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Sirmione, Gem of Lago di Garda

Posted by: Claudia | August 19th, 2015 | No Comments »

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Sirmione…at the southern point of Lake Garda…

“Over the centuries impossibly pretty Sirmione has drawn the likes of Catullus and Maria Callas to its banks, and today millions of visitors follow in their footsteps for a glimpse of Lake Garda’s prettiest village and a dip in its only hot spring.”

Next time your there here are three spots to dine at:

> Ristorante La Rucola
‪A: Vicolo Strentelle, 7‬, 25019 Sirmione. Tel#: 030 916326. E: info@ristorantelarucola.it W: www.ristorantelarucola.it
This one-Michelin star elegant restaurant is hidden away just off the main square. La Rucola is a lovely restaurant with excellent food albeit with a small menu choice. For innovative takes on classic Italian dishes, dine at La Rucola, where you can choose from tasting menus of fish or meat (or both), paired with wines if you choose. But don’t go to La Rucola if you are looking for an traditional Italian meal. Although right in the middle of the postcard-like old town of Sirmione, This trendy place filled with modern art has some local touch but serves sophisticated fusion food.

> Ristorante L’Incontro
A: Via Colombare N 31 | Piazza Campiello , 25019Sirmione Tel#: 030 990540 E: lincontro.sirmione@gmail.com
Beautifull and well-run restaurant in the historic centre of Sirmione. Great place for good Italian food, with nice touched, and very polite service.

> Trattoria Clementina
A: Piazza Rovizzi, 13, 25019 Sirmione. Tel#: +39 030 919 6663. Smal place off the beaten track that lives up to expectations. # 2 ranked on Trip Adviser. The menu does not offer a lot of choices, but everything is excellent. The antipasti plate (the big one) was just amazing…Cozy restaurant ….great surroundings, like dining in someone’s back garden.

The Ultimate Tuscan Wine Escape…

Posted by: admin | August 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

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The Ultimate Tuscan Wine Escape
By Aielli & Benevento
| Thursday Departures | Four Nights |
2016 Departures March- April –May – October-November

“This is a six star experience!”

Aielli & Benevento’s “Tuscan Wine Escape” is a five-day getaway designed as the perfect touring experience for both those who have never been to ‘Bella Toscana’ as well as those seasoned travelers who consider the vineyard region an old favorite. This tour is not designed for wine experts and pseudo wine connoisseurs will not permitted to participate!

The A&B touring experience offers you a perfect mix of planned events as well as personal time for maximum rest and relaxation. Travel commences on Thursday afternoon or evening from US airports with arrival in Florence the next morning. Clients have both planned events and unstructured time over the next four full days (Friday thru Monday). The trip concludes with departures from Florence that arrive back in the USA on Tuesday afternoon.

A&B Wine Escapes
A sample itinerary here: http://blog.aielli-benevento.it/?p=2822

Three of Italy’s fabulous Mediterranean Isle Beach Hotels

Posted by: Giovanna | August 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

Off Italy’s mainland sit three fabulous Mediterranean isles: Sicily, Sardinia and Elba. Each is very different from the next and each with its own unique charm and personality. What they all share, however, are some luxurious beach hotels.

Here are three of the very best in no particular order…
(Remember when wishing to book these hotels don’t forget to call A&B for our special “Andiamo’ rate at these glorious properties.)

Cala di Volpe Hotel, Sardinia's Costa Smeralda

Cala di Volpe Hotel, Sardinia's Costa Smeralda

Sardinia’s Hotel Cala di Volpe
On the most strikingly romantic stretch of the Costa Smeralda, Hotel Cala di Volpe, a Luxury Collection Hotel, resembles a charming fishing village, with its picturesque Sardinian houses and landing stage jutting out into a sea of translucent turquoise, emerald green and deepest azure. Each of the 100 sea-view rooms and 21 suites pays tribute to Sardinia’s unique artistry and natural beauty. Balconies and patios offer breathtaking panoramic views of the ever-changing blues of sky and sea. The minimal chic decor is inspired by traditional Sardinian workmanship, using local stone and decorated tiles in vibrant Mediterranean colours.

Verdura Resort & Spa, Sicily

Verdura Resort & Spa, Sicily

Sicily’s Verdura
The Verdura Resort is set on 230 hectares, and nearly two kilometres of private Mediterranean coastline. There are three golf courses, a 60-metre infinity pool, six clay tennis courts, a world-class spa, four restaurants, five bars and much more. It’s a place where your room will seem woven subtly into the landscape. Verdura is a designer destination resort firmly planted in its Sicilian setting with top-notch facilities and a vibe of understated luxury. The spa alone makes a stay here worthwhile. One of the largest in Europe, the 43,000-square-foot spa is a gleaming vision in white stone. Best of all: the four Thalasso pools outside surrounded by olive and orange trees with views of the distant mountains. Golfers will find bliss on the two championship courses the 18-hole East and West Courses come together in an interlocking embrace; offering endless sea views, the rustic Sicilian links courses follow an undulating natural landscape fringed by olive and orange groves.

Hotel Hermitage, Isle of Elba

Hotel Hermitage, Isle of Elba

Elba’s Hermitage Hotel
The Island of Elba is the biggest and the closest island to the continent in the Tuscan Archipelago. The mild weather, the pristine beaches, the small fishing villages and the ancient fortresses make of it a unique and striking destination. Surrounded by the stunning Biodola bay in the Island of Elba, in the very heart of the Tuscan Archipelago, the Hotel Hermitage is an absolutely unique 5-star experience. Staying at the Hotel Hermitage you will have the chance to explore the most fascinating sides of the island. You can go by sailboat or private yacht to the magical bays of the Tuscan Archipelago.

A Six Star Evening in Ravello

Posted by: admin | August 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

Martinis @ the Palazzo Avino's Terrace Bar

Martinis @ the Palazzo Avino's Terrace Bar

Here’s a must for the bucket list, especially when one is touring the Amalfi Coast. Spend an evening in quaint Ravello and thrills the senses with food & drink:

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Stop # 1:The Lobster & Martini Bar @ the Palazzo Avino.
The bar opens at 6 pm so go early. “Clients can enjoy the freshest local lobster paired with refreshing Champagne or Prosecco amidst a backdrop of the awe-inspiring Mediterranean Sea. Alternatively, guests can enjoy their choice of 65 different Martinis uniquely crafted by the hotel’s in-house Martini mixologist! Martinis range from traditional to exotic using ingredients such as seasonal fruits and herbs. The combination of watching the sunset while enjoying a digestive and viewing the sky, mountains and sea is heavenly!”

Palazzo Avino Hotel
A: Via San Giovanni del Toro 28
Tel #: + 39 089 81 81 81
Fax + 39 089 85 89 00
E: info@palazzoavino.com.
W: www.palazzoavino.com.

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Stop #2: Cumpa Cosimo Ristorante
Arguably the best place to dine in the area besides Michelin-ranked Rosellini’s. Hours: Sometimes CLOSED Mondays in winter. Trattoria e pizzeria. Cumpa Cosima is a very well known ‘institution. According to Fodor’s: “Lustier-looking than most Ravello spots, Cumpa’ Cosimo is run devotedly by Netta Bottone, who tours the tables to ensure her clients are content. Her family has owned this cantina for 75 of its 300-plus years, and she has been cooking under the arched ceiling for more than 60 of them. You can’t miss with any of the classic Ravellian dishes. A favorite (share it—it’s huge) is a misto of whatever homemade pasta inspires her, served with a fresh, fragrant pesto. Meats, from Netta’s own butcher shop next door, are generally excellent and local wines ease it all down gently. The funghi porcini mushroom starter is delicious and the house cheesecake or homemade gelato provide a luscious ending.”

Cumpa Cosima – Ravello
A: Via Roma, 44
Tel #: 089 857156‬.

Bolgheri area Ristoranti

Posted by: Giovanna | August 6th, 2015 | No Comments »

Via Bolgherese, a wonderful boulevard become famous as the Wine Road for its production of rare wines.

Via Bolgherese, a wonderful boulevard become famous as the Wine Road for its production of rare wines.

Known as the ‘Hidden Tuscany” Bolgheri boasts great wine estates and some very good eating establishments…

Here are few of the highly rated restaurants in Bolgheri area…

> Enoteca Tognoni (Bolgheri)
A: Via Lauretta 5, 57020 Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci. Tel#: +39 565 762001. W: www.enotecatognoni.it. E: info@enotecatognoni.it. The Enoteca Tognoni, situated on the immediate right upon entrance into the famous Medieval Village of Bolgheri, is well known for proposing genuine Mediterranean flavors of typical Tuscan products to its customers. At the Enoteca, it is possible to stop, relax and enjoy an appetizing snack or meal of the plates characteristic of the area such as ribollita, bruschette, typical crostini, flavorful cold cuts, sott’oli ( hand cut vegetables under olive oil – a local specialty ) as well as the wonderful cheeses.

> Osteria Caccia Al Piano (Bolgheri)
A: Via Bolgherese 281 | Localita Caccia Al Piano, 57022. Tel#: +39 0565 763203. W: www.facebook.com/pages/Osteria-Caccia-al-Piano. E: osteriacaccialpiano@gmail.com . Outside main town of Bolgheri. Beautiful place within the olive tree garden where you find a very good food and a wonderful wine card with the best of Tuscany with really reasonable prices.

> Caffé della Posta (Bolgheri)
A: 1/A Largo Nonna Lucia, Bolgheri, 57022.
Stop in at Caffé della Posta, on the main square, to try one of Bolgheri’s reds: first produced in the 1980’s, these wines now rival French Bordeaux. Caffé della Posta is the bustling nerve center of the small village of Bolgheri, and Anne and Peter Zwack are the neurons that sparked it back to life. Once an abandoned and shuttered post office, the café has become the spot where visitors and locals alike ¬¬ some on horseback ¬¬ stop in for their daily espresso, light lunch, gossip, newspapers and, of course, delicious homemade gelato “All of the flavors that we use in our gelato are completely natural, and they’re sourced within a five kilometer radius of where we’re standing.” Her posh British accent turned mischievous as Anne Zwack added another scoop to the already precariously stacked cup. “You simply must try the hazelnut chocolate gianduja,” as yet another scoop topped the leaning tower of ice cream.

> Osteria Magona (Bolgheri)
2/3 Piazza Ugo, Bolgheri, 57022; Tel#: W: www.osteriamagona.com. E: info@osteriamagona.com .Chefs Omar Barsacchi and Gionata d’Alessi serve Tuscan-Maremman cuisine like ravioli stuffed with pappa al pomodoro. The Osteria Magona tells a long and passionate culinary journey started in 2004 in the center of Bolgheri and has moved to the house in typical Tuscan style, the Valley of Messi, on Bolgherese Wine Route. Here in the midst of vineyards and close to the largest wine cellars of the DOC Bolgheri has created a unique restaurant, in open countryside and overlooking the sea. To welcome in the cradle of Tuscan and Mediterranean cuisine, of which the selection of meats of Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher of Panzano are the masters, it is the chef Omar Barsacchi. With His wife Marina and son Rocco have marked the business venture in a simple and familiar in respect of Italian tradition.

Tenuta San Guido Wine Estate, home of famous Super Tuscan: Sassicaia.

Tenuta San Guido Wine Estate, home of famous Super Tuscan: Sassicaia.

> San Guido Enoteca-Osteria
(part of Tenuta San Guido Estate.
Località San Guido
57022 Bolgheri- Castagneto Carducci (LI) Tel.#:+39 0565.749693
E: info@enotecasanguido.com W: www.enotecasanguido.it.

> Osteria San Michele (Donoratico)
A: Via Aurelia, 199, 57022 Donoratico, Castagneto Carducci. Tel #: +39 0565 77447. W: www.osteriasanmichele.it. E: deboda@tiscali.it . Lunch & Dinner. Hours: Dinner 7PM- 10PM. #1 choice onTripAdvisor. Not cheap. Credit Cards accepted. Debora Pullini is the proprietario at Osteria San Michele. Fresh fish, nice atmosphere, English spoken staff. Michele Vigliotti is the chef. Courses include catch of the day seafood, first choice meats, locally produced salami, cheeses, and vegetables. Restaurant \has well populated wine cellar. Always available: vegetarian dishes.

> Orto dei Cocomeri (Donoratico)
A: Via Aurelia, 79, 57022 Donoratico, Castagneto Carducci. Tel#: 393387632486. W: www.ortodeicocomeri.it. E: donoratico@ortodeicocomeri.it Lunch, Dinner, Cash Only. Reservations suggested. Organic, Vegetarian, Vegan. Note: …this place only serves the most delicious and original organic raw meals. A must have experience, even for the meat-eater. Highly rated as one of best in town.

> Enoteca Castagnetana (Castagneto Carducci)
A: Via Cavour 21. Tel#: +39 0565 766071. W: www.enotecacastagnetana.it. E: tonfranz@tiscali.it. Accepts Credit Cards. Located in the heart of Castagneto Carducci just steps away from the most important vineyards of Bolgheri. Hours: OPEN DAILY. Principally a wine bar…but gets great reviews. The very good selection of value Bolgheri wines. Try ravioli with tartuffe, tartare, pasta with botarge … both excellent.

Vino 101: Prosecco

Posted by: Giovanna | July 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

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Prosecco is a sparkling frizzante (or still) wine, made from the Glera grape. The most common style of Prosecco as we know it comes in the sparkling style. It is not the methode Champenoise (fermented in the bottle), but rather the method Italiano (fermented in a large pasteurization chamber of an autoclave), also known as Metodo Charmat-Martinotti.

In the same way you can’t label French sparkling wine champagne unless the grapes are actually grown in the Champagne region of France, you can’t label Italian sparkling wine prosecco unless the grapes are grown in the Veneto or the Friuli regions of northeastern Italy. Drinking prosecco in the region where it originated, you can be 99.9% sure it will be a good quality and the real deal, not a sparkling wine made from another kind of grape.

Can you order prosecco no matter where you are in Italy? According to our A&B wine expert, prosecco can be found anywhere in Italy, but the area known for producing the finest prosecco is around Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Both are about one hour from Venice. There you will find the best prosecco to be had in Italy. The only way to know for sure if what you’re drinking is true prosecco is to read the label.

Florence – Top Ten Coffee shops

Posted by: Claudia | July 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Some of the Renaissance City's Top Cafes...

Some of the Renaissance City's Top Cafes...

10 Caffè Paszkowski
A: Piazza della Repubblica 35R. Tel# +39 055 210236, +39 055 2691105. W: www.paszkowski.it
You’ll find bars and coffee places all over Piazza della Repubblica, but if you are looking for something that truly takes you back, Paszkowski’s can offer you the delicious drink you are searching for. You should think about walking up to the bar like a true Italian and having your drink handed to you by the suited and kind staff. Paired with a pastry or an appetizer off the menu, you can spend your mid-morning looking out onto the piazza and enjoying the carousel and the crowds that appear in the area. Because it’s in such a central location, you can pretty much get to any sight you want to see within ten minutes.

9 Caffe Notte
A: Via delle Caldaie 18. Tel#: 39 055 223067.
When you need to get away from the touristy spots, Caffe Notte offers a safe haven with great drinks and a fun crowd. You can imagine it as a modern, artists’ haven, and whether you want coffee or something a little stronger, sitting at a table here will guarantee that you won’t hear any English. The staff might understand you, so offering up a little bit of your Italian and giving it a try can add to the experience. They also have some freshly-baked pastries that are a buttery and savory way to start your morning before you head to the other side of the river to see some sights.

8 Finisterrae
A: Piazza di Santa Croce. Tel#: 39 055 263 8675
It can be hard to find the perfect place to sit and drink your coffee with a view. Florence’s best is usually tucked away and difficult to find for a reason. However, Finisterrae does an excellent job of catering to the multiple groups of tourists who arrive at the church of Santa Croce where Michelangelo and others are buried. Ask for an espresso or a foamy cappuccino and enjoy people-watching. You’ll want to get there before too many people show up–it’s one of the most frequented areas and tables are snatched up by lunch hour. Think about heading here before you go out sight-seeing. (39 055 263 8675)

7 Popcafé
A: 18 Piazza di Santo Spirito. Tel#: 055 217475. W: www.opcafe.it
If you are looking for something that diverges from the typical old-school cafe, Popcafe can be a fun place to go on the other side of the river. Not far from the church of Santo Spirito, it’s one of the best places to order specialty coffees. They are happy to make a traditional cappuccino or something a bit extra for you if you just ask. Also a good place for lunch, it can be the perfect place to stop after touring Santo Spirito or before you think about grabbing a mouth-watering panino from one of the many shops that surround the church. (055 217475)

6 Rivoire
A: Via Vacchereccia, 4R. Tel#: +39 055 214412.W: www.rivoire.it. Hours:Daily 8am-10pm
It would be a shame not to sample some of Florence’s best chocolate, and when you stop at Riviore, you are only getting artisan-made products. Between their scrumptious pastries filled with dark chocolate made in-house or their thick, pudding-like hot chocolate, this is a chocolate-lover’s paradise. Whether you feel in the mood for a coffee in the beautiful and famous Piazza Signoria or you feel like grabbing a treat drenched in chocolate, this is your best bet. It’s also in a great location close to all the famous sights, so after you are done with your treat you can head out on your way once again. (+39 055 214412)

5 Osteria del Caffé Italiano/ Pizzeria del Caffé Italiano
A: Via Isola delle Stinche 11/13r. Tel#: +39 055 289020. W:www.osteriacaffeitaliano.com
Harkening back to the old days of coffee culture, Osteria del Caffe Italiano has a grand decor, but it’s still comfortable and the opportunity to sit and enjoy can be wonderful when you have been on your feet all day. Not only do they have some well-made drinks, but they have some good menu options if you are planning on spending more than the time it takes to finish your espresso. While still maintaining the respect of Italian coffee culture, this place gives visitors a chance to stop and truly smell the coffee beans or a slice of delicious pizza.

4 Café Amerini
A: Via della Vigna Nuova 63r. Tel#:+39 055 284941 Hours:Mon-Sat 8am-8pm
Whether you have been out shopping all day or you are just walking the streets around the train station or Santa Maria Novella church, this can be the perfect place to stop and grab a quick cappuccino before heading out again. It also offers lunch, but the coffee is truly some of the best in Florence and when you are out and about, it can be the perfect place to grab something quickly–the staff is fast and friendly. Also, think about grabbing a brioche or two, they have some great options that will keep you coming back during your stay in Florence.

3 Astor
A: Piazza del Duomo, 20R. Tel#: +39 055 239 9318.
As a visitor to Florence, it’s inevitable that you will end up circling the great Duomo. When you are done gawking, think about stopping by Astor, which is tucked away and has a great menu. Not only is the coffee here worth a taste, but you might want to think about looking into some of their specialties. If you are missing the taste of American coffee and you want something to go, this is establishment to duck into. At night, it turns into a fun bar with some creative cocktails and events in the summer. Whether you go day or night, you can find something delicious to taste.

2 Volume
A: 5 Via di Santo Spirito..Tel#: 055 238 1460. W: www.volume.fi.it
When you are on the other side of the Arno and you want to feel as though you can sit down and have a cup of coffee with a younger crowd, this is the place to go. A frequent favorite of locals, you’ll want to put on your best Italian and avoid ordering in English. In the evenings, they serve some great beer to take out on the steps of the Santo Spirito church. Even though it’s a fun place to go at night, where the place really shines through is as a local coffee spot where you can sit and enjoy in an overstuffed chair.

1 Caffe Donnini
A: Piazza della Repubblica, 15. Tel#: 39 055 213694.
Caffe Donnini has been a staple of the Florence cafe scene since 1894. A quiet cafe in the mornings and afternoons, you can easily tuck yourself away with an espresso or cappuccino for a fair price and in a great location. There are several high-quality coffee places located in the Piazza della Repubblica, but Donnini has been around the longest and remains a favorite of celebrities and locals alike. As one of the gathering places of artists and writers since its opening, the coffee shop still attracts creative types taking advantage of the city and the art and history in that area. The interior harkens back to the golden age of European expats, and the pastries are to die for.

Source: USA Today /10 Best

Four spots to visit when on Capri…

Posted by: Claudia | July 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Monte Solaro Chairlift

Monte Solaro Chairlift

Four spots to visit when on Capri…

Monte Solaro
The chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro, the highest point of the island of Capri, lies within easy walking distance of the hotel. It takes just 12 minutes to reach the summit of the mountain, where you’ll find a bar and viewing terraces.
Our tip: travel up to the top of the mountain by chairlift, but make the return journey on foot. On your way back down, pay a visit to the gorgeous little hermitage of Cetrella: the most enchanting (and panoramic!) house of worship on Capri.

Grotta Azzurra
Not everybody knows that you can reach Capri’s Grotta Azzurra on foot (or by bus). From the center of Anacapri, the road leads all the way down to the sea and the jetty located next to the entrance of the famous blue grotto. From here, you can climb aboard one of the little rowing boats and sail inside the cave.
Our tip: in the summer, you may have to queue to enter the cave. Go early in the morning (about 9.00) or late in the afternoon, to avoid the crowds.

Villa Axel Munthe
Hotel Caesar Augustus is located within steps of the museum-house built by the Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe in the late 19th century. Munthe chose the site for its spectacular view, the same view which can be seen from our terraces.
Our tip: ask our concierge to see the calendar of events. During the summer, concerts and performances are regularly held in the villa’s garden

Punta Carena Lighthouse

Punta Carena Lighthouse

Punta Carena Lighthouse
On the westernmost tip of the island, Capri’s “faro” is one of the tallest lighthouses in Italy (second only to Genova’s “lanterna”). The beach beneath the lighthouse provides an idyllic spot from where to admire the sun setting over the sea. Our tip: if you’re a lover of the sun and sea, this is the place for you. The sunshines on the beach from dawn until dusk, the water is always crystal clear, and there are some great beach clubs and snack bars.

Lake Garda Ristoranti: Esplanade e Al Gondoliere

Posted by: Laurena | July 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda

Two of the more highly rated restaurants on Lake Garda…

> Esplanade
A: Via Lario, 10
25015 Desenzano del Garda
Tel#: +390309143361. E: Info@ristoranteesplanade.com. W: www.ristorante-esplanade.com Hours: 1230PM – 2PM Luncheon; 730PM –10PM Dinner; CLOSED Wednesdays. This restaurant has been run by the same management for the past 30 years. It stands in a panoramic location overlooking the lake and specialises in top quality fresh fish and seafood. For a truly romantic dinner, book one of the tables on the quayside.

> Ristorante Al Gondoliere
A: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, 6. 37018 Malcesine
Tel#:+39 045 7400046. W: www.algondoliere.com/ristorante/home.html. E: info@algondoliere.com. One of highest rated of Lake Garda restaurants on Trip Advisor.

Most Overlooked Italian Isles

Posted by: Giovanna | July 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

Pantelleria

Pantelleria

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Italy has few, if any, unexplored corners. Places like Capri or Taormina can sometimes seem like a caricature of themselves, their natural beauty suffocating amidst tourist hoards and souvenir shops. Yet, many spots are still as authentic and pristine as they were some 50 years ago. Italian islands that have escaped the trap of mass tourism are fascinating in their rugged beauty. Their popularity ranges from unpolished and virtually unknown to non-Italians to those that are frequented by the rich and the famous.

What these unique islands have in common is unspoilt nature – and total absence of package tourists.
Here are the Most Overlooked Italian Isles:

1. Giglio
The island of Giglio belongs to the Tuscan Archipelago, famous for the bigger and much more crowded Elba and the uninhabited Montecristo Island. Giglio is basically a granite rock with only a few patches of cultivated land and a wild untouched feeling about it.
It has a handful of hotels and restaurants, which are quite modest, but offer very good value for money. Giglio is a good base to explore other Tuscan islands. However, keep in mind that the Tuscan archipelago is a marine reserve and access to some islands, notably Montecristo and Pianosa, is restricted to protect the environment. Besides, the island of Gorgona is a site of a penal colony, and no tourists are allowed to disembark on it.
Getting there: By ferry from Porto Santo Stefano in Tuscany. Ferries run several times each day throughout the year.

2. Pantelleria
This arid and incredibly windy volcanic island has been a favourite retreat of many celebrities, including Gérard Depardieu, Sting and Madonna. Pantelleria is an enchanted place, with steam spraying from the rocks, with mud baths and sauna caves, fumaroles and thermal sources. The emerald Specchio di Venere lake has healing waters that are fed by thermal springs.
Pantescan dammusi, unique lava stone houses with whitewashed cupola roofs, have been converted into chic hotels or solitary rented homes. A visit to Pantelleria is also a gastronomic delight. Highly recommended is the local Passito wine and dishes such as bitter ravioli, stuffed aubergines, fish couscous and the famous capers.
Getting there: Daily overnight ferries run from Trapani year round, with faster hydrofoil services available in the summer months. Planes fly in daily from Palermo and Trapani, with additional direct flights fromRome and Milan in the summer.

3. Lampedusa
Of all the Italian islands, Lampedusa is perhaps the most notorious due to its illegal immigrant problem. This southernmost Italian territory is situated just 113 km from Tunisia and is geographically in Africa rather than Europe.
It could have been described as bleak and arid, had it not been for some of Italy’s most beautiful beaches and lagoons. One of the cultural highlights of the island is on the 22nd of September, when a festival of Madonna di Lampedusa is celebrated with fireworks, processions, games and concerts. Getting there: Siremar ferries from Porto Empedocle near Agrigento run all year, on most, but not all, days of the week.

Ponza

Ponza

4. Ponza
Ponza is a beautiful, narrow and long island with ragged coast, cliffs, hidden coves and beaches, and picturesque houses lining the slopes of the hills. It is a well known and well-visited, yet largely unspoilt island where life seems to flow as it always has, untouched by the rush of meodernity.
The downside of Ponza’s popularity is a certain lack of privacy, but the facilities are many and the hotels good. The most dramatically beautiful spot of the island is the beach of Chiaia di Luna, which can only be reached through a Roman tunnel.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach Ponza is from Naples by SNAV hydrofoil with a connection at Ventotene.

5. Panarea
The smallest of the fabled Aeolian islands, Panarea is the favourite of the jet-set crowd. However, this island with a population of just over 200 is too small to accommodate any substantial number of tourists, and has only a handful of unique hotels and rented homes. Boasting views of Stromboli, Panarea is a paradisical get-away-from-it-all island with a lifestyle as laid-back and relaxed as it can get in Italy. No cars are allowed, and the only modes of transportation are the electric golf buggies and a few scooters.
Watching the stars is a truly magical experience on Panarea. There is no electric street lighting, only Moroccan lamps and lanterns to light up outside stairs and terraces in the dark.
Getting there: Siremar and Ustica Lines have daily hydrofoil services from Milazzo and Messina. There is also a hydrofoil and ferry connection from Naples, Palermo and Cefalú several times a week.

6. Favignana
Favignana, off Trapani in Sicily, is a smooth, sun-drenched and wind-blown island. Accommodation is simple and family-run and the lifestyle is unpretentious. Favignana’s western part is dominated by Montagna Grossa which, despite its name, rises to a mere 302m.
The eastern part of the island, is flatter and the jagged coastline is interrupted, here and there, with short stretches of sandy beach. You can take a boat from Favignana to other Egadi islands, of which Levanzo is particularly beautiful, even if somewhat unkempt.

La Maddalena - Sardinia

La Maddalena - Sardinia

7. La Maddalena
Off the north-east coast of Sardinia, La Maddalena islands boast pink sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. The main and the largest island that gave the name to the archipelago has a population of about 11 000.
La Maddalena is linked to the island of Caprera by a 600 metre long dam and together they are the only inhabited islands of the archipelago. The US Navy has a submarine tender stationed on the island of Santo Stefano, and consequently you will find many Americans living on La Maddalena. It is worth visiting the minor islands – Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria, which together form a beautiful lagoon of Porto Madonna.
Getting there: Year-round ferries from Palau in Northern Sardinia run frequently, up to four times an hour, 24 hours a day.

8. San Domino
The biggest of the Tremiti Islands off the Adriatic coast of Italy, San Domino is one of those hidden gems few people have heard of. Because of its isolated nature, in the year 1000 it was chosen as an hermitage for Benedictine monks, who subsequently moved to the neighbour island of San Nicola.
San Domino has a rugged coastline with secluded coves and beaches, where fragrant pine woods go right to the water’s edge. It is a diver’s paradise with rich marine life, underwater caves and even a Roman shipwreck. San Domino is the only of the Tremiti islands with tourist accommodation, even though San Nicola is the official administrative centre. Getting there: there are ferry and hydrofoil services from Trapani every day, operated by Siremar and Ustica Lines, as well as additional ferry services from Naples during the peak summer months (June to September)