Lipari is the largest of the scattered isles in the Aeolian archipelago between Northern Sicily and Italy’s Calabrian coast. Lipari Town, the main city on the island, shares its name with the island.
The island’s origins are volcanic, giving it a rich supply of obsidian, which early on was used for the making of tools. There are traces of settlers from nearly 15,000 years ago, with extensive Roman era ruins (the Acropolis) on the fortress-like cliff rising out of the Aeolian Sea in the center of Lipari Town.
The island is a popular summer retreat, especially for visitors from Sicily which has a regular ferry service to the island. Lipari is known for its diving and snorkeling activities and also its spirited nightlife. We dined there on a Saturday night and after dinner the pedestrian zoned streets were full of outdoor cafes, bars and bands, with people of all ages strolling the main street and enjoying the evening.
The Catterdale di San Bertolomeo sits atop the cliff on the site of the old Roman Acropolis and replaced a 12th century church from that site. Built in the Baroque style in the 17th century, the cathedral is home to a silver statue of Lipari’s patron saint, St. Bartholomew. It is the main place of worship in Lipari.
The town’s history is detailed on markers around the Roman era ruins on the cliff that was the home to the Roman Acropolis: “Lipara (meaning fat, or fertile) or Meligunis (a name that seems to refer to honey, which in ancient Greek was meli) was founded during the 50th Olympiad (580 to 576 B.C.) by inhabitants of Cnido together with a group coming from the Island of Rhodes, per a reference by the Greek historian Diodoro Siculo.
“The first Cnidic settlement was definitely on the Rock [cliff], where later, the Acropolis was founded. It was on the highest part and had houses, temples, and agora (the main square).
“A Greek tower was included in the walls built in 1560.
“Unfortunately the upper layers were radically changed during the Roman and Medieval times. This brought about an almost complete uprooting of the buildings belonging to the Classical and Hellenistic age of the Acropolis.”