Malfa, Aeolian Islands

Photo: Hotel Signum
Photo: Hotel Signum

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” If the old weather forecast is true, tomorrow is going to be a perfect day. Calm water, volcanic islands, and the rising moon are in front of you. A pink, slowly turning purple, sky is their backdrop. You’re watching the day end from a terra-cotta terrace lined with majolica tiles, bougainvillea, and lemon trees. Plus you’re holding a glass of chilled Malvasia wine in your hand.

You should be looking forward to tonight’s dinner just as much as tomorrow’s ideal forecast though. You’re watching the sun set from Signum Restaurant’s outdoor bar. You were welcomed with a glass of locally grown wine, which has a deep golden color and a sweet bouquet. Soon you’ll move inside to the rustic dining room and be served a four-course Mediterranean meal by a Michelin-starred chef. Don’t rush the night away.

You’re on the island of Salina, one of the seven Aeolian Islands that lies north of Sicily. The second-largest island in the archipelago is known as the greenest. Its six volcanic peaks, which last erupted more than 13,000 years ago, are now covered with chestnut trees, poplars, and ferns. Terraced vineyards were built into the mountainsides. Fruit orchards, olive groves, and caper bushes surround them. While small fishing villages are home to cliffside hotels and restaurants like Signum.

Photo: Hotel Signum
Photo: Hotel Signum

Signum is in Malfa, a village of less than 1,000 people on Salina’s north coast. Though much of the island was settled by the Greeks, who first arrived in the 4th century BC, Malfa was named after the Amalfi Coast when families moved from one gorgeous location to the other in the 12th century. Today Malfa is famous for its fertile soil—producing sweet white wine and what many consider the best capers in the world—and jaw-dropping views. That’s Stromboli and Panarea in the distance. More recently, it’s become known for this restaurant, which blends traditional flavors, innovative techniques, and seasonal ingredients.

Since your palette has already been whet by the Malvasia, you’re thinking about sticking with the islands as you peruse the wine cellar’s extensive list. A Chardonnay from Sicily isn’t going to cut it tonight though, so you end up selecting a minerally Carricante, whose acidity should pair well with seafood, from Etna. It’s a wise selection.

Over the next few hours, you’re served lightly fried pumpkin flowers with ricotta and anchovies, seafood risotto with olive oil-soaked octopus, and a tender tuna steak with steamed spinach that must have been picked minutes, not even hours, ago. You immediately forget the name of the dessert, though its sweet-and-salty caper ice cream will never be forgotten. While a limoncello back on the terrace caps the perfect meal. Now you can start thinking about tomorrow.

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