The Islands

The Tuscan Archipelago is what we could call a true marine paradise, the largest protected marine reserve in the Mediterranean: the islands of the Tuscan archipelago are pearls of a world that is just waiting to be discovered.

Seven islands that carry with them the aura of myth, it is said that from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, a pearl necklace broke, seven pearls fell into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Where instead of sinking, they turned into small islands that today form this wonderful Tuscan archipelago.

The southernmost islands of the archipelago are easily accessible from the Maremma coast. Leaving from the port of Piombino, you can reach the island of Elba in an hour and in less than three hours the small island of Pianosa. From Porto Santo Stefano, however, in just under an hour you can reach the other two southern pearls of the archipelago: the island of Giglio and Giannutri.

Already in ancient times, the island of Elba, Giglio, Giannutri, Montecristo, Pianosa, Gorgona and Capraia, were magical places.

Since 1996 they have formed the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, the largest marine reserve in Europe, which is part of the “Pelagos Sanctuary for the protection of marine mammals in the Mediterranean”, a protected marine area included in the French, Monegasque and Italian territory; classified as a Specially Protected Area of ​​Mediterranean Interest.

Giglio island:
The second largest of the islands, think of the Tuscan island of Giglio as Elba’s younger sister, often overlooked for Elba but with just as large an offering. Though now it’s perhaps most known as the place where the Costa Concordia cruise liner sank in 2012, Giglio still has a lot to offer. The ferry will take you to the Giglio Port on the east side of the island, a perfect starting point. From here you can hire boats, tours and rent snorkeling or scuba diving equipment, or simply explore the restaurants and bars that line the seaside!
The best beaches on the island of Giglio are in Campese, on the west side of the island, and you can view an 18th century tower built by Cosimo de Medici, the head of Florence’s famous ruling family. When you’re not on the beach or soaking in views of Tuscany during an inland hike, check out the Giglio Castle or explore the coves near Punta Capel Rosso by boat.

Elba Island:

The biggest of the Tuscan islands, Elba is easy to get to and a good base if you want to explore some of the nearby islands. Perhaps most famous as the island of Napoleon’s exile after the Treaty of Fontainebleau, today it’s known among Italians for it’s great panorama, beaches and weather. It’s therefore best to book ahead for July or August as the beaches fill with visitors. The fish-shaped island has more than 70 beaches, excellent hiking trails and numerous bays and coves to explore. It’s not such a stretch to call the island of Elba a paradise-on-earth, making it the most popular of the seven.

Giannutri Island:

Just slightly larger than Gorgona, Giannutri is the southernmost Tuscan island. Giannutri is a mainly rocky island with just short stretches of sandy beach in the north. Go instead to scuba dive or explore the wild coastline by sea kayak. After, head inland to explore the Roman ruins from the first century A.D. You can explore the ruins of the villa Agrippa where Emperor Nero’s family once lived, those of a Roman temple and the original Roman port.
Scuba divers can spend hours exploring the wrecks of Roman ships in the crystal clear water but be sure to visit the blue water grottos, it’s said Cala dei Grottone is the most beautiful.
Giannutri is also famous as the “island of seagulls”, for the numerous colony of “yellow-legged gulls” (Larus michahellis) that populate it.

The crystal clear waters of Giannutri largely constitute a marine reserve, for the conservation of the sponges, corals and the most varied plant species that cover the seabed and to encourage fish repopulation.
Capraia Island:
This tiny island of just 390 people has at one time or another been ruled by Greece, Genoa, Sardinia, Saracen pirates from North Africa and even Napoleon!
While all of the islands off Tuscany are still relatively wild compared to the cultivated and settled islands like Corsica and Sardinia, Capraia’s coastline and landscape is perhaps the most dramatic with high cliffs, isolated beaches and untouched inland terrain that is perfect for hiking or biking. In the south you can even find traces of an ancient, now-extinct volcano.
The crystal clear water that surrounds Capraia makes it very popular for snorkelers or scuba divers who want to view the abundant marine life or explore underwater archeological sites.

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