Boating off Sicily’s Aeolian Islands

Luca Monaldi

Our intrepid couple finds serenity on a yacht off the coast of Sicily.

EXT. — DAY. Two figures, JANE and JOHN SMITH, seen from behind, standing at the foot of an old stone quay in Lipari. That’s the main town on the Aeolian island of the same name, off the coast of Sicily. Ahead, in the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea (like, crazily sparkling, hard-diamonds-of-light-flashing- across-the-harbor sparkling), a dinghy speeds toward them. Piloted by GIOVANNI, a shirtless man with black curly hair and the kind of tan that would give any dermatologist back home an ulcer, the boat swings quickly alongside the quay. GIOVANNI helps JANE and JOHN aboard. Then, as rapidly as he’d appeared, the three motor off toward an old wooden skiff called Panaria, 100 feet away. Built 80 years ago, the boat is wide at the belly, with lots of deck space and two tall masts.


SEBASTIANO, the first (and only) mate of GIOVANNI, ushers the three onto the boat.


Welcome onto our barca. It is how you will experience what the Aeolians should be like, away from all the people.

JANE (making herself comfortable on a wooden bench on deck)

What do you mean? There are no people here. That’s what we’ve liked about the Aeolians.


To real Aeolians, even ten people is a city.


So, like, us four, is that a village? Can I be mayor?

As the boat coasts away from the harbor, Lipari shrinks into perspective. Cafés serving Sicily’s famous granitas surround a small piazza, and the island’s green volcanic mountains rise sharply behind and around it, framing the scene.


Sigismondo, the big brother of this boat, was in Stromboli, the Rossellini movie.


Really? We got the idea to take a boat out because we saw this movie L’avventura, that Antonioni number where beautiful Italians take a holiday in the Aeolians aboard one of those big yachts. Like the ones you always see George Clooney cruising around on shirtless.


Don’t you think there should be canned pastas named after the great Italian directors? Hey, I don’t feel like cooking tonight, so how about opening up a can of Antonioni-o’s?


If I’m going all Clooney, I should really take my shirt off. And get Mario Testino down here to take a picture for GQ.

Cut to close-up of the prow of Panaria, from which a barnacle-crusted anchor plunges into the green-blue Tyrrhenian. Above the beach are the remnants of an old pumice quarry; a plume of blinding white rock spreads downward.

SEBASTIANO (talking around a cigarette in his mouth)

The people love this beach because the floor of the ocean is white, and you can see all the fish.

Offscreen there’s a splashing sound. Cut to JOHN swimming toward the beach, where several other boats float in the water and snorkelers prowl around them like curious fish.


What’s all that stuff in the water? Did someone dump a load of floating golf balls over there?

JOHN (calling from the water)

That’s rock! I guess pumice is so light it floats. They look like marshmallows.

JANE (to JOHN, who is still out in the water, fascinated with the stones)

Pumice? Like my pedicure pumice? I have an idea! We should invent the floating pedicure—start a floating spa.

She strips down to her bathing suit, dives into the water, and swims madly toward JOHN.

JANE (grabbing rocks and rubbing them against her feet)

This stuff’ll be great for a home spa, too. How much do you think I can fit in my carry-on? Do I have to declare floating rocks on my customs form?

Cut to Panaria cruising past uninhabited scrub, headed to other Aeolian islands. We see the lunar landscape of Vulcano, its hills of black ash rising out of the sea; Filicudi, an emerald sliver; Stromboli, issuing a slender column of smoke from its active volcano. SEBASTIANO drops anchor in a picturesque cove that seems to be the preferred resting spot for people with nice boats.

JOHN (pointing at a giant navy-blue yacht anchored nearby)

Hey, whose boat do you think that is?


I don’t know. Maybe De Niro’s? He’s always stopping here on his boat. He likes to have many black women with him.

JOHN (calling toward the yacht)

Pardon me, but would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?


No. But are those Dockers you’re wearing?

SEBASTIANO appears at the cabin door, carrying plates of fragrant garlic pasta, green olives, bread, and a bottle of local Malvasia wine.



Late afternoon. The final stop. The entire coastline on this part of the island is dotted with little caves and turquoise shoals, all abandoned.


I bet this is what Capri was like pre–Kate Moss.


This is why you need a boat! You can’t see any of this from Lipari, let alone get to it.

JANE (pointing to a natural archway carved into a stone outcropping)

Look at that! That’s amazing.

The trio gets into the dinghy and cruises to the arch. When they arrive, JOHN and JANE jump out and swim under the opening.

JANE (in the water)

I like it here, away from those hordes of ten.


You know, dear, that’s why you need a boat. From now on we go nowhere without our yacht.


Lipari is one of the seven main Aeolian islands, located off the coast of Sicily, and is reachable by boat, private charter, or, easiest of all, helicopter from Naples. Once there, booking a day trip on Panaria begins at $2,350. Call 39-09/0981-4257 or go to