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Poetry still hangs heavy over Salina amid the jasmine.


IN the 1995 film Il Postino, Mario Ruoppolo, the gentle postman of the title, tells the real life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda: "Poetry doesn't belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it."

The film tells a fictional story in which Neruda forms a friendship with the postman who learns to love poetry.

Set and partly filmed on the island of Salina, one of the beautiful Aeolian Islands, Il Postino proved to be an enormous international success and made quite an impact on my 15-year-old self.

A huge fan of the Italian flick, it's taken me almost 20 years to visit Salina. So to celebrate the momentous occasion The Architect and me checked into the romantic Hotel Signum on the outskirts of Malfa.

Tucked away on the quiet side of Salina, the largest and greenest of the seven islands, Hotel Signum lies halfhidden among Malfa's citrus groves, flowery fields and winding lanes.

From its jasminescented gardens and sunset-facing terrace, you look up to looming peaks hiding in the clouds and down over indigo seas - which are 10 minutes away, if you fancy a dip.

"Ciao bella! If it's drama you are in search of then we've come to the right place," smiles The Architect as we're shown to our stunning suite which boasts all mod cons and a balcony that opens onto blossom and birdsong.

The family-run boutique hotel, a restored residence with newer pastel-coloured extensions, has something of the French country house in its sofa'd drawing room, oil paintings, and family heirlooms scattered throughout.

In 1988, husband and wife owners Clara Rametta and Michele Caruso had a dream of creating a luxury hotel in the village in which they were born. In typical Sicilian style there were many obstacles, largely political, and they were shut down - given a seal, or "sigillo." The Latin derivation of "sigillo" is "signum".

Eventually, the mayor's office had a change of heart, and Clara and Michele were able to begin their venture.

They called it Hotel Signum, in homage to the effort they had to put into getting it started. "There was nothing here in Salina when we first opened 25 years ago," said matriarch Clara.

"The tourism was only 20 days in August. I decided to open a small hotel because I wanted to live in Salina. I had to find a job for me here because I was a clinical psychologist and I was working in Messina."

A favourite with the rich and famous Clara is keeping tightlipped on who has walked through her doors but she does confide that the crew of II Postino stayed in the hotel for a month while filming.

Clara's friendly son Luca is front of house, alongside Pole Isabelle and the pair go that extra mile in making sure guests get five-star attention.

Michele and daughter Martina work in the kitchen as chefs alongside son Luca's girlfriend.

Which brings us to the food.

Mamma mia! After an aperitif on the terrace, taking in the sunset with views of Stromboli and Panarea, we dined in the Signum Restaurant. Gastronomically, Salina is best known for three products: fish, capers and a sweet dessert wine called Malvasia delle Lipari and the chefs have incorporated all three into their extensive menu. We were treated to the tasting menu, a veritable feast, featuring seasonal raw produce which gives inspiration to simple dishes that are never dull. It's superb home-cooked food in the open-air restaurant and was even praised by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver after a recent visit.

And the vino? The house cellar contains many rarities and vintages, all carefully selected from all over Italy and Europe.

After a blissful, undisturbed sleep we enjoyed a gorgeous buffet breakfast of baked goods and the finest coffee in Sicily - it really is.

The indulgence continued in the outdoor spa, Spa Salus per Aquam. The structure of the centre follows the lines of old Aeolian thermal baths, believed to be the most ancient in Europe.

Steam baths take place inside a "Thermal Stove", inspired by the one of Saint Calogero in Lipari, built over 3500 years ago.

Easily a highlight for me was a balancing, anti-stress bitter orange treatment that draws inspiration from the popular tradition of the Aeolian Islands.

Intimate and romantic, it's a wonderful spot for honeymooners and it's easy to see why Signum is still a hot spot for those in search of a little poetry in their lives.

.Contact for more details.

'It's easy to see why Signum is still a hot destination for those in search of poetry'


Dramatic... Salina's volcanic backdrop

Sun-drenched... Hotel Signum
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2013
Previous Article:STAYING IN.

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