Egadi Islands, Sicily
17 February, 2020
This unspoilt trio of islands off the northwest coast of Sicily remain virtually unknown - except to well-heeled Italian families who flock here for their summer holidays. Peppered with sandy coves, hypnotic blue caves and yellow-shuttered, whitewashed houses that seemingly tumble into the ramshackle fishing ports, it's equally suited to Lycra-clad active travellers as it is those looking to chill with a cappuccino and Gillian Flynn's latest thriller.
On Favignana (the largest islet) there's little need to do anything, except perhaps, doze, bathe and dip into the waters of Cala Rossa, gorge on platefuls of pasta con le sarde - a wild fennel and sardine speciality - or watch the skies gradually turn to lavender as you sip on a carafe of local wine.
Smallest in size and shaped by herb-strewn hills, Levanazo often attracts energetic travellers looking to explore the network of cycle paths that criss-cross the coast, bypass bobbing fisherman boats and cut through the (only) village of Cala Dogana. While rugged and wild Marettimo is the least visited of the set due to its distance from the other isles and lack of accommodation options, it is in no way the runt of the litter - in fact, its steep rocky tuffs and artist's palette of sea blues are among the Egadi Islands' most arresting vistas.
Despite their proximity to Sicily's mainland, this is no place for day trippers. Locals are friendly but they don't take kindly to ferry-and-flop tourists. Plan to stay a for a while, ease into the slow rhythm of coastal life and take time to explore each of the islands.
Hopping over to Marettimo. Limestone cliffs crash into the sea and donkeys graze in wildflower meadows. The aleppo pine-paved groves are popular among hikers.
Who to take with you
Someone who wants to tune into Mediterranean living without the pomp (or price) of other Italian islands such as Capri and Pantelleria.
When to go
April through to mid-June is the ideal time to visit; avoid July to August. The islands might not be the Amalfi Coast, but it is a sought-after Italian holiday destination and during the summer holidays the population trebles.
Where to stay
Design-driven Casa Faro Favignana. Cacti-filled gardens with sunken firepits, polished-concrete bathrooms and sea-view bedrooms far surpass any of the charming yet slightly outdated offerings in Favignana's centre.
Most likely to bump into…
Fishermen who will invite you on their rickety boats to show you the nearby hidden coves, and then help you pick out a fresh lobster to feast on.
Essentials to bring with you
A pair of trainers you can clamber over rocks in. These ones from the new Rick Owens x Veja collab should do the trick.
How to get there
Fly to Trapani, then it's a 20-minute ferry trip to Favignana.