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Gorgona Island: an island in the Tuscan archipelago


Gorgona island is the northernmost of the islands of the Tuscany archipelago (43°25’37” lat. North) and also the smallest (2,25 km²), it rises 255 metres above the sea and is mostly mountainous and, for a large area, covered in Mediterranean maquis vegetation, it’s still place for a penal colony.

Gorgona it’s about 37 km from Livorno, 39 km from Capraia and 60 km from Corsica. It’s part of the municipal territory of Livorno. Gorgona has 300 inhabitants convicts comprises (a few families of local fishermen, 120 police officers and about 100 convicts). The island can be reached by ferry, the crossing taking about 1 and a half hours.

Together with the islands of Capraia, Pianosa, Elba, Giglio, Giannutri and Montecristo, it forms the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago. Because of its situation as penal colony the visit to the island is restricted.

Probably the island was colonized by the Etruscans, although no trace of this probable colonization remained, there are signs of a Roman settlement in the area of “Piano dei Morti”.


In the past several monasteries were built on the island. The Pisans occupied Gorgona in 1283 and built the Old Tower, still existing, located on the top of a rock overlooking the sea of Costa dei Cantoni. Then in 1406 Gorgona was occupied by the Florentines. In 1701 it was ceded to the Carthusian monks, but in 1777 the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo regained possession of the island.

In 1869 the island became a penal colony, and so it is today. This is why, to visit Gorgona, you must obtain permission from the Directorate General of Institutes of Prevention and Punishment of the Ministry of Justice (Direzione Generale degli Istituti di Prevenzione e Pena del Ministero di Grazia e Giustizia).

Tours are organised by the Cooperativa Parco Naturale “Isola di Gorgona”. Sites to visit include: Torre Vecchia, Torre Nuova, Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), the church of San Gorgonio, the Grotta del Bue Marino, the bays of Cala Scirocco and dello Scalo.

To give a first look at Gorgona, you can took the ferry-boat that once a week starting from Livorno stops at Gorgona en route to Capraia.





  • AA. VV. “Toscana” Guide Rosse Touring Club Italiano, 2007
  • Naldi Angiolo “L’isola di Gorgona nel parco nazionale dell’arcipelago toscano. Storia, archeologia, ambiente naturale terrestre e marino dell’isola di Gorgona” 2009, Debatte
  • Specchia Angelo “La Gorgona. Storia e immagini di uno scoglio” Pacini Editore
  • Muscari Paola; Cunico Mariapia “Arcipelago nascosto. Giardini, aranceti, carceri, torri e fortezze delle isole dell’arcipelago toscano” 2012, Olschki
  • AA. VV. “Isola d’Elba e arcipelago toscano. Guida social” 2012, Touring
  • Quilici Folco; Tamagnini Luca “Arcipelago toscano parco nazionale” 2002, Photoatlante
  • AA. VV. “Isola d’Elba e arcipelago toscano” 2002, De Agostini



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