Searching for Italy’s best beaches, prettiest fishing villages and most impressive volcanic landscapes? These 16 incredibly beautiful Italian islands and archipelagos all deserve a place on your Italy wish list.
From tiny uninhabited islets to the country’s largest island, Sicily, Italy boasts no fewer than 450 islands of all shapes and sizes. Alongside islands in the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian, you’ll also find fascinating Italian islands dotted around lakes and lagoons – and even an island right in the heart of Rome.
→ Also read: Top 25 most beautiful cities in Italy.
These 16 Italian islands, chosen by me and other travel writers, are all famed for their pristine sandy beaches and pellucid waters, national parks, sweet villages, local culture and cuisine.
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16 most beautiful Italian islands & archipelagos
1. The Aeolian Islands
Located just off the northwestern tip of Sicily, the seven islands that comprise the Aeolian Archipelago are some of the most beautiful Italian islands of all. Each one has its own character and distinct landscape formed by eons of volcanic activity.
The most famous volcanic island in the Aeolian arc is Stromboli. Defined by its massive active volcano, it’s a popular island for trekking. Intrepid travellers can summit the crater at dusk for an up-close look at the perpetually puffing vent.
Stromboli and its eruptions are visible from the four closest islands: Panarea, Salina, Vulcano and Lipari. The latter, the biggest in the Aeolian collection, is known for its beautiful villages, ceramics workshops, scenic viewpoints and terrific archaeological museum.
Vulcano boasts a similarly enigmatic landscape of sulfur and ash (with oozing mud thermal springs and black sand beachs), while Panarea is known as the ‘luxe island’ and accommodates some of the region’s most beautiful villas and boutique hotels on its narrow stone streets.
Salina and its main port of Santa Marina is the perfect Italian island destination for foodies. Its culinary scene and wine traditions are unmatched. Filicudi and Alicudi, the final piece of the puzzle, are the most remote islands in the archipelago.
The Aeolian Islands are easily reached by hydrofoil from Milazzo or Messina on Sicily. In the summer months, hydrofoils also run from Naples and Palermo. Hotel Signum in the village of Malfa on Salina is an ideal place to base your stay.
2. Ischia Island
The biggest island in the Campanian Archipelago, Ischia is a wonderful Italian island to visit in the Bay of Naples. It’s only a few miles from Capri, but feels world’s apart. In Ischia, you’ll discover cute villages, a laid-back pace and more things to do than you might imagine an island just six miles wide could offer.
The top attraction in Ischia is Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle perched dramatically on a rocky islet and accessed via a long bridge. There’s not one but two world-class gardens, while keen hikers will love the trek to the top of Mount Epomeo, the dormant volcano in the centre of the island.
Most people visiting Ischia are attracted to the island by its hot springs. You’ll be in great company; the ancient Greeks and Romans came to Ischia to enjoy the naturally heated waters. You can bathe Roman-style at the Cavascura baths near pretty Sant’Angelo, or visit one of the island’s many thermal spas.
To get the most out of your trip to Ischia, try to choose a hotel with its own spa. Treat yourself to a stay at the San Montano Resort & Spa, a top-rated 5 star property. A cheaper option is the Hotel Rivamare, which is ideally located on the beach in Ischia Porto.
By Helen from Helen on her Holidays
3. The Borromean Islands
The Isole Borromee, otherwise known as the Borromean Islands, are a set of splendid small islands featuring baroque palaces, botanical gardens and white peacocks. These idyllic islands are set in the Italian art of Lake Maggiore and are known locally as the country’s ‘Garden of Eden’.
No holiday in Lake Maggiore is complete without visiting the picturesque Borromeans, which are located just off the coast of Stresa. Historically, the islands were a place for aristocrats to enjoy lavish parties thrown by the wealthy Borromeo family, to which the islands owe their name. It is said that a flag is ceremonially flown whenever the family returns to visit.
The islands comprise of Isola Madre (the largest), Isola Pescatori, and Isola Bella. The latter, Isola Bella, is home to a picture-perfect palace with intricately designed grottoes and gardens. Visitors can purchase a combined ticket to explore the gardens of Isola Bella and Isola Madre, which is best known for its English-inspired botanical garden.
End a day exploring the Borromean Islands on Isola Pescatori, which is where you will find a small selection of seafood restaurants to dine with the 25 lucky inhabitants that call the island home.
To reach the islands, take a one-hour train ride from Milan to Stresa then join a guided tour or jump on a local ferry.
By Jasmine from The Life of a Social Butterfly
4. Sicily, the biggest island in Italy
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and a perfect summer holiday destination that offers something for every type of traveller.
With more than 1,000 kilometres of coastline, there’s no shortage of amazing beaches in Sicily. Head to San Vito Lo Capo to enjoy the turquoise waters or visit Scala dei Turchi and soak up the sun on unique white limestone cliffs.
For the adventurous traveller, hiking to the top of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano, is a must! Seeing the massive volcanic craters and the steaming ground up close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Aside from natural wonders, Sicily also has a rich cultural history since it has been dominated by Arabs, Romans and Greeks. The most important historical site on the island is the Valley of the Temples where you can admire the ruins of ancient Greek sanctuaries.
Another reason to visit Sicily is its charming towns full of character and history. Relax in the medieval coastal resort Cefalu, marvel at the Baroque church in Ragusa Ibla, and stroll along the waterfront promenades in Ortigia.
Also, make sure to visit Taormina, a gorgeous hilltop town next to Mount Etna and the perfect place to base yourself if you want to take a day trip to the volcano. Stay in one of the spacious apartments at Medea Residence, a beautiful property with a garden full of citrus trees and a pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
You can get to Sicily either by taking a ferry from mainland Italy or by flying to one of the island’s two main airports in Catania and Palermo.
By Marjut from The Smooth Escape
5. The Island of Capri
Capri is one of the most charming Italian islands in the Bay Of Naples. Its breathtaking landscapes include crystal clear blue waters, sea caves, iconic rock formations, beaches, pretty gardens and colourful buildings. Capri’s magical beauty has served as a refuge over the centuries for a number of literary icons and poets, including Axel Munthe and Edwin Cerio.
Take a boat tour to visit the iconic Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto), a sea cave illuminated by blue light, and Faraglioni, craggy rock formations over the sea. Hiking Anacapri, taking a chairlift to Mount Solaro and admiring the Augustus Gardens that overlook the iconic Faraglioni are some of the other highlights of Capri.
While you’re there, try out the world-famous Limoncello with a slice of torta caprese, a flourless cake made of chocolate and almonds.
Capri can be reached by helicopter (quite splurgy) or by taking a ferry from Naples or Sorrento. From Sorrento, the journey is roughly 30 minutes while from Naples, it takes up to 50 minutes. You can also take an easy day tour to Capri from either of these ports.
The best place to stay in Capri is Hotel Della Piccola Marina, which is centrally located on the island.
By Anjali from Cheerful Trails
Sardinia is by far the most beautiful island in Italy – in fact, it’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
At the heart of the Mediterranean, this is a part of the country that feels incredibly different from anywhere else you may have been. The long isolation has certainly played a role in this (it only became part of the Reign of Piedmont in 1848 and, with it, of Italy in 1861).
The unique culture of Sardinia comes from the many dominations the island has suffered: Romans have left their mark in the ruins scattered throughout the island. You can also see Punic and Phoenician sites, as well as Nuraghe sites that are unique to Sardinia and date back to the Bronze age. The Spaniards influenced Sardinia with their language. There is even a Catalan enclave in Alghero on the island’s northwestern coast.
Blessed with stunning beaches and coves such as Cala Tramontana with clear, pristine waters, Sardinia is characterised by mountains, forests, fantastic hiking trails. You will find quaint villages where tourists are still a novelty; fantastic wines unique to the island; delicious food, and – more than anything else – welcoming people.
By Claudia from Strictly Sardinia
Venice isn’t just one beautiful island in Italy: The floating city is actually made up of 118 different islands divided by countless canals, linked together by more than 400 bridges.
Popular things to do in Venice on a short city break include taking a gondola ride, visiting the Doge’s Palace, and walking across the Bridge of Sighs.
However, a stroll around the neighbourhoods away from the main sites will reveal a different side of Venice. Discover hidden gems such as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, a palazzo with an external spiral staircase, or take a peek inside a traditional carnival mask maker’s workshop.
The food in Venice is another delight to enjoy, with typical dishes including seafood such as squid ink risotto and sardine spaghetti. Don’t miss trying some of the local cicchetti bars, which serve up bite-sized snacks to accompany a glass of wine or Prosecco, or a Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz).
Venice is easy to reach by air, with two international airports close by, or by train from anywhere in Italy (and the rest of Europe). Staying on the island of Venice is more expensive than the mainland, but choosing somewhere close to the train station such as the Hotel Antiche Figure offers a good combination of value and convenience.
By Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
8. Murano Island
If you’re visiting Venice, Murano is a must-see colourful island in the Venice lagoon, famous for its glass blowing history.
Totally surrounded by water, the only way to get here, as with all the Venetian islands, is by boat. Depart from any of the main stations in the city of Venice on a number 3 water taxi for the 40-minute ride north across the lagoon. You’ll pass the haunting Cimiterio di San Michele on the way, where all of Venice bury their dead.
The island of Murano itself is actually five islands with a main canal thoroughfare, all connected by traditional bridges. Although it’s a bit touristy, you should visit a glass-making factory and watch a craftsman at work, or head for the Museo del Vetro to learn about the story of glass.
Glass has been made here since 1291 after the glassmakers of Venice were moved out of the city for fear of fire and destruction. The process is fascinating and has been honed to a fine art, with craftsmen still making some of the first glass in the world.
Eat at Trattoria Valmarana for tasty pasta and traditional tiramisu served with a welcoming smile. The best pace to stay is Casa Sulla Laguna, a charming B&B right at the tip of the island facing the Venice lagoon.
By Izzy & Phil from The Gap Decaders
9. Isola Tiberina, an urban Italian island in the heart of Rome
Many visitors enjoy their time in Rome without ever knowing there is an island in the middle of the Tiber River. You’ll find pretty Isola Tiberina in the southern bend of the river, between Trastevere and the Jewish ghetto.
The boat-shaped island is only 270 metres long but has been an important part of Roman life since ancient times. Bridges have linked the two sides of the Tiber for over 2,000 years and you can walk over the oldest bridge in the city, Ponte Fabricio (built in 62 BC), to get to the island.
Isola Tiberina has long been an important site for the health of Romans. A temple dedicated to Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing, was built on the island in the 3rd century BC after a great plague struck Rome. In the 16th century, the Fatebenefratelli hospital was established there and is now where many of the city’s children are born. The hospital was also responsible for shielding Jewish refugees during WWII.
You can easily spend an hour or two wandering around this unique Italian island, enjoying its ancient sites and views down the river towards St Peters. It’s particularly pretty in fall as the leaves change colour.
Make sure to take a break for lunch at Trattoria Sora Lella, where classic Roman dishes are served just as they have been for the last 80 years.
By Katy from Untold Italy
10. Favignana Island
Favignana is part of the Egadi Islands off the western edge of Sicily. It’s the largest of the three and known for its beautiful waters as well as tuna fishing.
Throughout its history, the island has fallen under the control of various dynasties such as the Phonecians, Romans, Arabs and Normans. Today, fishing and tourism are the main industries. The island itself is small with one main ‘city’; getting there requires taking a boat from Trapani (30-55 minutes depending on which one you take).
You won’t find many sandy beaches on the island, but there are plenty of rocky coves. It’s a great place to go for scuba diving or snorkelling. There are also many caves on the island.
Tufo is a type of stone that has been quarried here for many years. Where the stones were extracted downwards, locals have turned these spaces into subterranean gardens. Cave Bianche is a great place to stay as the hotel is actually built inside a rock quarry.
Favignana is somewhere to go when you want to relax. There aren’t a lot of activities or attractions on the island but if you like beautiful scenery, sunshine, bike rides, and water sports, you will be very happy.
There are three things you must eat and drink while you’re there. The first is pistachio espresso at Bar Marinaru in the port of Favignana. The second is tuna – it’s the bread and butter of Favignana – and the third is busiate pasta with red shrimp, another specialty of the island.
By Amanda from Maroc Mama
11. The Tremiti Islands
The Tremiti Islands are a little-known archipelago just off the coast of northern Puglia. Few people, especially foreigners, make it to these islands or even know they exist.
Crystal-clear turquoise waters; rugged coastline; remote communities; an old fortress – sounds like it could be the Caribbean, right? Truthfully, the Tremiti Islands are a little bit difficult to reach, but if you’re backpacking around Italy, they’re worth the effort.
You must first get yourself to either of the coastal towns of Vieste or Peschici. From there, you can catch a fast ferry to the Tremiti, which usually takes around an hour. Ferries will drop you off on the magical island of Isla di San Nicola. From there, you can take a water taxi to any of the other islands.
On Isla di San Nicolo you’ll find Castello dei Badiali, built in the 15th century and later converted to a monastery. Nearby Isola San Domino is home to the majority of beaches and tourist attractions. You should definitely rent a bike to get around San Domino.
By Ralph from The Broke Backpacker
12. Sant’erasmo Island
The Venetian lagoon island of Sant’erasmo was known for centuries as the ‘Garden of the Doges’ for it was literally the bread basket of Venice, the agricultural hub that grew the foods and grapes that fed the aristocracy and the Ruler, or Doge, of Venice.
Sant’erasmo is a small island just a 10-minute boat ride yet a world away from bustling Venice. Few visitors take the time to explore the quiet, idyllic bounty this island provides, which is precisely what makes it a perfect slow travel experience.
Besides enjoying the scenic views of the surrounding lagoon, travellers can explore the island on foot or bike, riding through fields of violet artichokes, farms producing fresh honey, and Prosecco vineyards as far as the eye can see.
For a local foodie experience, take a Sant’erasmo slow food tour to meet some of the producers or have an impromptu vineyard wine-tasting. Be sure to stop at Orto di Venezia for the most wonderful views of the lagoon. It’s the only winery in Venice and known for its crisp white organic wines made from Malvasia and Vermentino grapes.
By Lori from Travlinmad
13. Giglio Island
Giglio Island (Isola del Giglio) is perhaps one of the most historically important islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, with ties to Etruscan, Roman and Genoese history. As one of seven islands in the Tuscan Archipelago, it can be reached by ferry from ports along the coast near Grosseto.
Giglio is a heavily forested island and a nature lover’s paradise. Granite peaks rise and fall, with Poggio della Pagana being the highest point. Between thick pine groves you’ll find wine terraces where grapes are cultivated for Ansonaco, a unique amber wine native to the island.
The island’s rocky coast is all smooth cliffs and bays. Be sure to visit Cannelle and Campese for swimming. As well as occasional stretches of sand, you’ll see amazing rock formations of mineral ore. You might recognise the colours and patterns: Many of Rome’s finest buildings and plazas were paved with precious Gigliese granite.
Giglio’s very own royal residence, the Roman villa of Domitius Ahenobarbus (AKA Nero), dates to the 1st-2nd century AD. Other points of historical interest include Giglio Castle with its famous ivory crucifix and a Etruscan shipwreck off the coast that archaeologists dated to 600 BC.
For beautiful quarters within the historic port district, don’t look past La Guardia, an intimate hotel with bright rooms and sea views.
14. Ponza Island
Ponza might be the biggest of the Pontine Islands, but that isn’t saying much: At just 7.5 square-kilometers, it’s still tiny!
It’s also very densely populated and popular among tourists and celebrities alike (Philippe Cousteau even filmed a documentary here). You’re not likely to find an empty beach or a deserted cove, but there are dozens of wonderful things to do nonetheless.
Start by strolling through the Giardino Botanico, and dipping your toes in the water on the rocky beach Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna (‘Moon Gravel Beach’). Let your imagination run wild when visiting the mythical natural formations along the coast: The Cave of Ulysses, Cave of Sorceress Circe, and the Grotta Azzurra sea caves.
Hunt for sea arches, natural saltwater swimming pools, and see if you can find the Roman-built underground tunnels that run beneath the island’s narrow streets. The docks are always lined with colourful fishing boats and the cafes always filled with friendly faces.
If there’s one must-eat on Ponza Island, it’s cacciatore made with locally raised rabbit or chicken. Pick up some ingredients at the market to take back to your waterfront apartment (La Mansarda Sul Mare has a full kitchen) and whip up your own version of this Italian classic.
Ferries and hydrofoils from Anzio, Formia and Terracina take between 1-2 hours to reach Ponza.
15. Burano Island
Burano is a colourful island located 45 minutes away from the popular Italian city of Venice.
There are two main things to do on the island. Firstly, admiring the brightly coloured houses is perhaps the most popular past-time as this is what the island is most famous for. However, those who live in Burano can’t just paint their house any colour they like. Approval is needed first. This makes for a beautiful mix of shades that visitors just can’t resist snapping photos of.
Nearby Murano has its glass, and Burano has its own craft: Lace. Visiting the lace museum is a must if you want to discover more about the history of this traditional craft and admire some delicate lace pieces. Pick up something as a souvenir.
Reaching Burano is only possible via boat. The cheapest way to get to the island from Venice is to jump on the water bus from Fondamene Nove. As you make your journey, you will be treated to great views of Venice from the water.
To explore the island without the crowds, it’s best to stay overnight. This way, you can wake up early and take a stroll before the tourists arrive. Venissa is a highly rated hotel located just a short walk from the centre of Burano.
By Lauren from Pack and Paint
16. The Maddalena Archipelago
Located in the northeast of Sardinia, in the strait of Bonifacio, La Maddalena Archipelago is a beautiful national park formed by seven islands.
The two main islands, La Maddalena and Capraia island, are accessible by ferry from Palau. This means that you can take your car there and get around stress-free. The others, Budelli, Santa Maria, Spargi, Santo Stefano and Razzoli, are located within a protected zone and can only be reached by boat. Sailing tours run every day from Palau and stop at Maddalena, making it very easy for visitors.
The beaches in La Maddalena Archipelago are extremely beautiful and unique. There is even a pink beach known as La Spiaggia Rosa di Budelli. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to walk on it as it was placed under the protection of the National Park a couple of decades ago. Visitors used to steal the sand, so drastic measures had to be taken. That being said, you still get to see it from the boat during your day trip.
La Maddalena is also home to wild landscapes with walking trails and crystalline waters for snorkelling and diving. Don’t forget to take your flippers and mask – you will need them if you go to Cala Coticcio and Cala Corsara.
Spargi is the island that offers the best experience overall. There are beautiful beaches, snorkelling spots, and you can go hiking. As you climb up, you will discover gorgeous views over the other islands and even see Corsica.
When it comes to food, you will find plenty of restaurants on Maddalena island that serve typical Sardinian food and delicious seafood. For accommodation, you have two options. If you want to explore the two main islands, you should stay at Residenze Le Padule on Maddalena. If you only want to go for a day trip, you can book Bassa Prua B&B in Palau town centre.
By Pauline from Beeloved City
17. Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island
The southernmost Italian island, Lampedusa is a Mediterranean island off the coast of Sicily. Along with the other Pelagie Islands to which archipelago it belongs, Lampedusa was inhabited by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs before finally becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
You can get to Lampedusa by boat or plane. The local airport operates flights to and from Sicily and the Italian mainland. Overnight ferries from the town of Porto Empedocle in Sicily run every night. During the summer, there’s also a hydrofoil service.
The island is not particularly big – just 12 kilometres long and three kilometres wide. In summer, the air temperatures can soar to 37 degrees. If you visit Italy in autumn, this is the perfect time to take a four-hour long boat trip around the island. Don’t miss the nearby L’isolotto dei Conigli (Rabbit Island).
Tourists flock to Lampedusa because of its white sandy beaches, clear waters, and the opportunity to scuba dive. There are many restaurants on the island, not surprisingly offering seafood as the main delicacy.
There are hundreds of picturesque places to stay on Lampedusa but El Mosaico del Sol stands out because of its unique mixture of comfort and convenience.
By Mark by VogaTech
18. Elba Island
Part of Tuscan Archipelago National Park, Elba Island (Isola d’Elba) is a delicate ecosystem off the Tuscan coast. The third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia, it has a long history as a Greek and Etruscan settlement – but Elba is perhaps best known as the place where Napoleon was exiled in 1814.
Ferries to Portoferraio, the main port, depart from Piombino on the Italian mainland, roughly 2 hours by road from Florence. Thus in just a few hours you can swap the emerald green Tuscan vineyards for the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea – pretty cool!
Once on the island, there’s really only one way to get around and that’s by bicycle. Elba is famed for its road racing tracks and dirt biking trails through the hills. There are also easy paths suitable for leisure riders and children.
Other things to do on Elba include snorkelling the shipwreck at Pomonte Beach, visiting the Etruscan-built Fortress Volterraio, and touring the various landmarks associated with Napoleon, including the Villa San Martino and Villa dei Mulini, the two houses where he saw out his nine-month exile.
Protected beaches, easy hikes, and an aquarium and wildlife park make Elba a fantastic choice for families with kids. Capoliveri village is the ideal place to stay, with plenty of laid-back accommodations such as Casale Grandangolo.
19. Procida Island
Located in the Bay of Naples, Procida is one of the most beautiful islands on the southeastern coast of Italy. Just four square kilometres, this tiny island of whitewashed houses and powdery sand beaches can easily be explored on foot.
Italy is not exactly the cheapest country in Europe, but you can still find plenty of free things to do in Procida. Once you step off the hydrofoil at Marina Grande, you can feel the peace of this pretty island. Explore on foot by walking from the harbour to the fishing village of Corricella. You will see a lot of craft shops, bars, restaurants, and pastel-coloured buildings on your way.
Next, visit Terra Murata, the oldest village and also the highest point on the island. There is a square with colourful traditional houses at the top that offers breathtaking panoramic views. On a bright day, you can take some amazing landscape pictures from here.
If you’re a seafood lover, La Lampara is a great choice of restaurant. They serve delicious seafood dishes as well as traditional foods against a backdrop of stunning views across the marina. Chora Kale, which is near Chiaia beach, is the best place to stay in Procida.
A ferry or hydrofoil from Naples to Procida takes around one hour.
By Trijit from BudgetTravelBuff
Which of these beautiful Italian islands is on your summer wish list?
I’ve been meaning to visit Italy more, I have a feeling Capri might change my life
I just came back from Venice, Burano and Murano a couple of days ago and I LOVE Italy! I would love to visit the other islands too 🙂
Wow! All of these Italian islands look so beautiful! I have visited a few on this list, but I totally need to see more. You definitely inspired me.
The beautiful Italian islands!! Can’t wait to come back home and explore more of my beautiful land!
There are still so many beautiful places that I want to explore in Italy!
Everything looks amazing! Italy is high on my list so I’m saving this for later. Looks like I’m gonna have a hard time choosing between these destinations haha
Incredible post! Beautiful photographs. It is difficult to select one over the other. Saving this one for sure. Honestly had no idea that there are so many gorgeous Italian islands. Thanks for sharing.
I had NO IDEA there were this many islands off the coast!!! I got the travel bug bad. I’m going to pin this for when we can come from the U.S. again. Thank you for sharing!
Neither did I! So many beautiful islands to choose from!
All the islands looks incredible and make me want to visit Italy soon. Great post!!
Thanks Aswani! Happy island hopping 🙂
Gorgeous! I can’t wait until I can travel to Italy again!
Thanks Jessica. You and me both!
They’re all so beautiful! I don’t know which one to go to first 😛
I know right! Decisions, decisions! Who knew there were so many beautiful Italian islands 🙂