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The Tuscan Islands - Tuscany

This group of seven totally different islands called the "Seven Sisters" extends over an area of approximately 115.8 sq. miles between the Tuscan coast and Corsica. Elba (province of Livorno) is the largest island and faces the gulf of Follonica just 6 miles off Piombino. It is also the most visited island and the richest in life, villages, natural beauties, historical monuments and tourism. The other islands are: Giglio (province of Grosseto), a diving paradise lying in front of the Argentario promontory; nearby Giannutri, with its enchanting coves and suggestive remains of old Roman villas; Capraia, an island of volcanic origin which is the closest island to Corsica; Gorgona, a tiny isle which lies in the sea in front of Livorno; Pianosa, a small, flat island not far from the isle of Elba; and the rocky and ragged isle of Montecristo which lies further south between Elba and the Argentario. The last three islands have no public access: there are special prisons on Gorgona and Pianosa and therefore they can be visited only with the authorisation of the Italian Ministry of Justice. Montecristo, however, is a natural reserve that can only be visited with a special permit.

 

Capraia

This wild and hilly island is the farthest from the Tuscan coast and the closest to Corsica (16 miles). It is the only one of volcanic origin and the only island with a lake Lo Stagnone. This island with a surface of 7.72 sq. miles is covered with brushwood, has 18.6 miles of coastline and is part of the Tuscan Islands National Park.

 
Isola d'Elba
Elba Island - Portoferraio



Elba Island - San Giovanni Tower

Its sandy beaches and ragged crags make it the isle for everyone. Thanks to its 86.1 sq. miles it is also the largest of Italy's minor islands. There is a maximum length of 16.7 miles from Capo d'Ortano to Punta Nera and a maximum width of 11.1 miles from Capo San Vito to Punta dei Ripalti. In order to see the entire panorama you have to reach the top of Monte Capanne (1019 m). Portoferraio is the main city of this island which is divided morphologically into three parts: the western side is of volcanic origin and higher in elevation; the central part is either flat or with low hills; the eastern side includes the minerary area. Its millenary history was written by the Etruscans and by the Romans. The Etruscans were the first to exploit its metals, while the Romans called it "Ilva" and built sumptuous villas on it (the best preserved example is Villa delle Grotte in Portoferraio). But it was undoubtedly Napoleon who left the most significant mark on the island, after being exiled there in 1814. Today it is a top tourist destination. Portoferraio was founded in 1514 on the remains of a Roman port and was protected by Forte del Falcone, Forte Stella and by Torre Linguella. There are 7 other villages nearby:
Campo dell'Elba, Porto Azzurro, Rio Marina, Marciana, Capoliveri, Marciana Marina and Rio nell'Elba. The island has a total population of 28000 inhabitants and there is a paved road network of 99.4miles; therefore the car is the most practical way of visiting the island due to its size.

 
Giannutri

A half-moon of earth lying in the blue sea. The southernmost of the Tuscany islands has a surface of just two square kilometres and a handful of inhabitants. Its coasts are ragged and full of fascinating coves. There are two landing places: Cala Maestra on the western side and Cala dello Spalmatoio, where the built-up area is developing. Here there are also two restaurants and a ferry harbour. There are only dirt and gravel roads. Although tourists are not allowed to stay overnight on the island unless they have rented accomodation, the island still deserves to be visited for the incredible beauty of its sea and the unspoilt nature; the island is both a natural reserve and a marine park. Please take note that only the use of electric-powered or rowing-boats and snorkelling is permitted inside the protected area.

 
Isola del Giglio

This island is an enormous mass of grey granite covered with deep-green vegetation and lying 14 kilometres from the Argentario promontory. Its steep coasts alternate with small beaches. There are three developed areas: Giglio Porto (ferries from Porto Santo Stefano berth here), Giglio Castello (a fortified village built by a colony from the city of Pisa) and Campese (with the most beautiful beach). The island had already been inhabited by the Greeks and by the Etruscans, and was subsequently exploited by the Romans for its granite caves. Its name ('Giglio' means lily in Italian) has nothing to do with the flowers, but derived from the Greek word "Aegilion" which means "the place of the goats" because of the high number of these animals living here. Local restaurants offer delicious dishes, mainly based on fish and seafood.

   
Gorgona

The coasts of this tiny 0.77 sq. miles island are sheer above the sea. The existence of a prison on the island prevents tourists from landing or from sailing and fishing within 500 metres of the coast. Berthing in Cala di Scalo or in Cala Scirocco is permitted only in case of very rough sea or mechanical problems. It is an extremely beautiful island with its fishermen's village dating back to the XVIII century, the high cliffs rising above the sea at Cala Maestra and its old XIII century tower of Torre Vecchia towering above the sea on the Costa dei Cantoni.

   
Montecristo

The island immortalised by Alexander Dumas in the famous novel "The Count of Montecristo" is a natural reserve. Landing, sailing, swimming and fishing are prohibited within a range of 500 metres of the coast. This rough and mysterious island received its name from Maximilian, Bishop of Palermo. Cala Maestra is the only landing place. The coast is ragged and craggy. Cala Corfù can be reached only by sea. A villa for the King was built in Cala Maestra at the end of the XIX century when the island became a royal hunting preserve. The small crag Formica di Montecristo with a lighthouse on top is located on the western part of the island.

   
Pianosa

This is the Tuscan island which lies closest to the isle of Elba; however, a permit from the Direzione Generale degli Istituti di Prevenzione e Pena (Head Office of Prevention and Detention facilities) of the Italian Ministry of Justice is required before landing, as there is a prison on it. Pianosa is bordered by enchanting beaches and looks like a tropical island. The most beautiful beach is Cala Giovanna. Archaeological finds of the Roman age are visible on the sea-beds around the island.

Food & Wine
Gourmets will love the local cuisine, based mainly on fish and seafood. Do not forget to try the
sburita, an excellent fish soup, and the onion gurguglione.The mild climate favours an excellent cultivation of vineyards. Elba is famous for its wines: Rosso, Procanico, Aleatico and Moscato. "Ansonico" is an amber-coloured scented wine well-known by the Romans and produced today in limited quantity. It is rarity for gourmets only.

 

For more information on:
A.P.T. Elba - Local Tourist Board
Agenzia per il Turismo dell'Arcipelago Toscano
Calata Italia 26, 57037 Portoferraio (Isola d'Elba) ITALY
 
www.aptelba.it

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