The most beautiful islands to sail in Italy

A yacht charter to these islands in Italy will give you a sailing holiday to remember.

3rd Feb 2020

Italy is a country of history, colour, food, fantastic sailing waters and islands. 

From the northernmost Tuscan Archipelago, down to the beautiful Sicilian landscapes and volcanic islands, there are so many places to explore when on an Italian yacht charter.

Whether you’re looking for a catamaran for a getaway with friends or a monohull for a family trip, there is something for everyone when sailing in Italy.

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Maria Soleil, Senior Marketing Executive

Legend has it that the picturesque seven islands that make up the Tuscan Archipelago were gems in the necklace of Roman goddess Venus. It is said they fell into the Tyrrhenian Sea to make up the chain of islands that lie off Italy’s Western coastline. 

Sail Elba on a yacht charter
Elba

Most of the islands are mountainous and have good depths next to the coast, but check the regulations of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park marine reserve before planning your yacht charter route and stops.

Elba – famous for being the exiled home of Napoleon in 1814 – is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. It is full of quiet anchorages and harbours dotted along its indented coastline and is dominated by 1km high Monte Capanne. Palms, eucalyptus, cedars and pine grow everywhere, as well as olives and vine. 

Portoferraio

Start out at Portoferraio and sail west along the pretty coastline, stopping at the stunning beaches including the Beach of Samsom. Sail to the pleasant Marciana Marina for an overnight stop and take a cabinovia to the top of Monte Capanne for worthwhile views. 

This tiny island lies 40nm to the north of Elba and is actually not a place we recommend sailing to! It is closed to the public due to its use as a penal colony. Around 60 prisoners spend their days working in the islands’ vineyards to produce wine.

This volcanic island is easy to navigate at only 5 miles long and just over 2 miles wide, and is a paradise for scuba divers and hikers. Take a half hour walk from Porto Vecchio – the only town on the island – to secluded cove Cala della Zurletta, or relax and have a seafood meal in one of the small restaurants lining the harbour.

Giglio Porto

Some of these small islands are perfect for a morning or afternoon visit to lie on the pebbly beaches or wander around the colourful buildings. Explore the Roman villa ruins on quaint Giannutri or the old castle at picturesque Giglio – an interesting place to visit as it was an old refuge for pirates. Montecristo is a designated nature reserve and anchoring or landing is prohibited.

A favourite of one of our Charter Advisers, Sardinia is a jewel for visiting sailors. Lying 112 miles from the Italian mainland, its 1150 miles of colourful coastline has so much to entice you on a boat holiday. 

Sardinia

Most yacht charters start from Cagliari, Olbia, Portisco or Carloforte, on San Pietro island. You can sail north from Portisco or Olbia to the delightful La Maddalena archipelago, taking in the glamour of the dramatic azure Costa Smeralda on the way. Take an evening stroll along the quay at Porto Cervo if gazing at luxury superyachts and people watching is your thing.

Once at La Maddalena nature reserve, island hop and go swimming around the stunning coasts of Caprepa, Stefano and Maddalena, but make sure you have a permit from the authorities first.

There is a Spanish influence on Sardinia which can be felt in the cuisine and architecture, especially in the main southern port of Cagliari. Try a seafood paella with locally grown saffron, or a glass of Cannonau red wine. Interestingly, the traditional Sardinian cuisine is not what you’d expect. Over the centuries the island’s coastline has seen so many invasions that the population found shelter inland, which is why roasted meat, pasta and bean-based dishes are so common on menus. 

Sail La Maddalena in Sardinia Italy on a yacht charter
The stunning La Maddalena nature reserve

If sailing from Cagliari, we recommend sailing south west via Capo di Pula to visit the ancient city ruins of Nora, and then stop at Porto Malfatano, an attractive anchorage, before continuing on to San Pietro island.

Carloforte, the capital of San Pietro, has old world charm with its pastel coloured houses and cobbled backstreets, as well as its tradition of wooden boat-building.

It shouldn’t take much persuasion to put the Amalfi coast and the islands of Italy’s Campanian Archipelago on your sailing bucket list. One of the most beautiful coastlines in the world to explore by boat, start out from a charter base at Salerno or Naples. 

On the north west side of the Naples gulf are the Flegree Islands of Procida, Vivara and Ischia. To the south is Capri, just off the Sorrento peninsula.

Sail the Amalfi Coast on an Italian yacht charter
Vietri Sur Mare, Salerno

Procida

The vibrant colours of Procida’s hillside town Corricella are a sight worth seeing on a yacht charter to Naples. Anchor outside the marina’s breakwaters in calm conditions and venture ashore to take in the atmosphere; there are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.

Isola Vivara is a small islet attached to Procida by a footbridge. We recommend mooring at Chiaiolella and wander over to the nature reserve of Vivara in the early evening when it is cooler.

Sail on a yacht charter in Procida
Corricella

Ischia

One of the more popular islands in this archipelago is volcanic but green Ischia. It can easily be explored from the numerous harbours including Casamicciola or Forio D’Ischia. Porto d’Ischia is the main port but can become overcrowded in the summer.

Take a dip in one of the many hot springs on the island or visit Castello Aragonese – a romantic medieval fort. Or venture to the quiet fishing village of Sant’Angelo on the southernmost tip of Ischia.

Capri

Arguably the most famous island in Italy, Capri evokes images of luxury, style and majestic scenery. It is best visited by boat but can be expensive to moor during high season.

It is worth visiting for its breathtaking rugged beauty, and especially for the well known Blue Grotto – a marine cavern on the northwest coast that is well frequented by tourists. 

Sail to Capri island in Italy
Beautiful Capri island

Glide up Monte Solaro on the chairlift for spectacular sea views or enjoy a coffee in a hilltop cafe with views over to Mount Vesuvius.

A yacht charter to Sicily is full of rich history, culture, geological interest and tasty food. Its diverse landscapes include the active Mount Etna and Stromboli volcanos, cliffs popular with divers and golden inland fields.

The fertile soil and expanse of coastline in this region means Sicily is perfect for foodies – expect great produce including citrus fruit, wine, cakes, desserts, tuna and swordfish.

Sicily
San Vito Lo Capo Sicily

Portorosa, Palermo or Capo d’Orlando will be your starting point for a yacht charter in Sicilly and the Aeolian Islands. Sail west from Palermo to the jagged coastlines and sandy beaches of the Egadi Islands and stop at Marsala – home of the famous wine. 

Or take a passage of 17nm from Capo d’Orlando to the Aeolian Islands – a favourite retreat of the rich and famous.

The Aeolians, or Lipari Islands, are a group of small volcanic islands including Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi. They got their name from Aeolus – the god of the winds, mentioned in the Greek epic The Odyssey.

Stromboli volcano, Aeolian Islands
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Cruise around the shimmering blue waters and enjoy the scenery; these islands are best explored by boat. 

Eat delicious local food such as arancini, goats cheese, Malvasia wine and cannoli in the restaurants on Lipari. If you fancy wearing off a big lunch, hike up Stromboli on a sunset hike.

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