The Biosphere Reserve of the Tuscan Islands – UNESCO
Legend has it that when Paris gave Venus a pearl necklace, she came out of the water to wear it. Seven of the precious gems fell into the sea. When they hit the water they turned into seven beautiful islands. Today we know them as Gorgona, Capraia, Elba, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio and Giannutri.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park extends over a stretch of sea of over 600 square kilometers. This is between Livorno and the Argentario promontory.
Leaving from Marina Cala de’Medici, we head towards the Island of Elba – the largest of them. Nature, art and millenary culture are enclosed in a microcosm of 224 sq km. In fact, they create a unique atmosphere, evoke extraordinary scenarios, the result of encounters between different peoples.
What best describes the island is: absolutely crystal clear sea. This is declined between various beaches and emotions. Acquaviva has white stones, Biodola and Procchio with fine sands, Capo Bianco with white gravel, and Enfola with sand and gravel.
In a few minutes, the landscape changes. We pass from the granite massif of Monte Capanne, kingdom of mouflons and wild goats, to the mining areas of the eastern side. Which is a true “eldorado” of scientists and geology enthusiasts.
Do not miss the Butterfly Sanctuary on Monte Perone, on the road between Sant’Ilario and San Piero in Campo, where you can admire fifty species including some very rare.
The second largest island is that of Giglio, an earthly paradise for divers. Here, among luxuriant posidonia meadows and vertical walls covered with blue sponges and red gorgonians, you can also spot the seahorse.
The 28km of coastline offer the privilege of moving to the shelter and bathing in calm waters on the opposite side to that beaten by the wind. The coast alternates smooth granite cliffs with bays, coves and sandy beaches. Do not forget that the name GIGLIO does not derive from the flower or from the Florentine domination. In fact it derives from the Latinization of the Greek word Capra or Aegilium: Island of the Goats.
It has a long history, from the Romans, to the 19th century penal colony, to the hotel that can accommodate few tourists. But it remained essentially untouched. The ‘piata’ island, despite its rugged and inhospitable coast, bristling with rocks and cracks, then totally changes its landscape, gradually taking on a flat and peaceful aspect.
Sailing and fishing are prohibited around the island within 1 mile. Access is guaranteed only with a permit issued by the Park Management.
It is located the southernmost of the Tuscan Archipelago. The small crescent-shaped paradise is 500 meters wide, more or less 5 kilometers long.
No beach, only rocks inaccessible to barefoot. From the main hill, the Poggio Capel Rosso, a peak of 85 meters, you can only see the sea. To the south there is no way to see land even on clear days: the vertigo of the void compensates that of the altitude.
In the backdrop of the seabed there are cliffs, caves, posidonia meadows, gorgonians, sea roses, seahorses, starfish, corals, amberjacks, snappers, bream, sponges. But also wrecks of ships sunk in this rock in the middle of the sea.
To preserve its rich natural heritage from the risk of urban and marine plunder, the island of Giannutri has been declared a Marine Park and is therefore particularly protected and controlled by the Authorities.
The third largest island is the only one of volcanic origin in the Archipelago, born nine million years ago from an underwater volcano.
Presumably the name derives from the Etruscan “carp”: stone. The word that originates from the archaic Greek “kalpe”: sepulchral stone. Therefore from the Etruscan “stony island” we passed to the Romanized “Capra”, hence “Isola delle Capre” and therefore “Capraia”.
The green Capraia, with its colored coasts that overlook the only quay of the port and with the unmistakable scent of the mastic that you begin to smell from the sea, has a seabed that is much loved by snorkelers and diving enthusiasts: between posidonia meadows , sea daisies and sponges you can see large groupers or amberjacks.
The smallest island of the Arciplego is still home to an agricultural penal colony. This is why it is completely managed by the prison administration.
Located west of Livorno, it has 300 inhabitants (mostly prisoners) and measures just over 2 square kilometers in area. Most of it is occupied by the penitentiary. In addition to being a prison on the island, there were once many fishermen in Gorgona. Today there are about 70 inhabitants of the old fishing village although only a few live there all year round.
There are numerous inlets around the coast of Gorgona. The most suggestive are Cala Scirocco, where there is the Grotta del Bove Marino, once home to the monk seal, Cala Maestra and Cala Martina.
It is a true natural paradise. Here, thanks to the protection legislation for a mile around the island, marine life is particularly lively and intact. Often whales and other cetaceans are sighted, including the rare zifio.
Upon arrival on the island, in Cala Maestra, there is the only building on the island, the Watson-Taylor villa. There are practically the only trees on the island and also the only two inhabitants.
Cala Maestra – Open on the north-western side, it is the only inlet of Montecristo where landing and docking are quite easy. Even if, in case of bad weather, the dangerous exposure to the winds of the 1st quadrant forces the fishermen to close the steep island rock.
To be able to go to Montecristo, it is necessary to obtain a specific authorization. It is mainly issued to universities or research institutions for study purposes.