There are more than 450 islands of all shapes and sizes off the coast of mainland Italy offering everything from secluded beaches to rocky coves, historic sites and incredible natural beauty. No holiday to the Med is complete without a visit to at least one Italian island.
One of the best ways to explore these stunning islands is by sailing yacht, giving you the freedom to hop from island to island and experience the best of what these Mediterranean gems have to offer.
The 18 Top Italian Islands to Visit
With so many to choose from, which Italian island should you visit? Don’t just visit one island, hop on a sailing yacht and visit a bunch of them! To help you decide, we’ve picked 18 idyllic islands to visit on your next Italian holiday.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and it offers a blend of history, culture and natural wonders. It is one of the most well-known Italian islands and is a kind of snapshot of everything great about the Med. From the active volcano of Mount Etna to the well-preserved Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, and Palermo’s vibrant mix of Norman, Arab, and Baroque influences.
Towns like Taormina, perched above the Ionian Sea, feature an ancient Greek theatre and scenic views, while Siracusa boasts historical sites like the Greek Theater and Ortigia. The coastal town of Cefalù is known for its Norman cathedral and sandy beaches. Of course, no visit to Sicily is complete without a visit to Valle dei Mostri, the Valley of the Monsters. This unique landscape features naturally formed rocks that resemble mythical creatures like the Cyclops, dragons and other mythical beasts.
Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, and only slightly smaller than Sicily offers more of the same. It’s home to the glamorous coastline of Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, and is famous for its turquoise waters, luxurious resorts, and exclusive nightlife. Explore the ancient Nuragic village of Su Nuraxi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and discover the well-preserved Nuraghe tower.
Grotta di Nettuno is a stunning sea cave featuring intricate rock formations and underwater tunnels popular with scuba divers and snorkellers. After a dip in the med, head over to the charming seaside town of Cala Gonone surrounded by limestone cliffs and caves, then hike through the Supramonte mountains to the beautiful Cala Luna beach to relax after a day packed with adventures.
South of the Tuscan Archipelago, in the Bay of Naples, Capri is a small island with a glamorous reputation and stunning landscapes and has been a playground for the rich and famous for decades. The famous Blue Grotto sea cave is renowned for its vibrant blue waters, illuminated by sunlight passing through an underwater cavity. Explore the ruins of Roman Emperor Tiberius’s imperial residence, perched on the eastern cliffs of the island, offering panoramic views of the Gulf of Naples.
The iconic sea stacks of Faraglioni are a symbol of Capri and can be admired from various viewpoints, including the Gardens of Augustus. A quieter alternative to the island’s eponymous main town, Capri, Anacapri offers charming streets, the Villa San Michele, and the chairlift to Monte Solaro for breathtaking views.
Just north of Capri lies the Aeolian archipelago, consisting of 7 main islands. The largest of these is Lipari, a volcanic island with a rich history and stunning landscapes. Dominating the island’s landscape, the Castle of Lipari (Castello di Lipari) offers panoramic views of the surrounding sea and islands. The archaeological park within the castle grounds provides insight into Lipari’s ancient history. The Lipari Archaeological Museum dives even deeper into the island’s past and showcases various historical artefacts.
Heading into town, Lipari town is a charming blend of narrow streets, historic architecture, and vibrant high-end shops. After a day of shopping, eating and exploring, relax on Canneto Beach, the island’s most famous beach, known for its black volcanic sand. If you’re up for something a little more active, the crystal-clear waters of Lipari are also a snorkeller’s paradise
The second largest of the Aeolian Islands is Salina. The island’s picturesque village of Pollara with its unique horseshoe-shaped bay is famous for its stunning sunset views. Salina is also renowned for its sweet Malvasia wine and you can visit local wineries for tastings and learn about the island’s winemaking traditions.
After a taste of Salina’s famous vino, hike to Monte Fossa delle Felci, the highest point on the island, where you’ll find a lush, ancient fern-covered crater. The trek offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. After building up a sweat on the hike up the mountain, relax and grab a bite to eat at one of the many seafood restaurants in the island’s main port of Santa Marina, a charming village with colourful houses and a relaxed atmosphere.
True to its name, Vulcano is a volcanic island in the Aeolian archipelago. Although dormant, the volcano is one of the most popular attractions, including steamy fumaroles, sulphur hot springs, and therapeutic mud baths. The mud is believed to have healing properties and is a unique and rejuvenating experience. After you’ve charged your batteries at the mud baths, hike to the summit of Vulcano’s volcano to witness breathtaking views of the surrounding islands and the popular smoking crater, Gran Cratere. After a hike up the mountain, relax on the black sandy beach of Spiaggia Sabbie Nere, surrounded by volcanic landscapes and crystal-clear waters.
Another volcanic island in the Aeolian archipelago is Stromboli. The highlight of the tiny island is its namesake volcano, the volcano is still active with minor eruptions that are often visible from the surrounding sea, giving Stromboli the nickname, the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean. Guided hikes to the summit provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience of witnessing live volcanic activity. The small village of Ginostra offers a peaceful escape with black sand beaches and a slower pace of life. Located in the main village, San Vincenzo church is a tranquil spot for reflection and panoramic views of the island.
Southwest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, lie the Phlegraean Islands, the largest of which is Ischia with its thermal pools and stunning gardens. The most famous of these pools is Poseidon, offering a variety of pools with different temperatures and therapeutic properties. The mediaeval Palazzo D’Avalos Castle provides a glimpse into the island’s history and panoramic views of the island and the Bay of Naples.
Created by British composer Sir William Walton, the La Mortella botanical gardens feature a stunning collection of plants and flowers, as well as classical music concerts during the summer. If you feel like some well-deserved beach time, head along the southern coast to Maronti Beach, one of the longest and most beautiful beaches on the island, with crystal-clear waters and stunning views.
Procida is the smallest and least developed of the Phlegraean Islands. The small and colourful island is a hidden gem known for its charm and authentic Italian atmosphere. The picturesque fishing village of Marina Corricella is a postcard-perfect spot with colourful houses, waterfront cafes, and traditional fishing boats. Relax on the sandy shores of Chiaiolella Beach, known for its crystal-clear waters and views of the nearby Ischia island. Adding to the charm and laid-back atmosphere of the island is the Abbey of Saint Michael, perched on the highest point of the island, offering a serene and spiritual atmosphere along with stunning views.
Vivara, a small island connected to Procida by a narrow bridge, is a nature reserve with rich biodiversity and historical ruins. Discover the archaeological remains on the island, including the ruins of a Roman villa and a mediaeval church, offering glimpses into Vivara’s rich history, or go for a hike along the islet’s many scenic hiking trails, allowing you to explore the island’s landscapes, from coastal cliffs to lush interior regions.
Il Gallo Lungo
Il Gallo Lungo is the largest of the Li Galli group of islands, also known as the Serenusas, just off the Amalfi Coast. The island is most well-known for its distinctive dolphin shape. This shape forms a protected bay, facing the other two Li Galli islands, La Castelluccia and La Rotonda. Known for its natural beauty, the island features a small cove called “la Praja” where boats can anchor and a watchtower on top of its barren peak.
Known as “the tiny fortress,” due to its unique rock formations, La Castelluccia is one of the smaller islets in the Li Galli group of islands. It offers a dramatic backdrop against the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The clear waters around La Castelluccia make it an excellent spot for snorkelling and diving, allowing visitors to explore the vibrant underwater world of this tiny island.
Tavolara, off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, is an island off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, characterised by granite cliffs and crystal clear waters. The sandy beach of Spalmatore di Terra on the island’s western side offers a picturesque setting with views of the surrounding turquoise sea. The highest point on Tavolara, Punta Cannone, or King’s Rock, provides panoramic views of the coastline and the neighbouring islands.
Razzoli, part of the Maddalena Archipelago, is a small island known for its rugged coastline and unique rock formations. The rocky shores of Razzoli create natural pools filled with clear seawater, providing a peaceful and scenic environment. The island is also home to a historic lighthouse offering panoramic views of the surrounding sea and islands.
Another gem in the Maddalena Archipelago is Budelli, famous for the pink sandy beach of Spiaggia Rosa. The pink-coloured sand is created by the presence of microscopic shells. Swimming and sunbathing on this beach are unforgettable experiences. Not far from Spiaggia Rosa, is Cala di Roto, a secluded cove with turquoise waters, perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Lampedusa, located closer to Africa than Italy, is known for its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. Voted one of the world’s best beaches, Rabbit Beach boasts white sand and transparent waters, making it an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing. Another beautiful beach on the island, Guitgia Beach is known for its long sandy shoreline and shallow, calm waters. After a relaxing day on the beach, visit Isola dei Conigli, a small islet near Lampedusa. This protected nature reserve is home to a large population of loggerhead sea turtles.
Located between Sicily and Tunisia, Pantelleria is known for its volcanic landscapes, hot springs, and unique architecture. Lago di Venere, known as the “Lake of Venus”, is a volcanic crater filled with thermal waters where visitors can enjoy a relaxing soak in the natural hot springs while surrounded by lush vegetation. A natural sea cave with crystal-clear waters, Sesame Cave is a popular spot for snorkelling and swimming. If you feel like a bit of history, explore the island’s ancient sites, including the Sesi Archaeological Park and the mediaeval Castle of Pantelleria, offering insights into the island’s long history.
Santo Stefano is one of the islands in the Maddalena Archipelago, located off the northern part of Sardinia, Italy. It is part of the Maddalena National Park, known for its rugged coastline, pristine natural beauty and marine environment. At the south of the island lies the historical fortifications and ruins of Forte San Giorgio and Forte La Torre. One of Santo Stefano’s most popular attractions is the giant unfinished bust of Italian fascist, Costanzo Ciano in an abandoned quarry on the east of the island. Commissioned by Benito Mussolini to the sculptor Arturo Dazzi, but was left unfinished at the fall of fascism.
Whether you bring your own, charter a yacht or join a sailing trip, sailing gives you the freedom to explore the incredible Italian islands at your own pace. It is the perfect way to spend your Italian island holidays.