The Tuscan Archipelago


Summer in Tuscany can bring you big surprises…. here not only art, history and monuments await you, but also a wonderful natural environment. With a huge, almost infinite, choice, we’d like to introduce you to the Archipelago of Tuscany – a place that really is off the beaten track.

As legend has it the islands of the archipelago come from a crown that Venus lost as she swam in the crystelline waters of the Mediterrean. Each island is different from the other, and they are truly unique in the world. The islands are perfect for holidays with their sandy beaches, little inlets and the rocky coastlines that together make up the largest marine park in Europe with around 60 thousand hectares of protected waters around the islands of Capraia, Giannutri, Gorgona, Montecristo and Pianosa, and 18 thousand hectares of protected land on the larger islands of Elba and Giglio.

It is only possible to freely visit the islands of Elba, Giglio, Giannutri and part of Capraia – a completely volcanic island and the most northern of the archipelago, with almost no beaches. Having been a penal colony for more than a century, Capraia is visited today by scuba divers attracted by the ocean floor and many underwater caves. The island of Gorgona still has a prison and it is only possible to visit the island on organised and authorised trips. Pianosa also hosted a prison until recently. To complete the list, all of Montecristo is a natural reserve so protected that only 1000 visitors can set foot here each year.

In addition to its pristine natural beauty, the Tuscan Archipelago has a rich and interesting story. Rome was not even founded when Elba was noted throughout the Mediterranean for its iron. In ancient history the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans fought for dominion of the island, and during the Middle Ages the Maritime Republics of Pisa and Genoa squabbled over the island. From the 16th to the 18th Century the Medici family, the Spanish, Austrians, English and French controlled Elba at various times. The evidence of this long history is well preserved and there are splendid remains of Roman baths and villas, watch towers, forts, castles and bastions – all signs of the islanders’ enduring efforts to defend themselves from pirates and Saracens. The event that projected the island onto the world stage however was the brief reign of Napoleon, who in his 10 months of exile on the island realised many important public works.

But the evidence of Napoleon’s stay doesn’t end here. The official flag of Elba is that which Napoleon wanted: three golden bees on a red band, mounted on a white background. Each year, on May 5, the Church of the Misericordia in Portoferraio celebrates a Requiem Mass for Napoleon.

Another important date on Elba is July 14, when a 100-strong procession celebrates the legend of Innamorata, a story of passion and tragedy from the 1500s. This tradition relives the story of a young nobileman Lorenzo, who after many trails and tribulations finally obtains the approval of his family to marry Maria – a simple commoner. On the eve of the wedding he was captured by the Saracens and dragged off on a sloop. Maria followed the scene from the rocks and dived into the sea to save her betrothed, who in turn had escaped into the waves. But the sea overcame them and all that remained of the lovers was Maria’s shoe which she left on the rock that today is known as the ciarpa or scarf.

The tradition was first celebrated in the second half of the 17th Century by a Spanish nobileman, Domingo Cardenas, who one night in July believed he had seen the shadow of a woman illuminated by a myriad of lights. The fishermens’ stories of Innamorata came back to Domingo and troubled by the vision Domingo vowed that in the years to come, he would help Maria to find her Lorenzo by lighting a thousand torches on the beach. From then on the beach was called the Spiaggia dell’ Innamorata.

Commenti (2) | March 15, 2010

2 Responses to “The Tuscan Archipelago”

  1. soccer cleats Says:
    September 14th, 2011 at 04:52

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  2. alpinestars jackets Says:
    November 28th, 2011 at 08:15

    The fishermens’ stories of Innamorata came back to Domingo and troubled by the vision Domingo vowed that in the years to come, he would help Maria to find her Lorenzo by lighting a thousand torches on the beach. From then on the beach was called the Spiaggia dell’ Innamorata.

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