The Protected Area includes about 180 square kilometres of land and about 600 of sea, comprising all the islands of the archipelago.
Half of the area of Elba and Giglio is protected, and only a small built-up area on the Island of Capraia is excluded. Montecristo, Pianosa and Gorgona islands are under strict protection: access is limited to keep visitors to sustainable numbers. Although access to Giannutri is freely permitted, a guide is required to visit most parts of the island.
The islands differ in geology, landscape, biodiversity, history and the human events that animated their past. There are corners where you can bathe in turquoise waters, open spaces bathed by golden sunsets, evergreen holm oak woods interspersed with geometric cultivated terraces and, lastly, extensive patches of colourful flowers stretching out towards the sea. Beyond that limit, the kingdom of pioneer plants growing among seaside rocks and on vertical cliffs, on rocky shores sheltering sandy inlets gently lapped by the waves. Walking trails intersect small, well preserved hamlets with ancient, fortified bastions that recall the tumultuous events of past dominations.
Seven protected islands
ELBA is the third largest Italian island (224 km2), measuring 27 km E-W and 18 km N-S. It lies 10 km from the Tuscan coast. Divided into the seven municipalities of Campo nell'Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, Portoferraio, Rio, it is prevalently mountainous or hilly. The western granite massif culminates in Mt. Capanne (altitude 1019 m), the highest peak in the archipelago. The island, known for its iron deposits, has an
exceptional variety of rocks and minerals, generated by complex geological events.
GIGLIO is the second largest island in the archipelago (21.2 km2). It lies 15 km west of Mt. Argentario and features a chain of hills, the highest peak of which is Poggio della Pagana (496 m). The hills have a prevalently granite substrate, except for an ancient sedimentary and metamorphic fragment with veins of iron-bearing minerals that were exploited until the 1960s in mines at the town of Campese.
CAPRAIA, has an area of 19.3 km2 and is the third largest island in the archipelago. It lies 54 km west of the coast of Italy and 28 km from Corsica. The island is of volcanic origin and is mostly mountainous, with a ridge stretching from one side to the other, where the highest peak is Mt. Castello (altitude 445 m).
MONTECRISTO is the fourth largest island (10.4 km2) and the most distant from the coast of Italy (about 63 km). Already frequented in Roman times, in the fifth century St. Mamilian here founded a monastic community that was active until the sixteenth century. It has been a Total Nature Reserve since 1971 and a Biogenetic Nature Reserve since 1988. The only wharf is at Cala Maestra, site of the Royal villa (Villa Reale).
PIANOSA has an area of 10.2 km2 and is the fifth largest island in the archipelago. It lies 14 km S-SW of Elba, 27 km S-SE of Montecristo and 40 km east of Corsica. Frequented by prehistoric man and by ancient navigators, it contains Neolithic, Eneolithic and Bronze Age remains. Site of maritime residential buildings in the Roman period, during the imperial period Agrippa, nephew of Augustus, was exiled here. It was closed to visitors until 1998
because it was the site of a major prison.
GIANNUTRI (2.6 km2) has 11 km of rocky coast and is the southernmost of the Tuscan islands. The only wharves are Cala Spalmatoio and Cala Maestra, which have narrow gravel beaches. The island is surrounded by waters rich in biodiversity. The archaeological site of the Roman villa of the Domitius family can be visited with special guides.
GORGONA is the smallest (2.23 km2, circumference of about 5 km) and northernmost island in the archipelago. It lies 36 km from the Tuscan coast and is the site of an agricultural penal colony. The highest peak on the mountainous western side is Punta Gorgona (225 m). The eastern side is marked by three small valleys, the northernmost of which extends down to sea level, where there is a small beach and the village-wharf of Cala dello Scalo.