8 Days Aeolian Islands Cooking Holidays in Italy

  • Villa Saracena, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

8 Days Aeolian Islands Cooking Holidays in Italy

  • Villa Saracena, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

Cooking Vacations and Food Tours in Italy

Come and join us for an all-inclusive gastronomical tour and cooking holidays of Sicily and its Aeolian islands. Youll enjoy a truly authentic cooking vacation and wine tasting experience with a chance to explore the islands and their volcanoes. For this holiday well be based on the island of Vulcano, visiting the nearby islands of Lipari and Salina with an optional visit to Stromboli.


  • Hands-on cooking classes
  • Local wine tours and tastings
  • Fishing trips with fresh fish cooked meals
  • Visit a local goat cheese farm for a cheese tasting
  • Night time trip to see the erruptions on the Stromboli Volcano
  • Boating around the islands with sea swimming
  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Fish market visit
  • 6 days with instruction
  • Italian, English
Hide all

UNA Palaca Hotel

Your first night will be spent at the UNA Palace Hotel in the historic centre of Catania. It's an elegant period building which has been restored in keeping with local traditions and Sicilian style. Breakfast is served in the rooftop restaurant with spectacular views of Mount Etna.

Villa Saracena

For the rest of your holiday, you will be staying at the charming Villa Saracena, which is situated in an idyllic and tranquil location on the edge of the small town of Vulcano. Villa Saracena is a small family-run hotel in a lovely garden setting with rooms that lead out onto a pool and striking views of the volcano in the backdrop. The perfect place to relax and recharge. The villa is within 5-minute walking distance from the town, the volcano and the Porto Ponente black sand beach, perfectly situated for all local amenities and the weeks activities. A light continental style breakfast will be served daily with tea and coffee, fruit juices, fresh fruits, local pastries and fresh local produce.

Villa Saracena is also part of an agritourismo, which means they have farmland where they grow their own produce. For those who wish to be more independent and explore, there is the option to have breakfast at one of the local bars. Petty cash will be available to subsidize this. One of Aeolian Adventures' favorite things to do in Vulcano, is cycle down to the sea in the early morning and have coffee whilst watching the sun rise over the little fishing port. Bicycles are also available upon request.

Day 1, Sunday - Arrival

  • Arrival into Catania Airport (CTA), where you will be met then transferred by private car or minibus to the elegant 4-star UNA Palace hotel which is perfectly situated in the center of Catania with roof top views over the historic city and Mount Etna.
  • Sunday is dedicated solely to arrivals as all flights coming from the UK arrive late afternoon.
  • This evening, you are free to relax or explore the surrounding area and have dinner. Restaurant recommendations and a map of the local area can be given, if required.
  • The Aeolian Adventures team will be on hand for assistance and local phones will be provided in the event that you should need to contact them at any time.

Day 2, Monday - Vulcano

  • Begin your adventures in the bustling, baroque city of Catania with an early breakfast followed by a short walk to the amazing, sprawling fish market which winds around historic streets and piazzas.
  • There, you will find every form of sea life imaginable, a truly mesmerizing experience and the perfect introduction to the importance of Sicilian seafood on the table.
  • Remaining in the center of Catania, you will have your first hands-on cooking lesson, with an Italian pastry chef.
  • You will learn how to make cannoli, the iconic Sicilian dessert, a crispy pastry tube filled with sweetened ricotta, and also arancini (rice balls), a traditional Sicilian street food.
  • You will then have lunch of what you have made.
  • After lunch, transfer to the port of Milazzo by minibus and from there, take the hydrofoil for 45 minutes to the island of Vulcano, your base for the rest of the week. *On arrival, transfer directly to your hotel, Villa Saracena, a short distance from the port.
  • You now have time to relax, settle into your accommodation, and enjoy welcome drinks.
  • In the evening, before dinner, you will visit the center of vulcanology for a brief but informative talk on the history of the islands, their evolution and their volcanoes, presented with an aperitif, a glass or even two, of the local bubbles.
  • Then, on to the venue for your welcome dinner; La Forgia restaurant, owned and run by the delightful Maurizio, who serves and entertains his guests whilst cooking at the same time! His specialties combine classic local dishes with middle-eastern flavors, influenced by Sicilys turbulent ancestral and cultural history.

Day 3, Tuesday - Vulcano

  • Begin your day with the option to take a mud bath in the bubbling volcanic mud pools of Vulcano, thought to have healing and rejuvenating properties, or for those feeling more energetic, an early morning hike up the volcano, accompanied or self guided, to watch the sun rise over the archipelago.
  • The walk up the volcano is steep but short. The crater can be reached within 20 minutes or 30 to 40 minutes at a more leisurely pace whilst you look back to admire the views which become more magnificent with elevation.
  • Mid-morning, you will be driven into the hills of Vulcano for a hands-on cooking lesson at the family-run Trattoria Maria Tindara established by its namesake Maria Tindara in the early 1960s, in the days before there was electric light in Vulcano.
  • Rosi, Maria's daughter-in-law is now the head of the kitchen and will be showing you how to make her legendary tagliatelle with typical sauces plus some of her favorite local dishes.
  • This is followed by lunch, which will be the dishes you have prepared, all washed down with local wines.
  • After lunch, there will be time to relax and recharge before the evening ahead.
  • This evening, after dark, you will go fishing for squid, a local variety known as totani (broad-tailed flying squid), with fishermen such as local character Capitano Felice, who will show you how to prepare the catch and then, cook it for you on board.

Day 4, Wednesday - Salina

  • Today, after breakfast, you will head down to the port, a short walk from the villa to take the hydrofoil for 45 minutes to the island of Salina, the second largest and most verdant island in the archipelago, on the trail of some of the islands better known vineyards.
  • These include the wineries Francesco Fenech, Caravalglio and Hauner famous for its Malvasia dessert wine with tours and tastings.
  • Lunch at the famous Da Alfredo trattoria, located in the tiny seaside town of Lingua to sample the local specialty Pane Cunzatu (a grilled flat bread spilling with typical fresh local ingredients) followed by granita (fruit ice), arguably the best in Sicily.
  • Return to Vulcano late afternoon with time to relax before dinner.
  • Dinner this evening is a traditional Sicilian barbecue in a relaxed garden setting with live traditional Sicilian music.

Day 5, Thursday - Lipari

  • This morning, you will have the opportunity again to hike up the volcano, one of the highlights of Vulcano, or for those who have not already done so, take a steaming mud bath and soak up the therapeutic benefits.
  • If you are up early enough, you will see the locals strolling through the streets in their bathrobes heading for the daily ritual of bathing in the mud pools.
  • Mid-morning, enjoy a drive to Trattoria Maria Tindara for your second hands-on cooking lesson with Rosi and family.
  • Today, you will be cooking zucchini Parmesan, made with sweet seasonal zucchini as an alternative to the better known eggplant Parmesan.
  • Then, onto the main course of Sicilian sweet and sour rabbit (coniglio in agrodolce) which can be substituted, for those who prefer, with lamb or even fresh local tuna steaks.
  • For lunch, you will eat what you have prepared, accompanied by local wines.
  • This evening, you will take the hydrofoil for 10 minutes to Lipari, the largest island in the archipelago, for wine tastings paired with local produce.
  • You will also have time to explore the historic center and visit the pretty little fishing harbor of Marina Corta. Return by water taxi.

Day 6, Friday - Vulcano

  • This morning, you will visit the local goat cheese farm, a lovely walk from the villa along blossoming bougainvillea lined tracks.
  • Here, farmer Fabrizio keeps a herd of a hundred plus goats which graze freely on the slopes of the volcano.
  • The goats are hand-milked, and traditional methods are used to make the highly regarded ricotta and pecorino cheeses which are freshly made by Fabrizio daily. *For those who wish, there is the possibility of joining in with the production, from herding to milking to making the cheese.
  • Afterwards, you will choose a selection of cheeses to be accompanied with fresh bread and local preserves for a well deserved breakfast!
  • The day continues with a cooking demonstration and lunch at Diavolo de Poli family-run restaurant, a quaint unassuming locale, where daughter Nancy runs front of house, whilst mother Santina is firmly in charge of the kitchen.
  • Among the home cooked delights that will be prepared today are the delicious antipasti for which they are locally renowned followed by pasta alla Vulcanara and stuffed swordfish rolls, all Aeolian specialties.
  • This afternoon, there is time to relax, perhaps find a quiet corner of the garden to read, or maybe take a dip in the pool ahead of your evening activity.
  • In the evening, you will learn the secrets of how to make the perfect pizza and focaccia.
  • For those who wish, there is the opportunity to prepare the ingredients, get messy, and attempt to throw the dough. Aprons will be provided! When the work is done, you will dine on everything you prepared.

Day 7, Saturday - Lipari, cooking class

  • Departing early, today's first port of call is the island of Lipari, arriving by hydrofoil in 10 minutes with the day ahead to further explore.
  • For breakfast, you will head to the famous Pasticceria Subba, another family-run business since it opened in 1930.
  • There, you can try a typical Sicilian breakfast of mouthwatering miniature pastries with coffee as you like it or the granite (topped with whipped cream for an extra treat) served with brioche.
  • This morning, you will wander around Lipari's main town and visit the ancient fortification dating back to the Greeks and Romans with an optional tour of the archaeological museum.
  • Then, there is the busy main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is packed with shopping opportunities. All can be accompanied or self-guided.
  • Late morning, drive out of town for your last cooking lesson and hands-on experience at La Dolce Vita farmhouse, perched 200 meters high upon rolling cliffs with spectacular views out to sea and the coast of Sicily with Mount Etna looming in the backdrop.
  • Today, amongst other local dishes, you will sample the different pesto, almond, pistachio and caper, which are typical of the islands and Sicily, and learn how to create recipes using their different flavors.
  • As always, lunch is what you make paired with the local or Sicilian wine.
  • Then, back to the island of Vulcano with time to relax before our sunset boat cruise, depending on sea conditions, with picnic supper and local wine.

Day 8, Sunday - Departure

  • After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye, taking with you not just many happy memories, but ideas, inspiration and plenty of know-how to create your own Sicilian menus for friends and family back home.
  • For those planning to stay on the island or travel onward within Sicily or Italy, Aeolian Adventures will ensure all necessary connections and assist with any advice or information as required.
  • Squid fishing
  • Visit cheese farm
  • Visit fish market
  • Visit Lipari
  • Visit Salina

Your destination, the Aeolian Islands, is a volcanic archipelago made up of seven islands scattered off the north-east tip of Sicily in the sparkling azure waters of the Mediterranean sea. All astonishingly beautiful with an identity all their own, the Aeolian archipelago was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000. The islands' geography and climate are perfect for the cultivation of crops and vines, the ideal setting for your cooking holidays and wine tastings. Volcanic soils are the richest agricultural lands on earth.

And this, combined with a sun drenched climate, ensures that the islands slopes and plains are spilling over with olive groves, fruit orchards, capers and vineyards. Then, there's an abundance of sea life to be caught fresh daily that can speedily go straight to the plate. Delicious simple cooked food, great wine, historic towns, volcanic landscapes and outstanding natural beauty.

  • 1 cooking demonstration
  • 5 hands-on cooking lessons
  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Fishing trips
  • Food and wine
  • Printed recipes
  • Transportation
  • Wine tours and tastings and any other activities detailed in the itinerary
  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses
  • A reservation requires a deposit of 25% of the total price.
  • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled up to 80 days before the arrival date.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 80 days before arrival.

Verified BookCulinaryVacations.com reviews

  • J
    Review by Jane Mclaurin from United States

    PROS Pros: Laura Panico of Aeolian Adventures was fantastic. She is an amazing person and put together a wonderful trip for us. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

    2017-Sep-18 03:19:42


  • Review by Jeremy Head
    10 out of 10

    "Perhaps it was something about the light that morning on Vulcano. Or maybe the sound of goat bells tinkling across the hillside. Something made up Laura Panico’s mind. She had been here all summer visiting friends. It was too lovely to leave to go back to Britain. But how was she to earn a living? Five years on, Laura has a business bringing visitors to Vulcano - one of the Aeolian islands, a confetti trail of volcanic outcrops off the north coast of Sicily. Her guests spend a week learning to cook the way her friend’s grandmother does, pulling squid from the sea and cooking them on the boat, and savoring the unique aroma the volcanic soils give to the local wines. We reach Vulcano by hydrofoil, jetting across a shimmering sea from Sicily, then step out on to a quayside of one-storey shops and restaurants that looked like it had been that way for ever. No time to look around though: we need to start on lunch. Local taxi driver Santi drives us past soaring views of the smoldering volcano to Maria Tindara’s trattoria up in the hills. In the days when Maria did the cooking, there was no electricity, and produce came up the track by donkey. Things have changed - there’s a Tarmac road, gas and electricity, and daughter-in-law Rosi and grandson Gilberto run the kitchen now. But the recipes are much the same. Rosi came to work here as a teenager, and Maria’s son Angelo took a shine to her. “I thought, ‘She’s the one for me’,” he says, eyes twinkling under bushy brows. And he married her. “I still work in the kitchen,” laughs Rosi. “They just don’t pay me now.”. She shows us how to roll narrow maccheroni tubes. The secret tool? An old umbrella spoke. Cut a knuckle-length of dough, push the spoke down into it, join the sides up. And roll. It sticks to the board and my fingers, but slowly I find the right balance of pressure and rolling action and mine start to look vaguely edible. Sharing a rolling board is a great ice-breaker, and I quickly get to know the others on the trip. There’s Brian and John from New York, Barbara and John who live in France, John’s son Matt and his partner Louise, all the way from Australia, and Monica and Nick from London. We cook a sauce of sardines, fennel and sweet tomatoes to go with the pasta. Pudding is a tangy tart made with milk, crushed almonds and lemon. The secondo piatto is slivers of beef, which we stuff with breadcrumbs, capers and cheese then deep-fry in olive oil. It’s a truism for a reason - food tastes better if you’ve cooked it (or helped cook it, anyway). Lunch lasted long into the afternoon. If family recipes tested through generations are a key ingredient here, fresh produce is another. Without doubt the freshest came the following evening. Filippo has fished totani - large brown squid - in these clear waters for 15 years. We sit on his boat’s roof, dusky sunlight stretching a pool of orange towards us across the waves. A fisherman called Billy drops flashing lights with scary-looking hooks over the side. We spy a pod of dolphins. It’s idyllic, but Filippo isn’t happy. “Cheeky dolphins,” he mutters. “They steal the squid. We might have to see if they’ll deliver pizza out here!” They haul up the first light 20 minutes later… nothing. Filippo began the evening in jovial mood, but now he is serious, barking at us to keep the noise down. A second light comes up, empty. We watch in awkward silence. Will we catch anything? And if not, what will we eat for dinner?As they haul up the third, Filippo is suddenly animated, and the other fishermen cast lines into the sea. Whoosh! A slithering squid flops over the side, almost landing on my foot. More follow. Billy gives me a line, motioning me to pull. I haul and haul, and finally, splat! Up comes my squid, in a spray of water. The squid is gutted, chopped, dusted in flour, then cooked in hot olive oil. We eat it with our hands, hot and fresh with hunks of bread, salad and a tumbler of dry, local white. It’s late, and we are starving, but the food tastes spectacular. The bounty of these islands is everywhere. Pretty much every ingredient we cook with has come straight from the ground or sea. Laura brings fresh ricotta-filled pastries for breakfast each morning at our cozy rural hotel, Villa Saracena, and one day takes us for a stroll just a mile up the road to see where the gorgeous curd cheese is made. We find Fabrizio pouring goat’s milk into a large aluminium vat. His 350 goats are milked by hand every morning. I’m not remotely surprised to learn that his dad showed him how to make cheese as a boy. It’s a simple process - heating, cooling, adding rennet, spooning off curds. He shows us pots of creamy ricotta and harder, dried cheese, too. Family recipes, fresh produce… the final magic ingredient is fertile volcanic soil, which is great for goats and also for grapes. We often hop on boats to visit other islands during our stay, and on nearby Salina we visit the Hauner family’s vineyard. Racks of local malvasia grapes are drying in the sunshine. “Drying increases the sugar content, which makes them perfect for dessert wine,” says Andrea, as he shows us the cellar where wines are gently mellowing. His great, great grandfather planted many of their vines. Three generations of the family taste the wines each harvest and decide the blend for perfect flavors. Andrea’s mother brings out frittata, salty cheese, figs, tomato marmalade and capers to complement the wines. By the end I can’t remember which I like most. They are all splendid. On the way back, we stop in a shallow cove. I pull on my trunks and plunge into the sea. Floating on my back, full of fine wine and food, I decide I’m rather glad Laura chose to share her slice of paradise. Then I wonder what will be for dinner."

    The Guardian, edited

  • Review by David
    10 out of 10

    "Hi Laura, I just wanted to say thank you so very much for a fabulous week. I really enjoyed my time in the Aeolian Islands - from our explorations, the introduction to Sicilian cooking, and all the wine sampling! It was all so wonderful and I really appreciated all the time and effort you took to ensure it was such a smooth and memorable experience for us. I especially appreciated how you tried to tailor the week around everyone’s interests and changing whims - no easy task at the best of times and you achieved it admirably with the utmost patience and ever smilingly! Thank you for accommodating my requests. The highlight for me was the last day, in particular seeing Stromboli’s nocturnal eruptions under a star laden sky - totally magical and a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you for helping to fulfill a childhood dream. It all seems a long time ago already - work has a habit of getting in the way of travelling! However, photos are a great reminder and we have lots of superb memories to draw upon."

    Aeolian Adventures website, edited

  • Review by Justine
    10 out of 10

    "I just wanted to say thank you so very much for a fabulous week. I really enjoyed my time in the Aeolian Islands - from our explorations, the introduction to Sicilian cooking and all the wine sampling!! It was all so wonderful and I really appreciated all the time and effort you took to ensure it was such a smooth and memorable experience for us. I especially appreciated how you tried to tailor the week around everyone’s interests and changing whims - no easy task at the best of times and you achieved it admirably with the utmost patience and ever smilingly!! Thank you for accommodating my requests. The highlight for me was the last day, in particular seeing Stromboli’s nocturnal eruptions under a star laden sky - totally magical and a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you for helping to fulfil a childhood dream. It all seems a long time ago already - work has a habit of getting in the way of travelling! However photos are a great reminder and we have lots of superb memories to draw upon. Hope to catch up soon."

    Aeolian Adventures website, edited

  • Review by Brian
    10 out of 10

    "I want to belatedly thank you immensely for the wonderful time you produced for us in Sicily last October! All of the activities you planned were memorable and not to be competed with! John has gotten many miles out of his telling of the calamari fishing expedition! I cannot pick one single favorite moment... so, so many stick out ! One thing is sure, I do not remember one bad or even ‘less’ then meal! The incredible food, drink and experiences were incomparable! We are having thoughts of a Sicily return this October... would be interested in your thoughts about where to stay/eat in places like Ragusa / Modica / Noto or Marsala... right now those are the places that are holding our interest and by the way is Agrigento worth a visit all the guides say it is an ugly city! All the best and stay in touch."

    Aeolian Adventures website, edited