Italy has roughly 450 islands tossed across its surrounding Tyrrehenian, Ionian and Adriatic Seas. And while you’ll usually see your Instagram feed inundated with photos of the Amalfi Coast, there are also hundreds of islands to explore.
From an island known for some of the best snorkelling and diving in Italy, to another filled with history and an archipelago with no cars other than those owned by residents, these are some of the best to add to your next European holiday itinerary.
Capri is one of Italy’s most famous islands for a reason. Its shape means that no matter where you’re standing, you’ll be blown away by an epic view.
When arriving from the port, you will ascend to the famous Piazzetta by cable car. There, you’ll be greeted with a town square surrounded by cafes, restaurants and a public balcony overlooking the sea.
While Capri has glamour, it also has history, and exploring its key historical landmarks on foot is easy. Wander between the remains of ancient Roman emperor’s villas and residences left by those who migrated to the island in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Isole Tremiti, also known as the Diomedee Islands, is a small archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, in the province of Foggia. The only Italian archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, it comprises five islands: San Domino, San Nicola, Capraia, Cretaccio and Pianosa.
The archipelago is known for its beaches, cliffs, small inlets and coves. If you enjoy walking, take one of numerous trails through the lush island interiors. For diving, Grotta delle Viole (Cave of Violets), near the Pagliai Sea is a must. No cars other than those belonging to residents are allowed on the islands of the Tremiti archipelago, which adds to its peaceful feel.
A list of Italy’s best islands wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Sicily, the largest among them, not to mention the largest island in the Mediterranean. Dotted with Greek and Arab-Norman remnants and adorned with Baroque architecture, Sicily is where Italian art, history and culture intertwine.
Put firmly on the map thanks to ‘The White Lotus’ season two, Sicily’s buzzing capital Palermo is the soul of the island. It’s a city teeming with markets and aristocratic palaces, churches and monuments including UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Start a walking tour here at Palermo Cathedral, then explore Palazzo dei Normanni with the Palatine Chapel and the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.
Procida — the Italian Capital of Culture in 2022 — is a Neapolitan jewel. The island dominates the Gulf of Naples and makes for truly postcard-worthy scenes. Along the coast, the yellow, blue, red, and orange of the island’s houses, once home to fishermen, are reflected in the clear waters of the sea, creating striking views.
You could spend days exploring the island’s many villages, home to abbeys, and palaces. Highlights include Marina della Corricella, the island’s oldest fishing village, and the Palazzo d’Avalos, an imposing 16th-century structure dominating the village of Terra Murata. If you like walking, take a footbridge that joins the island to the islet of Vivara, a nature reserve of incredible beauty.
You’ll find Elba off the coast of Tuscany, the third largest of Italy’s islands. It’s easy to get to with ferries leaving every 30 minutes from Piombino. This island has plenty of options for hotels, holiday homes and bed and breakfasts — though, if you’re visiting during high season, it’s best you book in advance.
Most people visit Elba for snorkelling or diving, as it offers some of the best in Italy. It’s also known for its hiking. Don’t miss the hike to Monte Capanne, the island’s highest peak, or, for an easier walk, embark on the 5km loop on the Enfola promontory. For great views of the sunset, walk to Marciana to Chiessi loop.