Giglio Island is about 11 miles from the coast of Argentario, and its 21 square kilometers make it the second-largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago with a population of about 1,200. The landscape is mostly rocky, except for the promontory of the Franco, in Giglio Campese, which has Triassic limestone in caves and Paleozoic quartzite. This was an active pyrite mine from the early 20th century to the late 1960s.
The mines were later dismantled, but we can see the remains in platforms and a truss in the bay of Campese. The landscape is hilly, reaching up to 498 meters at the Poggio della Pagana. Entirely covered with Mediterranean scrub, the Poggio rise holds the old Vaccarecce lighthouse, on the road to Giglio Castello and the Scopeto pine forest. On this road and in other places, we also find holm oak trees and cork trees. Spring and fall are unquestionably the best seasons for exploring the island by foot along its many trails that run its entire length and width. Trails and mule paths were once used to reach the vineyards, where Ansonica grapes are still grown, from which the local Ansonaco wine. Following gardens and fields of grain and fruit trees, we come to the three villages: There are the villages of the Campese area, and its gorgeous bay framed by the faraglione cliff and the Medici tower, on the island’s west coast, from which you can admire unique sunsets; then there is Castello, among the most beautiful medieval villages in Italy, the 18th-century church of San Pieto Apostle which holds the relic of Saint Mamilian’s arm, and Giglio Porto, the small port that, with its charming colorful little house is the first to greet travelers.
In Giglio Porto there are the remains of an ancient Roman villa located in the Caletta del Saraceno and another Medici tower part of the complex of fortifications built over the centuries to protect against pirate raids. For those who love the underwater world, the seabed is full of small, hidden caves and ancient shipwrecks with scattered seagrass, colorful argonias and sponges, where scads of amberjacks, snappers, glances, seagulls, octopuses and lobster live. The coastline is a chain of coves and sandy beaches. The major beaches are the Campese beach, with its reddish sand, the Arenella, the Cannelle, and the Caldane, all on the island’s eastern coast.
All can be reached on foot or by car, except the Caldane, which can only be reached on foot on a beautiful trail part of the Cannelle or by boat with a rental boat or taxi boat service from Giglio Porto. To best enjoy the island, we suggest taking a boat tour of the island, which takes about an hour without breaks.
To get to know the island well, you should come experience its oldest traditions. Among the major annual events are:
• The feast of St. Lawrence, which is celebrated in Giglio Porto on August 10, when the Palio Marinaro rowboat race happens.
• The feast of Saint Roch is celebrated in Giglio Campese on August 16.
• On September 15, in Giglio Castello and the entire island, the feast of its patron Saint Mamilian is celebrated with the Palio delgi Asini, a traditional country donkey race.
• The Grape Festival and Open Wineries are celebrated in Giglio Castello on the last weekend of September to mark the end of the harvest.