When the summer heat sets in, many Italians will up sticks to the islands for their holidays, and we think they’re on to something. Whether it’s the popular isles of Sicily and Sardinia or little-known gems like Favignana and Stromboli, Italian island getaways will generally boast several common features: beautiful golden beaches, picturesque landscapes and really fresh seafood, to name but three.
Italy has over 700 islands and while many of them are uninhabited, a good 30 or so are geared up for tourists and ready to welcome you to their shores for your next getaway. Here’s a rundown of our favourite Italian islands, with a few tips thrown in on popular attractions or how you can save some cash on an Italian island holiday. Buon viaggio!
Why visit? Well, on which other island could you find an active volcano, five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and no fewer than 11 Michelin-starred restaurants? Add to that the lovely Mediterranean climate, wide range of local wines and beautiful scenery and you’ve got yourself a cracker of a holiday destination.
How to get there: You can fly direct to Palermo from Gatwick and Stansted, and direct to Catania from Gatwick and Manchester. Indirect flights from throughout the UK are widely available but may cost much more. If coming from the Italian peninsula, you can reach Sicily from various starting points whether you’re travelling by car, train or boat.
Best sights: Taormina is an attractive beach resort with impressive Mediterranean views from its hillside villas. The entire city of Syracuse is a World Heritage Site and the Temple of Apollo and the Roman amphitheatre (pictured) are just two of its must-see monuments.
dealchecker tip: If you prefer being in the heart of the action, buzzing capital Palermo and bustling university city Catania will suit. For a quiet retreat, head to the Baroque towns of Noto and Pachino in south Sicily.
© Andrey Bayda
Why visit? Off the north coast of Sicily, Lipari is commonly seen as a gateway to the wider Aeolian islands, but it’s also an idyllic holiday destination in its own right, with a host of pretty beaches and family-run tavernas offering local cuisine.
How to get there: Lipari is well-connected by boat to Naples on the mainland and Palermo and Milazzo in Sicily as well as the other Aeolian islands. Try to catch a hydrofoil rather than a ferry, as your journey will likely be quicker.
Best sights: The Aeolian Archaeological Museum is brimming with interesting bits and bobs from the local area, while Spiaggia Bianca (White Beach) is a must-visit purely for its jewel-like turquoise waters.
dealchecker tip: Try local pescespada (swordfish) at Filippino just outside the main town; it’s a bit of a climb to this hilltop restaurant, but the freshness of the fish makes it worth it – and did we mention 80 different kinds of grappa?
© Natalia Barsukova
Why visit? If it’s good enough for the celebs, it’s good enough for us! Capri attracts icons of film, literature and fashion in droves, thanks to its warm Mediterranean climate and striking natural beauty.
How to get there: 20 ferries per day sail between Naples and Capri, and more from Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento. You can also catch a hydrofoil from the island of Ischia. All these journeys should take no more than 40 minutes.
Best sights: Take a boat trip around the three rocky Faraglioni islets and to the glimmering Blue Grotto (but set out for both early to avoid queues). Back on dry land, head to Villa Jovis, Capri’s largest Roman ruin.
dealchecker tip: For amazing panoramic views over the Bay of Naples and for a break from the crowds, try the chairlift ride (the Seggiovia) up Monte Solaro, which departs from Anacapri. It’s a steal at just €9 for a return ticket.
© Val Thoermer
Why visit? Let’s face it, there must be worse places to be exiled to (though we’re not sure Napoleon would’ve agreed). Italy’s third-largest island is rich in colourful natural beauty, with golden beaches, lush green forests and pink granite cliffs. That’s not forgetting plenty of historic monuments and local wines too.
How to get there: Ferries to Portoferraio on Elba depart from Piombino port on the Tuscan coast, about 90 minutes by train from Pisa. Many visitors take their cars across, but the island also has a pretty comprehensive bus service.
Best sights: After a two-hour hike up to Elba’s highest point, Monte Capanne, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the mainland. Some of the most popular beaches are Sansone in Portoferraio and Cavoli in Seccheto.
dealchecker tip: Don’t miss the Palazzina dei Mulini, Napoleon’s former home, which makes for an affordable day trip at only €3 per adult. And the St Tropez-esque Marciana Marina is a great place to shop and stroll of an evening.
© valeriy tretyakov
Why visit? There’s much more to Sardinia than ritzy, glitzy Costa Smeralda. The main draw is the island’s dazzling coastline, alongside a host of attractions from Roman ruins and elegant Pisan churches to fishing villages and mountain vistas.
How to get there: Direct flights to Alghero and Cagliari are available from London airports. Sardinia is linked by ferry to Genoa and Naples on the Italian mainland, and also to Sicily and Corsica.
Best sights: Take a stroll around the narrow lanes and medieval churches in Alghero’s historic centre and enjoy the spectacular sunset over the cliffs of Capo Caccia. Don’t miss the Roman ruins atop the Castello hill near Cagliari.
dealchecker tip: Avoid mid-August, when Italians flock to the island in droves to escape the heat of the cities. It’ll be crowded and much pricier. The same goes for most Italian coastal destinations, so choose your dates wisely.
© Gandolfo Cannatella
Why visit? Closer to Tunisia than Italy, on the little island of Lampedusa you’re sure of a sunny, hot summer holiday thanks to its North African climate. It’s also been awarded two TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® awards this year.
How to get there: Flights to Lampedusa depart year-round from Palermo or Catania in Sicily, with extra flights in summer from Italian mainland hubs including Rome, Milan and Venice. Otherwise you can catch a ferry from Agrigento in Sicily.
Best sights: Hike over majestic cliffs on the north side of the island and up to Albero del Sole, the island’s highest point, for stunning Mediterranean views. And don’t miss the award-winning Rabbit Beach with its golden sands.
dealchecker tip: Lampedusa is a paradise for snorkellers. The water around the island is known for its brilliant blue hues and since it’s relatively shallow, the sea temperature is warm all year, often reaching 30°C in August!
Why visit? Ischia is often said to be even more beautiful than its neighbour Capri. And with attractions from historic monuments to golden beaches and natural hot springs, there’s something to suit everyone in this island paradise.
How to get there: The nearest you’ll get by plane is Naples. Regular ferries run between Ischia and Naples’s Beverello and Mergellina harbours. Most call at the town of Ischia Porto first, followed by Casamicciola and Forio.
Best sights: Aragonese Castle (pictured) is one of Ischia’s most arresting sights. The Ravino Botanical Garden in Forio with its rich cacti collection is well worth a visit, while sun-worshippers will love Cartaromana Beach.
dealchecker tip: If you fancy a swanky thermal hot spring experience without the hefty spa price tag, look no further than Ischia. Sorgeto and Citara Beach are just two of the island’s many hot springs that all remain free of charge, just as nature intended!
Why visit? This tiny island in the Tyrrhenian Sea is pretty much 90% volcano, and a very active volcano at that. If you’re after a challenging but beautiful hike that’ll doubtless keep you on your toes, you’re in luck.
How to get there: There are regular ferries and hydrofoils linking Stromboli with the other Aeolian Islands, Sicily and the Italian mainland, though you may have to change boats in Lipari.
Best sights: It’s hard to get past the massive volcano (literally), but the island boasts plenty more attractions. Check out the black sandy beach in Stromboli town then hop on a boat to visit the picturesque fishing village of Ginostra.
dealchecker tip: After enjoying a delicious seafood dinner (you can’t not when the fish is this fresh), try a tipple at Pardes Wine Bar in Stromboli town. As well as an impressive wine list, it offers a stunning view of the volcano.
If you’re feeling inspired to book yourself an Italian island holiday, you can search for cheap flights to Italy with dealchecker.