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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Visiting Tuscany



Tuscan Archipelago

The largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago is Elba, which has beaches, inlets, rocky coastline, green hills, Mediterranean macchia vegetation, and woods. Already mentioned in Greek and Roman times, it was ruled by the Pisans and Genoese, and later formed part of the Principato degli Appiani, the overlords of Piombino. It is perhaps best known for Napoleon Bonaparte's stay there from 1814 to 1815; together with Pianosa and Palmaiola, Elba constituted for a brief period the small kingdom conceded to Napoleon in return for his abdication. He ruled the island for ten months, initiating a variety of public works, building roads, and developing the mines of Rio and the granite quarries. Important work was also done to provide sources of drinking water. After the final fall of Napoleon, Elba became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and, from 1860 onwards, the Kingdom of Italy.

The capital of the island is Portoferraio, which is situated on a natural promontory and has good ferry connections with Piombino, Livorno, and the other islands of the archipelago. It has always made an excellent port, a fact which favoured the early Ligurian and Etruscan settlers. In the medieval period it was a modest-sized town and went by the name of Ferraio; in 1548, it was purchased by Cosimo I who had it totally reconstructed according to a military plan. Forte Stella (later Napoleon's headquarters), Forte Falcone, and the Bastione e Torre della Linguella were built to defend this important trading port.
There are a number of interesting places to visit on the island. There is the Palazzina Napoleonica (also called Palazzina dei Mulini), built a hundred years before Napoleon's arrival; its external appearance gives no hint of the riches inside, and together with the Villa di San Martino it forms the Museo Nazionale delle Residenze Napoleoniche. Also of interest are the Medici bastions built by Buontalenti. Other small towns in Elba are Rio dell'Elba, Rio Marina, Porto Azzurro, Capoliveri, and Marciana.
Since ancient times the island has produced both red and white wine.

The smaller islands of the Tuscan Archipelago offer continually changing landscapes of sea and Mediterranean macchia. The northernmost and smallest island is Gorgona, which was settled by the Etruscans, then by the Romans, and over the centuries that followed there were also various monasteries there. Finally, in 1406, following a period of Pisan rule, it came under the control of the Medici who built a fort there.
Capraia, which is Roman in origin, is an oval-shaped volcanic island with a high coastline and lots of caves. It is dominated by the Fortezza di San Giorgio, which was erected by the Genoese at the beginning of the 15th century. The island's dense vegetation includes some extremely rare species and consists essentially of Mediterranean macchia; in the past there also used to be wild goats (hence the island's name: capra=goat) and seals on the island.

Pianosa is the island closest to Elba, so named because it is flat (piano=flat) Like Elba, it was under various different dominions until it fell under the control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1858, it became a penal colony. The remains of a luxurious Roman villa, partly submerged beneath the sea, have been found here.
Montecristo (originally called Artemisia), 40 kilometres from Elba, consists of a single granite mass rising to three peaks. A Benedictine monastery was founded on the island, but it was abandoned in 1553 after being ransacked by the corsair Dragut. The wealth taken to the mainland gave rise to a legend of treasure buried by the monks, which was inspiration for Alexander Dumas in The Count of Montecristo. Since 1989, Montecristo has been part of the Parco Nazionale dell'Arcipelago Toscano, and the only form of access is by guided visit. The number of people who can visit the island annually is one thousand.

Picture by Sandro Santioli

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