Tuscany Planet

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Gorgona Island, what to do, what to see, how to get there

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The Island of Gorgona is the smallest of the seven major islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. The island is located in the Ligurian Sea, just in front of Livorno 34 kilometers from the coast. It is the northernmost of the Tuscan islands. From an administrative point of view, the Island of Gorgona is part of the municipality of Livorno.

La Gorgona is a very beautiful island, entirely covered with vegetation, with an indented coast where various coves and inlets follow one another. On the island there are also some reliefs and the highest peak reaches 254 meters above sea level. The naturalistic context is remarkable because the island has remained substantially uncontaminated also because the population is very low. The inhabitants of the island of Gorgona are about 70; it is a group of fishermen, many of whom among other things do not reside permanently there. On the island of Gorgona there is a prison which among other things is the last of the island prison still active in Italy.

Given the need to protect the island’s environment and the presence of the penitentiary, the authorities have imposed limits on access to the island. Arrival on the island today must be authorized by the Penitentiary Direction and the Tuscan Archipelago Park Authority.


The history of the Island of Gorgona is a cyclical history made up of attempts at population and subsequent abandonments. In fact, communities of monks or peasants have settled on the island several times and it has been abandoned several times. For some centuries it also suffered from pirate raids who made it a base for their raids.

The first settlements date back to the Neolithic; then the island was sporadically frequented by Etruscans and Romans. The name “Gorgona” seems to have nothing to do with the Gorgons of Greek mythology. Here for several centuries there was a monastery that we have news of since the 5th century.

In the fourteenth century the Carthusians settled there but they left a century later. There were several attempts to make the island habitable by reinforcing its coasts with some towers but they were not too lucky. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the Grand Duke of Tuscany sent peasants to the island. The attempt to start agricultural production did not bring great results but those farmers became fishermen giving rise to the current country. In 1889 the penitentiary of the island of Gorgona was finally established, which was originally a branch of that of Pianosa.

Gorgona (Photo by Giovanni Spinozzi / CC BY)

What to see and what to do on the Island of Gorgona

The main reason for vacationing in Gorgona is the unspoiled nature of the island. Those who visit the island of Gorgona can admire a small naturalistic paradise surrounded by a wonderful sea. As this is a protected area, many activities are strictly prohibited. You cannot fish, sail and dive up to one kilometer from the coast. The only access takes place near Cala dello Scalo and is strictly controlled by the authorities in charge.

Excursions to Gorgona

The Tuscan Archipelago Park Authority organizes excursions with authorized guides who accompany visitors along paths identified in agreement with the prison management. Trekking on the island of Gorgona you can admire a luxuriant nature with a dense Mediterranean scrub and tall trees such as pines and holm oaks. There are many species of plants and a very rich fauna. Many birds choose it to make their nests, also because the island is on the route of many migratory flows. Obviously, the seabed is also home to an extremely rich and varied fauna. Among the most evocative places along the coast are Cala Scirocco, Cala Maestra and Cala Martina.

Torre Vecchia

Perched on a spur of rock, the Torre Vecchia overlooks the western side of the island in a picturesque position overlooking the sea. This tower was built by the Pisans during the thirteenth century. Its main function was to offer a lookout point on the coast and on the stretch of sea between the Gorgona and Corsica. Given its position, however, it could also perform defensive functions in case of enemy incursions. Partially in ruins, the tower has a mighty polygonal shoe base that adapts perfectly to the shape of the underlying rock.

Torre Nuova

The Torre Nuova is located on the eastern side of the island, exactly on the opposite side from the Old Tower. Definitely more recent than the other, this tower was built by the Medici in the second half of the seventeenth century. The hope of the Grand Dukes was to provide the island with a better defense, especially on this side which was essentially devoid of fortifications. The tower was equipped with cannons capable of hitting any enemy ships. On July 13, 1783, however, lightning struck his powder magazine causing a huge explosion that caused extensive damage to the structure. Abandoned during the nineteenth century, the tower underwent rapid deterioration but, fortunately, towards the end of the twentieth century, it underwent some restorations that allowed the recovery of the complex.

How to get to the island of Gorgona

As mentioned, all visits to the Gorgona Island are strictly regulated by the Penitentiary Direction and the Tuscan Archipelago Park Authority. It is the latter who organizes trips to the island. Excursions are scheduled only in the period between March and October, with the exception of August, and are not every day. In addition, there is a maximum number of 100 visitors per day so it is definitely advisable to book well in advance. The departure is from Livorno and an hour and a half by ferry to reach the island of Gorgona. The visits are daily with departure in the morning and return in the afternoon. Since the visit includes a trekking route, it is necessary to be dressed and equipped appropriately.

If you want to visit the island of Gorgona I leave you the link to the booking page.

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