A necklace of precious pearls surrounds the entire peninsula of Italy, linked by transparent, astonishingly colourful water lapping dream-like beaches, sunshine and vivid traditions to be enjoyed to the full. If you are looking for complete detox and sheer beauty, then Italy's smaller islands are the perfect choice.
Seven islands replete with history and nature make up the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, dominated by the main island of Elba where, in addition to sea life, there are a great many other things to do: many lively places also boast all kinds of historic and archaeological testimony, such as the impressive Fortress of Portoferraio, the Napoleonic Museums, Volterraio Castle and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monserrato and its "Black Madonna" altar painting. Excursions can also be enjoyed on foot or bicycle all over the island, and, especially, sparkling and varied night-life. The lovely island of Giglio is worth a visit with its steep alleys, characteristic port and the ruins of Giglio Castello. The other islands are much wilder - Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri and Gorgona - where nature is in the forefront on land and sea alike.
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The best way to visit the Pontine Islands is without doubt from the sea, creeping between the authentically spectacular natural arches, stacks, rocks and coves. Such crystal clear waters are hard to find anywhere else and there are superb sea-beds for snorkelling and diving. Ponza is the largest island and hosts glamorous evenings in the typical bars overlooking the red port and along the characteristic alleys criss-crossing between picturesque multi-coloured houses. The Frontone beach is also famous for its party-time aperitifs. Immerse yourself in the wonderful, wild atmosphere of Ventotene, with its few houses around the port and evidence of Roman domination, or gaze into the crystal clear waters of Palmarola, where houses are carved into the rock, after a walk surrounded by nature to visit the former Santo Stefano Prison, or over the paths of Zannone (part of the Circeo National Park).
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Three islands with a sunny soul full of life, where you can breathe joy and well-being. Every place on Ischia, the largest island, is well worth a visit, thanks also to a good network of public transport connections. Above all, don't miss the historic centre of Ischia Ponte, with the Aragonese Castle, and the jewel-like village of Sant'Angelo. Pamper yourself while relaxing in the spas and parks and their characteristic rejuvenating waters. Capri is glamour, sipping an aperitif in the piazzetta, watching the sunset by the "Faraglioni" stacks and climbing up to Anacapri, blooming with flowers on the summit of the island. Here, the villa of Emperor Tiberius provides a breath-taking view of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast - as unmissable as the natural spectacle of the Blue Grotto. Charm and romance are the characteristic features of Procida. A maze of narrow alleys between typical, colourful houses defining the skyline of the island and helping to preserve its strong maritime identity. The goal of sustainable development, based on social, landscape and technological projects, saw Procida nominated as the Italian Capital of Culture 2022.
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An experience mid-way between sea and mountains for total, exclusive immersion in nature. This is especially what the main island, San Domino, has to offer: every splendid rocky cove (the only sandy beach is near the port) can be reached by passing through stretches of wood and descending rocks and rough roads before plunging into the dark green waters. It is well worth making a trip to the island of San Nicola and the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria a Mare perched on a rocky plateau with vertical cliffs directly overlooking the sea. The archipelago is part of the Gargano National Park and, inasmuch, ensures a totally green holiday, made all the more astonishing by the experience on land or at sea of listening to the nocturnal song of the Diomede seagulls: legend has it that they are the men of the mythological figure Diomede, the founder of these islands, who still today mourn his death.
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There are two ways to experience all the beauty of this archipelago, a UNESCO World heritage site, and both are unmissable: sail around them on a yacht or explore the interior to discover every enchanting glimpse of land and sea. Seven islands of volcanic origin. Lipari is the largest, with a wealth of archaeological sites to visit. It is illuminated by the frequent eruptions of the still-active Stromboli volcano - an amazing spectacle at night, especially when seen from the sea on the Sciara del Fuoco side, where lava plunges powerfully into the sea. Not to mention the woods of Salina (also known for irresistible slushes), the wild environments of the tiny Alicudi and Filicudi islands, and the sulphurous muds of Vulcano for rejuvenating mud-pack treatments. Night-life is focused entirely in Panarea, the small island of flowers that comes to life mostly in the evening.
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Three jewels of natural history made of sea and sun: Favignana - the largest island - is nicknamed “the butterfly” given its shape. Here, light, sea and land join forces to create a myriad of astonishing and enchanting colours, such as those seen in Cala Azzurra or Grotta Perciata. This strong-point is equally shared by the two smaller islands: Marettimo has many caves around its coastline that can only be seen from the sea and a tiny fishing village. The smaller island of Levanzo has all-white houses and caves also hidden by the inland vegetation that can be reached after an unusual trekking experience overlooking the sea: don't miss the Grotta del Genovese and its precious prehistoric graffiti and engravings. The Aegadian archipelago is a perfect opportunity for restoring mind and body, even at table.
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Nature and enjoyment
This archipelago is characterized by the triumph of sea and Mediterranean scrub and is also a National Park where the scent of salt merges with the perfumes of wild herbs growing just about everywhere, such as the typical myrtle - the ingredient for an absolutely traditional end-of-dinner liqueur. La Maddalena, the largest island, also boasts a beautiful town centre with large squares and typical venues for vibrant days and evenings. La Maddalena is connected by an evocative bridge with Caprera. This island is entirely given over to nature, with enchanting sea and beaches reached along trekking paths and even the famous sailing centre for anyone keen to learn this art. Yet, above all, a visit to the Giuseppe Garibaldi home-museum is not to be missed. A tour around the other islands of the archipelago, between coves and beaches straight out of paradise, is also a must - such as the pink beach at Budelli (admired from a boat) and the white beach of Santa Maria - as well as a swim in the inviting emerald sea at Spargi.
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