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The richly verdant twin mounts of Salina are at the center of the Aeolian Islands making it a good, and infinitely classier, alternative to Lipari if you prefer to do your island hopping from a fixed base. If your idea of island life is dancing 'til dawn to pounding bass, Salina is definitely not for you; this is about as far as you can get from Ibiza. If, however, smart hotels, a couple of tiny towns, good food, and soaking in gorgeous scenery are your style, this is the Aeolian island for your relaxing and romantic break. Explore the inland mountains by renting a small car, or a boat and putter around the island's bulk seeking out crystalline coves -- or just admire the view and sigh.

At Salina's heart are two extinct volcanoes -- the island was known in antiquity as Didyme (meaning "Twin"), when the mountains were interpreted as the breasts of a goddess. These twin mountains are now a protected nature reserve. The taller peak, Monte Fossa delle Felci (Mountain of the Valley of Ferns), is to the east of the island. At 962m (3,156 ft.), it is the highest point in the Aeolian Islands; the slightly smaller Monte Porri (Mountain of Leeks) is to the west.

The island's modern name is more pragmatic, and was given by the Romans in reference to the abundant quantities of salt extracted from the brackish lake at Lingua, on the southeast of the island. For the Romans, this salt export was fundamental, but nowadays the major exports are Malvasia wine and capers. The popularity of Malvasia saw a massive boom in merchant activity on Salina in the 19th century, but the boom came to a dramatic end with the outbreak of phylloxera, a disease that destroyed the Malvasia vines. The resulting famine saw a mass emigration from which the island never recovered; the population today is 2,400 in contrast to a late-1800s population of 9,000. The Museum of Emigration at Malfa commemorates this extraordinary turn in the island's fortunes.