Giglio Island

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Isola del Giglio and Isola Giglio holidays does not just mean beautiful beaches. This is often the dismissive image of this beautiful island of the Tuscan Archipelago: you get off the ferry at Giglio Port, take a map of the beaches, and probably decide to go to the other side, exactly the opposite side, to Giglio Campese and in the evening you go for a stroll to Giglio Castello at the top to breathe the air of the 16th century. It shouldn’t be like this: Isola del Giglio Italy should be enjoyed slowly, so let’s discover together what to see in Giglio Island.

Goats, yes we are talking about goats. Forget the sweet and intriguing picture of the island which is called as the flower of the magic Florence, give a kick to floral romance, here we are dealing with goats. Classic Greek called them Aigylion, Latin used instead the similar term Igilium, and the word has arrived in the present day without any translation: Giglio Island, or Island of the Goats. If you hear bleating around you, you can now understand why, you are on their homeland.

Isola of Giglio is part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, and boasts an interesting jagged coastline with a mountainous landscape. The highest summit is Poggio della Pagana (496 metres above sea level), followed by the Castellucci Peaks (470 metres above sea level). It has a gentle climate, with very limited rainfall, usually no more than 330 mm a year, an additional feature is its constant ventilation.
So... how to get to Giglio Island? From S. Stefano Port you have taken about an hour there by ferry, you got off at Giglio Port, the sun is shining, you feel like going to the beach. I got it.

 

THERE ARE 4 MAIN ISOLA GIGLIO BEACHES. The first is Cala Arenella, less than 3 km to the north of Giglio Port, a half hour walk, and a few minutes by car or bus. To access Monticello, it is about a ten-minute walk. It boasts a beautiful small cove, albeit slightly narrow, perhaps the smallest in the island, in front of you is Argentario, on the Moresca bay side or Piccola bay, I have always wondered which one. It has nice pink sand and after following a small trail for a few minutes here is “la Caletta”, a nice and small bay with smooth rocks.

Only a twenty minute walk from Giglio Port this time to the south, by car is the best way to get to Cala Cannelle, offering a white sandy beach, larger than the one mentioned above and very beautiful, and also sometimes very crowded. From Cala Cannelle, sun umbrella under your arm, you follow the walking path that goes south and takes you in about twenty minutes’ walk to Cala delle Caldane. The place is so named because it is very hot, it can be reached only on foot or by sea, a really striking quartz beach, according to a special ranking of Legambiente it is considered the 5th best beach in Italy for its beauty. The path to Caldane is overlooking the sea, rather dangerous, if you have very young children with you, you had better avoid it. Instead go to Campese.

Giglio Campese is the tourist site par excellence: Isola del Giglio means holiday, and also sea if the souvenir photo also speaks of Campese. Giglio Port is about 9 km towards Campese, the road takes you across the island, pointing to Giglio Castello and, shortly after having found the detour and having continued further on, for a moment you can no longer see the sea, it is a strange feeling, you are in the Mediterranean, beyond is a vineyard, you have climbed in altitude, are you really at the sea? Perhaps you got lost in an amazing desert? After a moment, the road goes down, here is again the blue at the end, then the sharp bends, carry on going down and you arrive in Campese. Everything here speaks of your holiday, of your desire for the beaches of Giglio Island. Campese beach is the biggest one in Isola del Giglio, sandy and rolling despite the looming mountain behind you. The beautiful creek that is home to it is delimited at west by the well-known cliff that emerges imperiously from the sea (Punta Faraglione), and at east by the Medici tower called Torre Campese.

 

DO YOU HAVE AN ISLAND GIGLIO MAP? In addition to the renowned beaches, the coast of Tuscany Isola del Giglio collects at least a hundred other local names dedicated to particularly attractive small bays and cliffs, headlands and clusters of rocks by the sea. These are places that you can only reach by boat or by experiencing one of the specialties of the island: Giglio Island trekking. Isola Giglio in Tuscany boasts a dense network of internal paths, over 24 km, it is the real transit network for the island, the one that takes you anywhere really.
Getting to Cala del Saracino, one of the many points of the island where the Saracens landed, is easy, it is located next to Giglio Port, but reaching the beautiful Cala dell'Allume, located in the southwestern part of the island, as well as Cala del Corvo (both on foot from Campese) or Cala degli Sparavieri, is a matter of a walk: that is how you reach truly unique places in Giglio Island Italy.

From Giglio Port you should definitely go to the south to Punta Capo Marino, and even further down to Punta Torricella, and Cala Cupa and Cala del Morto to the north. Bear in mind that on the beautiful coast of Isola Giglio Italy is Cala Salto del Cane, so narrow that a dog can jump from side to side, Punta Gesso as it is as clear as chalk, La Donzella, a cliff that looks like a young woman, three rocks that resemble three bar soap bars are located at Cala dei Saponi, a rock shaped like an apple is called La Mela. Try to imagine who lived in Cala Lazzareto and I will leave it to you to look for the drum-shaped rock (Il Tamburo), the boot-shaped one (Lo Stivale) and the one in the shape of a cat's paw (try and guess).

With the map of Island Giglio in hand head south to its far end: Punta di Capel Rosso; to get there you pass by the lighthouse built in 1883, a bit further on until the cliffs, a wonderful place, you and nature, peace and blazing flavours of salt and sea. Quiet. From the lighthouse if you want there is a path to the right towards the sea, I am not sure if you can get to it from the sea rocks, I haven’t been there: but let me know.

Small passageways and alleyways, arrivals by boat, beautiful transparent sea, clean waters, it is easy to guess that the Isola del Giglio scuba diving offers all types and levels. Yellow, red and white sea fans that colours the underwater walls, then groupers, lobsters, moray eels on the seabed, anemones, sponges and worms still attached to the rocks, tuna, barracuda, bream, sunfish and many other species. Isola del Giglio diving in Campese and Porto boasts at least half a dozen diving centres.

Passionate about bouldering? Isola del Giglio bouldering is also a great activity to be practiced in the island. For the uninitiated, bouldering is climbing with bare hands on the rocks, a short climb (3 to 6/7 m depending on the difficulty) but very challenging from a technical point of view with precise rules. The Isola del Giglio Italy is an ideal destination for fans of this sport. You can practice it at different locations scattered around, but the most famous is on the path that comes from the road that goes from Giglio Port to Castello and heads towards Punta Fenaio.

 

ISOLA DEL GIGLIO HAS BEEN INHABITED SINCE THE STONE AGE and was probably turned into a strategic point of military control by the Etruscans but it was the Romans that give it its shine and fame. There are numerous remains of the Latin civilization on Isola di Giglio, starting with the remains of the villa of the Domizi Enobarbi family. The island is even mentioned in a work by Julius Caesar, De Bello Civilii, and especially in the narrative of a Roman poet and politician, Claudio Rutilio Namaziano who, fleeing from Rome devastated by the Goths (we are around 415 A.D.) talks about the island that instead was saved and hosted many fugitives: 'Eminus Igilii Silvosa cacumina miro. quam fraudare nefas laudis'.

In 805 A.D. Charlemagne donated the island to the Abbey of the Three Fountains, an institution that is a hub in the history of half of Tuscany. It was then owned by the Aldobrandeschi family, followed by the the Orsini Family and the Municipality of Perugia. In 1206 the island of Giglio became part of Pisa until 1406. Florence then took the island under its control in 1448. However, it was later invaded by Alfonso of Aragon and its property was passed to the Piccolomini Family from Siena. The notorious pirate Barbarossa Khair ed Din raided it massacring and deporting its inhabitants in 1544. Finally the tortuous history of domination of this small island ends with the transition to the Medici in 1558. From here on the history of  island returns to be marked by the constant attacks of the Saracens. La Rocca del Giglio in the beautiful Giglio Castello is the first protagonist of the tough defensive events against these continuous assaults.

You can touch with your hands all this history when admiring the watchtowers scattered around the island, the remaining Roman cisterns and between the walls and the towers of Giglio Castello, inside the ancient fortress, peering through the slits at the sea it seems you can still see the pirates approaching, walking among the narrow streets and alleys, in the maze of narrow streets adorned with beautiful balconies you hear about the Middle Ages, visiting the Church of St. Peter the Apostle you can found the traits of Pisa and the improvements of the 17th century enlargement.
Giglio Castello village was already existing in the 10th century, but the fortress was finally built by the Pisans in the 14th century and renovated between 1595 and 1623 at the hands of military architects. Today Giglio Castello is indeed a pearl of Tuscany, that should be visited  and a walled village to add to your itinerary.

It is also interesting to note how the land is farmed. Many of the slopes of Isola del Giglio Italy are 'terraced', the technique for obtaining land for farming in the hills / mountains was much used on this island. The terraces, called by the local folk "Greppe", were then abandoned when mining first and then the tourists gave other economic stimuli to the population. The Greppe have been restored in recent years to multiply the cultivation of the typical island of Giglio vineyard: Ansonaco wine. This very traditional wine, which is produced here with strict compliance to traditional techniques, is perhaps the oldest gastronomic reference of the island of Giglio. But there is another great speciality in the island: Panficato, a cake whose recipe dates back to the 16th century. Made with typical island fruit such as figs and grapes, it resembles gingerbread and for this reason it is thought that it was the emigrants from Siena who introduced it into the island. You should also try the stuffed squid, spaghetti with limpet sauce (a very special clam) and, just to pay homage to the many immigrants from Liguria, who were welcomed in the island, olives in pesto.

The localities that make up Isola del Giglio are three (Porto, Castello, Campese) and of course, in the best tradition of Tuscan parochialism, there are three patron saints and three village festivals.  In mid-September Giglio Castello celebrates St Mamiliano, when there is also the Donkey Festival, where the contention is between the four districts of Giglio Castello: Centro, Cisterna, Casamatta and Rocca. At Giglio Port on 10 August there is the Festival of San Lorenzo with the Palio Marinaro a  challenge of the three districts of Porto: Chiesa, Moletto, Saraceno. On 16 August it is the turn of Campese with the San Rocco Festival, with the sinking of the crown in honour of the victims of the sea, the squid festival and, in the name of tradition, the exhibition of the beautiful quadrille of Giglio.

In short, there are many interesting things to do on Giglio Island. It is worth it. I will see you there.