Are you looking for the best islands of Italy for your holiday, or just a place you can easily visit on a day trip? You won’t have trouble finding one, as there are around 800 gorgeous islands in Italy – of which however only around 80 are inhabited.
From the gorgeous beaches of Sardinia to the volcanic landscape of the Aeolian islands; from the quaint, colorful towns of Murano and Burano, in the Venice lagoon, to the islands of the Tuscan archipelago; to the island islands located in lakes such as the Borromean islands, you are bound to find a place that is perfect for you.
Curious to find out more about the best islands in Italy? I have selected a few myself, and asked my blogger friends to tell me which their favorite ones are too.
The Best Islands Of Italy
It is only obvious that I start a post on the many islands of Italy with Sardinia, the place where I was born and raised and which I still call home, and the one that to me is the most beautiful place in the world.
The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is definitely one of the best islands of Italy. With a unique history reflected in the archeological sites scattered around the islands – such as the more than 7000 Nuraghe, which are only found here and nowhere else in the world; or the multi-layered Nora and Tharros, which bring us testimonies of the presence of Phoenicians, Punics and Romans on the island, Sardinia has a lot to offer to visitors.
Go to Sardinia in the summer and you will be able to enjoy extraordinarily beautiful beaches – from long, sandy ones to smaller rocky or pebbly coves; from the lesser known places such as Cala Murtas to the glitzy beaches of Costa Smeralda (the famous Emerald Coast); there really is something for anyone. Visit in the spring or fall and you will have an incredible choice of hiking trails and many smaller cities and villages to explore.
But there’s more! Sardinian food is delicious and incredibly fresh; there are many wineries perfect for wine tasting – make sure to try Cannonau (internationally known as Grenache) and the locals, though reserved, are welcoming and generous. Finally, there are many more islands off the coast of Sardinia that you can visit too!
Islands near Sardinia
La Maddalena and Caprera
The gorgeous La Maddalena archipelago is located just off Sardinia’s northeastern coast, in the Strait of Bonifacio, between Sardinia and Corsica. Made up of seven main islands and several smaller ones, the archipelago is actually a national park and a protected area where an incredible amount of marine life lives. There is know doubt that those of La Maddalena are among the most beautiful islands of Italy.
The largest island is La Maddalena, also home to the main settlement – called La Maddalena too. It’s a nice place to base yourself to explore the rest of the archipelago, which is best done by boat. While there are hiking trails and interesting ruins in La Maddalena, the highlight there is certainly the pristine beaches. Don’t miss Cala dei Francesci,on the south of the island; Spiaggia di Tegge, a great sunset spot close to town; and Capocchia du Purpu – or Octopus Head Beach – whose name is due to the peculiar rock formation.
From La Maddalena, via a bridge you can also reach Caprera, the second largest island. This is where Italian unification hero Giuseppe Garibaldi spent his final years – you can still visit his former home, which has been turned into a museum.
Once again, it’s the incredible beaches that should attract you to Caprera. Don’t miss the stunning Cala Coticcio, literally a piece of heaven on earth; and the beautiful Cala Serena, Cala Napoletana and the Spiaggia del Relitto.
Other islands in La Maddalena Archipelago are Budelli, famous for its pink beach; Spargi, home of more stunning beaches; Santo Stefano and Santa Maria.
You can reach La Maddalena by car ferry from Palau, in mainland Sardinia – about 50 minutes drive from Olbia and 3.5 hours drive from Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. The crossing lasts about 20 minutes depending on the weather conditions.
To make the most of La Maddalena Archipelago, make sure to join one of the many boat tours to La Maddalena that depart daily from La Maddalena or from Palau, on mainland Sardinia. For the best options, click here.
Tavolara and Molara
Located off the coast of northeastern Sardinia, Tavolara is a small island known for the limestone massive that rises out of the water to reach a peak of 1,854 feet (that’s in Monte Cannone).
The island used to be known as the smallest kingdom in the world, and is home to a NATO base, so access to most of it is actually restricted – but you can go to enjoy the beautiful beach, snorkel and dive, explore the base of the island where a small cemetery is located (and where the former king and queen of Tavolara and their family are buried). If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can also join a guided, challenging hike to the peak.
The nearby Molara Island is also part of the protected marine area and easily one of the most unique islands of Italy. Contrary to Tavolara, the island remains private and can only be visited on guided tours which will take you around the island on an easy hike to see the main viewpoints; to the local farms where people working on the island used to live; to the church and to the main beaches.
Ferries to Tavolara depart regularly from Porto San Paolo, about 35 minutes drive from Olbia. It takes about 30 minutes to get there.
To get to Molara, you have to join a boat ride and guided tour run by Associazione Molara and that departs from Cala Finanza. Make sure to enquire well in advance for availability.
Asinara Island is definitely one of prettiest islands of Italy. Located off the northwestern tip of Sardinia and spanning just little over 50 square kilometers. Now a national park where only rangers live throughout the year, Asinara was actually known to the Phoenecians, the Greeks, and the Romans. Its name comes from the Latin “sinuara,” which means “sinuous.”
In 1885 the island became property of the State of Italy, which soon established a penal colony and subsequently also a leper colony on the island, forcing the few inhabitants (most of which living in Cala d’Oliva village) to relocate to Stintino. With time, Asinara became the location of a high security prison, which only closed in 1997 when the area was declared a National Park.
Home to various animal species – including albino donkeys, boars, peregrine falcons and various kinds of turtles – Asinara is best explored on guided tours – you have the option of going around by bike, golf cart or jeep. To make the most of it you should consider spending a couple of days there – you have the option of sleeping at the hostel in Cala d’Oliva or at the recently opened guest house, also in the same village.
You can get to Asinara by ferry from either Porto Torres (ferries go to Cala Reale and take about 1.5 hours) or from Stintino (it takes about 25 minutes and the ferry will drop you off at Fornelli). No cars are admitted on the island other than service cars.
87 km west of Cagliari, Sant’Antioco island is the largest of the Sulcis Archipelago, to which San Pietro Island also belongs. While relatively small – it’s only 109 square kilometers – it’s actually the largest of the Sardinian islands, second only to Sardinia, and the fourth largest island in Italy.
This island is home to a number of beautiful beaches; but that’s not the only reason to visit. Sant’Antioco has a unique history. Inhabited since the fifth millennium BC, located on Sant’Antioco you will find a nuraghe, Roman bridges, a Roman fountain, and Phoenician necropolis. The main town, Sant’Antioco, is home to a few interesting museums, whereas Calasetta, on the northern coast of Sant’Antioco, is a lovely small town characterized by whitewashed buildings and a handful of gorgeous beaches.
You can get to Sant’Antioco by car thanks to a bridge that connects it to mainland Sardinia.
San Pietro Island
Among the most charming islands of Italy is worth mentioning, San Pietro north of Sant’Antioco and home to around 6,000 people, most of them living in the gorgeous Carloforte – a pretty, colorful village where the local community speaks Tabarkine, a dialect similar to Genoese and that made its way to the island thanks to a community of Genoese merchants that had been living on the island of Tabarka, off the coast of Tunisia, and moved to this part of Sardinia in the 17th century.
San Pietro has beautiful beaches galore and is one of the best places in Sardinia for diving – though this is only really suitable to expert divers as the currents tend to get quite strong. It’s also famous for the tuna fish, with an entire festival dedicated to tuna that is celebrated between the end of May and the beginning of June. You will also find a handful of nice hiking trails, sunset spots and abandoned tuna factories that call to be explored.
San Pietro can be accessed by car ferry – there are regular departures from Portovesme, on mainland Sardinia, and from Calasetta, in Sant’Antioco island. Either way, the ride lasts about 30 minutes.
Malu Entu Island
One of the lesser known islands of Italy, Malu Entu is known in Italian as Mal di Ventre – which literally means “belly ache” – but the transliteration is actually wrong, as the name actually means “bad wind” and is an obvious reference to the wind and sudden weather changes that characterize it.
Malu Entu became quite famous nationally in the last few decades when the Partito Paris, guided by Doddore Meloni, claimed it was an independent country. Doddore Meloni even adopted a new monetary system, and gave the island its own government with the idea of having it fully recognized by the United Nations. Meloni spent his final years in prison following a sentence for fiscal fraud and he died in 2017 – so the project of establishing a new independent state was finally abandoned.
The island is completely uninhabited. The main form of vegetation is wild garlic; and sea turtles and other marine life lives in the area, and you can also spot some shipwrecks.
Part of Protected Marine Area of Sinis, with its beautiful sandy beaches and incredibly clear waters Malu Entu is a popular destination for day trips from the main coast of western Sardinia. Boats to Malu Entu depart from Mari Ermi beach, where you can also rent a small zodiac to get there independently – unless you have your own, that is!
*Anjali Wadhwa, Cheerful Trails
Sicily is Italy’s largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Its breath-taking shoreline coupled with sandy beaches, diverse landscapes and picture perfect towns make it one of the most beautiful islands of Italy you must visit. Quaint villages, a gigantic volcano, impressive architecture, six UNESCO sites and food to die for, also draw the attention of tourists from all over.
One of the most vibrant cultural hubs of Sicily is Palermo, the capital of Sicily. Landmarks like Cathedral of Monreale, Palermo Cathedral and Massimo Theatre are architectural marvels in the city.
Other top sights in Sicily include Mount Etna – the highest active volcano in Europe; old city of Gibellina; Cefalu – for the best beaches; Valley of the Temples; Catania; Taormina – a charming hilltop town and Syracuse – for ancient Greek ruins and Baroque architectures.
San Vito Lo Capo is a seaside town with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, perfect for people seeking a relaxing trip to Sicily. This town is only a 1.5 hour long drive from the Palermo Airport.
The most convenient and less time taking way to reach Sicily is through air travel to any of the four airports in the island.
Islands near Sicily
One of the Aeolian Islands, Vulcano is aptly named after the presence of a volcano (well, several!) on the island. Easy to visit on day drips from nearby Lipari, Vulcano is actually a pleasant place to spend a few days – though you will be better off seeking a location where the smell of sulphur isn’t too strong.
Among the top attractions on the island there are the hot mud baths – said to have curative properties: the beach in front of it is also known for the hot currents due to the underwater hot springs. Yet, the most popular thing to do is hiking to the Gran Cratere – it’s an easy hike to the largest crater on the island, and you will need a mask as the sulphur smell close to the crater is unbearable.
Please be advised that due to the volcanic activity the trail to Gran Cratere is occasionally closed.
To reach Vulcano you can take the hydrofoil from Milazzo, near Messina and about one hour drive from Catania. The ride takes about 90 minutes.
Easily one of the best islands of
Italy, and definitely the most fascinating of the Aeolian Islands, Stromboli is home to a volcano with the same name, one of the most active in Europe.
While the island has a handful of volcanic sand beaches and a lovely whitewashed village with lots of nice cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops to explore, the main attraction there is definitely the volcano: most people visit to hike to the crater. As this is a very active volcano that erupts every 20 minutes or so, you can only get there on a guided hike. Several groups depart every day from the village and reach the crater in time to enjoy a magnificent sunset.
There are three daily hydrofoils from Milazzo to Stromboli – two are direct; others stop in nearby Vulcano, Lipari, Salina and Ginostra islands before reaching Stromboli. The duration of the ride varies depending on whether you opt for a direct hydrofoil or not. Keep in mind the hydrofoil doesn’t travel when the sea is too rough.
*Erin McNeaney, Never Ending Voyage
Salina Island is one of the quietest of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily. It has a dramatic beauty with volcanic cliffs plunging into the sea, lush hillsides covered in capers and wildflowers, and black pebbly beaches.
It is much greener than the other Aeolian Islands due to its natural freshwater springs, and the islands’ two extinct volcanoes are now covered in vegetation.
The easiest way to explore the island is to rent a motorbike. Some of the best places to visit include Pollara, where the beach backed by volcanic cliffs was a location in Il Postino film, the colourful villages of Santa Marina Rinella (the main port), Malfa, and Rinella, and the salt lake in Lingua.
The food is a highlight—don’t miss spaghetti with a pesto-like sauce of capers and herbs, pane cunzato or an open sandwich (best at Da Alfredo’s in Lingua), lemon granita, and the local sweet Malvasia dessert wine.
You can reach Salina by hydrofoil or ferry from Milazzo on the Sicily mainland. The hydrofoil is faster and takes about 1.5 hours. You can also combine Salina with a trip to climb the volcano on Stromboli Island, an hour away by hydrofoil.
*Caroline Muller, Veggiewayfarer
Panarea, off the coast of Sicily, is one of the seven Aeolian Island. The island is peppered with white washed villas, fragrant bougainvilleas and day trippers looking to explore the area. What you will not find on the island is cars, cheap accommodation or tourists traps. It is one of the most exclusive islands of Italy, with the likes of Stefano Gabbana and the King of Belgium reportedly spending their summer holidays on Panarea.
The island is very small, and easy to walk around in a day. There are a few beaches you can visit on foot from the harbor: Spiaggetta Zimmari, Cala Junco and Spiaggia della Calcara. The beaches are rather small though, so if you are looking for a more relaxed tanning spot, consider renting one of the small dayboats (locally known as gozzo) from the harbor.
Head out into the pristine waters for a day of swimming, tanning and snorkeling! When the sun starts to dip behind the island, head back into the harbor and try the famous Hotel Raya for an aperitivo and the local Sicilian streetfood arancina (A la Norma for vegetarians).
Getting to Panarea is relatively easy from mainland Sicily. During the summer multiple ferries run between Milazzo (Messina) or Palermo. The ferry ride takes 1 hour and 40 minutes; tickets can be bought directly online or at the ferry station.
Favignana is a beautiful small island located a few kilometers from the northwestern coast of Sicily. You will love it for its warm and sunny weather and its beautiful turquoise clear waters that make it the perfect place to snorkel or relax at the beach.
Favignana, although small in size, has lots to offer. To fully enjoy the island, a week long stay is perfect. You will want to visit some of the most beautiful beaches such as Cala Azzurra and Cala Rossa. The small town of Favignana is also worth a visit. The fishing port and the market are a great place to start. From Favignana, you will also enjoy tours to Levanzo and Marettimo islands. During the tours, keep your eyes open as you might be the lucky ones to see dolphins!
One specificity of this island is that bringing your car might not be possible. Favignana has restrictions in place in order to limit the number of cars on the island, especially in the summer. The best way to get around is therefore either by walking, cycling or taking the bus. You should be able to rent bikes from your hotel or near your hotel. Riding a bike around the island is very easy and safe as a result of the limited number of cars.
To reach Favignana island, you will need to fly or train to Trapani and take a shuttle boat from Trapani port to the island.
*Emma Verhaeghe, Emma’s Roadmap
Ustica is a very tiny volcanic island before the coast of Sicily’s capital, Palermo. This island is one of the most perfect spots to go scuba diving in Italy as it is surrounded by an underwater nature reserve! Plus, its rich history dating back to Roman times. This makes it the perfect spot to spend some time above the water surface as well.
Ustica has just a handful of streets and it is completely geared towards scuba diving – so outside the summer season, there is almost no one to be found. Besides scuba diving, you can also hike around the island and enjoy the most magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea! Also don’t forget to grab some local pastry for lunch, stroll around the cute little shops and visit the archeologic museum about the history of the island.
To get to the island, you can take a ferry departing from Palermo several times a day which takes you about 1 hour and a half (for the short ferry) or three hours (for the long ferry). In Ustica, you’ll directly arrive in the center of the village which you can explore entirely on foot.
Of the islands of Italy, Lampedusa – which belongs to the Pelagian Archipelago – is the southernmost one. It’s a fairly small island – 12 kilometers long, and only 3 kilometers wide – but it’s a hot spot for vacations among Italians, who love the beautiful beaches – the two most notable ones are Cala Francese and Cala Guitgia – and the small coves with incredibly clear waters.
To make the most of the island, consider going on a boat tour – that’s also the best way to reach the Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island), home to stunning white sand beach, a loggerhead turtle population and where you can also enjoy snorkeling under a submerged natural arch.
Other things to do in Lampedusa are diving to spot the marine life and even the underwater statue of Madonna del Mare
You can get to Lampedusa by boat or plane. There are flights from Sicily and to mainland Italy. Ferries connect Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle, in Sicily.
Islands of Naples
*Jackie Rezk, Jou Jou Travels
Procida is a colorful and vibrant island on the Amalfi Coast and one of the lesser visited islands of Italy, at least compared to the more popular nearby Capri and Ischia. This makes it one more reason to visit! Not only that, it was recently named Italy’s Capital of Culture.
This small fisherman’s town is full of energy and fun, with pretty pastel colors. For wonderful views at sunset go to Terra Murata – it might be the highlight of any visit.
The best things to do in Procida include visiting one of the many wonderful beaches like Spiaggia del Pozzo Vecchio, Chiaiolella, and Spiaggia Chiaia. You can easily spend a whole day doing just that. Another great activity is taking a boat tour nearby to soak up the sun and enjoy time pass by.
The best place to eat seafood is La Lampara. This restaurant also has a nice view making it well worth a stop.
To reach Procida, take a ferry from Naples and you will arrive in just around 40 minutes.
*Kat, Biker Girl Life
If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful islands of Italy, don’t hesitate to visit Capri, just off the Amalfi coast. It may only be 4 square miles in size, but there is a lot to do once you’re there.
Motor vehicles (for non-residents) are forbidden on the island between Easter and November – they are allowed over the winter but the island is so small there is only one road and it’s almost easier to walk or use the public transport available.
Some of the best things to do on Capri include taking a boat tour to see the famous Blue Grotto cave – you can arrange this at the marina. Afterwards, head to the funicular and head up the cliffs to Capri town – the views are incredible (and so are the villas of the rich and famous!). Alternatively, climb the 900+ steps of the La Scala Fenicia – exhausting but the views are worth it.
If you have time, stay a couple of nights (and enjoy the island without the many day-trippers) and be sure to visit the Roman ruins of Villa Jovis – former home of the Emperor Tiberius who loved the island so much he refused to leave!
The only way to get to Capri is by boat; there’s no airport on the island. Regular ferries depart from Naples or Sorrento and there are plenty of additional routes available in the summer from smaller towns on mainland Italy. The trip takes from 40 – 80 minutes depending on the ferry you choose.
If you are short on time, consider joining a guided tour. For more information, click here.
*Lori Sorrentino, Travlinmad
Most travelers to southern Italy head for the Isle of Capri, but for a more relaxed experience visit the nearby island of Ischia, a popular locale for movies filmed in Italy, one of the prettiest islands of Italy and an overall beautiful place to visit.
In the Palazzo dell’Orologio you’ll find the Sea Museum. In the hills of Forio is the serene beautiful garden, Giardini la Mortella. A short distance away is the 14th century church, Chiesa del Soccorso, one of Ischia’s beautiful landmarks.
Walk to the 15th century Castello Aragonese, or for spectacular views hike one hour to the top of the highest point on Ischia, Monte Epomeo. Sun worshippers should head to Maronti Beach and grab a lounge chair and umbrella. After sunning, take the water taxi to the quiet fishing village of Sant’Angelo with great views and colorful houses.
Ischia can only be reached by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples — a 50 to 90-minute ride — or a one hour ride from Sorrento. You can bring a car to Ischia, but during the peak months, traffic and especially parking can be a challenge. There are shops near the ferry terminal that have luggage rooms to store your luggage while you explore the town before heading to your hotel.
119 kilometers off the coast of Lazio, Ponza is a popular vacation spot for Italians and foreigners alike – it used to be the favorite place for ancient Romans!
The main attraction is the beautiful beaches – the best ones are Cala dell’Acqua, known for its clear waters; and Cala Lucia Rosa, which offers incredible views of the cliffs. But Ponza has even more to offer: you will also find colorful streets and lots of historical sites to visit.
There are regular ferries to Ponza from Anzio, south of Rome. If you are planning on visiting for just one day consider joining a guided tour. For more information, click here.
Islands of Venice
Murano and Burano
*Dhara, It’s Not About the Miles
Murano and Burano are little groups of islands located in the Venetian lagoon, not too far from Venice. In conjunction with Torcello, a third such island, they make for a popular boat tour from Venice.
Murano glass is renowned the world over for its color and clarity and the beauty of the designs that come from the glassblowers here. From chandeliers to earrings, you can shop for a large number of Murano glass items, and the highlight of a visit to the island is watching a traditional glass-blowing demonstration.
At Campo San Stefano, you can pose for a photo by the famous blue comet star sculpture. Step into the duomo, visit Chiesa di San Pitero Martire, and just walk the pretty streets.
Burano also has a traditional industry: lace-making. If you walk the streets, you may still see Burano women crocheting the delicate lace by hand.
But Burano is most famous for its super colorful houses, painted in vivid reds, greens, blues, yellows, and pinks. Every street in Burano is a picture postcard in the making. Here you will also find the famous restaurant Trattoria al Gatto Nero (“The Black Cat”): it is known for its seafood.
*Lori Sorrentino, ItalyFoodies
When visiting Venice, if you eventually want to escape the crowds, make sure to visit the island of Sant’Erasmo, known as the “Garden of the Doge”. Beginning around the 16th century, the island’s vineyards and gardens have supplied the city of Venice and its ruling class with food.
This agricultural island is bucolic and uncrowded, and so scenic.
When you disembark the ferry, walk the short distance to the Hotel Il Lato Azzurro to rent a bike for the day. Peddling around the small island is the best way to experience its natural beauty. When you return your bike, the hotel is also an excellent place to have a lunch of classic Venetian dishes.
You’ll pass seemingly deserted beaches, the Orto di Venezia winery, and La Vigna del Mare where Prosecco is produced.
The best time to visit Sant’Erasmo is during the spring and summer seasons when the island is green and fields are bursting with bright flowers. Summer is also when a local treasure is available, the violet artichoke. They are small but tender and delicious — a must try.
To get to Sant’Erasmo you need to take the 40-minute ferry ride from Venice.
Islands of Tuscany
*Nicola Bandini, My Travel in Tuscany
An ancient legend tells that seven precious stones of a tiara belonged to Venus, the Roman Goddess of love, fell into the Mediterranean Sea. They gave life to the seven islands of the Tuscan archipelago.
The Elba is the biggest of the seven and the third largest island in Italy. Staring at the outline of Elba from Piombino, the port of departure to get there, the island seems so close that you can grab it with your hands. In fact, in less than an hour you arrive at destination.
Although the island is small, only 87 square kilometers, the best way to explore it is by car, so that you can easily move from one place to another. There are so many wonderful beaches that you are spoilt for choice. Every day you can pick a different one: rocks or white pebbles, golden or black sandy shores. Even a naturist one, the sandy beach of Acquarilli.
Known mostly as a beach destination, Elba is also opening up to hiking enthusiasts. You can climb (but there is also a cable car) to the top of Mount Capanne walking along paths immersed in the low Mediterranean vegetation that will offer you amazing sea views.
If you need a break from the “tiring” beach life there are other pleasant ways to enjoy your time on the Elba. You can potter around tiny villages like Porto Azzurro and Capoliveri, or take a tour of the iron mines or Napoleon Bonaparte’s Villa. In fact, back in 1814, the Emperor of the France and half Europe was exiled in this little paradise after the defeat at Waterloo. It could have been much worse for him!
You can get to Elba by ferry from Piombino. The crossing lasts just about one hour.
*Nicola Bandini, My Travel in Tuscany
In the vastness of the Mediterranean Sea, the Island of Giglio is little more than a large rock.
Giglio Island in Tuscany stole the spotlight of the entire world in 2012 due to the Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck. But this is not the reason why you should visit this little gem of the Tuscan Archipelago. Luckily the wreck has gone and the natural wonders of the island still remain.
As boats approach the marina of Giglio Porto, an explosion of colors welcomes you to the island. The pastel colors of the tiny houses along the pier blend with the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean maquis, with its unique and unmistakable smells, covers most of the island, where vines and centuries-old olive trees also grow. Hidden among the high cliffs overlooking the sea, small hidden bays will blow your mind. You won’t resist to the desire of diving in those crystal-clear waters.
You won’t need a car on the island. Giglio is a place to explore on foot or by bike. At most, you can rent a scooter or use public transportation to move between the villages of Giglio Porto, the medieval Giglio Castello and Campese, where there is the largest sandy beach on the island.
You can reach Giglio Island in approximately one hour by boat from Porto Santo Stefano, another tiny fisherman village on the mainland.
Inland islands of Italy
*Eniko Krix, Travel Hacker Girl
Montisola in Lombardy is the largest lake island in Europe. It recently became a popular destination, but still managed to keep its charm. This is a peaceful, car-free island with cute villages, cafes and restaurants. The island is also home to a 600 meters peak, which makes Montisola one of the highest lake islands in Europe.
The area is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Cycle, hike, kayak or swim in this beautiful setting and you will be in for a treat. Since cars are banned, the best way to explore the island is by bike.
You can transport your own on the ferry, but renting is also possible in some of the villages. It’s an easy and safe place to cycle. You can do the whole circular trail (9 km) in about an hour. If you feel energetic, you can take a 3 km (each way) detour to the chapel Santuario della Madonna della Ceriola. It is on the hilltop, so don’t underestimate the elevation gain. However it is certainly worth it for the fantastic views to Lake Iseo and the nearby area. Alternatively you can take a bus to the top.
There is a regular ferry service to the island from several lakeside villages. The crossing only takes a few minutes.
The Borromean Islands
A popular destination for day trips from Milan, the Isole Borromee – as they are known in Italian – are a set of small villages in Lake Maggiore, right off the coast of Stresa. The islands were named after the Borromeo family, aristocrats who owned the islands from the 14th century were locally famous for their glamorous parties.
The largest island is Isola Madre, where you can wander the beautiful botanical gardens near Palazzo Borromeo. Other islands are Isola Pescatori – home of a bunch of delicious seafood restaurants – and Isola Bella, where there is a gorgeous baroque palace which is open for visits, with manicured gardens and grottoes and where you’ll also be able to spot white peacocks.
To get to the Borromean Islands you’ll need to catch a train from Milan to Stresa, from where you can hop on a local ferry or join a guided tour such as this one.