Italy is surrounded on three sides by vast expanses of
water, so it's not surprising that the country has a wealth of interesting,
beautiful and sometimes mysterious islands. Ranging from the large and famous
islands, like Sicily, to small and relatively unknown ones, like Lampedusa, the
following list is a jumping-off point to take advantage of Italy's diverse
range of scenic islands.
Italy's most well known island is home to one of the most
vibrant and unique cultures in Europe. Although separated from mainland Italy
by just 5 miles of water, it's culturally entirely different. Occupied at
separate times by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Spaniards, the language, food
and architecture of Sicily represent a distinct blend of different influences.
The island offers a diverse range of experiences to visitors, including
beautiful Mediterranean beaches, ancient Greek ruins and still-rumbling volcanoes.
Although bigger than Sicily in size, Sardinia is an
often-overlooked region of Italy. The island in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea is
far more popular with Italian vacationers than foreign visitors. Unlike other
islands in the area, Sardinia is not a huge clubbing hot spot. Instead, it is well
regarded for its natural beauty and large, unpopulated swaths of wilderness.
Visitors to Sardinia will be rewarded with beautiful scenery: long rocky
beaches, inland caves and forest waterfalls. Sardinia is popular for outdoor
activities like boating, surfing, rock climbing and camping.
History buffs will recognize Elba as the island where
Napoleon once lived in exile. In fact, this island off the coast of Tuscany has
a very long history, dating back to the Ancient Etruscans. Ruins of this
long-gone civilization are still scattered around the island along with small
villages and idyllic churches. In addition to many stunning beaches, visitors
can tour Napoleon's winter and summer homes on the island.
Capri, a small island in the Bay of Naples, is famous
worldwide for its literally legendary beauty. Greek mythology marks it as the
home of the beautiful but dangerous Sirens that tempted Odysseus. In Roman
times the island was a beach resort for the emperors. Now it's still popular
with visitors, particularly in July and August when the area becomes saturated
with sun-seeking visitors. The famous Blue Grotto is a highlight: an ocean cave
where the angle of the sun makes the water glow an eerie incandescent blue.
The Aeolians are a unique chain of volcanic islands off the
coast of Italy. They are known for both their natural beauty and their strange
geothermal properties. The island Vulcano is a strange place with hissing steam
vents, geysers and hot mud baths, which visitors can swim in. The volcano that
dominates the island of Stromboli is the only volcano in the world that has
been constantly active throughout all of recorded history. At night visitors
can climb up the crater and observe the glowing eruptions.
Lampedusa is the largest island in the Pelagie chain, which
stretches across the Mediterranean. The island is the southernmost point in
Italy, although geographically it should technically be a part of Africa. The
area is known for its stunning beaches, arid rocky scenery and clear waters. The
most famous beach on the island is Rabbit Beach, which was voted the #1 beach
in the world by TripAdvisor in 2013.
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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