Montecristo Island

Listen to our podcast "The Atlas of Islands" here.

by "La Compagnia dei Cosi"

The island of Montecristo is the most mysterious and inaccessible island in the entire Tuscan Archipelago. Snatched from housing speculation in the 1971 by ministerial decree on March 4, which declared it “State Integral NatureReserve,” graduated in 1988 Biogenetic Nature Reserve to the Council of Europe and today, in addition to being included in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, the island, is Biosphere Reserve “Islands of Tuscany” and part of the International Cetacean Sanctuary “Pelagos.” The latter was born out of an agreement between Italy, France and the Principality of Monaco, with the aim of protecting marine mammals from the threat of human activities. The Sanctuary defines a space of maritime area that transcends the boundaries of territorial waters and includes high seas territories included by them. The island, part of the municipality of Portoferrario-Island of Elba (LI), is managed by the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Biodiversity and Parks, Follonica (GR) department, and is located 63 km from the mainland, resulting in, the farthest, among the islands of the archipelago, from the peninsular coast. Its remote location and impassable terrain, characterized by sheer granite cliffs overlooking the sea, made it over the centuries a chosen place for those who decided to lead a monastic life. Especially from the 5th century onward, when Mamilianus (later Saint), bishop of Palermo, chose it as his hermitage. To this century date the cave of St. Mamiliano, the Monastery, built by his followers following his death, and the two legends about him:

The first tells the story of the fight between St. Mamiliano and a huge winged dragon, the sole inhabitant and guardian of the island, upon the death of which, at the site of the fight, a spring of the purest water and a veritable treasure stored in the saint’s cave would spring forth.

The second tells of the Saint’s death and the arrangements he made with the people of Giglio for the management and burial of his body. In fact, the Giglio people claim that Mamiliano wanted to be buried onGiglio Island and at the appropriate time, from Montecristo, he would light a fire to signal his imminent passing. At the smoke signal, the Gigliese would set sail for the island to retrieve the body and bestow a proper burial in their limited lands. But once the opportune time came, even from Elba they spotted smoke coming from the Mount, and a delegation of Elbans set out for Monte Cristo. Finding everyone there, Elbans and Giglians, they began to contend for the body, just physically pulling it, some by one arm and some by another, from one side to the other. So pull you back the body was torn off and the Elbans were left with the body while the Giglio people were left with only an arm, still jealously guarded in the Church of Giglio Castello. Historically, the body was, instead, buried in Sovana in the dedicated church.

The Sovana Church Museum houses the famous “Treasure of Montecristo” which Alexandre Dumas refers to in his famous novel. Secretly hidden inside the church until 2012, when it was found. These are 498 gold solids minted under Leo I and , Antemiusbetween 457 and 474, relevant in number of pieces and number of emperors represented. Ancient documents and folk legends indicated being in the Monastery of Monte Cristo, hidden inside the cave.

The island had a monastic vocation until 1534, when it was inhabited by a company of privateers who, in 1553, led by Dragut, finally conquered the monastery. From then on it remained uninhabited until 1814 when Napoleon sent a military garrison there. During the various attempts to colonize and start agricultural activities, the modern buildings of Montecristo were built, namely the future Nature Museum and the so-called Casotto dei Pescatori (Fishermen’s Hut ) at the beach of Cala Maestra, now the infopoint of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. In 1889 the island became a hunting reserve of first the Florentine marquis Carlo Ginori Lisci and then King Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy. During these years the vast mansion, built by Baron George Watson Taylor in 1852 above Cala Maestra, became Villa Reale complete with terraced gardens in which to grow exotic tree species.

While the special conditions of the island have effectively prevented urban settlements, they have also fostered and preserved animal and plant species once widespread throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Giant specimens of Erica Arborea and thousand-year-old holm oaks can be found here, and again, at the Grotta del Santo, a rare species of fern: theOsmunda Regalis. Vegetation life is severely affected by goat grazing, which allows only certain plant species to reproduce, the others being part of their diet. Although the presence of goats in theTuscan Archipelago is attested by the Latin and Greek toponymy of some of the islands such as: Capraia and Aygilion (Giglio Island), Montecristo retains Italy’s only population of wild goats. A resting place for thousands of migratory birds, it is also home to the viper and the Sardinian discoglosso, a species of toad found only on a couple of Tuscan islands, including Giglio Island and in Sardinia. In the sea surrounding the island, in which diving is strictly prohibited, there are posidonia meadows, sea anemones, sea fans, and corals. The presence of the sunfish an impressive bony fish is common.

Except for flora and fauna the island is completely uninhabited. Over the years, only park rangers accompanied by their wives have taken turns.

Points of Interest in Montecristo

  • Monastery of San Mamiliano
  • Cave of San Mamiliano
  • Fortress of Monte Cristo on the highest peak of the island (645 m)
  • Royal Villa
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Botanical garden
  • Hydraulic mill (ruins) at the Cave of San Mamiliano
  • Church of Santa Maria (ruins) at the cove of the same name, relocated on August 6, 2012 by architect Silvestre Ferruzzi.

Recommended Equipment

  • Solid ankle-high hiking shoes
  • Water at least 1.5 lt
  • Wind Jacket
  • Sack Lunch
  • Container for transporting garbage
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat

Visit Montecristo

Access to Montecristo is strictly regulated both on land and at sea. A maximum of 2,000 visitors per year are allowed, accompanied by one or more official guides from the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Tours, organized by the Park, can only be booked at the Park itself by contacting its offices by phone or email. The calendar for 2021 includes 25 dates spread over the periods from March 1 to April 15 and May 15 to October 31, with the exclusion of the intermediate period that coincides with avian migration. Of these, 23 plan to depart from the port of Piombino (Livorno) with a stopover in Porto Azzurro (island of Elba)and 2 from Porto Santo Stefano (Grosseto) with a stopover in Giglio Porto. Each day has about 75 places for a total of 1,875 places, 100 of which are reserved for residents of the Tuscan Archipelago.

Given the Island’s uniqueness and value, visits are aimed at exploring environmental features and historical sites, excluding any beach-type activities. Trekking tours led by Park guides, take place along three routes:

-CalaMaestraBelvedereVilla Reale:
Length: m 2,031
Height difference: 230 mt.
Difficulty: medium
Time: 2 hours

Cala MaestraMonastery Grotta del SantoVilla Reale:
Length: m 3,610
Height difference: 460 mt.
Difficulty: high
Time: 3 hours and 30 min.

-CalaMaestra Royal VillaEco Museum:
Length: m 2,000
Height difference: 50 mt.
Difficulty: easy
Time: 2 hours

And in smaller groups of 12 people each with their own guide. For those who wish to stay in Cala Maestra, it is prohibited to place umbrellas or beach towels on the beach.

Ankle-high hiking shoes are required for the hike due to the danger of vipers, provide enough water to last the day, packed lunch. A hat for warmer periods, a windbreaker in spring and fall periods. It will be at the guide’s discretion to decide if you have the appropriate equipment for the hike. It is strictly forbidden to deposit any kind of garbage on the whole island, participants must equip themselves with special containers to transport them.

Costs and Departure Times.

€ 120.00 per person for tourist fruition from Elba – Piombino and from Porto S. Stefano – Giglio;
€ 60.00 per person for enjoyment intended for adult residents in the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. Reserved for residents in the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. Seats available at this rate nr. 100.

Piombino – Porto Azzurro (Elba Island) – Montecristo round trip

Departure from Piombino Marittima
8:30 a.m.
Arrival in Porto Azzurro
09:20 am
Departure from Porto Azzurro
9:30 a.m.
Arrival in Montecristo
11:15 a.m.

Departure from Montecristo
4:15 pm
Arrival in Porto Azzurro
6 p.m.
Departure from Porto Azzurro
6:10 pm
Arrival in Piombino Marittima
7 p.m.

Porto S. Stefano – Giglio Island – Montecristo

Departure from Porto S. Stefano
8:30 a.m.
Arrival Giglio Island
09:20 am
Departure Giglio Island
9:30 a.m.
Arrival in Montecristo
11:30 a.m.

Departure from Montecristo
4:15 p.m.
Arrival Giglio Island
6 p.m.
Departure Giglio Island
6:10 pm
Arrival at Porto S. Stefano
7 p.m.

Reservations, cancellation policies and a detailed schedule of visits can be found on the dedicated page of

Access by private watercraft

In addition to guided tours, organized by the Tuscan Archipelago National Park in agreement with the Carabinieri Biodiversity Department, access to the island of Montecristo is possible with watercraft or pleasure boats under 16 meters.
In this case, the request for access must be made directly to the

Carabinieri Biodiversity Department of Follonica (GR)

Tel no. 0566 40611 – fax no. 0566 44616
office e-mail:

The access authorization allows the descent ashore and the visit of only the appurtenances of Cala Maestra and the museum (please note that bathing is prohibited on the Island of Montecristo) conducted by personnel of the Carabinieri Forestali.

Book online

Timetables and Fare