I have confirmed that there is a hydrofoil ferry from the port, Milazzo to one of the Aeolian Islands which takes about one hour and a half for about $20 per person but we would have to take Trenitalia to get there. Direct ferry/ hydrofoil service from the Palermo port is only possible from June through mid September (We are traveling in May.). In addition, there is no easy way to go from the Aeolian Islands directly to Taormina except by taxi which could be costly. Navigating by car in these islands is not recommended and so a rental car is probably not a viable option. I already confirmed that there is a reliable bus (Interbus), to get from Palermo to Taormina. After doing some further checking, I did learn that if we go directly to Taormina from Palermo, that there is a full day side tour from Taormina to Lipari and Vulcano which are two of the Aeolian Islands. I footnoted below the link of the tour company which advertises as follows: “Monday/Wednesday/Friday from Taormina area, to visit the amazing Aeolian Archipelago with the islands of Lipari and Vulcano. We will experience this excursion by collective motorboat … fantastic experience visiting the Faraglioni, the White Beaches, the pumice stone quarry … and the unique Venus Pool.” …This is where I need to talk to my friend to reach a consensus. I have also confirmed that there is a coach guided tour from Taormina to Siracusa (Syracuse).
The following write up on the Aeolian Islands is from Pauline Frommer’s Guidebook on Italy:
“Wildly diverse and seductively appealing for anyone in search of an island getaway, Sicily’s Aeolian Islands are among the best offbeat escapes in the Mediterranean. The tint islands are the peaks of a 3,000m (9,840 ft.) volcanic mountain range that was formed more than a million years ago. Vulcano and Stromboli, still smolder and sizzle, but the rest are largely dormant. In the warmer months, hydrofoils and ferries leave from Milazzo (the principal port for reaching the islands), Palermo, and Messina and hop from island to island. The main island is Lipari and almost all ferries from Sicilian ports stop here first.”
Pauline Frommer’s commentary on the Aeolian islands continues:
“For most purposes, I recommend that you base yourself in Lipari, as it offers the widest range of rooms and apartments. As the capital of the Aeolians, it also has the most frequent connections for exploring the other islands. The Citadel is the focal point in the only real town in the Aeolians. Start at Via del Concordato, with its 17th century Cattedrale di San Bartolomeo and its 12th century Benedictine cloister. Then head straight for the archeological dig, which is a quarry for the nearby Museo Archeologico Eoliano (Via del Castello). You can easily spend a few hours poking around the vases, sculpture, and other ancient artifacts in the two buildings that make up this museum.”
“Tiny Panarea is the most glamorous of the Aeolians, complete with boho-chic boutiques, Greek-style whitewashed villas, and very expensive restaurants. Until a few years ago, Panarea was a fairly well-kept secret, but it’s been a bit overrun by young people who seem to want to turn it into Ibiza. Sleek yachts in the harbor and around the island’s pretty coves cater to movie stars and wannabes.”
“Stromboli is the best at night, when the fireworks from the very active volcano light up the sky and make the water look like a blazing pool. Almost everything on this island revolves around the volcanic activity. There are a handful of tour operators who specialize on guided evening visits to the volcano.”(The best recommended tour company, footnoted below, is Magmatrek.)
“Vulcano, the archipelago’s second largest island after Lipari, is worthwhile for its live volcanoes and inexpensive spa treatments. Sulfur bath treatments are synonymous with Vulcano for Italians who summer in Sicily; the mud here is widely felt to be therapeutic. Access to the public mud baths is less than 5 euros, which includes entrance to the steaming pools and beach. You may not want to stay overnight: The smell of sulfur is overpowering after a few hours.”
“Filicudi and Alicudi, two small, isolated islands, are also good bets, like Salina, for nature lovers. They’re great for tent campers but if camping is not for you, Filicudi is a fine place to visit for an afternoon hike or for an overnight at the chic La canna hotel; just a ferry ride from one of the other islands.”
The following is what the authors of Lonely Planet in their “Southern Italy” book write about Salina:
“Salina’s twin craters of Monte dei Porri and Monte Fossa delle Felci are lushly wooded, a result of the numerous freshwater springs on the island. Wildflowers, thick yellow gorse bushes and serried ranks of grapevines carpet the hillsides in vibrant colors and cool greens, while its high coastal cliffs plunge dramatically towards beaches. The famous Aeolian capers grow plentiful here as do the grapes used for making Malvasia wine.” (The winery, winner of five international awards is Fenech at Via Fratelli Mirabilo 41 and there is another producer at the Capoforo resort.)
“At Salus Per Aquam (Hotel Signum’s fabulous spa), enjoy a revitalizing hot-spring soak or a cleansing sweat in a traditional adobe walled steam house. The complex includes several stylish Jacuzzi tubs on a pretty flag stoned patio, and blissful spaces where you can immerse your body in salt crystals, get a massage, or pamper yourself with natural essences of citrus, Malvasia and capers.”
Taormina Coach Tour – Sicily Excursions http://www.sicilyexcursions.com/taormina_coach_tour.htm – collective coach tour in departure on Monday & Thursday from Taormina area, to visit the amazing Syracuse.
Sicily Tours 2015 – Tours of Sicily all year at great prices!http://www.bestofsicily.com/sicilytours2005.htm-Great tours of Sicily every week at affordable prices! … Cross Sicily from Siracusa to Palermo to Taormina…
Magmatrek | Guide vulcanologiche Stromboli- www.magmatrek.it/ Group of volcanological guides whose aim is to promote the archipelago and Sicily’s natural and cultural heritage. Includes details of excursions and contact…Via Vittorio Emanuele, 98050 Stromboli ME, Italy +39 090 986 5768