The most polished of the Aeolian Islands is the smallest: Panarea is the siren that attracts the tourists. Its rock formations are the most dramatic, its streets the tidiest and, during the brief high season, helicopter shuttles clutter its airspace. But perhaps the defining difference between Panarea and every other island in the archipelago is Hotel Raya. What began in the 1960s as an isolated, discerning guesthouse has since become one of the Mediterranean's hippest hotels. Carved into a hillside overlooking the semi-circular cape, it has impeccably minimalist rooms, most with patios and teak lounge chairs. The hotel's diminutive disco entices, for better or for worse, a seemingly endless supply of night trippers from the other islands. "They come to dance and then sleep on the beach," says the hotel's general manager, Luisa Quatucci, who, like everyone else in the Aeolians, refuses to hide her distaste for the high season. However, high season is a relative term for the likes of Panarea, where winter storms can render its 150 full-time residents completely incommunicado for weeks on end. And while Panarea's summertime population can turn the island's narrow roads into congested throughways, it is still all rather tame compared with other Mediterranean destinations.

Despite Panarea's many attributes, its popularity and subsequent development are driving its original pioneers away, precisely to those other islands where remoteness is more palpable.


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The island

The ancient island of "Euonimo" has a surface of only 3.5 km2, but it is the island highly admired by élite tourism. The main village, Contrada San Pietro, consists of a group of white houses clustered along the eastern side of the island. The built-up area is crowned with olive trees and protected by huge walls. The other two villages north and south of San Pietro are Dittella and Drauto. The only practicable roads join the centre with Punta Calcara: this kingdom of fumaroles (emissions of hot gas and steam) is situated at the northern tip of the island.

The temperature of the soil can reach as high as 100 degrees. In the exact opposite corner (the south-eastern tip of the island) lies the prehistoric village of Punta Milazzese (a hut-village dating back to the Bronze Age), which can be reached from the beach of San Pietro in an hours walk. We recommend a boat tour to the nearby small islands of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca, to the Scoglio Bottaro (with its underwater "fumaroles"), and to the crags Lisca Nera, Panarelli and Le Formiche. Fields of golden corn cover the 420-metre-high peak of Pizzo del Corvo (the island's highest point) while the mountain slopes down towards the sea on the eastern.



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