Isola del Giglio and Giglio Castello Hotels
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Visit Isola del Giglio and Giglio Castello
The island of Isola del Giglio is off the coast of south-west Tuscany and reached by a 17 kilometre boat ride from Porto Santo Stefano on the Monte Argentario peninsula. On the island there are two important seaside resorts and you will also want to explore Giglio Castello, a lovely medieval village.
Tourism on Isola del Giglio was very disrupted in 2012 due to a major disaster when the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground here with significant loss of life. The wreckage of the boat was finally cleared away in 2014 allowing normal tourist activity to resume.
Exploring Isola del Giglio and Giglio Castello
Isola del Giglio is about 24 square kilometres in size, with the Poggio della Pagana hill in the middle of the island reaching about 500 metres altitude. The coast is mostly sandy beaches, rocky areas and cliffs, while the interior of the island is a mix of vineyards, forests and Mediterranean scrub.
Most visits are centred around the three principal areas - you will want to explore all three when you visit:
- the harbour and town of Giglio Porto, where your ferry arrives and a popular resort based in the area directly behinfd the harbour. The principal historic monuments here are the two medieval towers, built in the 16th and 17th centuries
- the medieval village in the heart of the island called Giglio Castello (see below)
- the resort of Giglio Campese on the north-west coast is a popular seaside resort and even the 16th century watchtower around which the village developed is now holiday accommodation. You will also find a good selection of shops, bars and restaurants in Giglio Campese.
The village of Giglio Castello, in the centre of the island so about halfway between the two resorts, retains a great deal of its medieval character, starting with the great defensive walls that still surround and protect the town, as they have done since the 12th century. In the village itself the most important historic monuments are the medieval castle which has splendid views across the island and a church.
The Church of Saint Peter actually dates from the 12th century although major works in the 18th century to convert it to the baroque style mean there is little remaining of the more ancient building. Inside the church there are various artefacts of interest including paintings, a marble altarpiece and various religious relics.
The main pleasure of exploring Giglio Castello is from simply wandering through the ancient alleys and streets of the historic centre looking at the stone houses and traditional architectural features such as arches, stone staircases and balconies. In recognition of its charm, the village is now classed as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'.
Isola del Giglio beaches
Of course, no Mediterranean island would be complete without a beach to spend some time on! The principal beaches on Isola del Giglio are at Arenella, Caldane, Campese and Cannelle, and the good news for visitors is that all of them have free areas, which are sometimes a challenge to find in Italy.
Getting to Isola del Giglio
Ferries to the island operate all year round and at regular frequent intervals every day, from Porto Santo Stefano on the Monte Argentario peninsula of south-west Tuscany. The ferry journey takes just under an hour.
Most visitors leave their car on mainland Italy in the special parking area at Porto Santo Stefano and travel here on foot, relying on public transport and taxis when they reach the island. It is possible to bring a car to Isola del Giglio (i.e. they are not banned as they are on some small islands) although in summer you will need to reserve your car ferry in advance and also there are restrictions e.g. you can only bring a car if you are staying for at least six days.
It is very easy to get around the island and there are lots of options available. Frequent buses connect the main destinations, taxis are available, scooters and quad bikes are available for hire - as are boats if you prefer to travel by water. Of course, you will see even more of the island if you walk!
Giglio Porto and Giglio Campese are about 10 kilometres apart and Giglio Castello about 5 kilometres from each of them.
You can also organise a boat trip around the island although that is usually as a 'tourist day out' rather than a way to get around...
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.