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Aeolian Islands Essentials: Panarea

by Deborah Schoeneman

On a boat around Panarea. Photo: Deborah Schoeneman


Up next was Panarea, which is known as the jetset island with frequent fab visitors like Prince William and Roberto Cavalli. We had heard a lot about how Hotel Raya is the place to stay from our most discerning cool friends, and it totally was. It was opened in the 1960s by groovy artists Myriam Beltrami and her partner Paolo Tilche, who are largely credited with making the island a glam destination. 

Hotel Raya

Hotel Raya

Hotel Raya

Photos courtesy of Hotel Raya

You can spot Raya's famous blue stingray logo on a building near the port as soon as you arrive. That's where the very well-designed reception, restaurant, and bar are located. Once you check in, you are escorted on a ten-minute walk up a hill to the rooms, where there's also a more casual restaurant that serves breakfast. The warm mineral pools and Jacuzzi are up here, too. As our cheery guide showed us around, she explained that we were visiting during a special therapy week retreat. A bunch of senior ladies were taking advantage of the program and hanging out by the pools. "Like Cocoon," explained our guide, referencing the 1985 movie. So we were the relative jetset that week. We felt very chic.

Our room had two massive terraces overlooking a picturesque port. The hotel supplied terrycloth bathrobes for drying and skimpier, sexy robes for hanging out at breakfast or by the pools, as well as a beach bag and beach towels, with the groovy sting ray logo. You feel part of the cool kids club carrying them around. Apparently, many people carry them off the island because there are signs everywhere warning you not so, or else you will get charged. If you want to buy them, they are sold at the hotel's many chic boutiques for very high prices.

Hotel Raya

The author in the chic Raya robes.

We dined once at Hotel Raya, which has a lovely restaurant on the water with spectacular views. We also checked out Il Macellaio, a restaurant that specializes in meat, a welcomed change of pace from all the fish. The restaurant Adele, right across the street from the port, was also great.

A great hike behind Hotel Raya takes about two hours roundtrip and leads to the very top of Panarea. You'll see Bronze Age ruins along the way. The view is stunning.

Next: Off to Rome →

Deborah is a bicoastal TV writer. She travels for food, parties, romance, art, and the beach — ideally, simultaneously.


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