Montecristo Island

Montecristo Island belongs geographically to the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago and administratively to the Municipality of Portoferraio in the province of Livorno. Montecristo is characterized by a compact granitic massif that shows all its wild and pristine beauty and it has a rugged coastline predominated by cliffs interspersed with small coves that are difficult access. Like the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, Montecristo island is characterized by a mild and sunny climate with an almost constant presence of sea breezes and wind.

Known in ancient times as Oglasa, the island changed its name into Monte Christi in the Middle Ages, probably due to the strong ecclesial and monastic settlement that characterized the island from the fifth century AD. Later the island was also called the island of San Mamiliano, in honor of the Saint hermit who lived there until 460 AD.

Montecristo is the furthermost island of the Archipelago and the most uninhabited. The characteristic reliefs of its profile culminate in three main peaks of which Mount Fortezza is the highest. The vegetation is dominated by the Mediterranean maquis with prevalence of heather, rosemary, cistus and everlasting. There are, however, also marine and Aleppo's pines.

On Montecristo island there are interesting endemic species including Linaria capraia and Linara repens. Birdlife is very rich especially that migrating over the island finding shelter in the nearby pine forest of Cala Maestra and in the thick surrounding vegetation. Among the animals, an endemic species is also represented by the viper of Montecristo while among the mammals, the biggest presence is represented by the wild goat.

The island is Integral Natural Reserve within the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, over land and sea with its 1,039 hectares. On March 4, 1971, it was proclaimed State Natural Biogenetic Reserve by a ministerial decree and in 1988 the island received the important European Diploma of Protected Areas by the Council of Europe and it was recognized as a site of global interest.

Access is strictly forbidden to the public and allowed only after permission of the State Forestry Corps, for research or for guided nature walks, but the number of visitors should not exceed one thousand people per year.

The island is open on the north-west, where Cala Maestra is the only cove of Montecristo where you can get ashore quite easily. However, in the event of stormy weather, it holds a dangerous exposition to the eastern winds. The valley overlooking the beautiful bay is covered by thick pinewoods, with big open areas and it is the only part of the island inhabited by the guardian and his family. In fact they are the only ones to live in Montecristo, in addition to some rangers during the summer.

Cala Maestra has also an heliport for emergencies. The bay is dominated by the massive architecture of the ex Royal Villa built around the half of the nineteenth century by the owner of the island, the English George Watson Taylor. Later the property passed to the Florentine Marquis Carlo Ginori who gave it away in 1889 to Victor Emmanuel III, who later became the king of Italy. The villa, which houses a few salons and a dozen bedrooms, has been recently restored and now it serves as guest house for researchers. The villa is surrounded by wonderful Botanic Gardens in which it is still possible to feel the nineteenth century spirit. Among other species, you can see various types of citrus trees and otherexotic plants. Below the gardens, which grow alongside the almost unused service buildings of the villa, there is a small Museum of Natural History, where it is exposed an interesting variety of the natural peculiarities of Montcristo. Beneath the ruins of the Benedictine monastery, there is a path which,heading north-west , leads to what may be considered the most important place of worship in the entire Tuscan Archipelago, the grotta del Santo (Cave of the Saint).

Province: Livorno
Area code: 0565
Coastkine: 16 km
Area: 10.39 km²
Municipality: Portoferraio
Maximum altitutde: 645 meters Monte della Fortezza
Position: Latitude 42 ° 20 ' North - Longitude 10 ° 19' Est
Distances: 45 km from Elba and 63 km from Argentario


Dumas wrote a novel about this island which later became also a movie. The story speaks of a lost treasure that was once guarded by Montecristo's monks. According to a medieval tradition, the monastery was built on the ruins of a classical Age place of worship devoted to Jupiter. The monastery, which in 727 was seriously damaged by a Saracen attack, was formerly dedicated to the Messiah but was always mentioned with the name of San Mamiliano. From the tenth century, thanks to the many donations of goods and land, it became one of the richest monasteries in Tuscany.

Mass of San Mamiliano

Mass of San Mamiliano

September 15 is celebrated the Mass in memory of San Mamiliano.

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