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Salina Island: Hotel Ristorante Mamma Santina

Santa Marina di Salina, Aeolian Islands, Phone: 090.9843054

Reviewed by: GAC from USA, review #1463

When: May 2006

Mamma Santina on Salina Island is a Great Place to Stay and a Great Place to Eat. {3 stars}

Three-star rated Pensione Mamma Santina, at Santa Marina di Salina on Salina Island, Aeolian Islands, is a fabulous, unforgettable experience.

Very recently refurbished and upgraded, and expertly run by owner/manager/designer/chef Mario Gullo, you will be treated like family in this intimate, quiet, meticulously clean, bright and airy property perched on the upper slopes of Santa Marina Village.

I spent two nights (May 16 and 17) in the best room of this 17-room pensione. While the room itself is not large (but adequately so, with very high ceilings), it is beautifully decorated, as is the private bathroom (with a hydromassage tub), and has independently-operated air conditioning, a mini-fridge and large closet space. The blue and yellow colors used are particularly well-matched. The queen-sized bed (one mattress) is very firm and comfortable. While the room did not have a television, the owner explained to me that, due to government rating requirements, a set will be provided on request, even though many tourists honestly prefer the silence of not having television in the rooms.

The best feature, however, is the very large sun-drenched terrazzo-deck with a panoramic view of the islands of Lipari, Panarea and Stromboli. Three other rooms of the property have small terraces, but only one has the large, panoramic deck.

Half the fun of staying in the upper-floor rooms of Mamma Santina is simply watching the three islands at different times of the day. Indeed, the advantage of staying in Santa Marina di Salina, rather than at Malfa on the island's northern coast, is to have the view of three (and not just two) islands. (From Malfa, you can see Panarea and Stromboli, but not Lipari).

Mamma Santina is equipped with a beautiful and intimate swimming pool, and a panoramic dining room which is also used for breakfast. The lobby area is warm and accommodating, and has a well-stocked bar.

Chef Mario is extremely talented. While not cheap, dining at Mamma Santina is most worthwhile. I tried his special, secret recipe "Spaghetti alla Mamma Santina" which uses a combination of 13 (or 14) special herbs and spices. Delicious.

For comparison purposes, I also tried the well-rated Portobello restaurant at dockside, but I concluded that Mamma Santina is simply a cut above in quality (and friendliness).

When you arrive by hydrofoil or ferry at the Santa Marina dock, Mario will send one of his assistants to pick you up. Don't try to walk to the pensione yourself with heavy luggage, because it's a fairly long and very tiring walk up 200 meters of steep slope, along a narrow country lane. Once you've deposited your luggage, however, it's no problem walking to and from the pensione from Santa Marina's main street, Via Risorgimento, where you will find a bank (with ATM machine), post office, grocery stores, and several boutiques.

Hotel rates start at 100 per night, bed and breakfast double occupancy during low season, nearly doubling during August. The four "superior" rooms (the ones with the fantastic views) carry a supplement of 20 per night, well worth it, in my opinion.

You can take your dinner at the pensione for a supplement of 30 per person or, if you prefer, spend a bit less by going "a la carte" and not eating the full course. In my opinion, it's really worth eating here as well.

Continental breakfast is self-service, with fresh croissants, bread and marmelade, cereal and milk, yogurt and freshly prepared crostate con marmellata.

Salina Island itself is extremely beautiful, the MOST beautiful of the seven Aeolian Islands, in my opinion. Parts of the movie "Il Postino" were filmed at Pollara beach, thirty minutes by car away from Santa Marina, and well worth a short visit. I highly recommend taking the public bus service to reach both Pollara and the Port of Rinella (where the overnight ferry from Naples docks). The bus ride is simply enthralling. You can also rent a scooter or two-seat gocart if you wish to stop numerous times along the island's narrow, twisting roads. But the inexpensive bus will suffice for most travellers.

You can reach Salina Island (Rinella Port) by direct overnight car ferry twice weekly from Naples (supplemented by direct hydrofoil service from June through September). There are also many daily hydrofoils to and from Lipari Island, as well as two daily car ferries to and from Lipari. From Salina Island, you can also visit the other Aeolian Islands by direct hydrofoil or ferry.

Helpful websites: www.siremar.it (ferries and hydrofoils, including overnight ferry from Naples) www.usticalines.it (hydrofoils) www.snav.it (summer hydrofoil to and from Naples)

Mario Gullo, owner, manager, designer and chef will answer your e-mails promptly. His website provides a good preview of the marvels which await you at his pensione.

P.S.: You can visit Salina and the other Aeolian Islands FREE OF CHARGE!!!!!! Just take the overnight car ferry from Naples (twice per week). The cost of the ferry (for two) is nearly identical to a night in a three-star hotel in Naples (double occupancy). The ferry reaches Salina-Rinella in the early morning. From Rinella Port, you can reach Santa Marina di Salina by bus or hydrofoil in 30 minutes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: "Mamma Santina" is Mario's MOTHER!!!! He keeps a precious photo of her (with him as a young boy) in his office at the pensione.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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