Panarea - Read our Stories and Reviews


One of the things I love about traveling is the excitement and the thrill of discovering a hidden gem. It’s such a buzz to know that there are still places out there that are “off the grid” as far as the vast majority of the holidaying public is concerned. Panarea is that kind of place. It’s a gorgeous little jewel in the Aeolian Islands, just off the north coast of Sicily. I know…I’d never heard of it either, and neither had my travel agent! I’m not quite sure how such a fabulous destination can slip under the radar, but I’m so glad it did.
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Most people who know me will tell you that my two favourite countries on earth are Italy and Greece.  What can I say? It’s true. I’m guilty as charged, and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling that way. I think the reason I absolutely adore Panarea is that it’s like a perfect fusion of these two countries. 

Interestingly, the first time we ever came to Panarea, we were thinking of making a trip to Portofino, but in the course of doing a spot of island research, I stumbled upon the Aeolian Islands, and Panarea shot straight to the top of our list.

For such a small island, there are actually quite a few hotels on Panarea.  I’m a bit of a research freak (Gee, who’d have guessed?). The more I researched the more I realized Hotel Raya was the place for us.  It ticked all of the Said Family boxes.

We’ve been there twice now, and I think it’s safe to say that Panarea has me completely under its spell. Whatever the travel version of “You had me at hello!” is, that’s how I feel about Panarea.

You can’t fly directly there, but you certainly shouldn’t look at that as a reason not to go to Panarea. It just makes the trip itself even more of an adventure, and a really fun part of your holiday.

The first part of the journey involves flying into Reggio Calabria. From Reggio Calabria, there are essentially two ways you can get across to Panarea. The two - three hour high speed hydrofoil, about Euros 40 per person. But if you’re feeling indulgent, the quickest and most spectacular way to make the hop from the mainland to Panarea is by helicopter. We decided to splurge and go for it !!  You can book the helicopter direct with Anna at Hotel Raya.

So, once we landed in Reggio, we set about finding our pilot ,Lorenzo. We tracked him down in a few minutes. I’ve learned over the years to take the rough with the smooth on my travels, and I think I’m pretty good at dealing with people in all sorts of, shall we say “heightened emotional states” (Sheira may disagree with that one!) but even Lorenzo stretched my patience!  I don’t know what his problem was, but he seemed determined to be as grumpy as possible. He was particularly annoyed by the fact that our bags were so full. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like an odd complaint for someone in the transportation industry who is flying the helicopter while juggling 2 mobile phones all at the same time ! 

It got to the point where Sheira and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but we decided that we weren’t going to let a cranky pilot ruin our trip. Lorenzo eventually found his inner “happy pilot” anyway and before we knew it we were soaring over the edge of Sicily. A quick wave as we passed by the town of Taormina, and then it was up over the Sicilian peaks, and then north into a brilliant blue sky.

The view as we approached Panarea was breathtaking: this small fist of rocks and trees bursts out of the ocean, and almost dares you to come down and take a closer look.  Which, of course, we did!

Waiting for us at the heliport on the island was what’s best described as a little three-wheeler with storage on the back. After the high tech wizardry and relative comfort of the helicopter, this was quite a change! There’s no standing on ceremony when it comes to the luggage. Whether it’s a Louis Vuitton classic or a weather beaten old backpack, it all gets thrown in the back.

Actually, that’s pretty much where we were sitting too. The storage doubled as the back seat, as our little three-wheeler was driven at breakneck speed through lanes barely wider than my own outstretched arms. I’m as a much a fan of a comfortable limo ride as the next guy, but I have to admit that there was something wonderfully authentic about our thrill seeking ride to the hotel.

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