The Tuscan Archipelago Islands are part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. They are in the provinces of Livorno and Grosseto and cover eleven municipalities.
The main ones are:
- Elba: the largest of the Tuscan islands and third-largest in Italy. It charms with its crystal-clear sea, beaches and rich history. The territory spreads across seven municipalities: Campo nell’Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, Portoferraio, Rio.
- Giglio: is the second-largest island in the Archipelago. It wins over visitors with its rich, fish-filled seabed, crystal-clear emerald sea and almost wild territory. The coastline is rich with coves, while the hinterland offers numerous walking paths allowing visitors to get close and personal with nature and take in breathtaking views;
- Pianosa: is the island closest to Elba. It is part of Campo nell’Elba. Its territory is almost completely flat. It was practically inaccessible until 1997, when the maximum security prison ceased operations. It is currently under the control of the Park Authority, which has established restricted use in order to preserve the area’s biodiversity on land and in the sea;
- Capraia: this is the third-largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago and is situated in the Corsica Channel. It is the most remote island at 54 km from the mainland, and closer to Corsica than to Italy. Of the seven major islands, it is regarded as the wildest. The island has two populated areas: the village and the harbour;
- Montecristo: is one of the Archipelago’s wildest and most inaccessible islands. Its distinctive nature is protected by the State Integral Nature Reserve (1971) and Biogenetic Nature Reserve (1988). It covers an area of 10.4 square kilometres, primarily consisting of grey-pink granite, and has a pyramid shape suggesting the idea of impregnability. Cala Maestra is the only accessible landing point;
- Giannutri: is the Archipelago’s southernmost island. It can be reached by ferry from Porto Santo Stefano and is virtually unpopulated. Its inhabited centre, Spalmatoio-Ischiaiola, has 30 residents and is almost entirely pedestrianised;
- Gorgona: is the Archipelago’s smallest island. It was Italy’s last island prison. Its reliefs are covered by dense, lush Mediterranean vegetation, including wooded areas of holm oaks and Aleppo pines, about 400 species of flora, and chestnut and black alder specimens, given the island is particularly rich in water.
Excursions to the Tuscan Archipelago islands
The Tuscan Archipelago Islands are rich in stunning scenery and unspoiled beauty. The best way to see them all and admire them from a different angle, is to organise excursions.
Let’s discover the best ones:
- Capraia: here, you can enjoy a 3-hour walk along the 8 km of island paths, with an elevation of 250 metres. The route gives you the chance to fully immerse yourself in the history of this island, which for 100 years served as a penitentiary. Traces of the agricultural penal colony can be found in the mighty dry stone walls, stone buildings and rows of vines;
- Elba and Pianosa: a hiking route along part of the GTE (Grande Traversata Elbana) to the island of Pianosa. A nature-centred tour that visits Cavo, Porto Azzurro, Marina di Campo, Pianosa, Porto Romano, designed for trekking enthusiasts;
- Elba and the iron mines: the perfect tour to learn about the island’s mining history. The tour starts from Rio Marina and heads to the Museo Mineraologico (mining museum), then climbs up to the open-cast mines before reaching the small Conche lake with its scarlet-red waters. Lastly, the tour heads down to the sea to the loading docks built along Elba’s eastern shores;
- Capraia and the Stagnone: this route winds along ancient mule tracks to take in all the beauty of the island of Corsica, eventually leading to the shores of the Stagnone at 317 metres above sea level. The latter is a natural freshwater basin, the only one in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park;
- Il Giglio: the tour begins at Giglio Porto, an amphitheatre of pastel-coloured homes, and continues up a mule track to Giglio Castello. It is the ideal place to learn about the island’s past. Not to be missed are Poggio della Pagana and the Caldane and Cannelle beaches.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park was established in 1980 and covers 56,766 hectares of sea and 16,856 hectares of land. It includes the islands of Gorgona, Capraia, Elba, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, Giannutri, the smaller islets in the Piombino Channel and the Tyrrhenian Sea, and several reefs.
It covers the municipalities of Campo nell’Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, Portoferraio, Rio, Capraia Isola, Grosseto, Isola del Giglio and Livorno.
The flora is rich in evergreen plants, Mediterranean scrub, broom and chestnut woods.
The fauna includes martens, wild rabbits, mouflons, wild boars, shearwaters, Corsican gulls, citril finches, accentors, Sardinian tree frogs, and Tyrrhenian painted frogs.
The island’s waters are home to many species typical of the Tyrrhenian Sea: Neptune grass, sea fans, sea anemones, coral, and starfish. But also dolphins, dusky groupers, sunfish, sperm whales, fin whales, and monk seals.
Despite the islands being small, the park boasts a rich variety of landscapes ranging from the rugged Elba to the Pianosa plateau, to the rocky cone-shaped Montecristo.
The park is included in the prestigious Green List which honours world-class protected areas and serves as a certification program for best practices in terms of nature preservation and sustainable management.
Discover the Tuscan Archipelago
Discovering the Tuscan Archipelago is all about immersing yourself in the natural beauty of intriguing places. We can do all this by pointing out a few must-have experiences:
- Elba and the butterfly sanctuary: the abundance of butterflies on the island of Elba, especially at its peaks, is one of its special characteristics. We can admire them by travelling along the Monte Perone ridge towards Monte Maolo, then continuing along the Calanche slopes and Filicaie area. This is a path allowing us to take in a variety of landscapes including pine forests, ridge grasslands, and Mediterranean scrub;
- Elba – Calamita Route: This 12-kilometre route begins in Piazza del Cavatore and heads up towards the mountain’s summit. It offers panoramic views of the Gulf of Mola, ancient testimonies such as the magnetite and iron oxide sites, unique geological formations, lush vegetation and many different animal species;
- Giglio – Bosco del Dolce Route: a 3-km route departing from Giglio Castello that offers mesmerising natural scenery and breathtaking views. We will pass through Il Dolce, a forest with Mediterranean vegetation that leads to the centuries-old holm-oak thicket. We will also discover prehistoric traces left by man, such as the charcoal kilns and “capannelli”, small structures used to press grapes;
- Pianosa – Punta Secca Route: Punta Secca is an impressive promontory named after a nearby rocky bank. We stop frequently along the way to take in the breathtaking sea views, charming bays bordered by coastal vegetation, and clear emerald waters. The Mediterranean maquis includes mastic, juniper and Aleppo pines.
Visit the Tuscan Archipelago islands
The Tuscan Archipelago is a natural paradise rich in stunning scenery and architectural wonders.
Here are the most important sites to visit and things to do on and around the Island of Elba:
- Church of San Nicola: this is found on the Island of Capraia and earned its name from a wooden statue of the saint, fished out of the sea and available for viewing inside. Several chapels, including those of St. Erasmus and St. Augustine, are located along the aisles;
- Giglio Porto: this is where the island’s visitors are greeted. A crystal-clear sea but also bars, ice-cream parlours and shops characterise the village alleys lined with colourful houses. The 16th-century Saracen Tower commissioned by Ferdinando I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, is definitely worth a visit;
- Giglio Castello: an ancient village surrounded by walls and situated on the island’s peaks. It was constructed in the 12th century by the Pisans and still exudes a medieval vibe to this day. The 15th-century Church of St. Peter the Apostle is also worth a visit;
- Portoferraio: the “capital” of the Archipelago. It features an historic centre filled with charming alleys and fabulous views. The English Fort, the Falcone and Stella forts, the Misericordia church, the Foresiana art gallery, the Linguella Archaeological Museum, the Napoleonic relics, the windmill residence, and Napoleon’s Vigilanti Theatre, are all worth a visit;
- Windmill Villa: Portoferraio is where we find Napoleon’s city residence. It was built by the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de’ Medici in 1724. Today, it is the National Museum of Napoleonic Residences on the island of Elba;
- Volterraio Castle: an impressive ruin dating back to the year 1000. It has stone-clad walls and faces the sea;
- Capoliveri: this is one of Elba’s most distinctive towns. It is a small village sitting at 165 metres above sea level. Once an Etruscan fortress, today it is a collection of alleys, arches and underpasses of exceptional beauty;
- Pomonte: this village of the municipality of Marciana boasts one of the most beautiful seas in the entire Archipelago. The perfect destination for snorkelling enthusiasts;
- Marciana: narrow alleys and steps define the heart of this village with a distinctly medieval feel. The Archaeological Museum, the villages of Poggio and Marciana, and the route leading from the Via Crucis chapels to the Madonna del Monte sanctuary, should definitely not be missed;
- Marciana Marina: Elba’s smallest municipality offers a seafront promenade lined with bars and restaurants, and a territory full of villas immersed in greenery;
- Fetovaia Beach: 200 metres long and up to 40 metres wide, this is one of Elba’s most stunning beaches with crystal-clear waters that range in colour from light green to deep blue;
- Porto Azzurro: a typical fishing village with extraordinary waters. The San Giacomo Fort and Madonna del Carmine Church are definitely worth visiting;
- Rio Marina: this small village in Rio is known for its mining past, pristine sea, and historical and architectural heritage including the Church of San Rocco, Clock Tower, Giove Fort, and Palazzo di Pons de l’Hérault.