When you think of Italian islands, the first names that come to mind are likely to be Sicily, Sardinia and Capri. However, whilst these are all fantastic destinations in their own right, there are plenty more patches of land lying off the coast of the famous ‘boot’ which can offer somewhere to escape the crowds and enjoy an even slower pace of life.
So, if your idea of a relaxing holiday is going off-grid to recharge those batteries, here are five Italian islands – which you’ve never heard of – to consider.
Capri tends to attract most people looking for an island holiday in the Gulf of Naples, but the larger island of Ischia can be a fantastic alternative. Reached via fast ferry from Naples in under 45 minutes, it’s teeming with luxury spa resorts that beckon you to relax. The natural springs that bubble up from beneath the surface provide the basis for many different treatments and these naturally warm waters are even used to slow-cook food at some of the beaches.
Ischia is also famous for its delicious wine and wonderful flora. The rich soil and beautiful weather mean that many species that usually prefer much hotter climates can thrive here. Visit the botanical gardens at the island’s centre to see some of these.
Part of an archipelago known as the Pontine Islands, Ponza is found slightly further north than Ischia and off the coast of Latina. It’s best reached from Anzio, just south of Rome, and its relative accessibility from here makes it a popular summer spot for Romans wanting to escape the city. It has also drawn a few famous names in the past, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna. However, these stars come to hide from the paparazzi on Ponza’s modest street (there is just the one), rather than flaunt the glitz and glamour of their latest vacation spot all over Instagram.
The island itself is very rustic, but it is in this unpretentiousness that its charm lies. The hilly nature of the landscape throws out Santorini vibes, only the houses here are adorned with vibrant yellows and pinks, not the classic blue domes that travellers associate with the Greek island. The simplicity of the food and way of life is enough to make even the most stressed tourist feel at ease.
Officially part of Sicily, but closer to Tunisia than mainland Italy, Pantelleria is a volcanic outcrop that, to most, is simply a spec in the Mediterranean Sea. There are no beaches here but, with soothing natural elements designed to help you feel rejuvenated, you will hardly miss them. Most prominent in this regard is the beautiful Mirror of Venus (Specchio di Venere), a heart-shaped crater where people go to cover their skin in the mud found at its edge before bathing in its welcoming hot spring.
Other quirks of the island include the interesting ‘dammuso’ houses which are perfectly designed to keep residents cool and collect rainwater. There are even luxury examples that tourists can rent out for an authentic Pantelleria stay.
A haven for beachgoers and divers, Giglio is part of Tuscany and can be found in the stretch of sea between Grosseto and Corsica. Like many Italian destinations, there are some great historical attractions to unearth, not least the wonderful harbour that has still maintained some origin Roman features. Further inland, Giglio Castello is a walled town complete with well-preserved medieval fortifications and a charming 15th-century church.
The main tourist spots are around the coastline, where commanding towers like Torre del Lazzaretto and Torre del Campese, which once defended the island from Pirate attacks, still stand today. If you do make the ferry trip from Porto Santo Stefano, be sure to try some of the medieval sweets called Panficato. Made from figs and grapes that have been dried in the sun, they take two days to produce and are inspired by a similar treat from Siena.
All of the islands on our list so far can be found to the west of Italy, however, if you’re looking to discover some of the jewels in the Adriatic, San Domino can offer a different perspective. Located off the coast of Termoli, it is part of the Isole Tremiti archipelago, so called because of their historic earthquakes (Tremiti means tremors).
Back in the 1930s, an abhorrent move by fascist Benito Mussolini meant that 45 gay men were exiled to the island. Whilst a harrowing event for those involved, it resulted in the flourishing LGBT community that can be found in San Domino today. Thankfully, the only headlines being made here now are those highlighting the fantastic diving spots in the rugged coves and coral reefs offshore.
If you would like to know how you can visit one of these untouched Italian islands, the Fred.\ Holidays team can tailor-make a trip just for you. Call us on 0800 988 3369 or click here to sign up to our mailing list.