Lipari is the only island of the archipelago with a distinct urban plan. The city is dominated by the castle, situated on top of a volcanic-rock crag, which also served as a natural fortress throughout the centuries. It was the acropolis of the Greek Lipara and the starting point at which the Romans refounded the town. Since Lipari was so vulnerable to attacks, its inhabitants were forced to live for months on end enclosed within the castle walls, which were refortified in the 1500s and again in the 1700s. Excavations around the castle area, which began in 1946, have provided extraordinary insight into Lipari's past; many of these findings are housed at the archaeological museum . To access the castle, your best bet is to start your trek uphill (ideally in the early morning) from the ancient entrance at Piano della Civita (Piazza Mazzini), where you can still find traces of the Greek settlement in the remains of the walls on the south side of the square; from the Marina Corta, it can be reached via the Salita Meligunis.
As you make your way from Piazza Mazzini, you will bypass the imposing Spanish fortifications built to defend the city from pirate attacks; on the right, among the interesting remains of several churches, is a vast archaeological area. As you reach the summit, you'll see a few decaying churches, the former bishop's palace (now a part of the museum), and a few old homes, also incorporated into the museum. On the highest point is the Duomo (cathedral), dedicated to the patron saint Bartholomew, and dating back to the 15th century. The building contains both baroque and Norman elements; the facade and bell tower from 1761 evoke the architecture of the times, while the only remaining Norman part of the cathedral lies on the south side, in the abbey built with materials salvaged from Lipari's classical era. The cathedral's three baroque naves have frescoed vaults with scenes from the New Testament. A short distance away is the church of the Madonna delle Grazie with its fine 17th century facade. Go behind the church toward the ramparts for the most amazing views over Lipari and Marina Corta.
After visiting the citadel, another site of archaeological interest in the Lower Town is the Parco Archeologico Contrada Diana, west of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main street. Sadly lying in a state of neglect, you can see the remains of Greek walls dating from the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., the old city gate through which the Romans came and expunged the island, and the altar dedicated to the cult of Demeter. Ancient tombstones and other funerary relics were retrieved from the necropolis that held up to 2,500 bodies. The burial grounds are visible off Via Marconi. The park is usually locked, so you can only stroll by and look in. Any major finds discovered here are housed in the archaeological museum in the Upper Town.
Around the Island
Twenty-nine kilometers (18 miles) of road circle the island, connecting all of its villages and attractions. Buses run by Guglielmo Urso, make the rounds of the island. The trip to the little towns of Quattropani and Acquacalda (aptly named because of the hot springs in the sea) on the north coast costs 2€. Buses leave Lipari town from Marina Lunga, opposite the service station.
Besides the town of Lipari proper, the major destination is the village of Canneto, 2km (1 1/4 miles) north on the east coast. It's where some of the best, accessible beaches are found (no sand, though, just rocks and deep waters). You can see daily life unfold on the island far from the tourist traps. Canneto can be reached by bus or a 30-minute walk from Marina Lunga. Just north of Canneto is Spiaggia Bianca, named for the (supposed) white sand, though it's really in hues of gray. White sand, in fact, is a rarity here -- the rest of the island's beaches are predominantly black volcanic sand or rock. To reach the beach from Canneto, take the waterfront road, climbing the stairs along Via Marina Garibaldi, and then veer right down a narrow cobbled path for 297m (974 ft.).
Buses run north of Canneto, passing the Cave di Pomice at Campobianco, located between Spiaggia Bianca and Porticello. To get here, rent a scooter. Other than tourism, pumice is the principal industry of Lipari. Pumice is used for everything from a building material to an ingredient in toothpaste. Some daring visitors slide down a pumice chute directly into the waters along the north coast.
From Cave di Pomice, you can see Mount Pilato, at 476m (1,562 ft.). This is the ancient crater of a volcano that last erupted in A.D. 700. Fields around this crater are the source of the pumice. You can walk to the crater, passing through barren fields locals call Rocce Rosse, or the "red rocks," because of the hue of the stone. A path leading to the crater from the northern tip of Campobianco stretches for 1.2km (3/4 mile).
The bus stops in the village of Porticello, which has a beach. I suggest you avoid it, however, as it's rocky and not very noteworthy. If you do stop here, the most rewarding feature is the panoramic view of the other Aeolian Islands such as Alicudi, Filicudi, and Salina.
The island's northernmost little town is Acquacalda, or "hot water," a settlement known for its obsidian and pumice quarries. But few people go to the black-sand beaches here because they're rocky and there's also no shade. Acquacalda itself is virtually a one-street town with some snack bars and waterfront dives.
The bus moves along the northern tier of Lipari and then heads southwest to the little town of Quattropani, which is to the west of Mount Chirica at 602m (1,975 ft.). In the town, you can make a steep climb to Duomo de Chiesa Baraca, where the point of interest is most definitely not the cathedral but the panoramic view from the grounds of the church. The distance between Quattropani and Acquacalda is 5km (3 miles); some hikers prefer to traverse this route on foot, enjoying scenic vistas at every turn.
There is yet another grand view to be enjoyed before leaving Lipari. West of Lipari town (4km/2 1/2 miles), and reached by buses departing from Marina Lunga, is a lookout point at Quattrocchi ("four eyes"). Once at Quattrocchi, you can make the steep climb to Quattrocchi Belvedere, which will reward you with one of the most panoramic vistas in the Aeolian Islands.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.