Hiking Trails on Montecristo Island: Explore the Untamed Tuscan Gem

Montecristo, the Cala Maestra beach

Three peaks on the horizon, veiled in mystery, Montecristo Island emerges like a rugged emerald from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Montecristo is closer to Elba than mainland, and it is a protected paradise. It boasts a unique ecosystem and captivating legends.
I have dreamed of visiting Montecristo since I was a child. I used to see this island from the mainland on Follonica and listen to my father story about it. Obviously, he made some tales, but also he was speaking the truth about the island: it is not easy to visit.
After many years spent dreaming of visiting the Island (sometimes even dreaming of becoming a siren and just be able to swim in it), last March I finally landed a foot on Montecristo.

Rugged emerald Montecristo
Turquoise sea Montecristo
Montecristo Island

Montecristo: a land steeped in history and legends

Although the island would be forever linked to Alexander Dumas’s adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo, its history stretches back millennia.
Among Greeks, the island was known as Oglasa and the Etruscan inhabited it. During the 5th centuries, the monks established here a monastery, and also the pirates used this island as a hideout. In fact, rumour as it there is an enormous treasure hidden somewhere on the island. In the Alexander Dumas’s book there is a trace of the treasure, which was hidden by the book’s protagonist.
This fact alongside with the many legends lost in time have captured the imagination of treasure hunters for centuries.
Some years ago, a man who had faked his own death, was found on a rubber dinghy near the coast of Montecristo. The man was stopped by the police and found in possession of some maps of the island itself as well as the seabed. Apparently, he was looking for the famous treasure.

San Mamiliano Monastery door
San Mamiliano Monastery navel
San Mamiliano Monastery entrance

The Island of untamed beauty

Montecristo’s wild soul is evident in its dramatic landscapes. Sheer cliffs plunge into the turquoise waters, while the island’s heart is dominated by Mount Fortezza, reaching over 640 meters. Dense Mediterranean vegetation carpets the slopes, providing a habitat for rare birds and wildlife, including the elusive wild goat.
As I said before, Montecristo is a natural reserve. Alongside with Giannutri, Montecristo is part of the Tuscan Archipelago and as well as Giannutri is a Marine Sanctuary.
As a marine sanctuary, the waters around the island teemed with life. We were lucky enough to see dolphins playing alongside the boat’s waves, creating a magical spectacle.
Beside the Montecristo goat, there is a viper spice and many other animals like birds who used the island as a place to rest during the migratory movements.

San Mamiliano entrance cave
San Mamiliano entrance cave
The Mill

A glance into a bygone era

Setting foot on Montecristo brings you back in time. Certainly, it is essential obtain a permit to visit Montecristo, but once there you’ll be captivated by its wild beauty and its history. It is better if you are a bit trained because reaching the ruins of San Mamiliano Monastery it is not an easy hike. Although, once you reach the ruins there are just magical.
From the Monastery ruins, the guides took us to visit San Mamiliano cave and the nearby mill. To arrive at the cave my group and I had to pass a slippery cliff and step foot on the monks’ footprints. According to the legend, was San Mamiliano who left the footprints while defeating the dragon.

Villa Reale of Montecristo

Thinking of visiting Montecristo?

Montecristo is an enchanting island and it will be a great adventure if you are a history buff as well as a nature enthusiast.
To visit the island it is essential secure a permit. The access is strictly regulated and it is possible find more info here.
Those are some info to have in mind while thinking of visiting the island:

  • It is not possible to stay overnight and fishing, bathing and navigation are prohibited within 1000 meters from the coast;
  • Within 3 miles you can transit, but do not fish;
  • You can visit the island only accompanied by authorized guides;
  • There are three trails to choose from with increasing difficulty:

Hard: Cala Maestra – Grotta del Santo – Monastero di S. Mamiliano (a/r) (about 3.61 Km)

Medium: Cala Maestra – Belvedere (a/r) 

(about 2.1 Km)

Easy: Cala Maestra – Villa Reale – Eco Museo 

(about 1km)

Please contact the park authorities well in advance to inquire about available tours and have fun!

Montecristo coast
Vieview of Villa Reale

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