After leaving Cefalu in the morning we drove along the coast to the northeast tip of Sicily for our stay in the city of Milazzo, Sicily. At first, we were a bit underwhelmed with the industrial look of the city and its busy commercial port but once we dug a little deeper we fell in love with this less notable Sicilian town. It is however known as a great base to explore the Aeolian Islands with daily cruises leaving from its downtown port everyday but there is so much more to be had here.
Milazzo has a small but lovely old center and our Airbnb was perfectly located just below the Castle which stands on the hill above the city. We spent an afternoon exploring Milazzo Castle which was nearly deserted and devoid of the crowds you’d expect in an obvious tourist spot, it was actually a little strange just how quiet it was.
We found it odd that every building with its medieval architecture on the outside looked like it was renovated and newly upgraded on the inside with the latest modern amenities. Beautiful new bathrooms, great halls with empty showcases, a sparkling new elevator, expensive ground lighting throughout and rows and rows of newly prepared rooms that were empty of anything. It was weird, like they were preparing to turn this into a major tourist destination and then just stopped! Despite it being empty it was interesting to see the buildings, wander the grounds and take in the spectacular 360’ views of both sides of the peninsula to the Aeolian Islands and the city below.
- The Castle is open each day from 8:30am-1:30pm and 4:30-6:30pm
- Address: Sal. Castello, 18, Milazzo, Italy
- Parking: should be able to find nearby on the street
Here is a video of our visit to Milazzo Castle
The next day we left in the morning to see ‘The Pools of Venus’ or ‘Piscina di Venere’, a scenic walk through the woods and flower lined trails that lead down to a natural swimming pool by the sea. To get here you can put these coordinates in your GPS: Via Sant’Antonio, 98077 Milazzo, Sicily, Coordinates:°16’8.522″ N 15°13’29.889″ E
It’s a scenic drive north along the Strada Panoramica with free parking at end of the isthmus. You’ll see a large parking area with an adjacent restaurant and café, the lighthouse will be up on the hill ahead. Before heading to the pools you’ll want to stop at the spiritual site of Santuario Rupestre di San Antonio da Padova along the trail just below the parking lot. It has been a place of worship since 1232 and was the retreat for Antonio di Padova after his shipwreck, on the Cape Coast.
Leaving the sanctuary, we made our way to the Pools of Venus heading on the path at the end of the parking lot following the make-shift signs. It’s a little strenuous but not that long of a walk (about 20 min.), do take water with you as the sun and heat can make you a little dizzy as you climb up the hill and then down to the sea. We packed a lunch, brought a beach umbrella with us (there is no shade) and setup camp on a spot along the water where we spent the morning lounging in between swims. Water shoes would be good idea as it isn’t sandy, the area is composed of lava rock and is a bit rough although I managed without them. After getting our fill of sun and sea, we hiked back up to the parking lot for a gelato at the adjacent café before heading back to town.
We spent a day or two at the fantastic pebbled beaches around Milazzo, a needed reprieve from the heat wave that had us melting day and night with temperatures from the high 30’s to low 40’s Celsius. There are lots of options but our favorite was Tono beach where a natural bay is formed beneath the looming cliffs at the end of the main road. There is lots of free public parking along the waterfront from Ponente beach to where it becomes Tono beach, an uncommon luxury throughout most of Italy. At first we thought it was disappointing that the beach was composed of the silky sand that most beach-goers crave. Walking to the waterfront was an endurance test, shoes are a must (I wouldn’t even attempt flip flops) as you do the fire walk to waters edge. The pebbles are heated to the nth degree from the days beating sun and if one gets in your shoes it feels like a burning ember from the fire has fallen into your sock. There are a few beach clubs but otherwise you’ll want an umbrella and something to lay on as there is no shade along the beach. We would pack a cooler of drinks and lunch as there aren’t a lot of choices to purchase these necessities without a bit of a walk. But once planted it was pure heaven here!
The waves push the pebbles up to a steep incline above the water, you can lay back and mold a reclining, natural lounge chair around your body with the occasional wave washing over you just as you begin to over heat in the sun. The water was so warm with some wave action to play in along the shores and beautiful swimming among the crystal clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. After the beaches of Cefalu I discovered it was nice not to not have your body covered in sand, infiltrating everything. The pebbles were so much cleaner, felt like a luxuriously sensual hot stone massage as you bask in the sun, washed by the waves. Just writing about this I’m transported back to the most relaxing place on earth, I could have made a vacation at this one place alone!
Here is a video of our days around Milazzo, The Pools of Venus and Tono Beach;
The next day we made our way to the waterfront with grand plans to take a ferry to the largest of the Aeolian Islands but things changed, maybe for the better! Parking along the waterfront is ridiculous and almost impossible to find but lucky for us a young man on a moped (trained to spot us wayward tourists) stopped us to offer directions to a parking lot. At first, we were very skeptical about where he was taking us and not sure what we were getting ourselves into. For a moment, we thought about ditching him and searching on our own before just letting things happen and following him to the lot. He took us to a parking lot which was conveniently located close enough to the waterfront and at $10 euros for the day our car was securely parked in a gated lot, well worth the cost and piece of mind. They were great and I would recommend parking here: Garage Ferrari, Via Tenente Tito Minniti 17, Milazzo.
From here we walked to the waterfront and headed to the main terminal to purchase our tickets for Lapari packed with our swimsuits, sunscreen, water and a change of clothes ready to spend an entire day away. Turned out we had just missed the early morning ferry so instead an attendant talked us into a tour to the islands of Panerea and Stromboli by night (12 noon to 11pm) for $66 Euros each. This happened to be the tour that day, they change depending on the days of the week. Again, we had some trepidation, took us a few minutes to decide if we were being bamboozled (although we were certain he was directly with the ferry operator) or if it would be a reasonable tour. Turned out our paranoia was unfounded (although it often kept us out of trouble), the tour was excellent and a highlight of our experiences in Sicily. We booked the tour through Tarnav and had a few hours to kill before the noon departure so we wandered along the waterfront a bit and stopped at a café for a granita and brioche.
At noon, we boarded the ship with a welcoming refreshment and started our tour to the first island of Panerea. It was ungodly hot so we thought a few hours at the beach was in order. When we docked we made our way to the public beach which turned out way to far and to hot to walk for a short excursion. The locals would direct us 15 minutes this way, then 15 minutes that way and over an hour later we still seemed far away. We ditched this plan and hoped on one of the golf carts that whizzed by for a terrifying return to the port but glad we lived through it and no-one was run over by our fearless driver.
Instead we headed to a rocky outcrop right in town where people were congregating for a swim. It was crowded but a nice spot for a refreshing dip in the water, a reprieve from the disabling heat and some great people watching. Soon it was time to re-board the boat and we were off to the island of Stromboli and excited about the chance to see a live volcano!
The boat took us out to some interesting rock formations protruding from the sea and a volcanic vent that bubbled up to the surface of the water all while some of the areas history was discussed over the P.A. system. We landed on Stromboli at the port of the main town, the volcano loaming over the island and smoking ominously from above. We headed into the quaint fishing village for a wander through this touristy town full of shops and boutique hotels and then headed to the black sand beach for a late afternoon swim. Soon the sun was setting behind the volcano so we dried off and made our way to one of the outdoor patios for a local beer before heading back to the boat for the highlight of our days tour…an evening cruise by the erupting side of the volcano.
On board, a pasta dinner was served to those who opted for the additional $10 Euros, nothing gourmet but tasty and simple. We arrived on the opposite side of the island, the tour directors were explaining where to look and what to expect from the volcano. Viewing an eruption wasn’t guaranteed and all depended on the temperament of Stromboli that day but it didn’t disappoint. With our eyes peeled on the top crater suddenly the crowd cheered with excitement as the volcano burst with a small explosion of lava and rock. About every 10 minutes it would spew out a few blasts of glowing red, our reward for patiently concentrating with cameras focused on the mountaintop.
As night descended we could see flashes of light from above the crater, coming from the cameras of other adventure tourists making the guided trek to the top of the mountain. This option is only for the physically fit as it’s quit a strenuous hike and somewhat dangerous when reaching the top, tour operators are available in the village. Tired after the days activities and coming down from the excitement of Stromboli’s show we settled in for the long cruise back to the main port in Milazzo. But the action wasn’t over, the tour operator had more for its quests. They rolled out some speakers, turned on the disco lights and a DJ fired up a dance party on the back of our yacht. Drinks in hand we partied and danced for the hour or so return to port arriving close to 11 in the evening. It was a great day, we were so glad to have made this choice and had this experience.
Here is a video of our tour to Stromboli
As you can tell from all the things we did here, Milazzo has a lot to offer and is a great base for exploring the region of Messina along Sicily’s magnificent coast. Next, we will be continuing our circle around the island of Sicily and heading to the popular tourist area of Taormina, staying at the foot of the largest and most active volcano in all of Europe. Here is a link to our Sicily photos; look for the rest of the photos on Milazzo, Panerea and Stromboli.