That greenest of the Aeolian Islands: Salina the wild, where the tip of Capofaro is anointed with an immaculate lighthouse set amidst an enchanting vineyard. It is the perfect place to discover Mediterranean culture while respecting its profound fragility.
Having reached the ends of the earth, I am still at the epicenter of a legendarily ancient world: Watching the sun set over the rows of Malvasia vines at Capofaro, Salina’s two extinct volcanoes behind me and the volcanic islands of Lipari and Vulcano before me, for a moment I glimpsed the true nature of the Mediterranean. It is difficult not to reach for clichés when describing the surge of delight travelers feel as they at last set down their suitcase at Capofaro: Only a boat can take you to the seven Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily. That Sicily I trod throughout my childhood and teens, a place I had not set foot in twenty years for fear of tarnishing those memories of youth steeped in insolent joy. But Salina is not really Sicily, nor is Salina quite Greece. It is a unique blend of untamed nature –medlar trees, yellow broom, and sea fennel grow freely here – and unrefined elegance, giving this verdant pebble in the sea truly unbridled charm.
At the tip of the island is the Capofaro vineyard, which can be seen from the sea and is watched over by the property’s pristine lighthouse – in which I even had the good fortune to spend the night. The leafy landscape is sprinkled with fresh, unassuming houses of relaxing simplicity. For on an island where boats bring the food and drink, and where the least waste must be hauled back to the mainland, environmental preservation is a daily battle.
At the helm of Capofaro are Margherita Vitale, the General Manager, and Ludovico De Vivo, the Chef: With both having “life” as part of their very names, it is clear that this establishment does more than promote convictions – it pursues a wholly sustainable lifestyle. No plastic in the bathrooms, no printed brochures – but no preaching, either. Still, if you forgot your toothpaste, it will be provided to you in the form of a tablet – the only plastic-free version available. As Margherita says, “We’re just doing our best, because it’s our responsibility to do so. Luxury doesn’t mean always having more things, but fewer things that are of good quality, carefully selected and local.”
Chef Ludovico, who starts his day by picking produce in his kitchen garden overlooking the pool, applies the same philosophy on the plate: His spaghetti with tomato, a simple dish exploding with flavor, captures the intense tastes of sun and ancient wheat.
The Senatore Cappelli cultivar responsible for that flour is grown at one of the four other Sicilian houses forming Tasca d’Almerita, an umbrella group of farms and hospitality establishments with a common ethos. Olive oil, along with wheat for pasta and bread, are shared around Sicily by all these tenute that also produce wine: olives, wine and wheat, the founding triptych of Mediterranean civilizations. But in Salina, one must also add the caper, preciously protected by a Slow Food steward. This slightly prickly shrub, with exuberant white flowers and purple stamens, has made itself a home here – you may come across it pushing up between the stones of Capofaro. Only five producers harvest it by hand on the island, patiently fermenting the buds in coarse salt to remove all bitterness and reveal its incredibly full flavor. Ludovico De Vivo even goes so far as to use the bush’s leaves, another way to explore every facet of this island treasure. Because when you’re fortunate enough to have such capers, you don’t need caviar. And because Mother Nature reigns supreme on Salina and therefore merits the utmost respect.