Boating vacations: sailing in the Tuscan Archipelago

Cavo beach stretches along a long stretch of coastline from the jetty to the rocky promontory topped by Villa Tonietti. Ferpint/CC BY-SA 3.0

This stretch of sea with its 7 main islands and as many uninhabited islets is about as good as you can ask for a boating vacation. Distances between islands are no more than 25 miles and also allow sight-seeing.

Map Tuscan Archipelago

To navigate the Tuscan Archipelago

During the summer the most frequent winds are from the SO and W, although there is often an increased frequency of southerly winds in the area of the islands of Giglio and Giannutri.

Capraia, on the other hand, is influenced by the wind regime of not-so-distant Corsica and therefore characterized by a dominance of NW and SE winds.

In this area of the Mediterranean, in the so-called late summer days, the phenomenon of “late August thunderstorms” is usual, which mark the end of stable high pressure and can cause sudden and violent weather changes with sudden gusts of wind.

Portoferraio, the capital of Elba, is a typical fortified seaside town.

The distance between the northernmost island, Gorgona, and the southernmost island, Giannutri, is about 80 nautical miles.

The largest, however, is Elba Island, 5 miles from Piombino (main port on the mainland coast of Tuscany) and 30 miles from Corsica. Instead, there are only 17 sea miles separating the Corsican coast from Capraia, which is itself set 20 miles NO from Elba and about 15 S of Gorgona.

To the S of Elba are, in addition to Giannutri, the islands of Giglio, Montecristo and Pianosa: the former and also the largest is only 8 miles away from the Tuscan promontory of Argentario but over 30 miles (SE) from Elba Island.

Marciana Marina
Marciana Marina, at the center of a small gulf, is among the best-known resorts on Elba Island.

In the blue sea, you sail along with dolphins and whales

Established by the Italian government in 1996, the Tuscan Archipelago National Park ( is characterized by a great variety of habitats, populated by different forms of life: its reserve includes about 18 thousand hectares on land, with interesting naturalistic sites, and 60 thousand hectares of sea, populated by numerous species elsewhere now rare and included in the perimeter of the Cetacean Sanctuary.

The great biological diversity of the protected area is also due to the variety of its coastline and seabed: from the beaches of Elba to the rocky cliffs of western Capraia, a myriad of plant and animal species live in every crevice of one of the most fascinating natural marine environments in the Mediterranean.

Elba Islet of Ortano
Islet of Ortano, opposite the promontory of Cape Ortano, in the municipal territory of Rio. Westernelba/CC BY-SA 4.0

The park includes all seven islands of the Tuscan Archipelago: Elba, Capraia, Gorgona, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, and Giannutri. These are strips of land with very different geological formation. For example, Capraia is volcanic, while Giglio and Elba are granitic. This great geological variety also influences the shape and landscape of each island. The ancient presence of man then, evidenced by finds and the long tradition of mineral processing, produced profound changes in vegetation but left unique archaeological traces.

St. Andrew's Bay
At anchor near St. Andrew’s Bay on the west side of Elba.

The Park belongs to the larger international entity called the Cetacean Sanctuary. Marine Mammal Protection Area, established in 1999 through an agreement between Italy, France and the Principality of Monaco, encompasses 96 thousand hectares of sea (in the shape of a quadrilateral) north of the Tyrrhenian Sea, around the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago but bounded by Provence (Giens Peninsula in France), Punta Falcone in northwestern Sardinia, Capo Ferro in northeastern Sardinia and Fosso Chiarone in Tuscany. Due to its considerable richness in plankton and pelagic life, the International Sanctuary area is affected during the summer months by an extraordinary presence of cetaceans of all species frequenting the Mediterranean. Indeed, this area is home to minke whales, sperm whales and dolphins, as well as many other lesser-known but still fascinating species.


Don’t miss the other installments of Boat Vacations in the Tuscan Archipelago

  • Tuscan Archipelago, mix of history and nature
  • To navigate the Tuscan Archipelago
  • Elba Island, from the Etruscans to Napoleon (in programming)
  • Ports and marinas on the Island of Elba (in programming)
  • Bays and landings in the Island of Elba (in programming)
  • Discover the various souls of Elba (in programming)
  • Capraia, two “steps” from Corsica (in programming)
  • Giglio Island, among fortresses, towers and sheltered bays (in programming)
  • Giannutri on vacation where Nero went… (in programming)
  • Gorgona, Pianosa, Montecristo, landing on the forbidden islands (scheduled)




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