Lampedusa - Italy

Though Italian in name, the tiny, sunlit island of Lampedusa is geologically part of Africa, nearer (72 miles) to the coast of Tunisia than to Sicily to the north. It is the main island of Pelagie archipelago. Before 1843 Lampedusa was uninhabited but now there is a village, also named Lampedusa, in the south-east, with a population of 4.000 that swells to 10.000 in the summer. The island has mostly rocky shores with spectacular cliffs at the western end. But almost no trees at all, due to deforestation at the beginning of this century. Swimming and diving from the rocky shore is excellent but it also has some excellent sandy beaches - including the remote Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) where you can also find turtles. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans Arabs and even pirates were among earlier visitors, while today's population of just 5,500 is descended from 19th century Sicilian settlers - and was once under the stewardship of the family of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, acclaimed author of The Leopard. A simple, unspoilt tranquillity, intriguing legends, rich archaeological remains and limpid blue seas make this one of the Mediterranean's most delightful and best-kept island secrets.