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Isola del Giglio: beaches, what to see, how to get there

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What to see and what to do on the Giglio Island

The beautiful Isola del Giglio is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea just in front of Monte Argentario. With its 21 square kilometers of surface, it is the second largest island in the entire Tuscan Archipelago: only the Island of Elba is larger. From an administrative point of view, Isola del Giglio is a municipality that is part of the province of Grosseto.

Il Giglio is a real pearl. With its naturalistic beauties, a wonderful sea, its picturesque port and its pretty villages, the Island of Giglio is one of the most beautiful and fascinating tourist destinations in all of Tuscany.

The island has a largely wild area, with a hilly conformation, perfect for excursions on foot along the many paths that cross it.

Its sea is transparent and crystalline; it is no coincidence that this is also a very popular destination for diving enthusiasts. Its beaches are among the most beautiful in all of Tuscany.

Definitely worth seeing is Giglio Porto, with its colorful houses overlooking the sea, and the two villages of Giglio Castello, a real medieval gem, and Giglio Campese.


Like other islands of the archipelago, the Isola del Giglio has also been frequented since ancient times. Inhabited since the Iron Age, the island became an important base in Roman times. The remains of a villa located near the port date back to this period. During the Middle Ages the island was dominated by the Aldobrandeschi Counts, then by Perugia, Pisa and from the 1400s by Florence. In 1544 the island of Giglio was sacked by the terrible Turkish pirate Khayr al-Din Barbarossa who kidnapped more than 700 inhabitants as slaves, killing many others at the same time. The Turkish raids lasted for another two hundred years, until the end of the eighteenth century.

On January 13, 2012, the Giglio Island sadly jumped to the headlines for the unfortunate sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship captained by Captain Schettino. The ship, getting too close to the coast for futile reasons, hit the rocks, partially sinking. The accident caused 32 victims and the ship remained aground and half-sunk until 22 July 2014, when she was recovered and transported to the port of Genoa thanks to an unprecedented operation.

Isola del Giglio
Isola del Giglio

Sea and beaches of the Isola del Giglio

Holidays on the Giglio Island above all means taking a beach holiday. The coast of Isola del Giglio measures approximately 28 kilometers. Along this perimeter bays, coves and cliffs alternate. Most of the beaches are made of rocks but there is no shortage of sandy beaches. Generally, in the western part there are higher cliffs, while in the eastern part access to the sea is much easier.

There are four main beaches: Spiaggia del Campese, which is located along the north-west coast and is the largest on the island, Spiaggia dell’Arenella, Spiaggia delle Cannelle and Spiaggia della Caldane which are located on the eastern side. In addition to these four beaches, there are numerous other coves where you can swim in the sea.

The sea on Isola del Giglio is always beautiful, therefore the choice of one beach over another depends on the location and its characteristics (sand or rocks, free beach or establishments).

Baia and Spiaggia del Campese

Located in the center of the Bay of Campese of the same name, the Spiaggia del Campese is the largest on the island. It is the city beach of Giglio Campese. This beach extends for a length of over 500 meters and is between Punta Faraglione and the Torre del Campese, one of the symbols of the island. It is a sandy beach with coarse and dark sand. The sea is definitely beautiful with clear and transparent water. The seabed quickly reaches a depth of one to one and a half meters. Most of the Campese beach is occupied by bathing establishments but there are also small stretches of free beach. The services are many and varied: from the rental of sunbeds and umbrellas, to shops, bars and restaurants, nothing is missing. At the foot of the tower there is also a small port. If you want, here you can rent a boat or a taxi boat service to reach the other beaches of the island. Here you can also do diving and sailing school.

Since it is exposed to the west, this beach is able to offer magnificent sunsets over the sea. In the background you can also admire some of the islands close to Giglio such as the island of Montecristo and Corsica.

A last great advantage of the Baia del Campese is the ease with which it can be reached. You can get there by taking a bus to Giglio Porto or by car following the signs for Giglio Campese.

Spiaggia dell’Arenella

Spiaggia dell’Arenella is located on the western side of the island, about 3.5 km north of the port. With its 100 meters in length, this is the third largest beach after that of Campese and that of Cannelle. The Arenella beach develops within the bay of the same name between the rock called “la Tartaruga” (“the Turtle”… so called because of its shape) and an ancient granite quarry from the Roman era. Arenella is characterized by a rather coarse sand of granite origin. Its seabed is very varied with an alternation of sandy stretches at times with stones and rocks. The water near the beach is not deep and this makes it a perfect beach for children as well. On the beach there is an equipped bathhouse but there is also a piece of free beach.

Spiaggia dello Scalettino

Spiaggia dello Scalettino is one of the beaches that we find in Giglio Porto. This small beach is located right next to the harbor at the end of the promenade heading north. It is a small and thin strip of sand between some rocks and a pier of the port. Despite the proximity of the port, the sea is beautiful. Access to the beach is free and, given that it is located in the city, very easy.

Spiaggia del Saraceno

Spiaggia del Saraceno is located just across the harbor from the Scalettino beach. It is a very small beach located within a bay enclosed by rocks and picturesque houses overlooking the sea. The beach takes its name from the nearby Torre del Saraceno. Not far away, towards the south-east, are the rocks of Le Scole, which were made famous by the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia.

Spiaggia delle Cannelle

The beautiful Spiaggia delle Cannelle is located a little further south of Giglio Porto. With its fine white sand and its beautiful sea it does not have much to envy to the tropical paradises or the beaches of Sardinia. This beach is perfect for a family with children because the water is not deep and there is a bathhouse with related services. Immediately further north is the small Cala dello Smeraldo which is usually much less crowded. The Cannelle Beach can be reached by taxi boat or by traditional taxi, but not by bus.

Spiaggia delle Caldane

Continuing south, past Punta di Capo Marino, you reach the Spiaggia delle Caldane. Another real corner of paradise, this small beach is framed by a dense and wild Mediterranean scrub. The sea is gorgeous and the sand is fine and soft. There is a bathing establishment where you can rent umbrellas and sunbeds but part of the beach is free to access. There are two alternatives to reach the beach: on foot or by sea. If you decide to walk there, you need to prepare for a 20-minute walk along a path. By sea, you can take advantage of the taxi boat service which guarantees a connection in 10 minutes with Giglio Porto.

What to see on the Isola del Giglio

Tourism on the Giglio Island is mainly linked to the sea, but in reality there are also many interesting things to see and places to visit. There are also several trails, perfect for making excursions to discover the historical places and the most beautiful places on the island.

Giglio Porto

Arriving on the island of Giglio, the first place you can visit is Giglio Porto. With its colorful houses overlooking the sea, this small and picturesque port will welcome you to the island giving you the first emotions. Worth seeing are the sixteenth-century Torre del Saracino and the remains of the ancient Roman villa built by the Domizi Enobarbi who also had a villa on the island of Giannutri.

Giglio Castello

Giglio Castello stands on a relief in the center of the island. This is one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the entire province of Grosseto. Enclosed within its solid stone walls, Giglio Castello truly preserves its historic layout made up of narrow and irregular streets. To see the Rocca Aldobrandesca and the Church of San Pietro which preserves some important relics.

Giglio Castello
Giglio Castello (Photo by Nicoletti Mussetti)

Giglio Campese

The third and last inhabited center of the island is Giglio Campese. It is the most recent of the three villages of Giglio but over the years it has had a strong development in the tourist sense to the point of becoming the main holiday destination on the island. Its symbol is the Torre del Campese, which was built by Cosimo I de’ Medici in the second half of the sixteenth century.

What to do on the Isola del Giglio

We have seen the most beautiful beaches of the Giglio Island and the main things to see, but what is there to do at Giglio? Many activities are inevitably linked to the sea. There are lots of water sports to do starting with sailing and surfing. Then there are the diving: with its wonderful seabed, the Island of Giglio is a privileged destination for divers. Unlike other islands in Tuscany, in Giglio you can go fishing. You can organize boat or kayak trips or go swimming and snorkeling. The hinterland is instead a mix of trekking routes, many of which are not too demanding and suitable for everyone.

How to get around on the island of Giglio

The island of Giglio is crossed by 22 kilometers of roads. The island is equipped with various public transport services. There is a bus that regularly connects the three inhabited centers, there are taxis and also a taxi boat service that guarantees connections by sea. Alternatively, you can rent a car, a scooter or a bicycle on site and move freely. If you decide to use your own car, remember to book your seat on the ferry well in advance.

Isola del Giglio
Isola del Giglio (Photo by Nicoletti Mussetti)

How to get to the Isola del Giglio

To get to the island of Giglio you have to take a ferry from Porto Santo Stefano which is located on Monte Argentario. It is not a particularly long crossing because the Argentario is located right in front of the Giglio. The ferry journey takes one hour. There are two shipping companies that guarantee connections between Porto Santo Stefano and Giglio: Toremar and Maregiglio. In high season (i.e. in summer) there are up to 12 departures every day while during the less touristy period these departures are reduced to 4. You can buy your ticket directly in the offices of Toremar and Maregiglio which are located near the pier from which the ferry departs, or on the respective websites (Toremar, Maregiglio). In any case, the advice is to book your seat on the ferry in advance, especially if you also have to board a car or motorbike.

Where to stay on the Isola del Giglio

The island of Giglio offers many options for accommodation as well. As already mentioned there are three different inhabited centers where you will find most of the hotels on the island. To these are added some other structures. Each inhabited center of the Giglio has very specific characteristics to be taken into consideration when making the choice of the hotel. Giglio Castello is located inland: it is certainly the quietest place but also the farthest from the coast. Giglio Porto is the easiest to reach and is also located directly on the sea. On the other side of the island is Giglio Campese which in turn is located on the coast and has its own very beautiful beach.
In any case, all the localities located on the Giglio Island are equipped with hotels, bed and breakfasts and holiday homes.

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