WHAT TO SEE
What to See on Giglio Island
What is there to explore and experience on Giglio Island? Even for us “Gigliesi,” who were born and raised here, this question occasionally pops into our minds.
It’s one of those existential queries that sneak up on you and hit you like a slap in the neck, initially leaving you dazed and without a clear answer. Yet, existential questions require time for reflection, and if you pause to think about it, you realize that there’s actually plenty to do here, at a leisurely pace and without any stress.
In this article, we’ll briefly present the primary attractions of Giglio Island to provide you with a starting point for planning your vacation. Once you disembark from the ferries of our company, Maregiglio, your adventure begins.
The Villages to Explore on Giglio Island: Giglio Porto
If you’re wondering what to see on Giglio Island, allow Maregiglio to guide you on a marvelous journey through its charming villages: Giglio Porto, Giglio Castello, and Giglio Campese.
Each village preserves a unique slice of Giglio Island’s history and culture, offering its own unique charm to visitors. Here, we’ll focus on Giglio Porto, a lively village that stands as the commercial heart of the island.
Giglio Porto isn’t just a mooring point for vessels (all Maregiglio ferries arrive here from Porto Santo Stefano – Giglio Island), but a vibrant hub filled with clothing boutiques, restaurants, and bars along the waterfront, offering a unique culinary experience ideal for those visiting Giglio Island.
The Ancient Roman Villa of Giglio Porto
The Ancient Roman Villa of Giglio Porto, built by the Domizi Enobarbi family in the first century AD, is one of the treasures hidden in this village. Today, only fragments remain, but the Villa continues to reveal secrets of a distant past.
Within the Hotel Saraceno, you can marvel at remnants of ancient mosaics and parts of the Villa’s walls, while one of its Corinthian capitals is preserved in the Church of Giglio Castello.
Close to the Saraceno bay, behind the Medici tower, you can admire the “Cetaree,” ancient fish farming basins, built by the Romans in the crystal-clear waters fronting the bay.
A local guided tour named “Nerone’s Excursion” provides a one-hour journey through the places once inhabited by Romans, making it an excellent choice if you’re looking for things to do on Giglio Island.
Don’t forget to check out the famous Roman Villa of Giannutri, part of the Domizi-Enobarbi family legacy, which can be visited thanks to a special tour by Maregiglio.
The villa on Giannutri can only be visited with official park guides, making it an opportunity not to be missed.
Historic Fortifications of Giglio Porto
Don’t miss the chance to admire the historic fortifications of the port. The Medici tower, built in 1596 to defend the coast from pirate invasions, has served various functions over the centuries, including as a customs office and, after the most recent restoration in 2006, as an exhibition space for art displays.
The Lazzaretto Tower, situated on the right promontory of the harbor, initially served as a watchtower before being converted into a lazzaretto, a quarantine facility for travelers arriving from high-risk areas.
It was right under the Lazzaretto Tower and on the adjacent promontory where the Costa Concordia found its unfortunate rest in 2012, remaining there for the following two years.
From Giglio Porto, you can rent motorboats, embark on an island tour on a taxi boat, book diving experiences, and even earn your first diving certification within a week.
Visiting Giglio Island: the ancient village of Giglio Castello
Looking for attractions on Giglio Island? We suggest a visit to Giglio Castello, one of the most precious gems in this stunning corner of paradise. Giglio Castello is not only the most populated center of Giglio Island but also the guardian of its historical memory.
This medieval village, featured in the list of “most beautiful villages in Italy“, is a place well worth visiting. You can easily lose yourself in its charming narrow streets, a complex labyrinth of history and beauty offering a surprise around every corner.
Visiting the ancient Rocca Aldobrandesca
At the heart of Giglio Castello lies the Pisana Fortress, also known as Rocca Aldobrandesca.
Built at the highest point of the village, it overlooks the surrounding area, once communicating with the coast via fires and smoke signals.
Designed to withstand sieges, the fortress is an inaccessible stronghold built on a steep rock spur and surrounded by defensive walls. However, the fortress isn’t just a place of fortification but also a living space. Within, you can find a deep cistern for water, a garden, storage spaces, a chicken coop, and a dovecote, evidence of a past where life within the walls had to be self-sufficient.
Today, the fortress hosts conferences, exhibitions, theater performances, and even weddings, making it one of the must-visit locations on Giglio Island.
Giglio Castello is also renowned for its winemaking tradition. The village’s cellars open their doors at the end of September for the Grape Festival and Open Cellars, an event not to be missed for wine lovers.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit the ancient Church of San Pietro Apostolo. Built in the 15th century, this church houses a treasure trove of relics and sacred objects from the private chapel of Pope Innocent XIII, bequeathed to the Giglian chaplain Monsignor Olimpio Miliani.
What to see in the Giglio Campese area
If you find yourself in the Giglio Campese area, located on the island’s western coast, you can continue your historical journey through the island’s fortifications with a visit to the Vaccarecce Lighthouse and Campese Tower, similar to the Porto tower and dating back to the same period, protecting the large Campese Bay.
The Campese Bay is the island’s largest sandy beach, offering breathtaking views over the open sea and crystal clear waters.
Recognizable by the characteristic faraglione (large coastal rock formation) rising from the sea, the bay is surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation and hills dotted with vineyards, olive groves, and maritime pines.
The bay is an ideal place for sea and water sports lovers. The transparent water and rich marine life make it perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Moreover, the presence of constant winds makes it a cherished spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing enthusiasts.
Nestled near the beach is the charming village of Giglio Campese, teeming with a wide array of restaurants, bars, and shops to cater to all preferences.
Moreover, the bay comes equipped with amenities such as beach establishments, water sports equipment rental, and parking lots, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable visit.
Also found in Giglio Campese is the Franco mine, a headland from which iron was extracted dating back to the times of the Etruscans and Romans.
This mine, where pyrite was once sourced, opened in the early 20th century and remained operational until 1976, employing nearly 300 miners.
Giglio Island, a good place for hiking enthusiasts
If you are wondering what to do on Giglio Island and you’re a nature enthusiast, it’s time to lace up your hiking boots. Indeed, Giglio Island is an ideal destination for hiking lovers.
With its well-marked trails spanning over 60 km, divided into 29 routes of varying difficulty, you can traverse the island in all its breadth and discover truly unique panoramic views that will leave you breathless.
Among the attractions on Giglio Island, archaeology enthusiasts can’t miss the megalithic sites of Cote Ciombella, located near Le Porte, not far from Giglio Castello, and the Dolmen along the trail leading from Cannelle to the Castle.
Giglio’s trails, in addition to offering breathtaking vistas, sometimes perched above the sea, carry a fascinating history.
These paths were used by local farmers to reach their fields and vineyards, and along the route, you can still spot the ancient huts, used as storage spaces, rest areas, and places for the initial pressing of the wine.
Mainly traversed on foot or by donkey, these historical paths aren’t very suitable for mountain biking. However, for those who love cycling, both the Castle and the Port offer Ecobike rentals with pedal-assist, perfect for worry-free travel.
While exploring Giglio Island’s trails, you can also engage in some excellent bird-watching: indeed, the island’s unique position on bird migration routes makes it an ideal spot, during spring and autumn, to admire numerous species.
Giglio Island is the perfect natural habitat for many avian species, such as the Peregrine Falcon, to name just one.
Visiting Giglio Island and its stunning coasts
If you’re wondering what to see on Giglio Island and you’re a sea lover, there’s no better place than an island to fully enjoy it.
Giglio Island, with its vibrant seabeds populated by various species of fish and coral, offers endless diving spots. Here, the shallows, rocky walls, and marine caves form a fascinating underwater stage.
The sea around Giglio teems with amberjack, barracuda, and imposing tuna that can reach up to three meters in length. Among the crevices in the rocks, you can spot moray eels, grouper, lobsters, and sea bass, making your diving experience truly unique.
It’s essential to remember that Giglio Island, together with the entire Tuscan Archipelago, is part of the “Cetacean Sanctuary,” a protected marine area of the Tyrrhenian Sea established in 1999 thanks to an agreement between Italy, France, and the Principality of Monaco.
This makes it possible to frequently encounter pods of dolphins in these waters.
Besides diving, one of the main activities to do on Giglio Island is fishing, whether from a boat or the shore. Remember, however, protected species such as dolphins and other cetaceans are to be admired, not fished.
From the green pier with my grandfather and a small fishing rod, we always caught plenty of picarel and grey mullets. As my grandfather would say, these were “to be pickled,” but we typically either fed them to the local cats or tossed them back into the sea.
An Oasis Away from the Frenzy of Modern Life
When you’re contemplating what to see on Giglio Island, remember that its magic lies in the small things. True, you won’t find a cinema here, but you can relish in enchanting evenings of open-air theatre.
There’s no shopping center, but you can explore quaint clothing shops with unique finds. Instead of a large supermarket like Ipercoop, you’ll discover grocery stores selling fresh and local products.
Of course, visiting Giglio Island doesn’t mean encountering train stations or getting stuck in heavy traffic. The island is a sanctuary far removed from the bustle of modern life.
You won’t come across large nightclubs, but in the summer, the squares come alive with music and dance. There are no big international concerts, but there is a continuous stream of small events that make each day unique.
So, if you’re wondering what to do on Giglio Island, rest assured there are plenty of options. But if you somehow can’t find anything specific to do, the true joy of Giglio is that you can simply bask in the sun for days, without doing a thing.
Exploring Giglio Island with Maregiglio!
If you’re keen to explore the magnificent beaches and coves that Giglio Island has to offer, all you have to do is pack your bags and hop on a ferry.
Choosing the ferry is simple: Maregiglio is the perfect company for your needs.
A leader in sea transportation to Giglio Island and Giannutri for over fifty years, Maregiglio offers superior on-board services, thanks to the modern vessels in its fleet.
If you’re thinking of visiting Giglio Island, booking Maregiglio ferries couldn’t be easier. You can arrange everything online, right from the comfort of your own sofa, ensuring a spot even during the busiest tourist periods. Alternatively, you can always book your journey at our physical ticket office, located at Porto Santo Stefano, in Piazza Facchinetti 6/7.
All our ferries depart from Porto Santo Stefano and sail routes to Giglio Island or Giannutri.
You can conveniently leave your car in the town parking lot, from where it’s easy to reach the boarding area, located at Piazzale Candi 8, near Porto del Valle. Think you don’t have enough time for a long stay but wondering what to do on Giglio Island even just for a few hours? No problem!
With the mini-cruises organized by Maregiglio, you can spend an unforgettable day exploring the beautiful coasts of our region.
You have various options to choose from, including the Giglio-Giannutri mini-cruise, a visit to the hidden treasures of Giannutri, a tour of Giannutri’s Roman Villa, and snorkeling experiences, both on Giannutri and Giglio Island.