Questor Insurance Travel Features

A guide to the islands and archipelagos of Italy – our 5 top picks

Date Created: 07 May 2015

The two largest islands - Sicily and Sardinia - in the Mediterranean Sea belong to Italy, but the country counts a great number of other smaller islands, actually about 1/6 of the total territory of Italy is insular. So, how many islands exactly does Italy count all together?

The total number of Italian islands is over 450, with about 350 Sea Islands (including 13 archipelagos), about 100 lagoon and lake islands and a few river islands (like the Isola Tiberina on the Tiber, Rome). Venice alone counts 32 inhabited lagoon islands!


1. The Aeolian islands (Sicily)

 The Aeolian islands Sicily













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The Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the God of the winds Aeolus. The largest island of the archipelago is Lipari but there are seven inhabited islands in this volcanic archipelago, each offering its own distinct atmosphere, sense of hospitality and charm.

Unique beauty, fascinating geophysical characteristics (two of the islands are active volcanoes!), a wealth of history, Greek myths and legends, wonderful sea-swimming, great beaches, stunning views, mountain and coastal walking galore, mouth-watering cuisine and luscious sweet dessert wines. Despite all this, the Aeolian Islands remain fairly unknown out of Italy and surprisingly unspoiled outside the peak weeks of August.



2. The Maddalena archipelago (Sardinia)

 The Maddalena Arvihipelago Sardinia












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La Maddalena is the name of the principal island of an archipelago off the north-eastern tip of Sardinia. The archipelago is also known as La Maddalena, and consists of over sixty islands, islets and rocks. In the past the islands have been important strategic naval and military bases; now they are an attractive and fairly low-key holiday destination. The most famous attractions are the beautiful unspoiled beaches, the blue seas and the final home, now a museum on the island of Caprera of Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi (a protagonist in the unification of Italy).



3. The Phlegraean islands - Bay of Naples (Campania)

 The Phlegraen Islands Bay of Naples











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Procida and its satellite island of Vivara are part of the Phlegraean archipelago together with the volcanic islet of Nisida, as well as the bigger islands of Ischia and Capri. 

The Bay of Naples is one of the most spectacular areas on Earth, with a tremendous wealth of both natural and cultural treasures. It presents beautiful diverse landscapes and an amazing amount of history. The blue waters of the Mediterranean are dominated here by the world’s most famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption that led to the destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii.

A particular part of the charm of the Bay of Naples can be found on its three main islands, all different, all beautiful: Capri, the most famous, the volcanic island of Ischia, and colourful Procida.



4. Elba and the Tuscan Archipelago (Tuscany)

 Elma and the Tuscan Archipelago Tuscany












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Elba is the biggest island of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest in Italy after Sardinia and Sicily. Together with eight other islands, including Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo, it is part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, the largest marine park in Europe.

The island of Elba is famous around the world for harbouring French Emperor Napoleon in 1814 during his exile. But its history goes back to prehistory, with the Ilvati tribe from Liguria who named the island Ilva. It was then inhabited first by the Etruscans and later by the Romans, who really appreciated the island, its rich deposits of iron and its mud baths.



5. The Tremiti Islands (Puglia)

The Tremiti Islands Puglia










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The archipelago of the Tremiti Islands is a marine reserve in the Apulian Adriatic Sea off the coast of Gargano, province of Foggia. The islands of San Domino, San Nicola and Caprara can each be described as 'green', 'rough' and 'wild'.

The 'green' is San Domino. As well as being the biggest, it contains many grottoes, much birdlife and is home to the delicious local lobster. It is the only one of the islands with any guest accommodation.

The 'rough' is San Nicola. The really fit and adventurous could try swimming the 500 meters from San Domino. It was used by the Roman Emperor Augustus to banish his niece as well as a penal colony for the Bourbons.

The 'wild' is Caprara. Uninhabited, it is practically flat and the only buildings of note are a lighthouse and old isolation site for prisoners 'Casa dei Coatti'.

The Tremiti islands can be reached by passenger ferry from Ancona, Pescara and Vasto, as well as Bari. Or by really small private light aircraft from the Gargano. Just don't take too much luggage! No automobiles are allowed on the Tremiti, but the islands are small enough to be explored on foot. Small buses connect the port of San Domino with the town in the central part of the island. However, most hotels and even campgrounds will send a minibus to pick up baggage-laden new arrivals at the port. To get between islands and putter around their coasts, your options are water taxis, organized boat tours that hit all the major coves and water-accessible attractions of the Tremiti, or small motorboat (gommone) rentals.



Written by Vittoria Soddu.