Tucked into a nook of Salina, the greenest and gentlest island in Sicily’s Aeolian Islands, Hotel Signum is a fragrant, rambling little oasis in the unassuming, barely-there town of Malfa. A collection of houses seemingly woven together by magenta bougainvillea, night-flowering jasmine, and the island’s signature caper bushes, Signum is one of Southern Italy’s most delightful and distinct hotels. Full of languid charm and the perfect jumping-off point to explore Italy’s most bewitching islands, the elegant sufficiency of Signum sees an-in-the-know-Italophile and bohemian-bourgeoisie crowd making it a place they cannot but resist to return to.
Style & Surrounds
The design? A series of simple stone Aeolian-style houses brought together in a dispersed hotel formation. This is raw, Sicilian island style, with authentic antiques, a lobby with a charming patina and rooms that either make the most of the garden or sea aspects with terraces or Juliet balconies.
The scene? Well-travelled, well-heeled, but with a quiet and vaguely bohemian discretion.
The dress code? Linen, linen, linen!
The surrounds? Malfa is utterly charming. A town that grips itself to a lava flow valley that plunges into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The wider island of Salina remains astonishingly unadulterated despite its increasing status as the in-the-know Italian summer island of choice.
Day beyond the hotel? Rent a tiny boat in the morning and putter around its coastline all day, swimming and exploring grottos, stopping for lunch at Da Alfredo for pane cunzato (seasoned bread) with capers, mozzarella di bufala and tomatoes. Follow up with an exquisite late-afternoon mulberry-and-green-fig granita (con panna!) before snoozing at Signum under a bougainvillea and then having an aperitivo of Malvasia on their panoramic terrazzo.
Which character from fiction would set up camp here? When Dickie Greenleaf tires of Amalfi…
The room type: No two rooms are the same, but each sees traditionally patterned tiles, beds of wrought-iron frames, a smattering of antiques, and white-linen drapes that billow in the night breeze.
Bolthole, palatial or something in-between? In between; spare but with thoughtful choices so it feels both cozy yet generous.
Room with view? Some face the garden, others the pool and the luckiest of all the volcanic islands on the horizon. Splurge for Room 25.
Tub, towels, and toiletries? The showers are a bit silly with too many unnecessary jets. But that is forgiven for their thick white towels and made-in-house toiletries made with volcanic ash, fig and jasmine.
The turndown touches? Crunchy white linens turned down and the AC turned way up.
If you could, what would you steal? The gorgeous collection of pressed native plants and flowers that adorn the walls.
Room for improvement? Some rooms have been renovated to have a very vague design-edge. That’s a mistake. Signum, you are perfect as you are.
Lobby, Bar & Amenities
If you weren’t staying here, would you go to the restaurant? We know by now that Michelin stars often denote a particular style of food and dining rather than a merit system for all types of cooking. At first glance, the Signum restaurant feels altogether too fancy and innovative for a place of such confident rustic charm. However, the simpler dishes are extraordinary. A caprese at lunch is not slices of tomato and mozzarella, but a plinth exalting a bowl of ruby datterini tomatoes gleaming in olive oil that make a nest for an ostrich-egg-sized ball of bufala. Take that with a glass of Etna Bianco, e basta!
If you weren’t staying here, would you go to the bar? The sunset hour on the bar’s terrace is unforgettable. As if Rothko himself painted the scene, a scarlet-lit sun drops to meet the Aeolian sea. Come here, pick your poison, and watch the light fade in the absurdly romantic surrounds.
Room service? None. And let’s face it, why would you in Italy?
The breakfast? Don’t expect a full English or avocado on toast. Instead, you’ll find a bowl of figs (or apricots earlier in the season), fresh cheeses, prosciutto and breads.
Bring a bathing suit? Yes! One for the pool, one for the boat, and one for strolling around to catch the attention of gli ragazzi i ragazze.
Salon, spa and treatments: Italy is not known for its excellence in hotel spas. Signum is an exception, with outdoor plunge pools, hot tubs, saunas and treatment rooms separated only by wafting fabric. Their house cosmetic line extracts the perfumes of the island and the scrubs of its volcanic past. Stick with a gentle, antioxidant skin treatment rather than a massage, which lacks oomph and grunt (which isn’t surprising, at this gentle corner of the earth).
Be warned about: Salina isn’t the easiest to get to, but o mio Dio it’s worth the planes, trains and ferries.
The Green Card
PRIOR preferences hotels with green credentials who give back in a real way to their communities. Our criteria were created in partnership with Bouteco, an enterprise celebrating truly sustainable hotels.
Local Food While Hotel Signum does not have specific environmental measures for on-site energy, water or waste management, the food at the property is locally and seasonally sourced. Salina is a remarkably self-sufficient island, and the stars of its cuisine are fresh fish, tomatoes and its famed capers, which were traditionally the cornerstone of its economy.
The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant serves Sicilian-inspired fare and the simpler dishes are often the best. Aside from the aforementioned ingredients, other highlights of the menu include Malvasia wine, which is entirely unique to the island, and, when in season, fresh mulberries and figs.
Address Salina, Via Scalo, 15, Malfa, Italy.
Number of rooms Thirty.
Pool and sauna A terrace pool, plunge pool and hot tubs. The spa specializes in geothermic water treatments.
Other amenities Facials and massages.
Activities The hotel can arrange boat trips around Salina and nearby islands, and guided mountain hikes.
Bar Terraced bar open until midnight.
Restaurant Mediterranean fare including Aeolian specialties.
Children Welcome, although the atmosphere is low-key and quiet.
Co-Founder and CEO David Prior was formerly Contributing International Editor of Condé Nast Traveler and Contributing Editor at Vogue Living. David was named by Bloomberg Businessweek as “One to Watch” in 2018 as part of the publication’s prestigious Global 50: the people who defined business in 2017.