Cruise Port Guide for a Lovely Day in Lipari

View of Island of Lipari
Looking across the hill at Lipari Cathedral.

Post-summer, Lipari is definitely off tourists’ radar. 

An island in the cobalt blue and teal colored Mediterranean and also the name of the city, Lipari is located off the northern coast of Sicily. First settled in 580 B.C.E. by the Greeks, Lipari survived a tumultuous upbringing.

Conquered by Arabs and plundered by Saracen pirates in the 9th century, life in Lipari calmed down when in 1090 the Normans overthrew the Arabs. France and Spain also had their hands in the mix. Finally by the mid-1800s, piracy in the Mediterranean had drawn to a close and a safer life in the Aeolian Islands began to reemerge. Eventually Italy laid claim to this 11-island archipelago.

My day in Lipari bore no reminder to the terror of its early days. Now, the sleepy island Lipari has become a major tourist destination during the summer months with nearly double the 11,000+ population as tourists.

When the Royal Clipper docked offshore in mid-October and we went ashore, the tourists were gone and many of the small shops had already closed for the season. Cafes that might have been closed reopened for one last hurrah of tourists.

Map in hand, I had the most wonderful day simply walking through this ancient city, up and down centuries-old cobblestone streets and alleys. Shops no wider than as far as I could extend my arms lined the narrow road from the horseshoe-shaped waterfront.

Island of Lipari seen from Royal Clipper
The city’s main attraction is a 16th century castle, cathedral and fortress ruin built atop original Greek settlement walls.

While there was a guided tour around the island, I wanted to enjoy the quiet and calm. Here are some of the highlights from my leisurely walk, much of which was uphill.

You can also visit the Lipari Museum near the castle, that houses an extensive collection of artifacts dating from prehistoric times. Included are exhibits depicting Aeolian culture that begins with the ancient Phoenicians and Greeks through Carthaginian, Roman Byzantine, Norman and Spanish rule.

Main street in Lipari old town.
This is the main thoroughfare in the old town, a short walk uphill from the dock.

Notice all of the shop doors were shut tight. Once tourist season is finished, many of the store owners leave and go to Sicily for the remainder of the year.

A couple of cafés, clothing stores and a pharmacy were about all that were open for tourists. Along the waterfront and beach, a few more cafés accommodated late season tourists.

Walk through Lipari Old Town
It wouldn’t be Italy without a clothesline draped between buildings.
Old town Lipari
At this point, I’m looking for the shortcut to walk up to the Lipari Cathedral.

Found it!

Steps to Lipari Cathedral
Cattedrale di San Bartolomeo.
Lipari Cathedral
The Lipari Cathedral / Cattedrale di San Bartolomea. Not fancy, it’s been rebuilt over the centuries.
Near Lipari Cathedral
At the top of the low-rise and slanted staircase, a long cobblestone path winds through a deserted-looking neighborhood and cathedral grounds.
ancient theatre in Lipari
This was a Greek Amphitheater and still in amazing condition.

Considering that the Greeks colonized Lipari about 2500 years ago and that there are still performances held at this site is remarkable.

Greek Ruins in Lipari
More Greek ruins of a house or something like that. There was a plaque but hard to read.
Lipari Street in Old Town
Turning around on my walk back to the picturesque little harbor. Late afternoon shadows were pretty interesting.
cattedrale di San Bartolomeo in the distance.
One more peek at the city as I made my way back to the harbor.
The constant smoldering island of Vulcano.
The constant smoldering island of Vulcano.

Back on the Royal Clipper, our captain gave us a ride through the Aeolian Islands that make up this archipelago. The island of Volcano has about 500 permanent residents that live, as you can see, under the volcano.

The famed Stromboli volcano on the island of the same name.
The famed Stromboli volcano on the island of the same name.

As the Royal Clipper anchored offshore, we anxiously awaited what we hoped would be a view of Stromboli erupting. Stromboli volcano is in a state of constant eruption with three active craters at its peak. Most nights there’s a spectacular display when Stromboli spews fire like a dragon.

Stromboli volcano erupting
I’ve never taken a photo of a volcano erupting and the ship was moving so this is the best I could capture.

Not very many ships call on Lipari. The massive influx of wealthy tourists during the summer months are mainly Italians plus Greeks and Russians. Hydrofoils and ferry boats connect all of the islands to Sicily.

Cruise lines that include a visit to Lipari are Holland America, Ponant, Star Clippers, Windstar and Silversea.


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