Panarea is the second smallest of the volcanic Aeolian islands that hover north of Sicily. The other islands are: Stromboli, Vulcano, Salina, Lipari, Filicudi and Alicudi. To get to Panarea we took a five hour ferry ride from Naples. One third of the island is occupied with 300 or so residents. The rest is a nature preserve. Your feet, golf carts, bikes or scooters are the only modes of transportation. We had no cell phone, internet or TV in our small rented house. Of course there are hotels, like the famous Hotel Raya, and other homes for rent. Groceries, wine and liquor are available from the markets near the harbor. Dining out is not a problem as there are plenty of restaurants. Our concerns were few. A typical day consisted of putting on a swimsuit, applying sunscreen, packing lunch and taking off in a boat for the day. We’d return around 6 or 7 for a shower, aperitif and then stroll to dinner. Aaahhh island life.
The size and building materials of the homes and hotels are regulated. Most every building is whitewashed bricks or stucco, nothing too tall, blending smoothly into the landscape with an abundance of honeysuckle, bougainvillea, hibiscus, palm trees, fig trees, rosemary, cacti and more. Walking at a slow to medium pace we explored the inhabited part of the island in 15 minutes.
If you are hoping for sandy beaches, give up. There are beaches but not of fine, white sand.
We rented a small motorboat and cruised around the uninhabited chunks of volcanic rock about 20 minutes away. We’d drop anchor and jump off the boat into the beautiful, turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Floating in the water you could see at least 6 to 8 feet below to the rocks and fish. Guidebooks and travel sites say August is the worse time to visit Panarea because of the crowds. I disagree. Just avoid the crowds.
We saw plenty of people in boats and yachts which were fantastic people watching. One yacht seemed to have every type of water sport device available: jet skis, a water slide, tubing, water powered jet boots. From naked couples making out to a topless mom sunbathing her fabulous fake breasts on the side of her boat clearly embarrassing her daughter, we had all manner of entertainment. My favorite moments were finding a quiet spot on the water with no one around, swimming, eating, laying in the sun and reading. Finally a break from reality.