Gorgona Island, the smallest island of the Tuscan Archipelago

Gorgona Island, Italy is a precious natural treasure that has been maintained and protected thanks to its isolation. Getting there is an adventure, but it is definitely worth it.

Gorgona is the smallest and most northerly of the islands in the Tuscan Archipelago. Located in the Ligurian Sea, it belongs to the municipality of Livorno, which is just 37 km away. Seen from the coast of Tuscany, Gorgona seems almost like a green mountain in the sea. She looks a bit like the silhouette profile of a woman's face, or a huge whale, lying on the horizon.

The territory has remained untouched and pristine thanks to the agricultural prison work camp, called the Gorgona Island Prison, founded in 1869. It was forbidden to get close to its coast, and even today you will have to plan your excursion ahead of time. The presence of the prison has ensured that the island remains sparsely inhabited. Even today there are just over 60 residents, not counting the prisoners. This means that its coasts are incredibly well preserved, making it a little natural paradise on earth right inside the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Its tallest point is just 255 meters above sea level and the surface of the island is just about two square kilometers.

How do you get there? If you start from the port of Livorno, after about an hour of sailing, you will arrive at the east coast of the Island of Gorgona. The only landing is called “Gorgona Scalo.” Just above the port  is a pretty little fishing village founded in the early 800s and defined by ancient fortresses. The “Torre Vecchia,” or “Old Tower,” was built by Pisa in 1283 and overlooks the pristine blue sea below. Then there is the majestic yet semi-ruined “Torre Nuova Medicea,” or the “Medici’s New Tower,” built by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici.

A small island with a green heart. Three valleys and three coves characterize the sweet eastern coast of Gorgona. They are called Cala Maestra, Cala Marcona, and Cala Scirocco. The sea, protected from weather and undisturbed by human activities, hosts a prosperous ecosystem of rare and delicate marine species. Take a snorkeling mask and observe the variety of sea grass, lobsters, lupicanti, castanets, fans and countless fish. On the other side, impressive cliffs overlooking the sea characterize the western coast of the isle. There are also great woods and groves with a combination of oak trees and Aleppo pines. The flora of the island boasts more than 400 species of plants and animals, including wild rabbits that roam freely about the island. You will hear the sweet melodies of the migratory birds that stop here, such as gulls and terns. Just like the other pearls of the Tuscan Archipelago, Gorgona Island offers a feast of natural wonders and scenic splendors.

An island with ancient origins. The strategic location of the Island of Gorgona – on the border of the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea – caused for much strife in ancient times. The Greeks, Etruscans and Romans have visited and named the island, although the Greek name is the one that stuck. Gorgona comes from the Greek mythological creature that had snakes for hair and petrified anyone who looked her in the eye (ever heard of Medusa?) Among the stories and legends of her past, you can find physical evidence at the Villa Margherita. It is located on the highest point of the island and was built on top of ancient Roman settlements. From the earliest Christian times, Benedictine and Cistercian hermits and monks inhabited Gorgona off and on until 1777.

If you like mysteries, let your imagination go wild and explore Gorgona’s ancient monastery founded by Abbot Orosius in 591. Inside the church you will find the relics of San Gorgonio. It was also loved and visited by Saint Catherine of Siena. A visit to this monastery is an intense experience that will immerse your mind in mystery and wonder!