The pearls of the Tuscan archipelago
Tuscan Archipelago is made up of seven major islands (Capraia, Elba, Gorgona, Giannutri, Giglio, Montecristo and Pianosa), plus a series of smaller islands and rocks distributed between Tuscany and Corsica. The islands of Tuscany boast some of the beaches most beautiful in the region and a great geological and biological diversity; that’s why in 1996 the Parco nazionale dell’Arcipelago Toscano was established with the aim to protect and preserve these environments.
The 7 major islands of the Tuscan archipelago:
Closer to Corsica than to Tuscany, Capraia is an island with a wild nature characterized by reliefs (up to 447 meters of Monte Castello) and cliffs overlooking the sea. This island is the third largest of the archipelago with its 19 square kilometers and is a very popular destination for excursions in search of rare botanical species and wild animals. The only settlement is located in the north east area where a gulf has given the possibility to create a protected port. The coasts of the island of Capraia are high and rocky, if you are looking for a beach to relax facing the sea, continue further.
Elba is the largest island in the archipelago and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tuscany. Over the years, Elba has equipped itself in every way to accommodate more and more tourists who take a ferry every year to reach its beaches and its crystal clear sea. The beaches are a real strength of the Island of Elba which has many, suitable for any need: there are sandy beaches with shallow waters perfect for a holiday with children, beaches with gravel and pebbles and others with cliffs and seabed to be explored by diving or snorkeling.
The islands of the Tuscan Archipelago are not only paradises for lovers of the sea and nature, but also of places rich in history; in fact, among them there are dozens of prehistoric, Etruscan and Roman sites. The island of Giannutri in particular was inhabited in Roman times and here are the remains of a Roman villa as well as traces of some landing places dating back to the same period. This is the southernmost of the 7 major islands and can be reached by ferries that leave from the Argentario.
With its crystal clear sea and its wonderful beaches, Giglio is a real gem. This island is located in the southern part of the archipelago just in front of the Argentario and in fact it can be reached quickly by taking a ferry from Porto Santo Stefano. On the island there are several equipped beaches, among which we mention Arenella, Caldane, Campese and Cannelle, and several delightful coves. In addition to the beautiful beaches and unspoiled nature, the island of Giglio also has some very pleasant centers such as the medieval village of Giglio Castello which is located in the center of the island.
Gorgona is the smallest of the major islands of the Tuscan Archipelago and the one located further north. The island has an uncontaminated nature and is completely covered by the Mediterranean scrub. Her eyou can admire the Torre Vecchia (old tower) built by the Pisans, the Torre Nuova (new tower) of the Medici era and the Church of San Gorgonio. If you want to visit this island, you must take into account here there is a prison still active, and the only way for tourists to reach it is by booking a visit organized by the Park Authority in agreement with the Prison Police; among other things, places are limited, so you should book in advance.
Montecristo is considered one of the most important from the biodiversity point of view and that’s why it is protected with particular attention. The visits are strictly regulated: it is forbidden to fish, you cannot swim or take plants or anything else that is on the island. Montecristo is a really wild island, with a mountainous conformation, where you can admire some species of plants and animals including the peculiar Montecristo Goat: a destination of sure interest for trekking and nature lovers!
As we said, on the Island of Gorgona there is a penitentiary in operation but once it was not the only one of the Tuscan island used for this purpose. Until the 1990s, Capraia and Pianosa also hosted prisons, so 3 out of 7 islands were used for this purpose! For a long time, fishing was prohibited along the coasts of Pianosa and this helped the island to kept intact its sea full of species of great interest; Pianosa Island is also very popular with bird watchers.
To book a guided tour of one of the islands of the archipelago, I refer you to the official website of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park: isplepark.it.