Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago

September 19, 2012 by

Day Trips, Things To Do, Top Attractions

Elba

Relax in Elba. Photo courtesy of magnetismus via Flickr.

Any country with as much coastline as Italy is bound to have a long list of islands off the coast – and Italy does not disappoint. Some are (rightly) famous, including the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, and an island that has served as a playground to the wealthy for thousands of years, Capri. Did you know that there are seven islands in an archipelago off the coast of Tuscany alone?

With most of its well-known attractions being inland, Tuscany has managed to keep its coastline something of a secret from tourists. But the region has a long border that touches both the Ligurian and Tyrrenian Seas, and the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago stretch in an arc between the two seas. The seven islands in the Tuscan Archipelago are, sort of from top to bottom: Gorgona, Capraia, Elba, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, and Giannutri. They lie between the Italian mainland and the French island of Corsica.

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The largest island of the seven is Elba, with a population of roughly 30,000. Even the smallest islands in terms of land still have residents, although in some cases the number of year-round residents amounts to 10 or fewer. You may have heard of Elba, as the home of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte for just under a year (not a bad spot to be exiled!), and Montecristo, as the setting for “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

The islands in the Tuscan Archipelago are part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park. Most of the islands see a major influx of visitors during the summer months, and since the primary method of getting to/from the islands is by ferry, you need to pay particular attention to the boat schedules so you don’t end up unintentionally stuck overnight on an island. Planning an overnight stay, however, is a great way to vacation like the Italians – many of the islands have vacation homes and upscale beach resorts. Note that most of the island of Gorgona, the northernmost island, is a penal colony, making it off-limits to visitors (for obvious reasons).

- Jessica Spiegel

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