6 Italian islands not to be missed

Wild beauty, volcanoes and glamour

One of the most beautiful places on Earth, Italy is abundant in great lakes, historic cities and unforgettable scenery, so it's easy to forget about the incredible Italian islands that are found around the coast. Surrounded by the Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, the best Italian islands to visit are as diverse as they are beautiful.

  1. Sicily
  2. Isola Bella
  3. Sardinia
  4. Capri
  5. San Domino
  6. Elba

Taking in some of the largest islands of the Mediterranean, as well as places of untouched natural beauty, geological wonder, historical significance and unparalleled glamour, we've narrowed down the top six islands in Italy. For your next Italian adventure, leave the mainland and discover the paradise that lies beyond.

1. Sicily

How could we write a guide on Italy's islands and not include Sicily? Sicily is the rather large island that resembles a ball at the end of Italy's famous foot-shaped mainland. It is famed for having its own culture and cuisine that has evolved separately to the rest of Italy. Highlights include the amazingly well-preserved Greek temples and theatres. It's also the largest of the Italian volcanic islands, home to Etna, the most active volcano in Europe. With so much to do it's a great choice for families and its southerly location means visitors can enjoy some of the warmest weather with practically year-round sunshine.

Best beaches: San Vito Lo Capo, Torre Salsa and Porto Palo.

2. Isola Bella

Quite literally, 'Beautiful Island', Isola Bella proves that not all amazing islands are found in the sea. This tiny, uber-glamourous islet is situated in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy. Dominated by a fairytale palace, the Palazzo Borromeo, and its impeccable Italian Baroque gardens, the island is a haven of manicured perfection, quite unlike anywhere in the world. The perfect holiday for a honeymoon or romantic break, visitors to the exclusive Isloa Bella will feel like royalty, even if it's just for the day.

When to go: in early or late summer when there are fewer crowds but the weather is still great.

3. Sardinia

Like Sicily, Sardinia is practically a nation in its own right, with a cuisine and culture that sets it apart from mainland Italy, as well as from nearby Spain or France. Known as the 'Caribbean of Europe', Sardinia welcomes visitors who come for the sunny climate, expansive white sand beaches and clear, warm swimming waters. While most holidaymakers spend time exploring the 2000km of coastline, nature lovers should head inland to discover the immense beauty of the island's rugged, almost wild, mountainous interior.

Must-try dishes: Zuppa gallurese (bread pudding with lamb and cheese), bottarga (mullet roe) or porcheddu (suckling pig)

4. Capri

The most notable of the Italian islands off Naples is Capri. Located in the heart of the Bay of Naples, Capri's upscale reputation is well-deserved and consistently maintained, and it continues to be the Italian island of choice for the world's 1%. This is evident through the boutique and jewellery stores, high-end restaurants and luxury hilltop villas. But there's more to Capri than glitz and glamour. It's also a place of absolute beauty, where the turquoise coast is dotted with sea arches, grottoes and sea stacks. Inland, green-covered mountains dominate the landscape. It's also famous for its incredible scent; a heady combination of limoncello, rosemary plants and aromas coming from the historic Carthusia perfumery. The island's earliest pleasure seekers, the Romans, built a series of expansive villas on the island, perfect for a spot of sight-seeing between the shopping, sea and sand.

Top thing to do: dine al fresco at the chic Piazza Umberto 1

5. San Domino

The most famous Italian islands lie to the west of the country, however some outstanding islands are also found to the east. Whilst there are no Italian islands of the Aegean (only Greek and Turkish), the best of the Italian islands in the Adriatic is San Domino. Part of the Tremiti ('Tremors') Archipelago, it is far more remote than the islands of the Tyrrhenian and has more in common with the sun-soaked islands of Croatia. Part of the Gargano National Park, the natural landscape remains largely untouched on this car-free island, a place with a raw beauty that especially appeals to those seeking restful repose.

While you're there: Visit the uninhabited neighbouring island of Capraia.

6. Elba

Elba is the largest island in the verdant Tuscan Archipelago. This beautiful place offers some of the most pleasant and safe swimming waters in Italy, including top snorkelling sites such as the Elviscot wreck. It's also popular with cyclists thanks to an extensive network of bike trails, varying from extremely challenging to family-friendly. If that's not enough adventure, try hiking to the peak of Mount Capanne for incredible views across the island and beyond. On a clear day, it's even possible to see Corsica. The perfect place for families or couples who like to get active.

Find out more: about the island's history at Napoleon's villa and the Fortress of Volterraio

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