The Best Italian Islands
If you want to see one of the most comprehensive lists on the internet of the best Italian Islands then you have come to the right place.
I have personally visited many of these Italian islands but not quite all!
I follow with what I consider to be the Best Italian Islands broken down into the island groups to which they belong. Just click on the group to take you there. I bet there are many that you have never heard of but would love to visit!
Let’s dive straight in!
Alicudi (Aeolian Islands)
Hydrofoil from Milazzo, Sicily or a private excursion from Lipari, Aeolian Islands
The rugged island of Alicudi is the least inhabited of the Aeolian Islands with just over 100 people living there. A stay in Alicudi is all about being at one with nature.
As with all of the Aeolian Islands, Alicudi is a great place to explore on foot via the many trekking trails. Popular climbs are to Filo dell’Arpa, Scoglio della Galera and Timpone delle Femmine.
You will arrive at a temporary mooring as there is no fixed marina. There is just one small village with a single bar, and restaurant, no nightlife and very few facilities. If you are looking to stay then how about the Hotel Ericusa with just 21 sea-facing rooms? There are also a handful of private accommodations and B&Bs to rent. Most visitors are part of an Aeolian Island hopping experience rather than day trip visitors as from mainland Sicily it is 2 to 2.5 hours by boat.
You can indulge in the adventure by climbing craters, taking small canoes or boats along the small coastline or trekking through unique landscapes.
Filicudi (Aeolian Islands)
Hydrofoil from Milazzo, Sicily or Palermo. There are also private excursions from Lipari and Alicudi, Aeolian Islands
Filicudi and its neighbour Alicudi are the most remote of the Aeolian islands and as such receive fewer visitors. As far as I am concerned, this makes it even more attractive!
There are around 200 permanent residents on the island of Filicudi.
Getting around is mainly on foot and the most popular pastime on the island is hiking where you can follow various trails for great views of the island and surroundings. The abandoned village of Zucco Grande is worth a visit.
The small port has a few simple shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation options including the simple 3* Hotel Phenicusa with 33 rooms and the most incredible sea view rooms.
Alongside the port, there is the lovely Spiaggia del Porto plus there are several other beaches dotted around the island.
Lipari (Aeolian Islands)
Ferry from Milazzo, Sicily there are ferries and hydrofoils. Alternatively, there are less regular ferries from Palermo & Messina.
Lipari is the main island, not to mention the busiest of the Aeolian islands.
The small port of Lipari Town, when compared to the other Aeolian islands has quite a lot going on. The multi-coloured houses on the seafront and the pretty Marina Corta make a stay in Lipari Town a delight. The main street is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele with many bars, restaurants and cafes that come alive at night when weary tourists return from a day’s exploration to relax and unwind.
For those looking to explore the history of Lipari then a visit to the Museo Archeologico Regionale Eoliano is a must along with the impressive Citadel walls and the Cattedrale di San Bartolomeo.
Like all the Aeolian islands, Lipari is a hiking paradise with scenery that will live long in the memory. Both the L’Osservatorio and Quattrocchi are very popular viewpoints where you can witness the neighbouring island of Vulcano and on a clear day even Mount Etna.
Several beaches attract those looking to relax for the day. There is the Porto delle Genti near the centre which is ideal for hiring boats or taking a water taxi to the more famous beaches on the island. These include the Spiaggia Valle Muria, Spiaggia della Papesca and the Spiaggia di Canneto.
A search on Trip Advisor will show nearly 200 places to stay in Lipari which given its size is impressive. If you are looking for somewhere special, then the stylish Borgo Eolie Hotel close to the centre of Lipari Town is a great choice for both relaxation and access to the main attractions of the island.
Panarea (Aeolian Islands)
Ferry to Panarea from nearby Milazzo, Northern Sicily.
The rugged yet chic island of Panarea is the smallest of the Aeolian islands. It is very popular with visitors during the summer months who come to explore the island and also many of the hidden coves that are only accessible by boat.
The main town for all arrivals is San Pietro on the eastern coast. This lovely little town is full of white houses and covered in bougainvillaea. The harbour is such a pretty sight with luxury yachts and fishing boats coming and going.
Panarea has some excellent beaches with the finest considered to be at Cala Junco. Another popular and accessible beach is Cala Degli Zimmari. The beach at Clacara is known for its hot springs and geysers.
There are three islets off the coast which are ideal for an excursion or to view from Panarea. There is Lisca Bianca, Basiluzzo, and Spinazzola.
The most famous hotel on the island is the Raya Hotel and Resort which was built in the 1960s. Famous families and stars of the past and present are known to visit Panarea for its exclusivity including the likes of Kate Moss and Urma Thurman.
Salina (Aeolian Islands)
From Milazzo, Northern Sicily to Salina by ferry or hydrofoil into either Santa Maria Salina or Rinella.
Close to Lipari is the island of Salina. This green fertile island is recognised by its two dormant volcanoes. Given the other dark rocky Aeolian Islands, there is something unique about Salina given the lush foliage that covers the island.
Santa Maria Salina has a small port with fishing boats and a wide-open piazza that leads into the main town. Bus, scooter hire or taxi is the best way to get around on the island. The town is busy with shops, bars and restaurants. Locals and tourists like to walk along the seafront promenade to the black sand beaches on the island.
Salina’s main towns are Santa Marina, Leni and Malfa. As the sun is setting these towns come alive with al fresco cafes and restaurants catering for locals, families and tourists. The arty town of Malfa, in particular, is interesting especially if you are visiting during the annual film festival. Smaller villages such as Lingua and Polara make for fantastic excursions.
There are several hotels and private accommodations around the island however the 4-star Hotel L’Ariana Isole Eolie, a gorgeous boutique hotel in the village of Leni comes highly recommended.
Stromboli (Aeolian Islands)
Ferries and hydrofoils are available from Milazzo on mainland Sicily (1 hour 10 mins). There are boats from the fellow Aeolian Islands of Lipari, Salina, Vulcano and Panarea.
The 2,200-metre-high active volcanic island of Stromboli is one of the seven Aeolian Islands but undoubtedly the most dramatic of them all.
The island has a population of about 400 people and they are largely located in two villages. The larger one and the location of the jetty for the ferry is known locally as Scari or more commonly just Stromboli to visitors. At the seashore, you will find stands offering boat tours and a shingle beach. If you walk uphill you will come to the Chiesa di San Vincenzo church in a small piazza and a few shops, restaurants and bars.
There are a surprising number of small hotels, residences and private accommodations targeting hikers however the most recommended hotel is the 3* Hotel Ossidiana near the Scari jetty.
Ginostra is a tiny village on the opposite side of the island to Scari/Stromboli. The two villages were once connected but a landslide put pay to that. Now they are only connected by boat which takes about 10 minutes. There are a couple of restaurants and shops in Ginostra, and donkeys for transport.
A stay on Stromboli consists of just a few activities. Wandering around the towns, taking a boat trip for incredible views of the island and finally climbing the volcano. The memories that many bring back from the island are the views at night maybe from a boat of the volcano’s fiery light show.
Vulcano (Aeolian Islands)
A hydrofoil from Milazzo on the Sicilian mainland takes 40 minutes. There are also Sicilian connections from both Messina and Palermo. Finally, there are routes from mainland Italy including Naples, Salerno and Reggio Calabria.
Vulcano is an active volcano and the nearest island to the Sicilian mainland and as such, it is quite popular.
The main port of Porto di Levante is home to the majority of the 500 inhabitants that live on the island.
Many visitors to Vulcano come for the healing powers of the earth. With mud baths and hot water springs, you are sure to come back invigorated from your brief stay on the island. Most visitors will just visit on a day’s excursion however some stay longer and climb to the crater for spectacular views of the inside of the volcano and the islands and Mediterranean.
The black beaches on Vulcano are popular with the most visited the Acque Calde beach close to town.
There are a small number of bars, restaurants, and shops. Once again there are a surprising number of hotels and private accommodations available with the Hotel Eros in Porto di Levante highly recommended for its location close to the town, views of the boats moored in the port, the beautiful gardens and pool area.
Lipari is just 15 minutes away by ferry.
Isola Bella (Borromean Islands)
Isola Bella is only reached via the Lake Maggiore ferry service from Stresa, Northern Italy
The lake island of Isola Bella is one of the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy just 50 km from Turin in the Borromean Gulf, just 400 metres from the lakeside town of Stresa.
The island is just 320 metres long by 400 metres wide and is only reached via the Lake Maggiore ferry service from Stresa.
Until 1630 Isola Bella was a rock inhabited by fishermen, with two small churches and gardens. However, in the early 17th century, Giulio Caesar III and Carlo III created the magnificent palazzo and gardens with further works then undertaken in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today visitors can enjoy the Palazzo Borromeo, a prime example of Baroque architecture, its Italian garden, and a small fishing village.
Areas within the palace include the Galleria Berthier with its mosaic of over 130 paintings. There is also the Sala del Trono (Throne Room), the Sala Delle Regine (Queens’ Room), the Salone Degli Arazzi (Tapestry Hall) and the Grotte (Caves).
Teatro Massimo in the gardens is home to statues, obelisks, and fountains and then the gardens themselves draw in horticulturists from all over Europe.
Nearby places of interest include Isola dei Pescatori, Isola Madre, Villa Taranto and Verbania.
You can stay on the island at the Elvezia Albergo Ristorante.
Isola Madre (Borromean Islands)
Isola Madre is only reached via the Lake Maggiore ferry service from Stresa, Northern Italy
The quiet island of Isola Madre has just a couple of attractions. The palace and the gardens.
The Palazzo Borromeo is a stylish country palace adorned with tapestries, paintings, porcelain, puppets and furniture. The Marionette Theatre and the Venetian Lounge are popular areas to visit.
Created in the 19th century the English-style botanical gardens, are part of the Royal Horticultural Society. They are 8 hectares in size and why many people choose to visit Isola Madre. Home to rare plant species from every part of the world, they are lush and well-maintained. There is a giant Cypress tree which is one of the signature attractions of the gardens.
Roaming throughout the gardens are pheasants, peacocks, and other colourful and attractive birds.
Other than the palace and the gardens there is a cafe with lovely views and one restaurant, La Piratera. There are no places to overnight.
This is purely an island for a day’s excursion with access to the palace and gardens costing from 17 euros for an adult ticket, which is quite expensive for what you get.
Isola dei Pescatori (Borromean Islands)
Isola dei Pescatori is only reached via the Lake Maggiore ferry service from Stresa, Northern Italy
The lake island of Isola dei Pescatori is one of the Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore.
The island is also known as Isola Superiore however its reference to its strong history of fishing is what defines the island. It is the smallest of the Borromean Islands measuring just 350 metres in length by 100 metres wide.
This is the only Borromean Island that is inhabited all year long. The island is made up of one small rustic village which is home to about 50 inhabitants. The delightful little village, with multi-story houses, has a small square and some pretty narrow lanes selling local crafts that lead down to the small promenade.
Several atmospheric restaurants overlook the lake offering fresh fish and superb local produce.
Isolina Di San Giovanni (Borromean Islands)
Isola di San Giovanni is only reached via the Lake Maggiore ferry service from Stresa, Northern Italy
Isolino di San Giovanni is a small island in the Borromean archipelago of Lake Maggiore. Located to the north of the rest of the islands of the archipelago, and just 30 meters from the coast of Pallanza, part of the Verbania region.
The earliest records show that back in 999 the island was home to a castle and a chapel. In 1632, the Borromeos obtained the island and swiftly built a beautiful villa with some attractive gardens that can be enjoyed by tourists today.
Favignana (Egadi Islands)
Ferry from Trapani in Sicily
Favignana (Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo) are all part of the Aegadian or Egadi Islands. Favignana is the largest of these islands and is very popular among Sicilians and locals for its crystal clear water and attractive beaches.
From June to September, these beaches will be very busy but with very few tourists. The most popular beaches are Cala Rossa, Lido Burrone, Cala Grande and Cala Azzurra. The waters around Favignana allow for hiring a boat or scuba diving.
Exploring the island on foot is one of the attractions of Favignana. Hiking to Santa Catarina Castle is a popular activity as the views from the top are amazing. Consider visiting the Florio Tuna Factory Museum or exploring the Tuff caves.
There is also scooter and car hire available on the island plus a tourist train. Cycling is a good way to get around the island and bike hire is available at a reasonable daily cost of approximately 5 euros.
Popular hotels include the Cave Bianci, I Pretti Resort and Tempo Di Mare
Formica (Egadi Islands)
Take a boat tour from Porticello Harbour in Palermo, Sicily. Visitors to the island are subject to access rules.
Formica is the fourth largest (out of five) island of the Egadi Islands and one of the most peaceful locations off the coast of Sicily.
On the island, there is a fortified tower or tonnara built in the mid-19th century and a lighthouse measuring 302 metres long and 206 metres wide. There is a “del Rais” church, a mill and a very small museum which is home to pottery, fishing and maritime artefacts.
The private island belongs to the therapeutic community for drug rehabilitation so those looking to land their craft need the authorisation to visit. You are best just taking a boat tour around the islands of Formica and Maraone from Porticello Harbour in Sicily.
There is a small port on Formica where ships dock alongside an area that is designated as the Egadi Islands Marine Nature Reserve.
Levanzo (Egadi Islands)
Take the hydrofoil from Trapani or the ferry connections from the island of Favignana.
Levanzo is the smallest at just 5.8 km² of the inhabited islands in the archipelago.
There is a delightful port and the hamlet is home to the only network of small buildings on the island and where the majority of the tiny population resides. The village has a couple of restaurants, bars and even a baker.
Levanzo has a history of agriculture and today there remain a few farms with sheep however in the past the island was a producer of grain.
Getting around is via a series of small tracks that are best attempted by either jeep or mule.
The most popular pastime on the island is either walking, fishing or taking one of the boat excursions that whisk visitors around the island. Snorkelling and diving in the pristine clear protected waters is a joy.
The most famous sight on the island is however the Grotta del Genovese. This is a prehistoric cave containing various wall art some of which are almost 13,000 years old. Images include bison, deer, dolphin and tuna. You can visit by walking there, taking a jeep safari or a boat excursion.
During the peak summer season of July-August, the island is packed with holiday-makers.
Accommodation is limited to just two small residences. There is La Plaza Residence is near the harbour, and the Lisola Residence set in the countryside.
Isla Maraone (Egadi Islands)
Take a boat tour from Porticello Harbour in Palermo, Sicily. Visitors to the island are forbidden.
Maraone is the smallest of the Egadi islands and where visitors are forbidden. The island is pretty much just a rock in the ocean. It is located just 600 metres west of another small Egadi island – Formica.
The area around Maraone is a protected marine area so sailing and anchoring close to the island is restricted to certain areas. You are best just taking a boat tour around the islands of Formica and Maraone from Porticello Harbour in Sicily.
Some guided underwater tours, fishing and diving are allowed however Maraone is really an island that should be admired and left to nature.
Marettimo (Egadi Islands)
Take the ferry from Trapani (60 mins) or access the other Egadi islands.
Marettimo is the most remote of the three Egadi Islands and is set within a marine nature reserve making it perfect, particularly for diving holidays or those who wish to enjoy a quiet island lifestyle.
The fishing village of Marettimo is small and pretty basic. You arrive at a landing area where fishing and boat excursions depart. The village has narrow lanes with a few restaurants and cafes overlooking the port. The small Piazza Umberto is a wonderful place to people-watch.
One of the most popular things to do in Marettimo is to dive. If you are learning or experienced there are plenty of dive centres during the high season offering tuition or guidance as to the best places to enjoy the underwater world. The beaches around the island are rocky and provide many with places to relax and sunbathe.
Punta Troia is a rocky headland with a dramatically situated fortress, the site of a Saracen watchtower and then a seventeenth-century Spanish fortress and prison.
Another popular thing to do in Marettimo is the get out and explore on foot. The island has many signposted trails where spottings of unique flora, birds of prey and many of the island’s donkeys are not uncommon. There is history with Roman ruins, churches and locations with fabulous views of the coastline.
Marettimo allows visitors to stay in a small selection of private accommodations. The Marettimo Residence has a swimming pool and will offer advice on things to do in Marettimo.
Gulf of La Spezia
Isola Del Tino (Gulf of La Spezia)
The Island of Tino is a military space that is usually closed to visitors. However every September, during the San Venerio Festival, it opens to the public. You can then book the HopHop Boat transfers or use the local transport system to reach Tino Island.
Tino is an Italian island situated in the Ligurian Sea, at the westernmost end of the Gulf of La Spezia. It is part of an archipelago of three islands jutting out south from the mainland at Portovenere.
The patron saint of the Gulf of La Spezia, Saint Venerius is said to have lived on the island as a hermit, and later as an abbot, until he died in 630. His feast is celebrated here annually on 13 September. It is thought that a sanctuary was constructed at the place of Venerio’s death to contain his remains and that this was extended to form a monastery in the eleventh century. The remains of the monastery can be seen on the northern coast of the island.
Today the island, is part of a military zone but accessible once a year during the San Venrio Festival.
In 1997, the archipelago including Tino Island, together with Portovenere and the Cinque Terre, was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Isola Del Tinetto (Gulf of La Spezia)
It is possible to reach Tinetto by boat. Tourists can moor their boats however they need to respect the laws and regulations for sea preservation by the Regional Natural Park of Portovenere.
The island of Tinetto is the smallest of the three islands in the Archipelago.
It is only about half a hectare in size and 17 meters at its highest point. The island is mainly rocky with little vegetation. It is however home to a rare wall lizard – Podarcis muralis tinettoi. In fact, it is endemic to the island and there are believed to be just 200 remaining.
Today, the island is completely abandoned but traces remain of the early human settlements. In the eastern and western parts of the island, there are remains of religious settlements including a small oratory dating from the 6th century and the remains of a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monk’s living quarters were linked. Sadly the monastery was destroyed by the Saracens in the 11th century, which forced the island’s inhabitants to move to the Island of Tino and then the Island of Palmaria.
Palmaria (Gulf of La Spezia)
You can reach Palmaria Island by boat in just 5 minutes from Portovenere year-round with the Cooperativa dei Barcaioli di Porto Venere. There are three different disembarkation points: Punta Secco, Terrizzo and Spiaggie del Pozzale. Departure times vary depending on the season.
In Summer, there is a direct boat service bookable with Consorzio Maritimo Turistico between La Spezia and Palmaria Island (Pozzale Beach).
The small island of Palmaria Island (Isola Palmaria) is the largest of the three islands in the Gulf of La Spezia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Porto Venere Nature Park.
The island is known for its abundant flora and fauna as well as rocky cave systems including the Grotta Azzurra and the Grotta dei Colombi. Both are accessible by boat or a hike that includes a rather daunting rope descent. Other popular hiking points are the Sea Fortress built in the last century under the Savoy Administration of Count Cavour. In the 1950s it was a prison but today houses exhibitions and important cultural events.
The Church of San Pietro with the imposing limestone cliffs of Muzzerone is another point of interest.
Another way to discover the island is on an e-bicycle.
Budelli (Maddalena Islands)
Budelli is located in the northernmost part of the Maddalena Archipelago and is one of three sister islands. The other two are Razzoli and Santa Maria.
The island is most famous for the crystal clear waters but also the Spiaggia Rosa di Cala di Roto, the Pink Beach. The beach had for years been a source of attraction for visitors who used to take home the sand as souvenirs. Slowly this risked losing this unique asset. The beach and also the Island of Budelli are under the protection of the National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena so collection or damage to the flora is a crime. Viewing of the Pink Beach is possible only from a walkway.
With the Pink Beach protected there are plenty of other beaches in Budelli that attract sun worshippers, snorkelling enthusiasts and divers. Cala d’Arena, Cala di Piatto and Spiaggia del Cavaliere.
There is no construction allowed on the island with access only possible via organised excursions from mainland Sardinia or La Maddalena. This is a special ideal and truly a piece of paradise.
An island located just off the northwest coast of Sardinia. The island is named after the Italian word for donkey – Asino. The reason for this and one of the main features of this stunning uninhabited island is the small Albino donkeys that live here. They are protected species believed to be native to the island.
Asinara Island was once only known for the fact it was a prison camp for World World II Austro-Hungarian soldiers. You can tour this prison today.
In 1997 the creation of the Asinara National Park turned this small island measuring just 20 square miles into a little hidden treasure.
There are three main beaches and many little coves although most visitors will be there to walk and enjoy the terrific nature. You can also enjoy horseriding, mountain biking, some off-road vehicle fun and even a tourist train.
The only village on the island is Cala D’Oliva which is largely empty does seasonally has a coffee shop, dive centre and a small hostel.
I have over the years visited almost all of Sardinia for work and leisure, yet it’s an island which has yet to truly capture my heart.
Sardinia has its history and old-world charm in towns like Alghero, it has its playboy playground and multi-million dollar yachts in the stunning Costa Smeralda and all around it has its snow-white sandy beaches, emerald sea and ragged coast and then also a gorgeous mountainous interior. Add to that the usual Italian cuisine and fine wine and you would think it was a nailed-on save to my favourites folder. I guess Sardinia is that relationship that ticks all the boxes, we get on great, there is an attraction and yes we have had some good times but it’s just not working…… it’s not Sardinia it’s me !!
In the North East of Sardinia is the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) with the fashionable Porto Cervo as its main town offers both the history and culture of ancient traditions but also and perhaps most famously the best equipped 600-berth marina in the Med with yachts the size of small villages not to mention the designer shops and a colourful and sometimes excruciatingly expensive nightlife. Porto Rotondo is also a well-known town overlooking the Gulf of Cugnana and is full of high-end villas and perfectly clean piazzas. Cannigione is a small vibrant town with glorious beaches and an area popular for excursions out to the magnificent archipelago of La Maddalena where yachts moor off desert island-like beaches and you take a dip in the clean bluest water you may ever experience – now that is more my Limoncello!
A little jewel of a small town in this region is San Pantaleo – here there is an occasional antique market in the pretty square where locals barter and sell their wares. It’s a great place to take photos and in recent years San Pantaleo has drawn the interest of painters for its beauty and charm.
Whilst I always enjoyed my visits to the Costa Smeralda I find some of it just too clean…too perfect. It’s like the guy in the group with the re-enamelled whiter-than-white teeth….. it’s just too much.
For those like me who prefer a bit more of the real rough-around-the-edges charm then head over to Alghero in the North West of the island. This lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan town of historical significance coupled with its fine beaches, markets, bars and restaurants cater for most tastes. There is an impressive 4 km promenade which takes in the ramparts of the old town and is called La Rambla after its famous counterpart in Barcelona.
The town’s monuments and Piazzas are linked by narrow cobbled lanes with quaint dwellings. Beyond the town are some wonderful lido beaches including my favourites Le Bombarde and Lazzaretto as well as the resorts of Porto Conte and Capo Caccia.
In the south of Sardinia, you can find the region’s capital – Cagliari. The city is awash with ancient Roman ruins, museums filled with prehistoric artefacts, churches and elegant palaces. The Il Castello is the central hilltop citadel and Cagliari’s most imposing sight. The streets are full of the noise of scooters hurtling down tree-fringed boulevards and locals hanging out at busy cafes. Outside of the town brings you to Poetto Beach, where in the summer it’s party time along a delicious stretch of coast.
On the east coast, there is also Cala Mariolu, one of the most beautiful beaches on the entire island.
Those who prefer the mountains can explore the interior which is rich in flora and fauna. There are mouflons, golden eagles, Sardinian deer and several other species many now sadly threatened with extinction. Among its archaeological wonders are the Nuragic complexes scattered all over the island. Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries these are buildings from great blocks of stone and developed around a central cone-shaped tower. The most famous of these and UNESCO-protected is the Barumini complex, in the Province of Cagliari.
The Agritourism throughout Sardinia is excellent with farmhouses where owners open their doors for dinners of sensational organic homegrown cuisine and carafes of red wine that has no chemicals so rest assured that morning after hangover is unlikely to appear. In some locations, you can even stay on-site for a truly rustic experience.
One of my favourite memories of Sardinia was in 2001 when escorting a group of travel agents from the ABTA’s Midlands region on an educational trip across the island. One night we had a fantastic evening at an Agritourism farm and enjoyed a tremendous meal with lots of wine, storytelling and jokes…. it was just one of those magical nights full of great food, wine and laughter. Some images of that trip are in my “Good Times” gallery below.
Sardinia delivers a fabulous holiday, a fascinating tour and plenty of thrills along the way.
Pantelleria is an island of wild natural beauty, closer to North Africa than to Sicily, with dramatic coastlines, pristine waters, and an abundance of caves, grottoes and thermal springs.
The Lago di Venere is a large lake of volcanic origin set inside the original crater with thermal springs draining into it. There are also natural saunas set within hillside caves. From an image, it looks like there is a beach here by the lake but there are no beaches – people swim from the black volcanic rocks.
Everywhere on the island are steeply terraced vineyards where the local zibibbo grape is grown for Passito wine.
There are many walking trails around the island as well as boat excursions.
The small town of Pantelleria on the north coast provides some restaurants bars and shops and a central hotel opposite the harbour and marina.
Pantelleria has become a chic hideaway for celebrities such as fashion designers, film stars and recording artists who escape to relax on this remote beautiful island. There is a very limited mobile signal on the island – another bonus for those looking to disappear for a break!
Access to the island is via a 50-minute scheduled flight from Palermo. For exclusivity, this is definitely on the list of the 4 best Italian Islands.
Back in 2002 and partial to a road trip I headed off to Sicily to discover not only the tourist trails but also some of those off-the-beaten-track gems.
Sicily is the largest and most populous island in the Mediterranean and has a veritable feast of top attractions. There is the capital of Palermo, the tourist town of Taormina and several other fascinating smaller towns and villages combined with Mount Etna, a beautiful and varied countryside, golden beaches, mountains and fertile plains.
Sicilians have a reputation for being fierce, proud and secretive, but, as we soon discovered they are also generous, loyal, welcoming and artistic.
The island’s reputation for food and wine is also totally warranted. Vineyards and olive trees are scattered all over the countryside. Oranges and lemons, fruit trees, nuts, rustic bread, excellent locally produced meat, pasta and seafood are the staple diet together with of course your traditional Italian and unique Sicilian fayre dishes. Local dishes include Pesce Spada – Swordfish stuff with mozzarella, herbs and brandy, Pasta con le Sarde – Fresh Sardines, or Triglia Alla Siciliana – Red Mullet in white wine and orange peel sauce. I loved the food and the wine in Sicily!
For sports and activities head to Taormina, Cefalu or Giardini Naxos for dive centres, water-skiing and pedaloes plus all the other beach-related sports and pastimes.
I flew to Catania on Sicily’s East coast and picked up a car and over the next week, we travelled down to Syracuse, Ragusa, Agrigento, Corleone, Palermo, Cefalu, Messina, Mount Etna, Castelmola and Taormina.
Sicily is magnificent and deservedly one of the best Italian Islands. It took me a while to truly understand and like Sicily but the road trip helped so much. I’d go back in a heartbeat!
Elba (Tuscan Archipelago)
Elba is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea’s Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Famous for its beaches, and as Napoleon’s place of exile between 1814–15.
Giannutri (Tuscan Archipelago)
Giannutri is a tiny island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Tuscany and is the southernmost island of the Tuscan Archipelago.
Burano (Venetian Lagoon)
Burano is an island in the Northern Venetian Lagoon.
Giudecca (Venetian Lagoon)
Giudecca is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, in northern Italy
The island has about 6,000 inhabitants and is small but elongated being about 2 kilometres in length by just 300 meters. Giudecca runs parallel to Venice, however, it is very different to Venice in that there is no mass tourism here so it is very authentic.
Being so close to Venice there are some wonderful views across the water and you can even see St Marks Square from the island.
It is understood that Michelangelo lived here for several years and in more recent times Elton John allegedly has a house and the likes of George Clooney is a regular visitor.
Please let me know if I have missed your favourite island off this list as I would be delighted to add it. Just pop a note in the comments below.
For further information on taking a trip to any of these Best Italian islands or any region of Italy, contact your local travel agent, a specialist tour operator or the Italian National Tourist Office.