Around Lipari Island

South of Lipari, a road climbs to the unsignposted roadside viewpoint of Quattrocchi, with its postcard view over some strategically-placed cacti, down the sheer rocky peninsula of Monte Guardia, and past some sea stacks to the island of Vulcano across the straight.

Just beyond is the hamlet of Pianocorte, nothing much to look at but home to my favorite trattoria on the island. From here a branch road leads down to San Calógero, a thermal establishment since at least 1,500 BC, later favored by the Romans and today exploited by a modern spa hotel.

Heading north of Lipari, after 3.5 km you’ll come to Canneto, a modern middle class beach resort fronting a long—and crowded—stretch of pebbly sand.

Sadly, the unique pumice thrills of the beaches north of here that outdated guidebooks describe have become a thing of the past. Most of the pumice mining operations that created and fed the zone’s odd attractions have either shut down or moved further up the coast or up the hillside. Pollution and waves have washed most the whiteness to gray along the vaunted Spiaggia Bianca (“White Beach”) beyond Canneto, although a glimmer of it’s former hoary glory remains, and it still makes a good spot to pitch your beach umbrella—if you can find a place amid the crowds.

Just beyond, the Cave di Pomice is an open chalky scar from pumice strip-mining, dramatic with its chutes and mounds of the stark, powdery, versatile mineral. However, don’t expect to go body-surfing 100 feet down on a plume of pumice to plunge into the sea anymore; the powder has all sloughed off, leaving just rocky troughs you do not want to slide down. The waters below are still a piercing aquamarine from the diffused pumice effects, but to enjoy them there are just a few scraps of stony beach to pick your way down to along an old mining road—unless you have a boat to moor off the scenically deteriorating factory docks of the derelict factory town Porticello below the cliffside.

Geology buffs in the mood for some exercise can get a good workout by clambering up Monte Pilato (1570 feet), which rises above the Spiaggia Bianca and the old mining community of Porticello. The white pumice of this extinct volcano is slashed with rich veins of red and black obsidian.

Around the north side of the island is the island only other town, Acquacalda, rather more of a going concern as a community than Porticello, but with little to distract you.

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