- Gillian McGuire
Ponza has been a favorite summer escape for Romans for literally centuries. Although you’re likely to spot an international pop star’s yacht out in the harbor, there is none of the glitz (and chaos) that comes with many of Italy’s more famous summer hotspots. To really enjoy this island, rent a boat from the Brooklyn-born Luigi in the main harbor and spend the day exploring rocky coves and crystal clear water.
Most people do not think beaches, much less islands, when they think of Tuscany, but you probably should. Giglio is a part of the Argentario achipelegio and a short ferry ride from the mainland. The clear waters and protected status makes for a scuba paradise. Don’t miss a sunset from Campese beach.
This low-key paradise which lies off the west coast of Sicily has water in shades of blue that you didn’t know even existed, a slow, sleepy vibe, and some of Italy’s best gelato. If you are visiting in early summer (May/June) and are not too squeamish, try and catch the mattanza, the gory annual tuna hunt.
Part of La Maddalena National Park, this Sardinian island’s main attraction is the soft pink sand beach found on its south shore. The delicate ecosystem that creates this phenomenon can only be seen from a safe distance, but you can relax nearby at the breathtaking Cavaliere beach.
This island off the coast of Naples is for poets and romantics, with one of its beaches serving as a backdrop in the classic Italian film Il Postino. Take a hike up to the tiny island’s highest point and get a perfect snap of the candy colored fisherman’s cottages for your Instagram feed.
Salina is the most elegant of Sicily’s Aeolian islands, but it is also one of its most relaxed. Capturing the perfect high/low mix, there are Michelin starred restaurants and beach bars that deliver freshly made sandwiches directly to your beach towel by a basket rigged up by pulleys.
If you are looking for a rugged and fiery adventure, sail over to Stromboli — another of Sicily’s — and trek up to the top of one of Italy’s most active volcanos. If a hike is not your style you can take a sunset cruise and watch the natural fireworks show from the water instead.
More a lake than an ocean lover? Italy has islands in lakes too. Monte Isola is the largest lake island in Europe and blissfully (almost) car free. They make an exception for the mayor, the priest and the ambulance. This fairytale island is wedged in between the lakes Como and Garda. Take a stroll and explore the islands medieval and Renaissance churches, villas and gardens.
In less than hour on the vaporetto you can leave behind the crowds and chaos of Venice and spend some time on the lagoon island of Mazzorbo. There is not much here, but that is it’s charm. You can have a Michelin-starred meal at the Venissa Wine Estate, and walk off your wine and pasta with a stroll around the colorful island of Burano which is connected by a footbridge.
San Domino is the largest of the five tiny islands in the Adriatic Sea off the coast in between Molise and Puglia. Head to Cala delle Arene where there is a soft sandy beach and azure waters to lounge in. For the scuba enthusiast there is a Roman-era shipwreck to explore not far off the main coastline.
The five famous towns that make up the Cinque Terre can get frustratingly crowded. Plan your escape and spend a day on the nearby UNESCO heritage site, the island of Palmaria. Take your passigiata along the palm tree-lined boardwalk and you will easily see why this spot is said to have inspired Boticelli’s Birth of Venus.
This might be the most challenging island in Italy to reach given that it is closer to Tunisia than Sicily, but if you are searching for rugged and remote, this is the island for you. The black sand beach called La Pozzolana, a loggerhead turtle sanctuary, and starry nighttime skies all make this a remote island paradise.