If you are searching for somewhere a little bit different for a sailing holiday, you should take a look at what the Aeolian Islands have to offer. This Italian archipelago is home to some of Europe's most beautiful scenery and also has the added kudos of exclusivity.
While it is not one of the Mediterranean's major tourism destinations, the area has been recognised for its stunning landscape and environmental importance. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it being "an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena".
You don't need to worry about the continuing activity, as there is no chance of being caught up in a major eruption during your break. However, you will be treated to the spectacular sight of molten rocks being propelled into the night sky.
Another thing that should not concern you unduly is the sailing conditions in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, as even relatively inexperienced skippers should be able to cope with them. The tidal range is very small and the wind speed is between 20 and 25 knots during the summer months, when rain is rare and the temperature can reach 30°C.
A day spent exploring Panarea is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your sailing holiday in Italy. The small island is renowned as an upmarket destination for affluent tourists and has all the facilities you would associate with that, such as stylish nightclubs and swanky restaurants.
However, its main attraction is the idyllic La Spiaggetta beach, where you can laze on the sand or go snorkelling. If you enjoy getting active, take a walk to Punta Milazzese, where archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Bronze Age village, and up to the northern tip of the island, where you will see volcanic steam rising from the ground.
Located close to Panarea is the tiny isle of Basiluzzo. It is now uninhabited, but was once the site of a Roman dockyard, the remains of which you can see beneath the crystal clear waters as you sail around the rocky shoreline.
This island is where you will find Europe's second-largest active volcano - and it certainly makes for a spectacular sight as you sail towards it. It rises 3,034 ft above the clear blue sea and is all the more noticeable for the steam and smoke billowing out of the summit, as it has done since its current eruption began 2,000 years ago.
A walking tour of Stromboli is a great way to spend a few hours, as it will take you through the green landscape and around the lower parts of the volcano. End the afternoon by relaxing on a black-sand beach, before heading to one of the restaurants to enjoy some traditional local cuisine as you watch the glowing red lava thrown into the night sky.
The second largest of the Aeolian Islands after Lipari, Salina is one of the prettiest places you are ever likely to visit. It was formed from six volcanoes, but its landscape is very different from the lunar terrain seen on the other isles.
It is largely covered in greenery, with poplar and chestnut forests interspersed with olive groves and vineyards. Hire a bike in one of the small villages and you can explore the scenery at your leisure, but make sure you include the salt lake after which the island is named and the pilgrimage site of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Terzito on your route.