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The crags and grottoes of Capri have been dazzling visitors since the Ancient Greeks first settled the island. It’s easy to understand why artists and writers have been immortalizing Capri’s beauty and history for centuries. Climb aboard a wooden boat to tour the Grotto Azzurra, a cave filled with spectacularly blue water. Savor some gelato while you stroll around the harbors of Marina Piccola or Marina Grande, an ancient Roman fishing port.
The largest and many say most beautiful island in the Bay of Naples, Ischia is renowned for its curative spas. Ferries and hydrofoils connect Naples to Ischia Porto, the main town. Nearby at Ischia Ponte (connected to the main island by a foot bridge) are the magnificent Castello Aragonese and Guevara Tower. Forio on the island’s west coast, Lacco Ameno in the northwest and Sant’Angelo in the south are the liveliest resort towns. Casamicciola Terme in the north is one of Europe’s oldest spas.
Italy’s southernmost island, Lampedusa lies between Malta and Tunisia and is geographically part of the African continent. The largest of the Pelagian Islands, Lampedusa is arid and gets its only fresh water from rainfall. In summer, it is served by low-cost Italian airlines with direct flights from several mainland cities, as well as ferry service from Sicily. Lampedusa is treasured by visitors for its fine white sandy beaches, its clear turquoise waters and its excellent scuba diving.
Butterfly-shaped Favignana is a lovely destination for divers and beach lovers. Climb aboard the adorable Egadilandia, a tourist train that chugs along the island’s main streets and coastlines. Don’t miss the Ex Stabilimento Florio (a tuna canning factory turned museum), the challenging hike to the hilltop ruins of the Castello di Santa Caterina and snuggling up with your soul mate at the Lover’s Grotto.
Best known as the site of Napoleon’s exile, Elba’s long history stretches back to pre-Roman times, when it was settled by Ligures and then Etruscans. It’s Tuscany’s biggest island and Italy’s third-largest, offering a great mix of options both cultural (like hilltop towns and castles) and recreational (like hiking, biking, swimming, diving and beaching). There’s an airport at Marina di Campo, but most arrive by ferry from Piombino to Portoferraio (the biggest town), Rio Marina or Porto Azzurro.
Thanks to its volcanic history, the island of Ustica offers awesome opportunities for deep diving. Notable sites include Scoglio del Medico and Grotta dei Gamberi. Snorkelers can explore Grotta Azzurra, Grotta Verde, and Grotta delle Barche. There are plenty of dive centers that can offer guided trips to all of these watery hotspots. Once you dry off, check out the prehistoric ruins of a large village that dates to the Bronze Age. Houses in the main square are painted with colorful murals, giving the whole village an artsy vibe.
Napoleon tried to occupy La Maddalena, and who could blame him? The largest town on the largest island of the Maddalena Archipelago, La Maddalena is renowned for its beautiful beaches and its national park. Hire a private boat to explore the surrounding uninhabited islands, or just relax on the café au lait sands of Spalmatore Beach.
Though Salina’s rocky beaches nod to its volcanic composition, today the island is as tranquil as can be. Think olive farms, think caper bushes, think storybook trees heavy with plump figs and citrus fruits. Salina is a place for your taste buds to swoon over nature’s sweetest and saltiest bounties. Cap each meal with a sip of the islands signature Malvasia dessert wine. When your belly needs a break, explore Salina’s stone lanes, pebble beaches, and the twin volcanos, dormant for 13,000 years.
According to the Ancient Greeks, the god Hephaestus used Isolo Vulcano as sort of his own private blacksmith shop. Here you can clamber up volcanoes like Scalata al Cratere and rejuvenate in the warm and gooey sulfur mud baths of Laghetto di Fanghi. Kayaking is a popular way to take in the beauty of Vulcano’s grottoes and coastlines.