This beautiful archipelago of three islands, 36km offshore, is a picturesque composition of ragged cliffs, sandy coves and thick pine woods, surrounded by the glittering dark-blue sea. Unfortunately, the islands are no secret, and in July and August some 100,000 holidaymakers head over. If you want to savour the islands in tranquillity, visit during the shoulder season. In the low season most tourist facilities close down and the few permanent residents resume their quiet and isolated lives. The islands' main facilities are on San Domino, the largest and lushest island, formerly used to grow crops. It's ringed by alternating sandy beaches and limestone cliffs; inland grows thick maquis flecked with rosemary and foxglove. The centre harbours a nondescript small town with several hotels. Small San Nicola island is the traditional administrative centre; a castle-like cluster of medieval buildings rises up from its rocks. The third island, Capraia, is uninhabited.