Tuscan Archipelago National Park

An oasis of biodiversity between sea, islands and enchanting landscapes

The Tuscan Archipelago National Park, one of Italy's youngest national parks, is Europe's largest marine protected area. Elba, Capraia, Gorgona, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio and Giannutri are part of the park: seven islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea that are as many different worlds.

Different not only for their geological origin but also and above all for the historical events that have shaped their destinies and landscapes (www.islepark.it). An archipelago rich in history and luxuriant nature, not entirely protected by the park whose tormented perimeter process has in fact excluded almost all the urban and agricultural areas of Capraia, Elba and Giglio.

Yet it is an inseparable unicum in which the connective tissue is the sea, one of the most beautiful and vital in the Mediterranean. The rocky seabed that largely surrounds the islands is rich in diverse flora and fauna. Groupers, lobsters, moray eels and octopuses hide among the walls encrusted with colourful sponges and coralline algae, where urchins, anemones, spirographs and gorgonians also live.

All around swim sea breams, giltheads, snappers, damselfish and garfish, while in the open sea it is not uncommon to see groups of dolphins. Finally, the sandy seabed is covered with lush posidonia meadows, an authentic green lung of the Mediterranean.

Characteristics of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park

Where it is: the seven islands that make up the Tuscan Archipelago National Park are scattered across a wide stretch of the upper Tyrrhenian Sea, between the coasts of Tuscany and Corsica. Elba is the largest island and the closest to the mainland, being only 10 km from Piombino. Further north, 64 km from the coast, we find Capraia and finally Gorgona, which is the smallest and also the northernmost of the entire archipelago. Giglio and Giannutri lie a few kilometres from Monte Argentario, while to reach Montecristo you have to head much further out to sea. Pianosa, finally, lies 14 km south-west of Elba.

How big is it: the park covers about 18,000 hectares on land, including the entire islands of Gorgona, Pianosa, Montecristo and Giannutri and a large part of Capraia, Elba and Giglio. At sea, the park protects a further 60,000 hectares around Gorgona, Capraia, Montecristo and Giannutri.

Visiting period: the islands' mild climate allows visits throughout the year. The best period, however, is perhaps spring, when it is possible to observe the passage of migratory birds and the splendid blooms without suffering from the excessive crowding typical of the summer season.

When it was established: three different decrees, in 1988, 1989 and 1990, decided on its establishment. The management bodies were only finally established in September 1997.

Type of protected area: National Park.
Competent authority: Ente Parco Nazionale dell'Arcipelago Toscano, Loc. L'Enfola, 57037 Portoferraio (LI).
Region: Tuscany. Provinces: Livorno and Grosseto.
Municipalities: Capoliveri, Portoferraio, Porto Azzurro, Marina di Campo, Rio, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Giglio Island, Capraia Island, Livorno.
Resident population: around 32,000 inhabitants.

The Goals of the Parks

What is a National Park? What can the Tuscan Archipelago National Park have in common with the Abruzzo National Park, or the Yellowstone Park, or even the Great Barrier Reef? What such different places have in common is the presence of ecological environments, landscapes, animals and plants of great value and therefore to be protected together with the heritage of monuments, traditional activities, history and legends in which they are embedded. With the creation of national parks, each country protects the most beautiful manifestations of nature so that future generations can also get to know and enjoy them.

Protecting, in our national parks, means not only preserving the natural environment as it is, and thus regulating human activities in such a way as to cause as little damage as possible to the environment, but also promoting not only scientific research into flora and fauna, but also the education of new generations in respect and knowledge of the natural world. But in a country as small as ours, so densely populated and steeped in history, it is not easy to find environments where man has not been or is not still present. Nevertheless, there remain in Italy many splendid environments worthy of protection, which have escaped deforestation and urbanisation, or where man has managed to fit harmoniously into the natural environment. In a national park, these examples of 'peaceful coexistence' between man and nature, traditional activities, cultural heritage and historical-artistic-architectural heritage are also protected. This is why parks are often divided into zones according to their environmental characteristics, to which different degrees and criteria of protection are applied.

The establishment of a park also represents an important opportunity for socio-economic development for the resident populations. Being a park is undoubtedly an additional motivation for visiting the area. The presence and exploitation of 'natural events' throughout the year makes it possible to have visitors not only in the summer but also in the other seasons.

The emergence of new forms of tourism linked to the discovery of nature also favours the creation of new professional figures and thus employment. Not only constraints therefore, but also many opportunities.

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