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What to Do and See on the Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park

Each of the 7 islands of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park have their own unique characteristics and attractions to explore.

Here is our guide of what each island has to discover:

Elba Island

The largest and most famous of the islands of the national park, Elba has an area of ​​223.5 km and is the 3rd largest island in the entire country. The island of Elba is a wonder of natural diversity, on the edge of the island you will find granit massifs such as Monte Capanne (1018 m), Cima del Monte (515 m) and Monte Calamita (411 m), however, the island also has lush lowlands and beaches to discover.

Along with its stunning natural beauty, Elba has an extremely interesting and complex history. While it might be primarily known for being the location of Napoleon Bonapart’s exile in 1814, the island has actually been inhabited since the Paleolithic period. Throughout history Elba has been colonized by Etruscans, and then by the Romans, who’s presence remains very evident thanks to fortresses and villas built by them. Elba is the ideal location for a relaxing vacation along the Tuscan coast with wonderful small beaches, breathtaking viewpoints and wild nature which attracts thousands of people every year.

How to get there:

Elba can be reached by daily connections from Piombino, which is just 10 km away

Giglio Island

Located on the southern edge of the National Park, Giglio is the second largest island in the Archipelago after Elba, with an area of ​​21.2 sq. km. Giglio Island has a population of only 1550 inhabitants divided among three small towns: Giglio Castello, Giglio Porto and Campese. Giglio Castello is a beautiful ancient medieval village with a maze of steep alleys enclosed by walls which lead to the striking Rocca Pisana castle built in the 12th century. The island is also home to the largest beach of the archipelago at Campese.

Giglio is a paradise for nature lovers, the island is made up of many hiking trails which offer beautiful views of the archipelago as well as the chance for visitors to discover the island’s unique flora and fauna. However, what truly sets the island apart is the amazing scuba diving in the crystal clear waters which surround the island which are some of the deepest in the archipelago.

How to get there:

There are ferries leaving from Porto Santo Stefano (Monte Argentario) to Giglio Porto.

Giannutri Island

The crescent-shaped island of Giannutri is the southernmost of the islands in the Tuscan Archipelago. The island is made of white limestone which can be seen along the 11 kilometers of its rocky coast. While most of the island is privately owned and is therefore restricted to visitors, there are two landing ports at Cala Maestra and Cala Spalmatoio which are frequented by tourists and have small pebble beaches. Along with the beaches, Giannutri is also a great boating and snorkeling destination as it is known to be frequented by bottlenose dolphins.

A popular destination on Giannutri island is a 2nd century AD Roman villa built by the Domizi Enobarbi family, an ancient senatorial family of important traders. Despite the artistic and historical importance of the remains, the villa was in private hands until 2004 and can only be visited today when accompanied by the national park guides.

How to get there:

To reach the island, there are ferries departing from Porto Santo Stefano and from Giglio.

Capraia Island

Capraia is the third largest of the Tuscan Archipelago islands with an area of ​​19.3 square kilometers and only 15 km from the French island of Corsica. The island has a population of only 300 inhabitants, distributed in two residential areas: the ancient village named after the island and the simple marine district of the port. The ancient village is built up of residences made in the “fortress house” style and were constructed close to the Fort of San Giorgio. The fortress was built In the 16th century in order to make the island safer from pirate attacks who targeting the roman villas of the island. The island became so secure that in the second half of the nineteenth century the northern part of the island hosted an agricultural penal colony which was active until 1986. Capraia has an elongated shape and the territory is mostly mountainous with a mountain ridge that runs along the entire length of the island and culminates with Monte Castello (445 m.)

The Capraia seabed is a popular destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts who can observe the species that live along the island’s rocky cliffs. The best time to visit the island is during the summer months when it is most likely to spot whales and dolphins

How to get there:

Ferries depart from Porto Mediceo in Livorno and it take approximately two and a half hours

Pianosa Island

Located just 14 km from Elba, the fourth largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago is Pianosa. This primarily flat island has a diverse history, there are signs of life on the island dating back to the Paleolithic period as well as many Roman artifacts left behind, including most famously the remains of Agrippa’s villa, who was the nephew of Agustus, as well as the island’s historic system of catacombs. However, the island is most well known for being one of Italy’s most severe and brutal penal colonies from 1858 until 1998 which housed some of Italy’s most famous criminals including mafia leaders as well as the former Italian president, Sandro Pertini. Today, the prison has become a museum dedicated to the island’s history, however most of the penal colony as well as the old town which housed the prison guards and their families are now abandoned.

Pianosa’s coasts alternates between rocky stretches and beautiful bays, among them, the best known is Cala San Giovanni where visitors can enjoy a nice white sandy beach located among the remains of a Roman villa. In 2013, diving expeditions were approved for the untouched waters of the island, only a few divers are allowed to visit the island every year. Only 350 people per day can visit Pianosa.

How to get there:

Daily ferry service leaving from the port of Marina di Campo or every Tuesday from Rio Marina.

Montecristo Island

Montecristo is the most remote and the furthest island from the Italian mainland at a distance of about 63 km. The imposing rocky island is most famous for being the setting of the novel the Count of Montecristo. The island has an interesting history, during the Roman times it was a shrine dedicated to the god Jupiter, it then became a flourishing monastic community during the middle ages and finally it was frequented by the Italian royal family for hunting and fishing trips during the 1800s.

Today the island is uninhabited and devoid of any service. Montecristo is now the site of a nature reserve which conserves many indegioenous animals including the Montecristo goat, which is Italy’s only population of wild goats. The Island has a single landing dock which is located at the beach of Cala Maestra.

How to get there:

Montecristo is not serviced by regular ferries, visitors will need to schedule an independent boats to reach the island. Visitors are welcomed on day passes from Aug. 31 to Oct. 31 and from April 1 to July 5. In an effort to protect Montecristo’s environment, a maximum of 1,000 visitors are allowed to visit the island a year.

Gorgona Island

The smallest of the islands of the Archipelago, Gorgona island has an area of just 2.23 square kilometers. Gorgona is almost entirely mountainous and is densely covered in the typical Mediterranean trees. Gorgona Island is primarily known for the penal colony which is still active on the island and has been in existence since 1869. The main center of the island consists of an ancient fishermen’s village and the entire island has a population of around 70.

The coastline of the island has many beautiful coves and bays, including Coasta dei Gabbiani or the Scirocco Bay. The island has many historical sites to visit, it has two beautiful fortresses, one made by the Medici and another by the Pisans as well as the Villa Margherita which sits inland, built on top of the ruins of ancient Roman settlements.

How to get there:

Ferries depart from the port of Livorno, the ride is around 1.5 hours. The park recently upped the number of visitors allowed on Gorgona per day, which has now reached 75.