In the pre-internet years of my youth, my parents chose some of our travel destinations based on articles in magazines like Conde Nast Traveler. This is how my Mom found out about a cluster of small islands off the Gargano Peninsula on the east coast of Italy called the Tremiti Islands, Le Isole Tremiti.
We spent a few summer vacations there when my sister and I were teens, and we LOVED it. She and I never stopped talking about going back one day, and this past summer, we finally returned with our parents, husbands, and kids.
J and I really enjoy a hectic travel schedule to start off every Family Adventure (sarcasm)! The plan was: land in Milan, train from airport to Milano Centrale train station, take train that requires a pre-booked reservation from Milano to Pescara, switch in Pescara to regional train from Pescara to Termoli, meet my parents at hotel, shower, go out for a wonderful 1st night in Italy dinner with pasta and lots of local wine, then crash and catch ferry to the Tremiti Islands in the morning.
Well……Our late night flight from EWR to Milano Malpensa was slightly delayed due to thunderstorms. No surprise then that while on the train from the airport to the train station in Milano, we realized we weren’t going to make it in time to catch our train south. There were no other seats available to book on ANY trains going south for the rest of the day. So we did what any weary travelers would do – we got off the train halfway to Milano Centrale, got back on a train returning to the airport, booked a rental car at the airport, and DROVE the 6 hours to Pescara.
Thankfully, the girls napped in the car, we discovered the magic of Italian Autostrada rest stops and arrived in Pescara with juuuuuust enough time to ditch the rental, run into the station, and catch the LAST train of the day to Termoli. I think we finally arrived in Termoli just before midnight, a nearly 24 hour travel day.
My parents had a pizza and a bottle of Prosecco waiting for us at the hotel, thank goodness. While it wasn’t the relaxing 1st day in Italy we were hoping for, we were at least laying our heads down that night in country (My sister and her family didn’t make it to Italy that day. They were spending the night in Barcelona, Spain – the closest they could get – and were hoping to make the afternoon boat the next day to the Islands. At the time, we were so worried for them, but spoiler, they made it!)
The next morning, we walked with our luggage down to the Termoli port to catch the Tirrenia Hydrofoil out to San Domino, one of the 2 inhabited islands of the Tremiti, and the one with the majority of the accommodations for visitors. Tickets for the Hydrofoil can be booked in advance on the website or at the port on the day of departure.
Once we arrived, our friends from the Hotel Le Viole picked us up to take us up to the village at the top of the island. My parents were staying at Le Viole on this trip, but this is also the hotel we stayed at as a family every summer many years ago. There are not enough family rooms there for my sister’s family and ours, so she and I rented two adjoining apartments a quick walk from the hotel. After we checked in, dropped our bags, and had lunch at A Furmicula, we all walked back down to the Port to meet my sister and her family. A Furmicula is a Ristorante/Pizzeria that also turns into a discoteca at night. It is owned by the same family that owns Hotel Le Viole, and we chose to eat there every night on this trip even though there are numerous other restaurants on the islands.
Our days on the Tremiti generally followed a similar schedule. Wake up, decide which cove or beach to spend the day at, have an awesome day, enjoy a family dinner, evening passeggiata and gelato. Repeat. The Tremiti are not fancy but they are stunningly beautiful. We spent the majority of our time on San Domino. The entire island is easily accessible on foot. The village sits at the top of the island, and there are numerous paths leading down to all the swimming coves. Cala della Arena is the largest sandy beach on the island with another smaller sandy beach area at Cala Matano. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas at these spots. The rest of the island is rock slabs that slope gently down to the water. Most visitors just find a flat piece of rock to lay down a towel, but we did notice some platforms at other coves that were available to rent for the day as well – like the one in the picture below.
In addition to swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and more swimming, we also did some sightseeing and a little bit of shopping. We spent one morning on a short hike out to the old lighthouse at the southern tip of San Domino. Another morning, we took a boat over to San Nicola and explored the old fortress and abbey. There aren’t many stores on the islands besides souvenir shops, but Lo Scrigno on San Domino is a store that makes all their own sea inspired jewelry. It’s beautiful, and we always buy something.
In our family, it’s not a vacation without an afternoon cocktail hour, and we have a few favorite spots on the Islands. Up in the village of San Domino in the main piazza is Bar Disco Diomede. My sister and I used to dance late into the night here as teens. They serve up delicious cocktails as well as aperitivo hour food bites that change daily. Also on hand, a stocked ice cream freezer for the kids’ treats.
Further up in the village is Capatosta. They are open from breakfast to late night with inventive cocktails and burgers, stuzzichini, games for the kids to play, and a hamburger eating challenge that Uncle Bro entered, but sadly did not conquer.
Closer to the port is Bar L’Approdo. Alexander, the bartender, mixes up wild concoctions! Not only is there gelato nearby for the kids here too, but there is also a shallow swimming hole that they could explore while we relaxed.
By unanimous agreement, the highlight of our trip was the day we spent on board The Victor. My family had always noticed the boats in the San Domino harbor that took visitors out on day trips around the islands with lunch on board. This trip – we finally booked a trip for ourselves on the Motonave Victor. Our group of 10 were on board with another 6. The boat spent a full day cruising among the islands and anchored at different spots throughout the day for swimming. The top deck had pillows for sunbathing, and the main deck had ample seating along the sides and in the bow for all the guests. Captain Roberto and his wife Flavia cook a gourmet multi-course lunch in the boat’s kitchen for all the guests each day complete with seemingly bottomless wine and homemade limoncello. We were also lucky enough to have an appetizer of fresh sea urchin pulled up from the sea floor while we were enjoying our first swim stop.
Leaving these beautiful islands is never easy for me, and I was so happy that my family loved it too. My girls and their cousins are already asking repeatedly to go back to the Tremiti again. Fortunately for us, our summer trip last year continued on with a second week spent in Venice and Slovenia.
What We Say about The Isole Tremiti
It’s not just the beauty that makes these islands special – it’s the people tooMom
I liked swimming at a different beach every dayBig Sis C
I loved going to the beachLil Sis M
For such a small group of islands, the Tremiti provide a variety of things to do for everyoneDad