Island Holidays in Italy
At a conservative estimate there are 700 official Italian islands — although most of these are little more than rocky outcrops. For an island get-away, take your pick among 30 inhabited castaway idylls.
Elba is one of seven islands of the Tuscan archipelago, famously, where Napoleon was exiled for a short period. Smothered with deep green forests, framed by pink granite cliffs and a gloriously indented coastline with splendid beaches, it remains a bellissima spot for the most willing of exiles. Had Napoleon known that just 100 days after he left Elba he would meet his Waterloo, he may well have lingered longer.
The Pontine Islands are pinpricks of land between Naples and Rome. A 75 minute hydrofoil from Rome glides to Ponza, framed by white cliffs and sea grottoes — once the hideaway of Roman emperors and said to be the island of Homer’s enchantress, Circe. More famously perhaps, in the Bay of Naples, Capri has lured countless icons of fashion, literature and celebrities to this pleasure isle. Greeted by the rocky ‘siren’ islets (Faraglioni) they are a perennial siren call to hedonism and beauty.
Nearby, Ischia is Capri’s bigger sister, known as the ‘isle of eternal youth’. Even gods, goddesses and mythological heroes took a break in Ischia bathing in the hot bubbling springs prized for their therapeutic powers. As magical as a film set, (remember ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’), Ischia attracts plenty of celebrities enticed by their slice of ‘la dolce vita’. There are golden beaches, cool hills with fragrant pine and citrus groves, vineyards, dramatic volcanic landscapes, picturesque towns and fishing villages.
At the top of Italy’s ‘heel’, the sleepy Tremiti Islands are scattered off the coast of Puglia, surrounded by the limpid waters of the Adriatic. Here you will find amazing limestone rock formations and grottoes and spectacular beaches. The largest of the five islands, which form part of the Parco Nazionale di Gargano, is San Domino.
But the largest of Italy’s islands are Sicily and Sardinia, in that order. Sicily is a cradle of civilisation where Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs and Spaniards have all left their mark. It’s also known for Europe’s largest active volcano — the very volatile Mount Etna. Off the northeast coast, theAeolians are seven magnificent, volcanic islands. Lipari is the largest with its picturesque eponymous waterfront Town, little Panarea is well-heeled and chic, while shabby-chic Stromboli thrills with nightly displays of red sparks and fountains of molten débris.
For ‘paparazzi HQ’, Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda has few peers. But, away from the glorious beaches, traditional island life continues inland. Mysteriousnuraghi (prehistoric stone dwellings) dot the landscape. And the Sards know how to party — no other folkloric tradition in Europe survives so completely. Feasting and fabulous festivals interwoven with stories of giants and fairies are all part of the magical charm of Sardinia.