A dive where the water is bluer, between history, adventure and relaxation (Part 1)
Between sky and sea. The earth is scattered among the waves. Like small pieces of a puzzle left deliberately incomplete. The Italian insular heritage includes over 800 islands, but only 80 are inhabited. It is certainly tempting to venture on one of the 720 deserted Italian islands, but for all those who prefer comfort at risk, the company to solitude and who are not familiar with the life of ” Friend Flicka”, here are the most
beautiful islands of Italy, to be included in the list of places to visit absolutely. Leaving out the island regions of Italy, this is a journey through legend, mythology, nature and tradition with feet on the mainland and the gaze lost in the blue, to discover the smaller Italian islands.
Italian islands: the seven pearls of the Tuscan Archipelago
One spring morning: Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, came to the world from the foam of the sea. From his necklace, seven pearls slipped away, lost in the Tyrrhenian Sea, becoming the seven precious islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. This group of Italian islands was proclaimed as a National Park in 1996. The seven Tuscan sisters form a naturalistic oasis of about 300 square kilometers.
All civilizations have stopped here. 224 square kilometers of art and culture merged in the embrace of nature. Different peoples have given themselves the change over this land, which has preserved the same beauty for thousands of years. The largest of the smaller Italian islands, Capo Bianco, the central gem of Aphrodite’s necklace, saw Giasone’s ship in search of the Golden Fleece landed on its shores. Iron mines were the main source of livelihood for the Etruscans, exporters of precious metal throughout the Mediterranean basin. On the island of Aethalia (spark) so called by the Greek navigators, the ovens worked incessantly. Today the archaeological remains tell the story of the powerful iron and steel industry inherited from the Romans. They were the ones who made the most of the potential of the island of good wine: the granite deposits, the healing mud baths of the Terme di San Giovanni, the fruitful vineyards. The great patrician villas wink at the past scattered in the most suggestive gulfs. The Maritime Republic of Pisa left the signs of its passage in the refined Romanesque churches, in the tower of San Giovanni in Campo, in the mighty Marciana Fortress and in the manor of Volterraio, which stands on the island like a sentinel. Then the Medici arrived: Cosimo I built the fortified town of Portoferraio and renamed the gem of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Cosmopoli, “the cradle of civilization and culture, an example of balance and rationality”. In Porto Azzurro the Spaniards settled, building Forte San Giacomo, the current House of punishment, but also the evocative Sanctuary of Monserrato, which stands on a modest relief. This panorama brightened the eyes of Napoleon Bonaparte in his hundred days of exile. If you are thinking about a holiday on the Italian islands, here you will find crystal clear sea and beautiful beaches. An ideal destination for those who love outdoor sports: snorkeling, trekking and mountain biking. A desire that is realized for those who yearn for absolute relaxation.
ISOLA DEL GIGLIO
A real natural paradise. The Greeks called it aegilion, “island of the goats”, because of the mountainous territory, suitable for sheep. A coast full of rocks, interspersed with the coves of Arenella, Porto, Cannelle and the wide golden beach of Campese. Unpolluted sea and lush Mediterranean vegetation. Olive trees and vineyards as far as the eye can see, which provide top quality oil and fine white wine. In the waters of one of the most beautiful Italian islands life is crowded: seahorses, blue sponges, red and yellow gorgonians. The town appears on the sea like a fortified village, surrounded by high medieval walls with towers. A maze of alleyways and arches, a landscape of old dense houses along the road that leads to the Alta Rocca.
ISOLA DI CAPRAIA
One of the wildest Italian minor islands, the result of a double volcanic eruption: the oldest dates back to about 10 million years ago, followed by that of 1 million years ago. The name was given by the Romans, ascertaining by the presence of numerous wild goats. The rocky stratifications tell the story of a land eroded by wind, sea and lava. At Cala Rossa, the view is lost among the particular conical rock walls in shades of red and black. And focusing your eyes upwards it is not uncommon to see the beautiful Corsican seagull pass, chosen as the symbol of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Tourism arrived here late, after the eighties, with the closure of the penal colony. Since then the two inhabited centers, port and village, have developed extensively. But nature remains undisputed, with the 445 meters of Monte Castello, for those who love hiking. If you are looking for an Italian island where you can launch yourself in pure adventure, Capraia awaits you.
Mysterious, almost inaccessible. Montecristo is one of the most peculiar small Italian islands. According to a legend, the origin of the name would be attributable to San Mamiliano, who after being taken prisoner took refuge on the island, where he lived in solitude in a cave, called Grotta del Santo. He renamed the place with the name “Mons Christi”. Here Mamiliano killed the legendary guardian dragon of the island, and from the body of the enormous animal would have sprung a source of pure water. Yes, if you are thinking about the famous Alexandre Dumas novel, you are not wrong: “The Count of Montecristo” tells the story of a treasure hidden on the island in the Abbey of San Mamiliano, built in the seventeenth century by Benedictine monks. Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy was so impressed that he decided to make the island his exclusive hunting reserve. A pyramid of gray-pink granite, an impregnable fortress: this is how the island of Montecristo present itself. The panorama is occupied by the two highest peaks: Monte Fortezza (645 meters) and Cima dei Lecci (563 meters). To set foot on the island there is only one place to land: Cala Maestra, on the western side. Needless to emphasize how much flora and fauna have been able to proliferate in this place virtually uninhabited. Lonely lovers of nature, the Grotta del Santo is still there: availability while places last.
ISOLA DI PIANOSA
As the name suggests, the territory of this Italian minor island is almost totally flat and the modest 29-meter heights would not bother anyone. Little rocky coast, lots of sand. The unobstructed expanse allowed the global view of the island from above: an ideal place to build a maximum security prison, which remained active until 1997. Sandro Pertini, partisan president of the Italian Republic, was imprisoned there in the 1930s. With distant human beings, nature has been the main character and very few birds, such as the berta and the peregrine falcon, have identified on this Mediterranean vegetation the best place to nest. Dolphins are often sighted and the lucky ones will be able to look at a specimen of Caretta-caretta turtle or monk seal. The remains of Roman catacombs are one of the flagships of this pristine Tuscan gem.
ISLAND OF GORGONA
The smallest of the seven pearls lost by Aphrodite in the Tyrrhenian Sea, but also the last island-penitentiary in Italy. Calcareous rocks and mountainous territory: Punta Gorgona stands out above all with its 255 meters of altitude. The island boasts 400 floristic species and a prolific indigenous variety of olive trees, “Bianca di Gorgona”. The sea is always limpid and clean, the sea bed is one of the most beautiful in Italy. The 70 inmates of the agricultural penal colony produce wine, cheese and honey, exploiting the natural resources of the Gorgona. The tourist visits are allowed in full safety and so you can go to discover the many beautiful bays, such as Cala Scirocco, with the Grotta del Bove marino, once a refuge for monk seals, Cala Maestra and Cala Martina. To complete the suggestive framework two fortifications: the Old Tower and the New Tower, old defensive ramparts of the island.
ISOLA DI GIANNUTRI
The Greeks called it “Artemisia”, the Romans “Dianium” for its unmistakable arched shape. Today everyone knows her as the island of seagulls. The tropical plants present throughout the territory testify to the benevolence of the climate for twelve months a year. A flight of splendid royal gulls will accompany you throughout the trip on the island from the transparent water that allows you to glimpse the many wrecks, such as the Anna Bianca lying in Cala Ischiaiola, or that of Nasim that makes the seabed completely white. Diving enthusiasts can only prepare an itinerary for the island of Giannutri. One square, in Cala Spalmatoio. In Cala Maestra, however, you can visit the remains of the Roman Villa, built in the 2nd century AD. from the Domizi Enobarbi, an ancient family.
With eyes still full of wonder, we move to another enchanting archipelago of Italian islands, the one in Campania: discovering the most romantic gulf in the world.