"Legend has it that Venus, goddess of beauty, rose up from the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and as she did so, seven of the pearls on the necklace round her neck came off and fell into the sea, and this is how the seven islands of the Tuscan Archipelago came to be"
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park, covering 17694 square hectares of land and 61474 of sea, is the biggest Marine park in Europe and includes all the major islands in the Tuscan Archipelago: Elba, Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri and Gorgona. Some of the smaller islands and rocks also belong to the Park: Palmaiola and Cerboli, just off Elba, Le Formiche of Grosseto, north of Giglio, the Affrica Rock or Formiche of Montecristo, Le Formiche of Capraia, of Palmaiola, of La Zanca. The islands in the archipelago are in the provinces of Livorno and Grosseto and belong to eleven different Communes.
[img index="0" params=ms&class=image-l"][/img]A somewhat "unusual" archipelago because each island is an island in itself, with it's own unique "personality" and rich in very varied natural environments, type of vegetation, culture. history and art.
All the islands are also part of the Pelagos Sanctuary of marine mammals, a protected area that covers 90.000 square kilometres, born from a treaty between Italy, the Pricipality of Monaco and France.
Although there are very strict rules concerning the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, access is allowed to all of them,
especially during the summer months when several shipping companies connect the Island of Elba to the main ports of the nearby islands. To and from Elba you can go to Capraia, Pianosa, Giglio as well as the French island of Corsica. Access to the Island of Montecristo is very limited, but from April 1st to October 31st you may request permission; not only that, every year the Tuscan Archipelago National Park gives the chance to those who wish to visit the island to apply, maximum number 100 people all in all from the Commune of Portoferraio, the Island of Elba and the Tuscan Archipelago, up to a total of 1000 people a year.
For those who wish to visit the Island of Giannutri, there are crossings to and from the port of Porto Santo Stefano or from the Island of Giglio; the crossing takes one hour.
There used to be a penal colony on the Island of Gorgona so up till recently you were allowed access only with a special permit and under the watchful eye of the Prison Authorities.
Since spring 2016, thanks to an agreement between the Park Authority, the Livorno Prison Authorities and the Commune of Livorno, access is now granted to both tourists and to those who wish to go even just to study the natural environment.