You could spend a lifetime eating, sightseeing and exploring mainland Italy without running out of ideas. There are even plenty of opportunities for coastal views and relaxation in places like Positano, Cinque Terre or Puglia. But for those looking for a unique Italian experience, you should consider taking a ferry over to an island off the coast of Italy.
Italy’s most popular islands of Capri, Sicily and Sardinia definitely see a lot of holiday goers and foot traffic; but did you know there are other lesser-known islands that are more remote and less traveled? Here are three to consider for a day trip or perhaps a longer stay.
Located off the coast of Tuscany, Elba is a small island, part of the Tuscan Archipelago. It’s less than 10 miles from the town of Piombino on the mainland. The island may sound familiar, perhaps because Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there. In fact, there are many places with a Bonaparte influence – like his former residence, a national museum, and some works of art.
Elba is a cyclers paradise, with loads of bike trails and plenty of rental shops. Hikers can climb Mount Capanne, the highest point on the island, to find incredible views (on a clear day you can see Corsica). The island has no shortage of amazing beaches with both white and black sand. Shopping and strolling Portoferraio’s old town is a great way to spend some time with the locals. And since Elba has its own DOC wines – red, white and Vin Santo, you can enjoy them with a meal at restaurants or arrange a wine tour of the terraced vineyards.
Ponza is a small island off the Lazio coast. Here you’ll experience true island life – very slow, laid back, and perfect for those who really dream of slowing down and having a relaxing vacation without a large travel to-do list (or the glitz or hefty price tag of chi-chi Capri). Romans have discovered it, but it’s still not on the radar of most other tourists.
If you enjoy the thought of laying on the beach, Ponza has so many you could spend your days choosing a different one everyday to find your favorite. Eating seafood, walking, soaking up the natural beauty and watching spectacular sunsets will fill the majority of your time here. The island is also a hot-spot for divers and snorkelers. It’s relatively easy to rent a boat for a day to swim, enjoy the views of the port from the water or visit the nearby blue grottos, which rival those of Capri.
Further south in the Gulf of Naples is Ischia, the largest of the three islands with the most to do. The main town is divided into Ischia Porto and Ischia Ponte. Ischia Porto is the larger, busier main port; it makes a great base for those wanting to arrange organized tours or who want to enjoy some nightlife. Ischia Ponte is smaller with more of a charming fishing village vibe.
Don’t miss the Spiaggia dei Pescatori, aptly named for the fisherman who offer their catch of the day to local restaurants. This area also boasts a lovely wide sand beach, perfect for lounging or dining at one of the little harbor cafes. Cross a footbridge to explore the Castello Aragonese for beautiful gardens and pretty views from the top of the fortress.
In Casamicciola Terme, treat yourself to healing thermal waters at natural parks or resorts offering spa experiences and heliotherapy treatments. For outdoor adventure, a hike up Monte Epomeo, the highest point on the island, will reward you with expansive views.
Need help with your Italian island getaway? Consider my trip coach service.