Although it's the main tourist centre in the Aeolians, Lipari Town hasn't yet sold its soul, and it retains a charming, laid-back island vibe. There are few sights beyond the soaring clifftop citadel and archaeological museum, but it's lovely to stroll the labyrinthine alleyways with the sun on your face and nothing to do but enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
In delightful contrast to the exposed volcanic terrain of the other Aeolians, Salina − the archipelago's second largest island − boasts a lush, verdant landscape thanks to its natural freshwater springs. Woodlands, wildflowers, thick yellow gorse bushes and serried ranks of grape vines carpet its hillsides, while high coastal cliffs plunge into the breaking waters below.
With its visibly smoking crater and vile sulphurous fumes, Vulcano makes an indelible first impression. The island's volcanic nature has long been impressing visitors: the ancient Romans believed it to be the chimney of the fire god Vulcan's workshop, and today it remains famous for its therapeutic mud baths and hot springs.
Exclusive and expensive, Panarea is the smallest and most fashionable of the Aeolians, attracting international jet-setters and Milanese fashionistas for a taste of dolce far niente (sweet nothing). In summer, luxury yachts fill the tiny harbour and flocks of day-trippers traipse around the car-free whitewashed streets of San Pietro, the port and principal settlement.
Among the prettiest and least developed of the Aeolian Islands, Filicudi is also one of the oldest, dating back to tectonic activity 700,000 years ago. Shaped like a snail when seen from some angles, the island entices visitors with its rugged coastline lapped by crystal clear waters and pitted by deep grottoes. The island has just a few small villages.
If your goal is to really get away from it all, Alicudi just might be your dream destination. As isolated a place as you'll find in the entire Mediterranean basin, its main settlement has minimal facilities and no roads. Transportation here means boats and mules – you'll see the latter hauling goods up and down the steep stone steps from the port the minute you disembark.