The tiny car-free and extremely fashionable island of Panarea has become a magnet for international jet-setters. Several of Italy and Europe’s elite own properties on the island while others are transported to the island via glitzy yachts that fill the pocket-sized harbour during the summer months. Outside of the tourist season, the island shuts up shop.
There is a definite party scene but for those looking for something a little more peaceful, the island is still one of little hamlets, pretty beaches and sparkling sea. The port at San Pietro is also the principal hub for the island’s restaurants, bars and shops, located amongst narrow white-washed streets.
The main beaches are Cala Junco, a little cove with a rocky beach in the south; Punta Milazzese in the east; the sandy Cala dei Zimmari in the north; Cala Bianca in the west; and the extraordinary steaming Spiaggia della Calcara to the northeast of Panarea. Exploring by boat provides the opportunity to find hideaway coves or make tracks for the five islets off Panarea’s east coast where beaches include Le Guglie on the tiny islet of Dattilo.
For those interested in exploring underwater, scuba equipment can be hired and dives organised in San Pietro. Underwater attractions include the wreck of a 19th century English ship which lies on the seabed between the tiny islets of Lisca Bianca and Bottaro.
Above ground, there is the option of visiting the remnants of a prehistoric village that dates back to the 14th century BC. Minoan-influenced pottery found at the site of the 23 stone huts, situated on Punta Milazzese, suggest former trading links with the Cretans.
Transport on, or around the island is by boat or golf cart, although given that the island is just 2.5km by 1.8km, most places are also accessible on foot. Away from San Pietro, much of the island consists of rural countryside and volcanic formations. The highest point (421m) is at Punta del Corvo, well worth the climb for the views over the entire archipelago.