The ultimate in bohemian Aeolian Island chic
THIS CULT HOTEL on the sland of Panarea is the ultimate in bohemian island chic – just the place for lazily rich Robinson Crusoes
to hang out.
Lit by flares at dusk, Hotel Raya’s huge open rooftop bar – in pole position above the harbour with front-row views of the darkening sea and neighbouring Aeolian islands – draws a hip young crowd
. It's just the place to down cocktails and watch sparks flying up into the night sky from the volcanic isle of Stromboli just across the water – turning into a late-late open air nightclub after midnight.
Everywhere at Hotel Raya is made for indoor-outdoor living. Rough plastered walls in tropical white are artfully mixed with Balinese sofas and art
(owner Myriam Beltrani lives in Bali for much of the year). Simple rooms – some in a private enclave at the top of the hill – are accented by a pot here or a wooden mandolin there, with wooden shutters opening on to a private terrace. Staff are charmingly laidback and after a day or two here, so will you.
Hit the Spot
Above the harbour on chic Panarea.
Top rooms are at Rayo Alto – a 7-8 minute walk uphill – with their own bar and terraces. The most private are 41 and 42.
Staff are charmingly laidback, so don't expect Swiss efficiency.
Hip hangout for cool castaways.
Swimming off the rocks
With silk gowns and flip flops waiting to be donned, a cane-shaded private terrace and a fridge stocked with bubbly, it was hard to tear ourselves away from our quarters. We surfaced later to swim off the rocks near the hotel (a pool is opening soon) and sun ourselves on a sandy spur. Fellow guests were zipping off in speedboats or tanning on the smooth rocks.
Dinner is served beneath the stars by mahogany-tanned young staff
dressed (or undressed) in sarongs with bejewelled belly buttons. In a spectacular setting, Hotel Raya's terrace restaurant is dining to dine out on. The views are made in heaven (the food less so), and while this much-hyped address has just two stars, it's tailor made for cool island castaways who love laidback living.
Hotel Raya was reviewed for Room for Romance by Mairiona Cotter
Click on any picture to enlarge it and move through the gallery.
Al fresco dining doesn't come better than on the terrace at Hotel Raya, beneath a million stars. The setting is superlative – small tables lit by oil lamps on a wide terrace, with the flares of volcanic Stromboli shooting into the night sky in the distance. While you're paying for the setting as much as the cooking, you can look forward to fresh-landed tuna and swordfish, cuttlefish carpaccio and fettuccine with grilled prawns
You'll find a few rustic trattorias dotted around the island, as well as more chic dining at Hotel Quartara, up the hill.
See & Do
Vegetable and shellfish couscous, or aubergine gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Start with tapas at the rooftop bar.
Dress the part
A sarong and pashmina, or cool island clothes
Looking out to Stromboli
You can swim straight off the rocks beside the hotel and do some serious sunning close by. Hire a boat and have a day in and out of crystalline waters with a picnic, head for Cala Junco bay – enclosed by volcanic reefs – or visit some of the neighbouring islands. Explore the little pathways that wind around the island and climb to the summit of Timpone del Corvo to take in a vista spanning the Aeolian archipeligo.
Myriam and Paolo, the Raya's owners, have a terrific collection of Balinese antiques, statues, wood carvings and batiks in their shop.
Massage treatments can be arranged.
You'll probably simply want to chill – or party – at the Raya's rooftop bar. Otherwise you could do the night-time guided ascent of the volcano on neighbouring Stromboli, or take an evening cruise around the island to watch the sparks fly.
Watch the fun and games and pyrotechnics as the locals celebrate the Festa di San Pietro.
Via San Pietro, 98050 Panarea
Not applicable – Panarea is car-free.
Milazzo station – 90 minutes away on the Sicily mainland.
Boats and hydrofoils
There are regular departures from the Sicilian ports of Milazzo, Messina and Palermo, as well as Naples.
Call ahead with your ETA and the porter will pop down to the little port with a buggy for your luggage
Catania – 110km, or Palermo – 190km. Helicopter transfers can be arranged.
Rooms and suites
34 rooms and two suites, split between Raya Alto (see left), up the hill and Raya Basso, at the bottom. The Alto has its own little bar.
Island-style rustic chic rooms are simple but stylish, with a fridge for cool drinks (no TVs), kimonos and flip-flops.
The main bar and restaurant are set over the sea, a short walk away. There's a TV lounge and wi-fi.
EUR 240 - 600
Closed October – mid March
11am – later by arrangement
Minimum night stay?
Life's laidback here – buffet breakfast is served till midday
Available between 8.30am and midnight
Hotel Raya is not suited to children under 12
Strictly by arrangement
Italian, English and French
No – come here for the honeymoon.
A thermal pool and hot tub are being added shortly.
Anna Cali – general manager