If you are planning to spend your holidays in Tuscany, we suggest you to visit the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. In this article we will give you some interesting information about the seven islands, each of them boasting different geological, cultural and historical assets.
The Seven Pearls in the Tuscan Archipelago
There is a legend the locals still tell visitors about the Tuscan Archipelago. As you probably know, the goddess of fertility, beauty and love, Aphrodite, arose from the sea foam. At that moment, while trying to reach Eros, she lost her necklace and its pearls fell into the waves. According to the legend, each of the fallen pearls created an island of the Tuscan Archipelago.
The seven pearls we can still see today are: Elba, Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri and Gorgona. They all belong to a National Park (Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago Toscano) together with other smaller islands and rocks in their proximity (like Palmaiola and Cerboli). The park includes a marine area of more than 60.000 sea hectars, representing the largest marine park in Europe: the Pelagos Sanctuary. This marine protected area originates from an agreement between Italy, France and Monaco.
However, each island differs from the neighbours and boasts unique landscapes and cultural-historical assets. Indeed, we can find many differences in the geology, flora and fauna of these territories even if they all belong to the same area. For example, some of the islands originate from volcanos (like Capraia), while others are made of granite (like Montecristo, Giglio and Elba) or calcium. For this reasons, many are the activities visitors can join on the several islands. Not only beautiful beaches and hidden bays, but also hiking paths, museums and historical sites, diving areas and sunken relicts.
Below you can find a brief description of each island and plan your next holiday in Tuscany.
Chose one of our Boat Tour
Elba, the biggest island in the Tuscan Archipelago
This is surely the most famous island among the seven, hosting many visitors every summer. All history books mention the Elba Island. Indeed, Napoleon spent his nine month exile here after the Battle of Lipsia.
With an extension of 22,350 ha, Elba is the third biggest island in Italy after Sardinia and Sicily. It boast magnific beaches and also a mountainous area with its highest peak of Mount Capanne.
If you wish to discover this island from a different perspective, we invite you to join our Private Boat Tour to Elba. Have a look at the program for more details.
The Island of Giglio
Giglio is the second biggest pearl of the Tuscan Archipelago, boasting not only breath taking beaches but also some interesting historical sites. It is located close to Porto Santo Stefano and it has been inhabitated since Etruscan times. Do not miss the ancient borgo of Giglio Castello with its medieval Rocca, built by the Aldobrandeschi family in the 13th century. On Giglio you also find a couple of large beaches like Campese and Cannellle, together with small hidden bays for a less crowded holiday.
The vulcanic island of Capraia
Capraia is the third largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago and also the furthermost from the mainland. On the other side, it is the closest island of the archipelago to Corsica. This island boasts vulcanic origins, a rocky coastline and a small mountain chain in the central area, where hikers and wild-life lovers can have fun and admire rare endemic plants.
It features lovely tower-houses nestled close to Forte San Giorgio and a rich sea bottom, that is ideal for diving activities also for the presence of interesting submarine archeological finds.
The nature reserve of Montecristo
Since 1971 the island of Montecristo is a nature reserve. In order to preserve the biodiversity, a maximum of 1000 people can visit the island every year. To get there, you need a special permission from the Guardia Forestale. You can not fish and swim here. Moreover, it is not possible to overnight on the island.
The fact that very few people inhabitated this area over the years helped the flora and fauna remain intact. On the island you can find few buildings like a castle and a monastery. The forbidden island with its precious monastery and its pirates legends ispired the famous writer Alexandre Dumas, who chose it as a background for his novel The Count Of Montecristo (1844).
The old prison island of Pianosa
The island of Pianosa was a prison until 1999. For this reason, the place was not accesible. Like in Montecristo, this island was mostly uninhabitated. That made it easier for some fish spieces to survive and for the unique ecosystem to remain intact. In addition, it is very nice to hike on the island. The several paths on Pianosa bring you discover the penitentiary ruins and also maritime dwellings and villas ruins from the Roman period. For example, you can visit the house of Agrippa Postumus, grandchild of Augustus.
The half moon island of Giannutri
Giannutri is the southernmost island of the Tuscan Archipelago. Its half moon shape reminds of the sickle used by the greek goddess Artemis (or the Roman Diana). Among the seven islands it is the only one featuring calcareous origins. Experts even say its formation is strictly connected to the Dolomites.
The ecosystem of Giannutri is unaltered. Divers can appreciate the sea bottom with sea sponges, floating aquatic plants and corals. Giannutri is wild and boast a rocky coastline and a luxuriant Mediterrenean scrub. It belongs to the municipality of Giglio and there are only few apartments for rent and bed&breakfast available for tourists. In winter nobody leaves there but its guardians.
Gorgona, the smallest island of the Archipelago
Gorgona is the smallest island of the Archipelago with an area of approximately 200 hectars. It is also the northernmost island. Its territory is mainly mountainous, with a jagged coastline and really clear waters. Even if it is not possible to swim on Gorgona, the beaches of Cala Martina and Cala Scirocco are worth a mention.
Today the island is well-known for hosting a penitentiary. For this reason, it is possible to visit the island on guided tours only. The use of cameras and cell phones is forbidden.
More info about the Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago on the Italian Tourism Agency Website (Agenzia Nazionale Turismo) and the official website about the park (Parks.it).
If you are a hiker, you can check some of the suggested itineraries to visit the seven islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.
We hope you we made you curious to visit the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.