The largest and most developed of the Aeolians, Lipari welcomes you with distinctive pastel-color houses. Fields of spiky agaves dot the northernmost tip of the island, Acquacalda, indented with pumice and obsidian quarries. In the west is San Calogero, where you can explore hot springs and mud baths. From the red-lava base of the island rises a plateau crowned with a 16th-century castle and a 17th-century cathedral.
The views from this upper-town restaurant's outdoor terrace are a fitting complement to the superb fare featured on its menu. Founded in 1910, Filippino is rightly rated as one of the archipelago's best dining venues—you'll understand why when you sample the seafood. Zuppa di pesce (fish soup) and the antipasto platter of smoked and marinated fish are absolute musts. Just leave some room for the local version of cassata siciliana, accompanied by sweet Malvasia wine from Salina.
Known to the locals as Da Yoyo—the owner is constantly getting up and down to attend to his customers—this is really no more than a glorified salad bar right on the beach at Selinunte. Pick up a plate and serve yourself from the various delicacies laid out on the center spread; a lunch buffet costs €12, while dinner (Fri. and Sat. only) is €20. Wine comes by the carafe and is surprisingly drinkable. As an added plus there are sun beds and umbrellas at reasonable prices if you want to unwind before the next archaeological bonanza.
Museo Archeologico Eoliano
The vast, multibuilding Museo Archeologico Eoliano is a terrific museum, with an intelligently arranged collection of prehistoric finds—some dating as far back as 4000 BC—from various sites in the archipelago, as well as Greek and Roman artifacts, including an outstanding collection of Greek theatrical masks, and even interesting information on volcanoes. Basic descriptions about the exhibits are provided in English and Italian, though more comprehensive information is only in Italian. That said, there is so much to see, it's worth at least a few hours of your time.
A popular day-trip from Lipari is to visit the most notorious of the Aeolian Islands: Vulcano. True to its name—and the origin of the term—Vulcano has a profusion of fumeroles sending up jets of hot vapor, though the volcano here has long been dormant. This is an island most travelers wish to visit, perhaps to soak in the strong-smelling sulphur springs, but not to stay on: when the wind is right, the odors greet you long before you disembark. The island has some of the archipelago's best beaches, though the volcanic black sand can be off-putting at first glance. Ascend to the crater (1,266 feet above sea level) on muleback for eye-popping views or take a boat ride into the grottoes around the base. From Capo Grillo you can see all the Aeolians.