three paradise archipelagos that you probably don’t know

From north to south of the peninsula, several archipelagos invite you to get away from the coast. While some are made up of famous islands, such as Capri or Elba, others lesser-known offer a promise of escape from the crowds.

By Sarah Chevalley

Published update

This content is not accessible.

With its sheer cliffs surrounded by celadon blue waters, Ponza, in the Pontine archipelago, is the haunt of Romans and Neapolitans in search of sea baths. Adobe Stock

A steep path through the fragrant maquis saturated with sunlight, the deafening song of the cicadas, the stones rolling underfoot and suddenly a sparkling blue rectangle surrounded by rocks, without a soul on the horizon… A dream of peace that is irreconcilable with the Italian coasts, where often long rows of umbrellas and mattresses lie against each other. Yet some islands still resist tourism even in the hottest months.

This is the case of the Pontine Islands, an archipelago facing the Gulf of Gaeta in Lazio, part of which is still completely wild, just like the Egadi Islands, thrown confetti off the coast of Trapani in Sicily, whose marine protected area is one of the largest in Europe. Sardinia also hides some secrets, such as the Sulcis archipelago, close to the southwest coast, whose two main islands do not have the glamor of the Costa Smeralda, but are home to beaches whose beauty rivals that of northern Sardinia.

This content is not accessible.

SEE THE FILE – Italy: the travel guide for Figaro

Pontine Islands, the beautiful volcanic islands

This content is not accessible.

View of Ponza from a restaurant terrace. ERIK MARTIN

About thirty kilometers from the coast of Lazio, this archipelago of volcanic origin consists of six islands, Ponza et Ventotenethe only two that are then inhabited all year round Zannon, palmarola, gavi et Saint Stephen. With its steep cliffs surrounded by celadon blue waters, Ponza, the most famous, is the haunt of Romans and Neapolitans, in search of sea baths, in search of a slightly antiquated atmosphere. The port of Santa Maria is a succession of small cubic houses in pastel colours, straight out of a 1960s Italian comedy.

A single road crosses the island, passing some villages and beaches. The spectacular Chiaia di Luna, dominated by imposing cliffs, long closed to the public due to landslides, will reopen in summer 2022. But the wildest coves are in the north of the island, accessible by paths in the middle of the undergrowth. Cala Feola or La Caletta are natural pools where many swimmers can swim in summer. The ideal is to rent a motorboat in the port of Santa Maria to discover the less accessible beaches, as well as those of Palmarola in the heart of a natural reserve, located west of Ponza.

The seabed is incredibly beautiful, especially at Cala Tramontana, known for its caves plunging into translucent turquoise water. Around Ponza, the islands of Zannone and Gavi have almost no habitation and are ideal for beautiful boat trips. Closer to Naples, Ventonene is a small island 3 km long, no more than 800 m wide and with barely 600 inhabitants. Its wild beauty lives up to its history. The remains of a Roman port, carved into the tuff, date back to the time of Augustus, who exiled the dignitaries of the empire to Ventotene, then called Pandataria. In 1926, during the fascist period, Ventotene was again destined to assume its former function as a place of exile until the early 1950s. Since then, the island has been a haven for the world, where people come to dive in the protected waters around Santo Stefano and laze on the beautiful black sand beaches of Cala Rossano and Cala Battaglia.

The archipelago of the Pontine Islands can be reached in 1h/1h30 by ferry from the ports of Formia (the only one active all year round), Anzio (closest to Rome), Terracina, San Felice Circeo and Naples.

This content is not accessible.

READ ALSO – Our pick of the best pizzerias in Naples, the pizza capital of the world

Egadi, authentic Sicily

This content is not accessible.

Favignana bay, the largest of the Egadi Islands. Photo press

Located near Trapani, the three Egadi, Favignana, Levanzo et Marettimoform the heart of the largest marine protected area in Europe, with an area of ​​almost 600 km2. Wrecks from the Punic Wars offer several unforgettable spots, especially around Levanzo. Fish abound in these extraordinarily clear waters suitable for snorkeling and fishing. The Egadi are known for their ultra-fresh fish couscous that can be eaten in a small format trattorias locations.

Favignana, the largest of the islands, is also the most popular with wealthy Sicilian families such as the Florios who famously Tonnara (tuna cannery) turned into a museum. The many beaches and heavenly coves such as Cala Rossa, a natural amphitheater overlooking a lagoon-like sea, can be discovered by bicycle. Ten minutes by ferry separate Favignana from Levanzo, whose port of Cala Dogana, with its false Cycladic air, is wedged between a barren mountain and the turquoise sea. The island can also be visited by bicycle, an ideal means of transport to admire the beauty of the Mediterranean maquis tumbling down to the sparkling coves.

Marettimo is the wildest, also the furthest from Sicily. People come here both to hike and to swim in the beautiful sea caves, nearly 400 in all, accessible by boat or kayak. Dominated by a mountain that culminates at an altitude of almost 700 m, Marettimo has very nice hiking trails, where you can encounter mouflons and observe many sea birds.

From the port of Trapani, connections to the Egadi are managed by two companies, Liberty Lines and Siremar, who regularly offer boats or hydrofoils. Count on an average travel time of one hour.

Sulcis, the forgotten archipelago

This content is not accessible.

Carloforte, Sardinia, on the island of San Pietro. Eli Franssens/Adobe Stock

A stone’s throw from the southwest coast of Sardinia, opposite the province of Carbonia-Iglesias, Sant’Antioco et Saint Peter are the two main islands of a small archipelago formed by numerous rocky islets. Marked by an industrial past linked to the coal industry, this part of Sardinia is poorer and less touristy than the north and south, but has sublime beaches that are much less crowded in summer. If the village of Sant’Antioco lacks a bit of charm, it houses the remains of a beautiful early Christian church dedicated to Saint Antioch and an amazing open-air sanctuary where Phoenicians and Carthaginians buried their dead. The island is punctuated by beautiful wild beaches bordered by a crystalline sea, most notably the Spiaggia Grande in the northeast, whose blue-green slopes contrast with the expanses of golden sand, fringed by rocks, dunes and junipers.

This content is not accessible.

A little further from the coast, San Pietro immediately captivates with its village of Carloforte, with pretty houses reminiscent of Liguria where the inhabitants come from, the oldest of whom still speak Tabarchino, a Genoese dialect from the 16th century. The long-legged tuna during the slaughter banned nowadays (especially violent harpoon fishing) is the essential local product. On foot or by bike, San Pietro deserves for its many beaches, often sheltered by cliffs, such as Cala Fico, in the northwest, the favorite place of the very rare queen falcon native to Madagascar.

Sant’Antioco is connected to Sardinia by a bridge. San Pietro can be reached by ferry from Portovesme on the Sardinian coast and from Calasetta on Sant’Antioco with the companies Saremar and Delcomar

Leave a comment