The Tuscan Archipelago National Park covers over 600 square kilometres of sea that go from Livorno to the Argentario promontory, and it includes seven islands: Capraia, Elba, Giannutri, Giglio, Gorgona, Montecristo, Pianosa, as well as the Formiche of Grosseto and other small rocks. The biggest island is Elba (223,5 square km), and the smallest is Gorgona (2,23 square km). The island furthest from the mainland is Montecristo, 68 km away, while Capraia is only 34 km from Elba.
Despite their being so small, the differences from one island to the other are remarkable: Elba's territory is segmented and complex, Pianosa is flat, Montecristo is a rocky cone. Along the coastline that has been shaped by the waves, cliffs and grottos alternate with tiny beaches protected by wild promontories, and colourful flowers cover the rocks and turret masts so as to remind us that man's presence on the island goes back thousands of years.
Land and morphology depend on the geolocical origins of each island. Gorgona and Montecristo come entirely from granites, Giglio and Elba from granites and sedimentary rocks (limestone and marl), Giannutri and Pianosa from limestone. Capraia from magmatic rock, both intrusive and effusive.
Before the arrival of tourism, mining was the main industry and source of income for the islands. As the years passed it became more and more important, and the effects of this on the vegetation can still be seen today: an enormous amount of charcoal was needed for timbering the mines and then working the minerals, and this explains why there are hardly any holm-oaks to be seen. The characteristic layer of vegetation of the islands has now become "high":heather, arbutus berry trees, lentisks and myrtle.
In the windy areas, on the other hand, we find the "short" layer of vegetation, with mostly red and sea cistus. A beautiful wood full of hornbeam, alder, chestnut trees, as well as yew trees, can be found on the sides of Monte Capanne, on the Island of Elba. Endemisms like the violas and the cornflours of Elba, or the toadflax of Capraia, are vey important, because they don't grow on all the islands.
Birds are the largest component of the fauna: the herring gull (600 nesting pairs), the gull (about 200 pairs), the cormorant (30 pairs), the shearwater, the raven, the peregrine falcon, the thrush, the wild pigeon. There are also many migratory birds too.
The sea around all these islands is like an immense field where all the characteristic Tirreno Sea flora grows: posidonia, sea grass, sea anemonies, coral, starfish. There are also different species of dolphins, as well as the dusky grouper and the rare moonfish. An odd time some sperm whales and fin whales are sighted. Very , very rarely some monk seals are sighted.
Information from the Tuscan Archipelago Tourism Promotion Office
Tuscan Archipelago National Park
Portoferraio - Località Enfola
Tel.0565.919411 - Fax 0565.913350 - website: www.islepark.gov.it