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The Tuscan Archipelago extends over a stretch of sea between Livorno and the Argentario promontory and includes seven islands: Capraia, Elba, Giannutri, Giglio, Gorgona, Montecristo, Pianosa, as well as the Ants of Grosseto and other rocks.
The largest island is Elba, the smallest Gorgona and the furthest from the coast is Montecristo.
There are two legends related to the birth of the 7 islands. Both agree that the islands have emerged when Aphrodite / Venus, goddess of beauty and love, was born.
According to Hesiod, the Goddess was born from the foam of the sea as an adult woman. She was in a hurry to get to the shore where it seems that there was Eros waiting for her and, still numb, trying to tie up the pearl necklace donated by Paris, he broke it. Here then that 7 pearls fell in the Tyrrhenian Sea stopping on the surface of the waters between Italy and Corsica: Elba, Giglio, Giannutri, Motecristo, Gorgona, Capraia and Pianosa. The foam of the waves instead gave life to all the minor islets and rocks that delightfully frame this wonderful natural park.
Homer instead reports another version, however interesting, of the birth of the archipelago. The Goddess Aphrodite / Venus was kind and helpful, but also a little distracted and one morning she was urgently called by her father Zeus. In her haste to go to her father, the pearls necklace given to her by Adonis slipped from her hands. The necklace fell from the Olympus and fell on the stretch of sea between Livorno and the Argentario. Touching the water of the sea the 7 pearls were transformed into the 7 islands that form the Tuscan Archipelago.
Each island presents different and fascinating landscapes, stories and traditions of its own; this is what makes the Tuscan Archipelago unique. To protect this environmental wonder, in 1996, the Archipelago National Park was created.
Elba is an island full of history, culture and above all, it offers unique naturalistic scenarios of its kind.
The offer is varied and for all tastes. If you are passionate about minerals, it is possible to visit the mines, which played a fundamental role in the economy of Elba. In fact, it is possible to visit the Mineral Park both on foot and on board the characteristic little train in order to relive millennia of culture.
For those who are passionate about history, it is possible to visit the island on the trail of Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor who spent his exile here.
For those who love to visit the islands exclusively for the landscape and the excellent sea, Elba offers many different solutions.
Those who love the mountains can take walks on Mount Capanne, the highest in the province of Livorno, can reach the summit by taking advantage of the cableway that starts from the town of Marciana. For trekking and mountain biking it is possible to rely on expert environmental guides to discover unique routes.
The divers here find a sea to be discovered and the diving offer is for both beginners and experienced people.
Those who love the beach here is very easy to find a beautiful place where you can relax while admiring the view. Here are 147 km of coasts, the most beautiful and famous are undoubtedly Cavoli, Fetovaia, Lacona, Procchio and many others.
The island is also fascinating for its food and wine traditions, so why not taste the schiaccia briaca, a crush with pine nuts and raisins soaked in aleatico wine? Why not try the sportella, a kind of bread with ancios, or fried or marinated zerri? And for those who love sweets, it is inevitable a taste of corollo or schiacciunta, made with pork lard, drowned in an excellent glass of aleatico or ansonica passita.
Visiting Elba dal Pappasole is easy and fast … every day ferries from various companies leave from the port of Piombino to the port of Portoferraio.
Pianosa is undoubtedly the warmest and brightest island in the archipelago.
Its name refers to its flat morphology, which, by preventing the formation of clouds, makes possible the two main characteristics: heat and brightness.
In the course of history, this island has seen the alternation of periods of the population to periods of abandonment. Although the island offers much of its archaeological past, it should not be forgotten that during the last 150 years Pianosa was the seat of a prison.
The absolute ban on landing has declined since 2011, even though access to the island remains limited. Pianosa is completely formed by sedimentary rocks, here alternate rocky coasts and sandy stretches. The most evocative cove is Cala San Giovanni (or Cala Giovanna), a suggestive white sand beach.
Its luxuriant vegetation marries beautifully with the climate and with the crystalline waters of the sea. It is not uncommon to see junipers and lentisks along the coast, being enchanted by the smell of rosemary, millet or cistus along the way.
Other plants spread on the island are elicrisio, lavender, sea-thistle, violets, and wild chrysanthemum. A swirl of aromas and colors!
After this walk, you are forced to follow the call of a fairytale sea and the only way to appreciate it is to take a dip … We will be surrounded by numerous fish, groupers, dentex, bream, who live undisturbed in those wonderful backdrops. But it is re-emerging from the water that it is possible to be surprised by the sight of herds of dolphins that frequently sail the sea around Pianosa.
On the island, there are environmental guides that offer different paid activities (walking, cycling, carriage, snorkeling).
The island of Capraia, also mentioned in “Casa sul mare”, the famous poem by Eugenio Montale, is the only volcanic island in the archipelago and the third largest in size. It was formed about nine million years ago and the striking red rocks testify to the ancient original eruptions.
The island is covered by Mediterranean scrub and today it is at the center of the “cetacean sanctuary“, immersed in the largest protected marine area in Europe.
It is an independent municipality in the Province of Livorno and is populated by about three hundred inhabitants, who live in a well-kept center, with characteristic alleys and sloping streets. There is also the port, of course, and is the seat of a small marina, connected to the country by a provincial road and a panoramic road of Napoleonic origin only walkable.
But the real pearl of the island is the coast, characterized by inlets and cliffs washed by a crystalline sea. Cala della Mortola can only be reached by boat, while the other coves, for example, Cala dello Zurletto, can be reached by sea or by land.
Cala Rossa is what remains of an ancient volcanic cone. It is in this place that we witness the most amazing contrast of the whole island: bloody rocks that are mirrored on the crystalline sea!
If you are interested in the wildest part, you can not miss the west side. Here you will witness a majestic natural spectacle: cliffs eroded by the wind and lapped by the sea with a mysterious cave in the middle with two entrances, are just some wonders that you will find in front of you!
Surely this island is a paradise for divers, and not only. Clear seabeds, crystal clear water, and many fish of different races: from the thrush to the Carabiniere, from the dentex to the tanuta, grouper, bream, scorpion fish, amberjack, tuna, barracuda, corvine and common dolphins that pass just below the coast. It is perhaps you will also encounter moonfish or chestnut fish chestnut fish or the common whale or the sperm whale.
Another activity that surely leaves literally breathless, given the shape of the island, is trekking. Walking through the Mediterranean scrub to the peaks of the mountains, meeting mouflons, wild rabbits, slugs and birds of all kinds, is an unforgettable experience! The walk will lead you to the Stagnone, the only mirror of natural sweet water of the entire Archipelago, to the Piano, an ancient Roman settlement or to the former prison, now freely visited. Ferries to Capraia Island leave daily from Livorno.
The island of Giglio is one of the jewels of the archipelago. 21 km long is the second largest island of the archipelago, after the Elbe.
Beautiful beaches and extremely varied coastline with wonderful and picturesque coves. The clear sea is a paradise for lovers of diving and unspoiled nature is a strong attraction for trekking enthusiasts. The two villages of the island are worth a visit: Giglio Castello is a small medieval village and Giglio Porto is a small village with multicolored houses.
Giannutri instead is a small uninhabited island, and nature reserve. Access is limited to a few people each year, so it is advisable to book guided tours in advance. Historical finds set in unspoiled nature surrounded by crystal clear sea will leave you breathless!
Both islands can be reached from Porto Santo Stefano.
Montecristo is the fourth largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago with an area of 10.4 square kilometers and is the furthest from the coast. Nature Reserve for many years is inhabited only by the guardian and by a few forest agents and Cala Maestra is the only port of the island.
Montecristo is a granite massif with a landscape characterized by large granite lumps that descend steeply to the sea, with little vegetation and valleys. The Mediterranean scrub that covers it is mainly composed of heather, rosemary and cysts and a few holm oak plants. Being a quiet island, it is a favorite place for migratory species to rest before the next trip. Finally, thanks to the coastal protection regulations, marine life is particularly rich and complete, a perfect oasis for divers. Whale sightings are also frequent.
In order to visit the island, it is necessary to apply to the Follonica Forestry Corps in advance, as only 1000 visitors are admitted each year.
Gorgona is the other island of the archipelago that until recently was a penal colony. It was the last to be open to the public and now accessible by ferry from Livorno.
The coast is characterized by numerous coves. Cala Scirocco, Cala Maestra and Cala Martina are the most suggestive.
On the island there are also two fortifications: the Old Tower and the New Tower.