Elba Island, Giannutri e Giglio
Elba Island, Giannutri e Giglio
The National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago represents the largest marine reserve in Europe and includes seven islands. The most famous are Giglio Island, Giannutri Island and Elba Island, that is also the third biggest italian isle by extension. All the islands of the archipelago belong to two provinces of Tuscany, Livorno and Grosseto.
As already mentioned, Elba is the largest isle of the Tuscan Archipelago: in province of Livorno, it is located about 10 km far from the coast and it has more than 100 beaches, all different for views, seabeds and geological shape: from the golden beaches to the bays with pebbles, passing through the marvellous beaches of black and white sand. The island is the ideal destination for all kind of tourists, from the most audacious and sporty to the most relaxed ones. You can trekking, diving, kayaking and sailing, but the island is also full of history dating back to pre-Roman times: you can visit the Etruscan and Ligurian archaeological sites and many other historical sites, such as the English Fort, the Medici Bastions, the Roman Villa Di Capo Castello and Napoleon’s residences. The best way to enjoy the natural beauty of the island is to go there by ferry boat: from Piombino for a longer stay or from Castiglione della Pescaia with a daily mini-cruise, where you can admire the beauties of the island coast and to debark in Portoferraio, where you can relax a few hours on the beach before leaving back. If you do not want to drive and easily reach the port of Castiglione Della Pescaia, there is a shuttle bus from Follonica.
The second island by extension is Giglio. At the southern border of the province of Grosseto, the isle can be reached from Porto Santo Stefano with Toremar and Maregiglio companies, that manage multiple trips every day or from Porto Azzurro (Elba island) with a daily round trip.
To trace the origin of the island, we should go back to the Iron Age, when the Giglio was an Etruscan and Roman military base and a strategic point for the commercial and military routes in the northern Mediterranean Sea. The island was ruled by two important Italian noble Families, the Medici and the Aldobrandeschi and then became property of Pisa and later of Florence. In 1544 the pirate Barbarossa invaded and ransacked the island, killing and deporting into slavery all persons who dared to oppose his power. Decimated, the island was later repopulated by Medici, who took here people from the lands in province of Siena.
Thanks to his glorious past, Giglio boasts several places of historical, religious, archaeological and architectural relevance, such as the Church of San Pietro, the Church of San Giorgio, the Fortress of Aldobrandeschi, some Roman ruins near the harbour and the Towers of Lazzaretto, Saraceno and Campese.
About 15 km far from the south-east coast of Giglio, we find Giannutri, the smallest of the three islands. Giannutri reached its peak during the Roman time, when a harbour and a villa were built here. Still today they are archaeologically relevant. At the end of the Roman Empire, the island suffered a strong decline and was abandoned for many centuries, until it became part of the State of the Presidi, created by the King of Spain Philip II as a defensive point with a tower and an impressive fortification. The Lighthouse of Capel Rosso was instead built in the following period, when Giannutri became part of the Kingdom of Italy, with the purpose of signaling the presence of a land to the vessels. Although there are no hotels on site and camping is strictly prohibited, it is still possible to rent some private houses, while in the small central square there is a bar-pizzeria and a mini-market.
Giannutri can be reached with a mini-cruise from Castiglione della Pescaia and from Talamone with the company Maregiglio: the two departure points are served by a free shuttle bus from Follonica.
On request, the excursion in Giannutri can be leaded by one of the tourist guides provided by the Tuscany Region: it will be possible to visit the Roman villa (recently opened to the public) and the Lighthouse of Capel Rosso, while admiring the geological, faunistic and natural treasures of the island.