Best for: Volcanic views
Set just north of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the alluring Aeolian Islands are home to dramatic rocky coastlines, black-sand beaches and incredible sea-swimming. Each unspoilt, rustic gem has an individual charm to reward island-hoppers. Two of the islands are active volcanoes – Vulcano is famed for restorative mud baths and smoking craters, while thrilling excursions to climb permanently-erupting Stromboli and witness its natural fireworks can be arranged. Ruggedly beautiful Lipari is the largest isle, with a wide range of activities and boat trips to match, while chic Panarea attracts jet-setters craving cool. But the relaxed atmosphere of Salina makes it our favourite base for day trips.
Getting there: The quickest, most frequent ferries to the islands run from the Sicilian port of Milazzo with Vulcano a 45-minute journey and Salina taking 90 minutes. There are also regular inter-island services.
Best for: Active families
Elba’s best known as the location of Napoleon’s 1814 exile, and it’s hard to imagine he minded his banishment to such lovely shores and crystalline blue waters. Boasting over 150 beaches – from wide, sandy stretches to sheltered coves – Elba is the particularly ideal for active family holidays. It’s part of the protected Tuscan Archipelago, and water-based fun abounds with snorkelling, diving, sailing and kayaking among the offerings. Back on dry land, the island’s mountainous interior is home to numerous hiking and cycling routes.
Getting there: Fly to Pisa and drive just over an hour to the port of Piombino for the 60-minute ferry or hydrofoil crossing.
Best for: Relaxing getaways
The largest island in the Bay of Naples, Ischia is a beautiful medley of volcanoes, pine groves, sandy beaches and traditional waterfront towns. It’s also relaxed and low-key, that vibe encouraged by the abundance of natural hot springs and thermal spas. La Mortella’s botanical gardens, created by the wife of English composer Sir William Walton, are an extremely pretty and tranquil place to get lost in for an afternoon or longer, while classical concerts are held on summer evenings in the amphitheatre. Numerous hiking opportunities await active visitors, with photographers directed to medieval Castello Aragonese.
Getting there: Ischia is reached easily by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples in as little as 45 minutes.
Islands of Italy
Picturesque and profuse, Italy’s islands are also as diverse as its boot-shaped mainland.
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