HOW TO PLAN YOUR ISLAND-HOPPING
We picked our order of island-hopping based on the availability of the hotels we wanted.
If you don't have two weeks for a vacation but still want to visit the Aeolian Islands, you could skip Salina or go there to eat and spa at Hotel Signum. You could also just power through the journey and skip Taormina or Catania, but it would be a pretty brutal journey. Rome could be cut shorter, too. But go. Like most hard-to-get things, the Aeolian Islands are totally worth the effort.
WHAT TO DO
There's not a ton to do on the islands, so they are best for people who love each other and are happy lounging around on the beach, swimming in a clear and gorgeous sea, hiking, wining, and dining. The best hotels are elegant and romantic without being fussy and fancy. There are no Jacuzzi tubs, but they have lovely views and a cozy feel. The shopping is overpriced and not that interesting — the best stuff is from India and Papua New Guinea. Most restaurants serve very good classic Sicilian fare (fresh fish and pasta). The pizza is weirdly not great, but we had exceptional pasta and risotto, particularly when seafood was involved.
WHEN TO GO
May, June, and September are the best times. Avoid August at all costs.
We went in early September, after the tourist crush had dissipated. The weather was perfect — hot and sunny — every single day. Hotel rates were slashed. We could eat at almost any restaurant without reservations, and it was all very tranquil.