What to see and what to do on the Island of Capraia
The Island of Capraia is one of the seven main islands of the Tuscan Archipelago but it has not always been this way. Until 1925 the island was part of the province of Genoa and was therefore considered in the Liguria region. Today Capraia is included in the province of Livorno as well as the Gorgona, Elba, Pianosa and Montecristo.
Capraia is the farthest Tuscan island ever from the mainland as it is located 64 kilometers away from Livorno and 53 from Piombino. The Gorgona, which is located above Capraia, is 37 kilometers away, Elba 39, while Corsica is 31 km away, practically the island of Capraia is closer to France than to Italy.
It is the third largest island of our archipelago; it is an island of volcanic origin with a mountainous conformation that has the highest peak in Monte Castello (447 meters). There are clear signs of the ancient volcano in Cala Rossa where the red of the coast clearly contrasts with the blue of the sea. Its coasts are high and rocky with a very limited number of beaches.
Many consider it the wildest of the Tuscan islands. Its natural environment is very rich. The island is part of the Pelagos Sanctuary for the protection of marine mammals in the Mediterranean and in fact dolphins, fin whales, sperm whales are often sighted around its coasts and recently the monk seal has also returned to be seen. Its seabed is very popular with snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, thanks to the variety and beauty of the island’s marine ecosystem. Many species can also be admired on the island, especially birds, including the rare Corsican gull, the peregrine falcon and the raven.
The island of Capraia has been frequented since the second millennium BC. and later used as a stopover by the Etruscans. The Romans occupied it from the third century BC, making it a naval base to fight Carthaginian piracy. In the 6th century AD it became the refuge for a community of Christian anchorites fleeing persecution. Later, Cenobite monks also arrived and founded the monastery of Santo Stefano.
In the 9th century, the island suffered the raids of Saracen pirates and was therefore abandoned. Two centuries later, the Pisans managed to take possession of the island but, after the defeat in the Battle of Meloria (1284), they lost the island which fell into the hands of Genoa. Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Genoese built the fortress of San Giorgio and some watchtowers that were used to counter piracy.
Subsequently it was administratively linked to Corsica and for a short period it was also French territory. After the Congress of Vienna it became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. After the unification of Italy it was included in the province of Genoa and only from 1925 was it merged with that of Livorno.
Sea and beaches of Capraia
The island of Capraia has a coast made up of suggestive cliffs overlooking the sea, the result of the work of the ancient volcano and the erosion of wind and sea. Along its entire perimeter there are numerous coves of great beauty that have a single common denominator: a wonderful sea! The main way to reach these coves and enjoy the sea of Capraia is the boat but there are also paths that allow you to go down to the rocks. Most of the beaches in Capraia are located on the eastern side and in the southernmost part, but something is also found on the west side and the only sandy beach, Cala della Mortola, is located in the northernmost part.
Cala San Francesco
The first beach is that of Cala San Francesco. Located at the foot of the Convent of Sant’Antonio, the cove can be quickly reached from the town thanks to a short path that leads up to the cliff.
This access to the sea is located under Forte San Giorgio, near the so-called Torretta del Bagno. The cleanliness of the water and the presence of some caves make this stretch of coast an excellent choice for those who want to dive in Capraia.
Cala dello Zurletto
Cala dello Zurletto is also located on the eastern side, but a little further south than the inhabited center. It is a completely rocky cove, with a beach made of stones. The sea is fantastic and there are lots of fish. To reach it by land you have to walk for twenty minutes on a path that is not always easy.
Cala del Ceppo
A lot further south, always to the east, we also find the wide Cala del Ceppo that goes from Punta della Civitata to Punta del Patello. There is a small beach of pebbles overlooking a fabulous blue sea. The view is also truly remarkable.
Some beaches are located in the port area of Capraia. The first is La Grotta which directly overlooks the base of the port. It is an equipped beach: here there is a bathing establishment with umbrellas, sunbeds and services.
Spiaggia Il Frate
On the other side of the port we find the Il Frate beach. It is a small pebble beach which guarantees easy access to the sea.
Cala della Mortola
Cala della Mortola is located in the northernmost area of the island of Capraia. It is a sandy or pebble beach (depending on the sea) with a beautiful sandy bottom and a beautiful sea. It is not easily accessible so much so that many reach it from the sea. In any case, the effort is worthwhile because the beauty of this place is indisputable.
What to see in Capraia
The island of Capraia is ideal for a holiday dedicated to the sea and relaxation, but there are also some monuments that are definitely worth visiting. Among these are some churches, the castle and a series of coastal towers.
Forte di San Giorgio
Dominating the island and the town, the Fort of San Giorgio was built by the Genoese starting in 1540. The castle is located in a strategic position, on a hill overlooking the port. Today that strategic position is no longer needed, but it certainly has great value as a panoramic position.
Towers of Capraia
The defense and sighting system of the island of Capraia made use of a series of coastal towers scattered along the perimeter of the island. Near Punta della Teglia, the northern summit of the island, is the Torre delle Barbici which was built in 1699 to watch over the Corsican canal. The second tower overlooks the harbor, the Torre del Porto. Perfectly preserved, especially thanks to careful restoration, this tower has a circular base and dates back to 1516. On the eastern side, at the foot of the Fort of San Giorgio, we find the Torretta del Bagno, a tall and narrow cylindrical tower. The fourth and last tower, the Torre dello Zenobito, is located on the Punta dello Zenobito, the southernmost point of the whole island.
Chiesa di San Nicola
The Church of San Nicola is located in the town of the island of Capraia. In Baroque style, the church was completed in the 18th century. According to tradition, the church owes its name to a statue of St. Nicholas fished out of the sea. Inside there are some interesting works including an Annunciation from the 18th century, and a Virgin with Saint Catherine and Saint Dominic (1665).
Chiesa di Sant’Antonio
A second Baroque church that deserves to be visited on the island of Capraia is the one that is part of the monastery of Sant’Antonio. The Church of Sant’Antonio dates back to the second half of the 17th century. Inside there is a canvas depicting the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and a wooden statue of Saint Anthony.
Chiesa di Santo Stefano
The Church of Santo Stefano is located outside the town. It can be reached with a nice walk along a path immersed in the nature of the island. It is a small, bare-looking church but it is also very impressive for the context in which it is located.
How to get to Capraia
Ferries to Capraia depart from Livorno and are operated by Toremar. The connection between Livorno and Capraia is daily and there is usually a departure in the morning from Livorno, while the return journey is made in the afternoon. The ferry trip between Livorno and the Island of Capraia takes about two and a half hours. For information on tickets and to book I leave you the link to the Toremar website.