the Aeolian islands. Boats between the islands and from Milazzo on north-east Sicily almost all pass through Lipari harbour (larger boats at Marina Lunga, smaller boats at Marina Corta) so it is easy to reach the other islands if you are based here.
Italy This Way comment: Lipari is quite charming and its narrow streets and alleys are a mixture of elegant town houses and simple dwellings. During the summer the balconies are decked out with flowers and many a bougainvillea adds its vibrant colours to the mix. On the downside, it is about 35 euros per person to get a return ferry here from Milazzo, so is rather an expensive day out...
You will arrive on the island at the lovely harbour town of the same name. Lipari town has two harbours, separated by a citadel in a clifftop position and the town centre. The citadel is an imposing site since it still retains most of its defensive walls, and the town centre is to the west of the citadel and the principal harbour.
The road between the harbour and the sea front part of Lipari is through the centre of the town and bustling with shops and cafes. There are also various small side roads to explore and from here you reach the main sea front area of the town, the most charming part of Lipari. This part of the town overlooks the smaller harbour, has a church at one end the citadel at the other end and lots of cafes along the promenade.
Elsewhere in Lipari there are hotels, apartments, bars and restaurants to help you enjoy your stay but if you come in the summer you should organise your accommodation before arriving as it can get quite busy.
After exploring this part of the town you can walk up the long flight of stairs to reach the citadel, the historic fortified part of Lipari where you can find the main highlights in the town: the cathedral and the Lipari museum.
The Cathedral of San Bartolo, the patron saint of the Aeolian Islands, was built by the Norman Count Roger. Only the arched vaults remain of the original Norman building, because the interior and the façade have been rebuilt since. From inside Lipari cathedral you can reach (a very small entrance charge is payable) a Norman cloister, with capitals decorated with animals and columns supporting walls made from massive rocks.
The main cathedral doors are covered in reliefs and one of the highlights of a visit to the the cathedral. Inside the cathedral, artworks of interest include a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew and a 17th century picture depicting the "Madonna of the Rosary."
See our Lipari cathedral and cloisters guide for more information.
Also here in the citadel you can visit the museum of the Aeolian Islands which is situated in several of the buildings along the main street through the citadel, and the excavated archaeology site of Lipari with ruins spanning several thousands of years. See Lipari archaeoligical museum of the Aeolian islands.
From above the fortified walls you can get some lovely views over the harbour and there is also an area of Greek and Roman tombs.
Other sites of interest in Lipari include the Church of Our Lady of Grace which has several interesting frescoes, and the 18th century Bishop's Palace. The Greek style theatre near the cathedral with views across the main part of the old town was actually built only a short time ago, but is a nice place for a picnic, even if it is not authentic!
As well as its charming harbour town Lipari has a beautiful coastline, beaches and beautifully clear blue-green waters. Most beach lovers head a short distance north of Lipari town to the pebble beach at Canneto, and the more intrepid continuing further north to the white sandy beach at Spaiggia Bianca.
Exploring the rest of the island is easy with the buses from Marina Lunga or by renting a bike. You can also organise excursions to the other islands from this harbour, and to other highlights around the coast of Lipari island.
There are several scenic walks on the island so ask for details in Lipari tourist office on Corso Vittorio Emanuel II in the centre of town. The most popular walks are probably the climb up Monte Sant'Angelo or to the roman ruins at San Calogero, starting from Pianoconte.
You can take a 10 minute bus ride to Quattrocchi viewpoint for wonderful views over the rocky coast of Lipari and out to sea and the island of Vulcano.
The ancient tradition of producing liqueurs is carried on today with the production of Grappa, Mandarin, and the “Malvasia di Lipari”, a fortified dessert wine with the color of honey.
Today, the typical cuisine of the Aeolian islands is seafood based, with grilled fish, spaghetti "alla Strombolana" with capers, pasta with sea urchins, and also the "Mulincianeddi", a kind of meatball made with eggplant, capers, tomato and red pepper.
How to get to Lipari
The easiest way to get to Lipari is by ferry from Milazzo on the northern coast of Sicily. There are a couple of ferry companies and their fast hydrofoils take about an hour and have regular sailing times. There are also less frequent ferries from Palermo and Messina.
There is also an overnight ferry from Naples and a quicker but more expensive hydrofoil during the day in summer but this still takes around 6 hours.
Once you are at Lipari you can easily get a boat to the other Aeolian islands and you can buy tickets in Lipari harbour. You can choose either the regular ferries or private tours which offer different options including the chance to swim from the boat, be dropped off at various island villages and take the night tour of Stromboli to view the volcanic eruptions.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.