Italy's top islands make great vacation destinations and most of them have great beaches that are especially popular in summer. These Italian islands can be visited almost all year, although winter can be very cold and some services close in winter.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the 5th largest in western Europe. Unless you have more than a week to visit Sicily, it's best to visit one or two parts rather than trying to see the whole island. Highlights of Sicily include the seaside resort towns of Taormina and Cefalu, the Greek Temples at Agrigento, the cities of Palermo and Syracuse, the Baroque towns of the Noto Valley, and Mount Etna, Europe's biggest active volcano. Sicily can be reached by air arriving in Catania or Palermo airports, by ferry, or by train or by car crossing the bridge that connects the mainland from Calabria to Messina in the island's northeast.
The island of Sardinia, the Mediterranean's second largest, is known for its beautiful beaches but the interior of the island holds many interesting sights and is steeped in traditions. Highlights include its beaches, the prehistoric stone towers called nuraghi that dot the island, the mountain towns like Orgosolo whose walls are covered with murals, the seaside town of Alghero, and Cagliari, the island's largest city. Sardinia can be reached by air arriving in Cagliari or Alghero or by ferry from the mainland, Sicily, or Corsica.
The island of Capri has been a popular vacation destination since Roman times and continues to draw big crowds, mainly coming for the day. Spend a couple of nights so you can better appreciate its charm in the evening when the tourists have left. Highlights of a visit include the famous Blue Grotto, Villa San Michele, the towns of Anacapri and Capri, and picturesque rock formations off the coast. Capri, just off the Amalfi Coast, is reached by hydrofoil or ferry (more frequent in summer) from Naples, Sorrento, or Positano. The nearby island of Ischia, known for its thermal spas, is also worth a visit and sees far fewer tourists than Capri.
There are several islands that can be visited as day trips from Venice. Murano, the most popular, is known for its glass-making and you'll find glass in shops all over the island. Some factories allow visitors and there's a glass museum. Burano Island is known for its handmade lace and colorful houses. Torcello is a nature reserve and its 7th-century Cathedral has spectacular 11th and 12th-century Byzantine mosaics.
Elba is the largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park and Italy's third largest island. Elba is known as the place where Napolean was exiled. Highlights include more than 70 good beaches along the coast, good places for hiking and trekking, picturesque villages, boat excursions in the archipelago, and lots of activities and events during summer. Ferries run between Piombino on the mainland and Elba's port town of Portoferraio.