Exploring Giglio Island’s villages
Giglio Island spans an area of 21 square kilometers with a 28 km coastline, and it’s home to three captivating villages, each boasting its own unique charm, whether nestled by the sea or perched amid the rocks.
If you’ve chosen to spend some holiday time on Giglio, it’s essential to know about the towns you can explore upon your arrival. (Don’t forget to check the latest schedules and fares for our ferries, and we recommend booking your ticket online during peak tourist seasons). Our journey begins at Giglio Porto, the primary entry point for all ferries and boats coming to Giglio on the Porto Santo Stefano – Giglio Porto route.
Giglio Porto: A Brief History and Attractions
Giglio Porto retains the genuine essence of a maritime village.
This quaint harbor, the island’s sole commercial and tourist port, was initially established by the Romans. They laid the groundwork for what is today known as the Red Pier, or the eastern pier. During the same era, the Romans also built a luxurious villa in the present-day Saraceno Cove. Though modern homes have since integrated this villa, one can still observe remnants of ancient mosaics inside the Hotel Saraceno and traces of the Cetarea, an old fish breeding pool, in the waters of the little cove.
The brightly colored houses of the port, whose vivid hues helped sailors identify their homes from afar, are complemented by the Saraceno Tower to the south and the Lazzaretto promontory to the north. Atop the promontory stands the Lazzaretto Tower, which, along with the Saraceno Tower, formed part of a defensive network built along the coastlines to shield the island from pirate invasions.
With the decline of these invasions, the port began its commercial growth, largely due to the settlement of fishing families from southern Italy and Liguria.
In 2013, the statue of Madonna Stella Maris was placed on the Red Pier, and the statue “The Man Who Saves the Sea” by artist Giampaolo Talani was set up on the Scalettino beach. Both statues honor the memory of the Costa Concordia victims, the ship that tragically sank in the waters of Giglio Porto on January 13, 2012.
What Awaits You at Giglio Porto
Upon disembarking, you’ll immediately be struck by the remarkable clarity of the water inside the tourist port, so pristine that it’s easy to forget it’s a harbor where ships and ferries set sail.
Venturing further inland, you’ll reach the island’s liveliest hub, with a seaside promenade teeming with restaurants, quaint shops, cafes, and boat and scooter rental spots.
Giglio Porto boasts a myriad of amenities including a post office, two banks, the Port Authority, medical services, ferry ticket offices, and various accommodations like hotels, apartments, and room rentals. The bus stop is roughly 100 meters from the ferry landing, and from here, you can also hail minivan taxis. Taxi boats, on the other hand, which take you to Giglio’s stunning beaches, depart from the side of the pier near the landing.
Among the year’s most anticipated events on Giglio Island is the San Lorenzo celebration on August 10th, which features three days of live concerts, children’s games, and the Palio Marinaro. This event is the island’s most cherished sporting occasion and showcases the vibrant hues of the three districts: Chiesa, Moletto, and Saraceno. The festivities culminate with a traditional fireworks display on August 10th. Come early October, the Ricciola Cup takes center stage, a three-day amberjack fishing competition.
Departing from Giglio Porto, this mini-cruise will take you to discover the ancient ruins of the Roman Villa in Giannutri accompanied by an official guide from the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
Departing from Giglio Porto, this tour will take you on an exciting excursion to discover the beautiful coves of Giannutri Island, habitat of a rich and varied marine life.
Giglio Castello: The Island’s Medieval Heart
Giglio Castello stands as the most populous village on the island. This captivating medieval town sits atop the rugged spine of the island, adjacent to its highest peak, Pagana.
Within its ancient walls, a labyrinth of alleys unfolds, revealing cellars producing local wine, quaint artisanal shops, and typical dining spots.
At the heart of Giglio Castello is the Rocca Aldobrandesca, a 10th-century fortress which once served as a refuge for inhabitants during sieges. Nowadays, this Rocca hosts summer theatrical performances, town council meetings, civil weddings, and occasionally art exhibitions.
Not far from the fortress, the Church of San Pietro Apostolo stands, a 15th-century gem housing Giambologna’s Ivory Crucifix and a relic of St. Mamiliano, the island’s patron saint. Both are from Pope Innocent II’s private chapel, and there’s also a Corinthian capital from the Roman Villa in Giglio Porto.
Giglio Castello is the starting point for various hiking trails crisscrossing the island. Historically, and sometimes even today, these paths are used by farmers to reach their vineyards, typically on donkey-back. On September 15th, the town celebrates San Mamiliano, one of the island’s significant feasts.
The three-day event includes live music, traditional dances, the Donkey Race, and local specialties like sausage sandwiches and hunter-style rabbit. Come late September, specifically the last weekend, the village celebrates the grape harvest with the Grape Festival and Open Cellars, a three-day extravaganza of wine tasting, traditional island food, live folk music, and the islanders’ infectious joy.
Giglio Castello also houses the Island of Giglio’s town hall and Carabinieri’s headquarters. Key events in Giglio Castello not to be missed include:
Exploring Giglio Island’s Villages: Giglio Campese
Giglio Campese is Giglio Island’s tourist hub. Its expansive beach, with its unique red hue, stretches along the village coast, beckoning visitors to sunbathe, take a stroll, savor an aperitif, or dance the night away at a foam party. The beach is guarded on one side by the Torre del Campese and on the other by the Faraglione rock.
Both landmarks frame the vast Campese bay, where remnants of the old Pyrite mine, carved into the Franco promontory, remain visible. To the local dwellers from Giglio Porto, visiting Campese feels like vacationing on an entirely different island.
As you wander along the beach towards the Faraglione and the marina, you’ll find a trail leading to the secluded Pertuso and Pozzarelli beaches, continuing onwards to the Faraglione. Smooth rocks beneath the tower beckon visitors to lie down and relax.
Giglio Campese boasts restaurants, bars, hotels, apartments, dive centers, and the Marine Biology Laboratory, which has been offering environmental education for tourists and Italian and German students for 30 years. The San Rocco Association hosts various summer festivals and concerts. To celebrate San Rocco on August 16th, visitors can enjoy fireworks in the bay and three nights of live music, including a beach foam party.
Among the must-attend events in Giglio Campese is undoubtedly “Il Giglio è Lirica”.