10 Italian Islands To Visit This Summer

Swerve the day-trippers heading to Capri and Sardinia: here’s our pick of the Italian islands to explore if you’re seeking a slower pace of summer living

Italy has around 450 islands, many of which have fiercely independent identities, cuisines and cultures. From the remote Aeolian islands just off Sicily to the lake islands of northern Brescia, and Puglia's crystalline waters and white sandy islets, there are surprises at every turn.

Transport in Italy is not famous for being efficient at the best of times, and this slows down even more when it comes to high-season ferry-hopping. Don't see these as destinations to be hurried or fitted into a long weekend, but places in which to pause, taking refuge in the calm lack of diversions and the simple pleasures of island life. Here are 10 of our favourite Italian islands to head to this summer.

Our 10 favourite Italian islands

Procida, Italy



Although it covers just 4sq km, Procida's crumbling pastel harbour has featured large on the silver screen, appearing in Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's performance of Cleopatra; in the 1994 comedy Il Postino; and, most memorably, as the backdrop for Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow's exquisite love triangle in The Talented Mr Ripley. No wonder, then, that the picture-perfect island was declared Italy's capital of culture for 2022, with over 100 art installations and creative projects launched to mark the occasion, many of which are still in situ. The island has lost none of its movie star looks, with washing still fluttering in the breeze against colourful homes, and 50cc scooters coughing and spluttering along dusty roads. An island highlight is the seafood: try harbourside spots like Ristorante da Mariano and Il Pescatore.

Ponza, italy

Ponza and Palmarola


Midway between Florence and Rome, Ponza's striking white cliffs rise from the water as you approach by ferry or yacht. There are few hotels, and even fewer cars; this is an island for lazy days of swimming, sunbathing and reading. There are a few sandy beaches you can reach by foot, but most of the island is best explored by hiring a little motorboat with a skipper for a day or two. In recent years, it's developed something of a VIP reputation, thanks to a cluster of celebrity visitors, but the island is still laid-back at heart. Pack a picnic, or pootle into Cala Feola and grab a table at rustic La Marina, where the white tables pop against the crystalline water just below. Ponza is steeped in history: scholars believe it is the ancient island of Aeaea depicted in Homer's Odyssey, and you'll still find vast tree stumps from when it was first settled in Etruscan times. If you feel like venturing somewhere even more remote, hop over to neighbouring Palmarola island for a dip in the transparent blue waters.

San Nicola, Italy

San Nicola


Puglia might be everyone's favourite Italian destination this summer, but the lesser-visited quintet of islands off the Gargano peninsula are still something of a secret. The two inhabited islands - San Nicola and San Domino - promise white cliffs and pristine sandy beaches frequented by olive-skinned locals and in-the-know visitors from the mainland. Ferries run year-round from Termoli port to San Nicola, the smaller and prettier of the two. Summer visits should involve snorkelling and chilled-out beach days; in the shoulder season, we'd recommend tracing hiking trails through shaded pineta (pine forest) in search of Neolithic ruins. For the best underwater adventures, take a boat over to the uninhabited island of Capraia and swim through the sheltered Cala dei Turchi. Or, dive down to the submerged statue of the saint Padre Pio, between Capraia and San Nicola.

La Maddalena, Italy

La Maddalena


There's a reason why Sardinia's Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) has been given the nickname- the waters here have a luminosity that rivals even those of the Caribbean. A short boat trip from the coastline, between Palau and Capo d'Orso on Sardinia, and a flipper flick away from southern Corsica, you'll find over 60 islands and islets making up the Maddalena archipelago. Once a smuggler's paradise - and often forgotten by the powers that be in designating islands to foreign rule throughout history - La Maddalena residents are proudly independent and culturally set apart from the mainland. On the eponymous main island, expect gelato-coloured houses and postcard-perfect cobbled streets, but other uninhabited islands are wild, rugged and romantic, with spectacular beaches fringed by fragrant herbs. For snorkelling, make a beeline to Cala Coticcio on Isola di Caprera, and Spiaggia del Cavaliere on Isola Budelli, where the otherworldly pink granite rock formations feel like a different world.

Giudecca, Venice



For contemporary art, craft and design, head to Giudecca, one of Venice's 30 islands. Unlike the tourist hotspots of Murano and Burano, the old industrial quarter of the floating city has held onto its storied boathouses and factories. Giudecca's contemporary art scene has exploded in the past two decades, transforming the island from a working quarter to one of Venice's most exciting new districts. Uber-contemporary creative hub and exhibition space Spazio Punch, located in a disused brewery at the western tip of the island, is a welcome break from too many frescoes and gilded ballrooms in the rest of Venice, while CREA Cantieri del Contemporaneo is a "contemporary arts intervention project" that has recently started hosting classes in cutting-edge art technology.

Stromboli, Italy


Aeolian Islands

Staying on an island that is a vast and still-active volcano rising out of the sea may not seem like the best idea for a dolce vita escape to the Italian seaside, but then, you haven't seen Stromboli. This rugged Aeolian island has black beaches, steaming hot springs, magnificent hiking opportunities and a smattering of low-key luxe hotels to stay in. The best beaches, restaurants and shops are found in San Vincenzo and Piscità at the north-eastern tip of the island, where all the ferries come and go. With a fraction of the tourists, Stromboli makes a great base from which to explore the six other Aeolian islands.

FAvigana, Italy


Aegadian (Egadi) Islands

Off Sicily's western coast, the cluster of three small Egadi islets are about as far from the rest of Italy as you can get. In fact, you're closer to southern Sardinia or northern Tunisia than to mainland Italy. The largest and most charming island is Favignana, at roughly 20sq km. Expect exceptionally clear waters off coves like Lido Burrone and Cala Azzurra, where you can find local fishermen to take you on a boat trip. Nature lovers should hop over to the smaller but no less lovely Marettimo, which is home to myriad species of birds and native plants. The easiest way to get to the trio of islands is to take a ferry from Trapani.

Monte Isola, Italy

Monte Isola


A mountain in the middle of the lake, the northern Italian island of Monte Isola is sprinkled with sleepy fishing harbours and mesmerising waterside views at every turn. Explore the 12 traditional villages that nestle in its hills and along the shoreline, with charming footpaths swinging through olive groves between them all. Stay at Hotel Sensole, a 19th-century manor house converted into a boutique hotel, or on the mainland at L'Albereta, before taking a boat to explore. Off the island, day trips can be taken to Franciacorta to the south-east, a region known for producing Italy's finest metodo classico sparkling wine.

Giglio, Italy



The silvery Etruscan Coast may not have the glitz of the Italian Riviera or the Amalfi Coast, but its seven islands are no less marvellous if you know where to look. The best-kept secret among Italians is little Giglio, named after the native sea lily that grows along the beaches in springtime. A popular hiking destination, thanks to its natural beauty and fine, white-sand beaches, Giglio's relative lack of accommodation means it remains manageably quiet even in peak season. If you visit by ferry for the day, stroll a few minutes to find the magnificent Cala delle Cannelle, a crescent-shaped bay with sparkling turquoise sea. For those wanting to stay longer - and wake up mere metres from the sea - we'd recommend pitching your tent at Campeggio Baia del Sole.




The largest of Italy's islands is having a mini renaissance - and it's not just down to the latest season of The White Lotus putting cliffside Taormina on radar. Head inland and you'll discover an altogether quieter, more rustic and remote landscape - one of lunar-like red-rock hills, and dry, arid pastoral expanses. Check out Anna Tasca Lanza's sumptuously rustic cookery school for immersive culinary experiences, or try a wine tasting on Mount Etna with Assovini. In Mussomeli, a sleepy medieval town in the island's heart, expat Aussie Danny McCubbin has helped counteract the slow decline of a beautiful old town by opening community project The Good Kitchen. Working with charitable partners to provide opportunities for young people and kids in the kitchen, and feed vulnerable individuals, the space's regular open-to-all dinners are welcoming to town visitors (and you'll be able to chat to locals about places to visit, including the seriously good, family-run Pizzeria Lucerna nearby).

Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy
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