Arcipelago Toscano National Park

 

Giannutri - Photo courtesy of delbene/Wikimedia

 

The Arcipelago Toscano National Park features seven stunning and unique islands as well as gorgeous mountain cliffs. The marine park safeguards almost 56,766 hectares of sea and more than 17,000 hectares of land. Over the years the national park has labored to preserve the natural beauty of the area for visitors and future generations.

The seven main islands in the park are Gorgona, Giannutri, Pianosa, Montecristo, Capraia, Giglio and Elba. These islands are surrounded by dramatic cliffs and other minor islands. The geological formation of these islands is quite different, for example, Elba and Giglio are granitic islands while Capraia is volcanic. The studies on the island have also uncovered traces of ancient man having once settled here.

Pianosa - Lighthouse - Photo courtesy of Petitverdot/Wikimedia

 

Flora and Fauna

The Toscano Arcipelago has always been an important connection between the peninsula and the Sardinian-Corsican islands. The long history of the islands has led to the development of some special vegetal and animal species. The islands boast several colonies of sea birds, like the seagulls and shearwaters, as well as a rare species of Audouin's Gull that can be found in the national park. Cetaceans and the Mediterranean Monk Seal can also be spotted by visitors to the park.

The islands of the archipelago have plenty of endemic species including the Citril Finch and the Leaf-Fingered Gecko, Tyrrhenian Painted Frog, and the Sardinian Tree Frog. Due to the Mediterranean climate the area is filled with terrestrial mammals like rabbit and marten. Wild boar disappeared from the region sometime during the first half of the 19th century.

The climate and the insularity of the islands is what shapes the vegetation of the national park. Evergreen plants with coriaceous leaves are the dominating vegetation along with several plants that have smaller or no leaves. At one time large holm oaks existed in the park's forests, although little evidence of them remains. The altitude of the Island of Elba has favored the growth of many types of trees from Chestnut to Hop Hornbeam and European Yew.

Elba Island - Aerial View

Another common plant in the park is the Mediterranean Maquis. Brooms, lavender, rosemary, heath, myrtle, Phoenician juniper, mastic tree, and buckthorn are all commonly found in the park's wooded areas.

Points of Interest

The Arcipelago Toscano National Park is located right on the sea and thus enjoys a beautiful Mediterranean climate. The summers are warm, dry and breezy, though humidity is present. Winters are mild and it often rains in the spring and fall. The winds in the area are coastal in nature, though they do get quite different on the high seas. Strong winds are not very uncommon and even snow fall can be seen at the peak of Mount Capanne, which remains covered with snow every year. The high altitudes of the summit peaks create interesting and complex conditions in regards to climate, landscape and vegetations.

After admiring the animal life and vegetation of the park visitors will have a wonderful time exploring and discovering the unique properties of all seven of the main islands. Giannutri Island is the southernmost of all the islands in the group and is located about 150 km from the island of Gorgona. Giannutri covers an area of 260 hectares its coast stretches for 11 km. The natural beauty of the island makes it a must see for those in the area.

Elba Island - Portoferraio

The second largest of the seven islands is Giglio with its long coastline, which goes on for 28 km. The island is located only 20 km from Port Santo Stefano and has a number of interesting places to visit in terms of nature and culture.

The Island of Elba is the largest in the archipelago and the third largest in Italy; it is also the most famous. The island has been inhabited since Greek and Roman times, but is probably best known for the year that Napoleon spent there. Elba boasts many beautiful beaches and much development between Capo Pero and Punta Nera. While on the island be sure to visit the Palazzina Napoleonica and the Villa di San Martino, which form the Museo Nazionale delle Residenze Napoleoniche, as well as the remainders of the Medici fortifications designed by Buontalenti.

The Gorgona island is located on the northern end of the archipelago and is the smallest of all the islands. Settled by the Etruscans and later the Romans the island is home to an interesting former penal colony.

The Isle of Montecristo can only be visited by guided tour and only 1,000 visitors a year are allowed to step foot on the island. Centuries ago a monastery built on the island was ransacked. The treasure that made its way to the mainland prompted stories of more jewels hidden and buried by the monks on the island. It was these stories, and this tiny island, that inspired the Dumas classic The Count of Monte Cristo.

The first ever large marine park to be established in Italy the Archipelago Toscano is the largest protected sea area in Europe. Visitors can enjoy the many different islands as well as the numerous species of plants and animals in the area.