The Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago are all close to one another and Elba, in particular, is the best starting point to visit them all. In various tourist harbours of the island, mainly from Marina di Campo, are organized mini-cruises and boat trips to Pianosa ,Giannutri and Capraia islands. However, if you want to explore the archipelago by yourself, you can rent a boat.
Reaching the other islands of the archipelago by boat is a very suggestive experience: you find yourself in a stretch of sea known as the “Whale Sanctuary”, a protected area in which is possible to sight whales, fin whales, dolphins and sperm whales.
In Capraia island, you can visit the splendid Cala Rossa, result of the volcanic eruptions that gave birth to the island. Capraia is a big rock of lava, eight kilometres long and four wide, with no traffic lights and clubs.
On the island, there’s a small harbour and a little village of small, colourful houses, only one road, many cats and hundreds of mouflons in the Mediterranean vegetation. This is in short Capraia!
The sea bed in Capraia island is much loved by snorkellers and deep sea divers, because there is a great amount of Posidonia rich in groupers, dentex and gilthead bream. Don’t forget that there are also many cetaceans in this area of the Mediterranean, here you have the chance of seeing blue whales and striped dolphins.
During the summer months, a crossing of one hour and 45 minutes with the Aquavision shipping company from Portoferraio or from Marciana Marina takes you to Capraia.
Pianosa, just 14 km from Elba, is the lowest island of the Tuscan archipelago, rising just 29 meters above sea level. In fact, it’s the extreme flatness of the island that gives it its name, piano meaning flat in Italian.
Apart from Montecristo, Pianosa is the most secluded island. It’s been closed to the public since 1858 when it was used as an agricultural penal colony. In 1970 the penal prison upgraded to a maximum-security prison until it closed in 1998.
The isolation of the island protected its particular micro-ecosystem: only 250 visitors are allowed daily to sunbath on the Cala Giovanna beach, snorkel in the crystal-blue water or take guided biking or walking tours throughout the island, but the permission is received rather easily and is well worth it!
In recent years, the Park Authorities have allowed individual expert scuba divers and small groups, accompanied by environmental guides, to go scuba diving in what is considered today some of the Mediterranean’s most unknown waters.
It takes just under an hour from Elba to get there, boat trips are done by the Aquavision Shipping Company from the port in Marina di Campo, and every Tuesday the Toremar Shipping Company also makes a crossing from Rio Marina (from Piombino).
Giannutri is the southernmost island in the Tuscan Archipelago. From Giglio island you can get a ferry to the small island of Giannutri, a protected marine area of incredible historic and environmental value.
The boats can land at the Bay of Spalmatoio, even if at times, depending on the wind, the boat can arrive at Maestra Bay. The two bays are the only points where the rocky calcareous island opens onto a small beach and where it is possible to swim in the water – swimming is forbidden in the southern part of the island and in some of the northern areas.
Even if it isn’t possible to explore the whole coast, Giannutri is a true paradise for those who love snorkelling and scuba diving: the sea bottoms are unspoilt and rich not only in fish but also in corals, underwater meadows of posidonia, and even the ruins of ancient shipwrecks.
To reach Giannutri, you must purchase a 4 euro ticket, paid directly to the carrier taking you to the island.Giannutri can be reached by boat from Porto Santo Stefano or Isola del Giglio, 12 and 15 kilometres away, respectively.
The hardest place to visit: Montecristo island
Montecristo is the most pristine and remote of the Tuscan islands.
Montecristo is perhaps most famous for Alexander Dumas’ book, The Count of Monte Cristo, written in 1844, supposedly after Dumas fell in love with the small island after a visit in 1842.
The island was home to a community of monks until the sixteenth century where they thrived on the beautiful land, living in nearly complete seclusion for decades.
In 1971 Montecristo became a nature reserve and is now closed to boats and tourists without a special, very reserved permit to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem (The island open to tourists twice a year (between April 1st and April 15th and August 31st and October 31st) and under specific conditions.
Best time to visit Tuscany Islands
Summer (from May to September) is the best time to visit the islands and the beautiful beaches of Tuscany. During this season the temperatures are hot, which is why the climate is perfect for cooling off in the sea or being immersed in nature.
July and August are the hottest months in Tuscany. Sometimes the temperature ranging between 28-35o C. At night, fortunately it is less hot, but still with high temperature, between 22-27o C. If you are looking for sunny hot days to spend at the beach or by the pool, then July or August are the perfect months to visit Tuscany.