When it comes to planning holidays to Italy, it’s likely you’ll reach for your guide books on Venice, Rome and Amalfi before any other. But have you thought about visiting one of Italy’s islands?
Sardinia and Sicily lie to the west of Italy, south of French-owned Corsica. Both have airports and ports that can be accessed from the UK and mainland Italy, meaning it’s easier than ever to broaden your travel horizons and try somewhere new.
To give you a taste of what they’re like we’ve whipped up guides to each island, as well as tasty recipes – if you’re struggling to decide on where to try, you really can go with your gut!
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Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and lies next to the tip of Italy’s boot. To the north, its historic capital city Palermo has a 12th century cathedral housing royal tombs and the huge Teatro Massimo (the perfect place to catch an opera!).
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To the south of the island you’ll find quiet beaches ringed by the sparkling Mediterranean, and if you fly into Catania on the eastern side of the island you’ll be close to Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano.
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One of the best things about Sicily is the weather. High temperatures last much longer here than in northern and central Italy – if you’re lucky, it’s possible to sunbathe and swim in the sea in October!
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Food-wise, island-grown ingredients are key to most dishes: shellfish and citrus for mains, with pistachios, hazlenuts, ricotta and almonds found in desserts.
Fancy a taste? Make this Sicilian almond dessert.
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Sardinia has nearly 2,000km of coastline and some of the finest beaches in Europe (think white sands and dazzling emerald waters!).
Beyond blissful beaches and pink granite cliffs, the island has magnificent mountains that are ideal for hiking and the area is renowned for offering great outdoor adventures.
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Much like the blend of coast vs. country, towns and cities in Sardinia offer perfect holiday contrasts. Costa Smeralda is a notorious celeb spot with elite hotels, 5-star beaches and models and actos galore. Away from here, the capital of Cagliari offers an insight into the past, with a medieval quarter (known as ‘Castello’) with narrow streets and a 13th century cathedral.
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Visit in May and June to see the island at its best, but avoid it in August unless you want to be swept up in one great big Italian holiday (lots of families from the mainland choose to holiday here in summer!).
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When it comes to food, Sardinian plates and glasses are packed with local produce, including their very own wines (look out for Vermentino for white wine drinkers and Cannonau for red) and cheese galore.
Fancy a taste? Make this Sardinian pasta dish.