Traveling through Italy: islands where volcanoes are smoking

Pink beaches and active volcanoes: Italy’s unknown islands

When it comes to Italian islands, most often we think of Capri, Sardinia or Sicily. Meanwhile, off the coast of Italy there are dozens of lesser-known islands, and each of them is unique. Some will be a find for climbers and hikers, some are as chic as Capri, but far less crowded.

Ponza

On the island of Ponza, located west of central Italy, people from Rome love to spend their summer vacations. However, foreigners are almost never here. The two biggest settlements on the island are the port town of Ponza with its colorful pastel buildings and the village of La Piana on a rock high above the sea.

There are beaches not far from the port that can be reached on foot, but it is better to take a boat to the bay of Spiaggia di Frontone, it runs from Ponza all day. Around 6 p.m., when the sun sets behind the high cliffs, the place is filled with families and young people. Parties on the Fronton last until late at night.

There are Roman ruins scattered all over the island. Some historians believe that Ponza was described in the Iliad. On the west of the island supposedly lived Circe, who taught Odysseus to fight the sirens. Her dwelling is now unlikely to be found, but it is possible to swim from the beach of Frontone to the beautiful sea cave of Grotta dello Smeraldo.

Tavolara

This small island, northwest of Sardinia, is the most unusual on this list. The length of Tavolara is only five kilometers. At the same time in the XIX century, the authorities of the island declared it a kingdom – and it was recognized by the King of Sardinia. However, even the monarchs could not decide whether the smallest kingdom on earth should remain as such. In 1934, after the death of the last queen of the island passed to Italy. However, the pretenders to the throne have remained to this day: now the owner of the only restaurant on the island considers himself king. The island has several families living there permanently.

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Tavolara is a high mountain (it is equipped with radio NATO) and a long flat cape at its foot. There is a footpath through the cape, which leads through the dunes to scuba diving sites and ends with a nice little beach. Unprepared tourists are better off staying on the cape. The 500-meter mountain can be climbed only if you have climbing skills and equipment: closer to the top it becomes too steep. In addition, because of the special equipment installed at the top, civilians are not allowed to approach it.

The Liparian Islands

Some consider these seven islands off the northeastern coast of Sicily the most beautiful in Italy. The Lipari Islands are a little more famous than the others on this list. They vary greatly from dry Panarea to green Salina with its vineyards. The island of Vulcano is home to one of Italy’s three active volcanoes, the eerie Stromboli, which rises right out of the sea. Sometimes at night you can see it throwing its fiery contents into the sky.

The smallest inhabited island of the arc is Panarea. But it is also the most luxurious – the richest people in the world leave their yachts in the local port. However, apart from strolling along the local beaches, there is not much to do here. The most interesting island is Salina, with its dormant volcano, tiny farms, vineyards and forests. It’s the easiest place to stay and has a place to hang out – at least a few Sicilian restaurants.

La Maddalena

The seven islands that make up the La Maddalena archipelago are located near the northeastern end of Sardinia. With the exception of the island of Maddalena, which gave its name to the whole group, most of them are almost deserted – you can enjoy views of the turquoise sea without fear of being disturbed. The islands were formerly home to the U.S. Navy, which abandoned them about a decade ago. Now the islands are open to visitors.

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Most of the archipelago’s population lives on the main island of Maddalena. There is a bustling town with stores, cafes and a vibrant nightlife. Two minutes away by bridge is the island of Caprera, which has only a tiny village, two museums and a few beach restaurants. This island could rather be called a national park. From there you can take a boat to the other two islands, Spargi and Budelli. The latter is known for the beach of Spiaggia Rosa, where the sand has a pink hue because of the plankton. Also in the archipelago are the islands of Razzoli, Santo Stefano and Santa Maria.

Capraia

In Italian tourist brochures, Capraia is called Isola Selvaggia, “the wild island.” It is the northernmost of the islands on this list. It is even north of French Corsica. Only 300 people permanently live on Capraia, and most of the eight-kilometer island is a protected sanctuary. There is only one paved road on the island, it stretches 800 meters and connects the port and the village.

Unlike other Italian islands, which are visited mainly for the beaches, Capraia attracts lovers of hiking. You can explore the coast (not forgetting swimming) or climb the medieval watchtowers, which were built to defend against pirates. One of the most popular hiking trails goes through the uninhabited south of the island and ends with a climb to the Cenobite Tower.

Pantelleria

This small island in the straits between Sicily and Tunisia is home to the villas of celebrities like Giorgio Armani and the most luxurious resorts. From a geological point of view, Pantelleria is a fairly young volcanic island, so there are no white sandy beaches. But there are mud baths! At Lake Lago di Venere in the northern part of the island you can take a dip in the healing mud, wait for it to dry, then wash it off and feel refreshed.

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Pantelleria is only 60 kilometers off the African coast. The local architecture – white angular houses – also recalls North Africa rather than Italy. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote that on windless nights you can see the lights of African lighthouses from the island. Restaurants specializing in North African cuisine can also be found here, but most establishments here are Italian, with an emphasis on fresh seafood.

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