Italy is one of our favourite countries in the world. It is a country that is teeming with culture, history and natural beauty. When you image the islands of the Mediterranean, your first thoughts will go to the isles of Greece but a lot of people don’t know that there are over 400 breathtaking islands in Italy, all ready to be explored. From the glitzy islands of Capri and Sardinia, to the 17 islands that make up Venice, to the beautiful Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily, Italy’s islands are as diverse and magical in landscape, culture, cuisine and weather as the mainland. Italy’s islands have everything ranging from luxurious resorts to history and culture, mouthwatering cuisine, dramatic volcanoes, picture-perfect beaches and idyllic weather. Here are our picks for Italy’s best islands you should visit for a good dose of la dolce vita.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea which includes a number of islands and archipelagos. Sicily is located just off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot” and you can easily compare all ferries to Sicily. Sicily is an island which is surrounded by three seas and has mountains, perfect beaches, national parks, ancient villages with a rich history, a unique cuisine which is world renowned and the mighty Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. Sicily is also blessed with a much longer, hotter summer than the rest of Italy which sees an early spring and a warm season that allows visitors to swim into the sea well into November.
Sardinia has some of the dreamiest beaches in the world, with the whitest sands and the bluest waters. As the second biggest island in the Mediterranean, with nearly 2,000km of coastline, it has some of Europe’s best island adventures. You can explore endless ruins, stroll along the sandy, coastal paths, hike through the island’s mountainous interior, windsurf and dive! Sardinia also has its own very unique cuisine and its wines that are a wonderful combination of their location between the Italian peninsula and North African coastline. Sardinia is without a doubt one of Italy’s most seductive destinations and is known for its slow pace making is the perfect location for a relaxed island vacation.
Ischia is one of our favourite destinations in Italy and Europe. We have travelled to the Amalfi Coast a number of times over the past few years and each time have made the short trip across the Bay of Naples to Ischia where both times we stayed at the luxurious Mezzatorre Resort and Spa, a hotel that we’ve come to love very much. Ischia is the largest of the islands in the Bay of Naples and is famous for its beautiful landscapes, natural thermal springs and mountainous interior which is dominated by the volcanic Mount Epomeo. Ischia is charming, naturally beautiful with turquoise waters, sandy beaches, magnificent gardens and natural hot springs and for us a visit to this magical island is good for the mind, body and soul and leaves us feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and planning a return trip.
Capri also lies in the Bay of Naples and is known as Italy’s most glamorous island getaway but despite its reputation as being a hot spot for the rich and famous, the island is also bursting with culture and natural beauty. Capri is rich in mythology and history with stories of sirens who lured sailors to their deaths along with the Roman emperor, Tiberius who lived in luxury on Capri until his death in 37 AD. Capri has everything with its chic, boutique shopping, luxurious villas, Roman ruins and the Blue Grotto, one of the world’s most beautiful sea caves. It is the perfect Mediterranean escape.
Elba is largest of the seven islands that make up the little known gems that are the Tuscan Archipelago. Local legends claim that when Venus rose from the waves, seven precious stones fell from her tiara, creating the seven islands off the Tuscan coast. Elba is best known as the island where French Emperor Napoleon was exiled in 1814. The beautiful Tuscan Archipelago is the largest protected marine park in Europe and offers spectacular diving, azure waters, picturesque coves, vineyards and incredible views. Elba also has a wonderful cuisine which is a fusion of maritime and Tuscan traditions.
Procida is the smallest of the three most popular islands in the Bay of Naples and is much less crowded than its larger neighbours of Capri and Ischia. Procida is filled with scenic ancient harbours, pastel houses and idyllic beaches. The charming island is a drawcard for poets and romantics and has been the setting for a number of films including The Talented Mr. Ripley and Il Postino. It’s iconic pastel-coloured fisherman’s cottages quite often frequent my Instagram feed and I am itching to get there on our next trip to Italy.
When you think of Italian islands, Venice probably isn’t one of the first to come to mind but it is certainly one of the most spectacular of Italy’s island groups. It’s difficult to explain the grandeur, beauty and charm of Venice with its 100 small islands, car-less streets, endless beautiful canals and spectacular marble palaces which seemingly rise out of the water. Venice is one of those unique, beautiful destinations which truly has to be experienced at least once during your lifetime. The Venetian lagoon and its outlying islands, particularly Murano, Burano and Torcello are one of the most unique destinations in Europe and one to firmly add to your bucket list.
I couldn’t bring myself to choose just one of the UNESCO-protected Aeolian Islands which are located off Sicily’s northeastern coast and so I had to include the whole archipelago. The Aeolian Islands comprise Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi and are a piece of paradise that offer crystal clear seas and spectacular scenery. This volcanic archipelago is the perfect destination for those who like to get off the beaten track.
Ponza has been a favourite summer escape for Romans for centuries and has been described as the Mediterranean Island where real Italians vacation. Ponza is the largest island of the Pontine Islands archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea and whilst it also attracts celebrities, there is none of the glitz and glamour that comes with the famous islands of the Mediterranean. The best way to explore Ponza is to rent a boat from the port and spend the day exploring the island, its rocky coves and its spectacular crystal clear waters. Life on Ponza is relaxed, simple and authentic. You’ll spend your days diving off your boat, swimming in emerald coves and enjoying local food, whilst your nights are equally as relaxed with a sunset aperitif followed by a dinner of seafood caught freshly that day.
Lampudesa is the largest of the three Pelagic Islands and lies about 200km south of Sicily, closer in geography to Tunisia than Italy. Lampudesa is surrounded by stunning azure waters and is a magical enclave of white beaches, crystal-clear seas and wild natural reserve. The island is the ideal location for water lovers, with its balmy weather, majestic beaches and world class diving. It also boasts quite unique and exotic wildlife and plants, many which are also found in North Africa.
Italy is a country that has something on offer for everyone. Its islands each offer pristine beaches, authentic culture, unique cuisines and the opportunity for a relaxing holiday in paradise. So next time you are looking for an island getaway in the Med, don’t look past Italy’s breathtaking islands because no matter what you are looking for, you’re guaranteed to find it off the spectacular Italian shores.
What are your favourites or the ones you’d absolutely love to visit one day?
Our opinions are as always, our own.