The promise of the Aeolian Islands’ best granita from Da Alfredo spurred us on as we walked between the towns of Santa Marina and Lingua on Salina Island.
If you’re arriving in the island of Salina by ferry or hydrofoil, you will probably disembark at the Salina’s main port town of Santa Marina, a gorgeous island village with houses stacked on the sloping hillside.
Santa Marina is a fun place to explore, with lovely cafes and an array of interesting shops and boutiques, but if you feel like stretching your legs a bit, head south out of town to walk to the nearby, even smaller, town of Lingua.
Because, if you’re prepared to walk that 2.8 kilometres between the towns, you will be rewarded with the Aeolian Islands’ best ‘granite’ (granita) at the destination. (Of course, you don’t have to walk…you could always get a bus or hire a car or scooter…but when the walk is as spectacular as this one, it seems a shame to rush it.)
The walk is literally along the road, with no pedestrian path on either side, however the infrequent traffic that passed us mostly did so at a reasonable speed, so we were well warned of their approach and moved ourselves right over to the edge as they came by.
The road climbs to a height, and the views over the sea to the nearby island of Lipari (and the distant island of Panarea) were spectacular.
As were the views straight down into the turquoise waters of the bay.
As we came closer to the town of Lingua, we passed through several vineyards.
A speciality of the island of Salina is Malvasia wine, a sweet, white liqueur wine. It is created from grapes that are dried in the sun for a couple of weeks after harvest and then crushed and fermented. The walk between Santa Marina and Lingua took us right past the Hauner winery. We wandered in and found out that it opens in the evenings for wine-tasting and a tour of the winery. But as this was mid-morning, we marched on.
Along the way, we discovered lots of interesting little details – blackberries, roadside shrines, rustic houses and vehicles. Less than an hour after we set off from Santa Marina, we arrived in the seaside township of Lingua. (The advance party, who were not stopping as often to take photographs, probably did the walk in about 40 minutes.)
In the town we made a beeline to our destination – da Alfredo in Piazza Marina Garibaldi, where (we had been informed) we would find the Aeolian Islands’ (if not Sicily’s…) best granita.
Granita is a Sicilian speciality. It can now be found all over Italy, but it had its origins in Sicily and the texture of Sicilian granita is said to be coarser. Granita is a semi-frozen dessert made of sugar, ice and a variety of flavours that reflect the diversity of Sicily’s fresh ingredients.
Da Alfredo’s outdoor terrace dominates the seafront piazza of Lingua, and, although it was relatively quiet when we arrived, there was a steady stream of customers while we were there. Apparently in the evening, it is also popular for aperitivi or after-dinner granite. The number of tables and chairs certainly suggest that this place gets popular in the high season months.
The other speciality of the house is pane cunzato, huge serves of grilled bread which are piled up with toppings such as tomatoes, tuna, mozzarella, olives, capers, and ricotta.
Choosing a granita flavour was a challenge as they all sounded very tempting. But we were able to select two flavours in the one serve, which made the choice a little easier. Eventually I settled on peach (pesca) and almond (mandorla). I’m now wishing I’d tried the fichi d’india (prickly pear) as I’m intrigued what that would have tasted like.
It’s very hard to describe the experience of eating granita. It’s not icy-solid, like I imagined it may be…and it’s not quite smooth and creamy like gelato, it’s somewhere between the two. And the flavour? The flavour is intense! I can’t claim to be a granita connoisseur, as this was the first granita I had, but for a first-time experience it was quite something.
Da Alfredo’s granita is famous across Italy, and rumour has it that visiting celebrities, moored on their rockstar yachts near Salina will often send their staff ashore to bring da Alfredo’s fresh granita back to their boats.
Granita is considered a breakfast food in Sicily, and the traditional accompaniment is Italian brioche. Brioche often accompanies gelato too (also a breakfast food) and sometimes, gelato is served straight into a split brioche like a gelato-burger.These sweet, buttery buns are used to dip into the granita, to scoop it out of the glass, and to wipe out the last remnants when you won’t accept that your granita is finished… as demonstrated below by my partner-in-crime, M.
Da Alfredo has been making granita on the premises since 1968, and it now operated by the second generation of the founding family. The secret of their particular granita is said to be the quality and freshness of their flavour ingredients, and the addition of not too much water.
Whatever the secret, their granita was like a meal in itself. We certainly thought it was worth the walk.
The detailsWalk between Santa Marina and Lingua on the island of Salina
Length: 2.8 km one-way
Duration: About 45 mins one way without stopping to take lots of photos…
Directions: head south from Santa Marina on the town’s main road of via Risorgimento and just keep going
Destination: Da Alfredo, Piazza Marina Garibaldi, Lingua
How far would you walk for great granite?
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