The tuscan archipelago
Seven islands in the Mediterranean sea between the tuscanian and corsican coasts form this archipelago.
Elba is the main island, followed by Capraia, Giannutri, Giglio, Gorgona, Montecristo and Pianosa. Together they are a National Park for the protection of the natural enviroment.
It is possible to sail all through it, save for some areas where mooring is forbidden because of their beauty, their richness of flora and fauna that have become restricted park areas, but in some cases it is possible to obtain a permit to visit them, such as Montecristo or Pianosa.
ISOLA D'ELBA (20 nm)
Elba is the biggest island of the Archipelago, the third of Italy. Cavo is its nearest location to San Vincenzo.(15nm)
The island is a famous touristic place and it also hosts Napoleon Bonaparte's villa. Among its amenities it offers many secluded creeks, beaches and docking places including the harbor of Portoferraio, the main port with sea depths suitable for any yacht up to 40 mt.
Its climate is warm but breezy, making its 147 km of beaches even more enjoyable. They have white granitic sands, and smooth rocks along the west coasts eg: Marina di Campo, Cavoli, Fetovaia, Seccheto, Sant'Andrea, golden sand in the south and north-western parts like Procchio, Biodola, Lacona and Lido di Capoliveri, white pebbles beaches in the western coast of Portoferraio that give the sea an exceptional clearness like in Le Ghiaie, Capo Bianco, Sansone... and also powder and iron mineral beaches in the eastern coast such as Terranera and Topinetti.
In the internal part of the island you will find Mount Capanne, home to mouflons and wild goats, with plenty of mountain trails, oaks and chestnut trees woods.
ISOLA DI CAPRAIA (30 nm)
This island is between Mar Ligure and Mar Tirreno, and it is the farthest from the land, nearer to eastern Corsica (19 nm from Macinaggio) than to Tuscany (30 nm from San Vincenzo ). Originally a volcano, it is the third biggest island, after Elba and Giglio.
Home to a penal colony during WWII it kept its role until 1986. Since 1989 it is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, being in the middle of the " cetacean sanctuary" , beautiful pearl set in Europe biggest marine wildlife preserved area.
Sailing towards the south you will find an ancient volcano's ruins, and the beautiful Cala Rossa and Cala della Mortola, the only sandy beach.
ISOLA DI GIANNUTRI
It is the southest isle of the Archipelago, 6 nm south of Isola del Giglio. It is around 3km long and 500mt wide, with two mooring spots: Cala Spalmatoio south east and Cala Maestra north west.
Under the waves the scenery is breathtaking: cliffs, caves, endless prairies of posidonia, sea roses, seahorses, starfish, corals, sponges, red snappers, but also shipwrecks sunk in this rock among the waves. A dolphin whale or turtle sight is rare but possible, especially during the crossing between the isle and the main land.
In order to preserve its rich cultural heritage the island has been declared Marine Park , so it is well protected and controlled by the authorities. The marine area has been divided into two section; zone 1 is full reserve and zone 2 is simple protection.
In zone 1 motor boats passage is strictly prohibited, as well as fishing of any kind and damage to animal and vegetable species of the sea bottom. Swimming and snorkeling is allowed.
In zone 2 fishing and underwater hunting are prohibited. Residents are allowed sport fishing with rods, but non residents need to have the maritime authority approval .
Motor boat mooring and overnight stay is allowed in Cala Maestra and Cala Spalmatoio.
ISOLA DEL GIGLIO (40 nm)
It is set 11nm from Argentario.
The clearness of this emerald green sea, with its depth full of life is the amazing setting for this territory, 90% of which still wild.
Giglio was an ancient fisherman town, with its pastel tones houses overlooking the sea, today it is the commercial heart of the isle.
Giglio Castello, the small historical town center is at 400mt. of height. The ancient fortress was built in Pisan times, then it was strenghtened by the nobles of the Granducato di Toscana to face the attacks of the Saracens.
The great variety of coasts is focal point of the island, they run for 28 km.and alternate smooth rocks to bays, creeks to sandy beaches, giving the swimmers almost always the possibility to bathe in calm waters opposite to the winds.
The name Giglio (Lily) comes neither from the flower nor from the florentine association, but from the latinization of the greek word "Aegilium", Isle of the goats. The lovely bay Campese is framed from one side from the Faraglione, and from the other from the medicean tower. The tower was built between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, at first isolated on the rocks, now attached by a bridge.
ISOLA DI GORGONA
This the smallest of the islands, in the northern part of the Archipelago, measuring just 2 square km, most of which taken up by the penitentiary.
It is rocky and covered by mediterranean flora, and reaches 225 mt of height. On its coasts there are some interesting bays like Costa dei Gabbiani or Cala Scirocco, opening on Bue Marino cave,once a refuge for seals.
The Cooperativa Parco Naturale Isola di Gorgona leads trips on the island and it is the only one legally approved by the ministry of justice. The penitentiary has the right to deny access to people not desired.
ISOLA DI MONTECRISTO
29 nm from Giglio and 24 nm south from Elba, halfway between Monte Argentario and Corsica, this isle has 16 km of coasts, which are unreachable from the sea with only the mooring spot of Cala Maestra.
It is a wild and unpopulated place, covered in mediterranean vegetation, and a fundamental refuge for birds , as well as the farthest from the coast. It has the shape of a large and short pyramid , made of grey pink granite , and home to 400-500 wild goats, supposedly brought over from Asia by ancient Fenicians.
Its waters are rich of posidonia weeds, anemones, gorgonias and corals and thanks to the complex natural habitat they allow the life of the rare monk seal.
Cala Maestra is open on the north western side and is the only creek where mooring and anchoring are quite easy , even though when the weather is bad the dangerous exposure to I quadrant winds forces fishermen against the steep rock.
We remind you that swimming on the isle is strictly forbidden, only allowed 300mt from the coast.
To visit Montecristo it is necessary to obtain a permit , mainly released for study reasons to universities or research corporation.
The European Council when giving the wildlife preserve the European Diploma for Preservation of the territory, has decided to limit the annual admittance, organizing daily visits for groups guided by the forestal personnel.
For any info call:
Corpo Forestale dello Stato - Ufficio territoriale per la Biodiversità di Follonica (GR)
E-mail tel 0566 40019 fax 0566 40611: utb.follonica @ corpoforestale.it
ISOLA DI PIANOSA
It is the fifth biggest island, 7,5 nm south west of Elba. Its name (Planasia in arcaic language) comes from its smoothness, and it is entirely part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, so that around it for 1 mile boating and fishing are forbidden.
This island is a small portion of underwater ridge surfaced from Africa Rock, some miles west of Montecristo, reaching toward north and closing a few miles east of Capraia. This is known as Dorsale , ridge, or Altofondo di Pianosa, and it splits the Tirrenean in two: the one between the ridge and Corsica reaches 800 mt. of depth and the one between the ridge and the main land only 400 m.
The island has two smaller isles, La Scola (east) about half a mile from the port, and La Scarpa, close to P.ta del Marchese, east part of the island.
The port is very small and can only have a few boats. It is shielded from all winds except N-NE.
The sea bottom around the island are among the richest of the Archipelago, not only because its waters have been protected from fishing for 150 years from the penitentiary, but also for its peculiar morphology.
They increase in depth slowly, and the bathymetric curve of -50 is averagely reached 1500 mt. From the coast.
The waters of Pianosa are crowded by pipe-fish, gold-lines, red snappers, mullets, white sea breams, morays, lobsters, squill and big groupers. In May big crabs reach these low depths to breed.
The smooth rocks in front of Bagni di Agrippa are covered in weeds and are the favorite place for sea urchins.
Dolphins are quite common, but unfortunately it is rare to see a Caretta caretta sea turtle, and big cetaceans like whales and sperm whales that used to pass near Scola.